My birthday is coming up this weekend and because I won’t be able to make it home to visit my family then, they decided to throw an early birthday dinner for me while I was home for a short visit. Among the much appreciated gifts, including some new hiking gear and a few surfing documentaries, was a portable sundial from my father. It is a form of ring dial, named after Eleanor of Aquitaine, who is said to have given one to Henry II in 1152, so that he would be equipped to know when to leave the hunt to rendezvous for their secret love trysts (or so they say). I haven’t been able to dig up any historical information on the ring itself, or how true the lore behind it holds, but I do find the concept behind the device quite interesting and certainly appreciate it from a horological perspective.
The ring is actually composed of two separate rings, one inlaid into the other, with a hole drilled into the outermost ring to serve as a reverse gnomon. Most impressive for me, is how easily the ring can be calibrated to read the time correctly in each month of the year, simply by rotating the outer ring to correspond with the appropriate time of year stamped around the circumference of the reference ring.
Like most mass-produced sundials, my Aquitaine Sundial Ring is calibrated to read true solar time time along the 40th parallel. I live on the 42nd parallel, but I doubt I would be able to register much of a difference between this ring and one calibrated for my latitude, even if I were to hold them side by side, due to the small size of the scale that is used to indicate the hours on the inner circumference of the ring. It is able to approximate the time near enough for me to at least predict the number of daylight hours I have left in the day before it gets dark though. In testing the ring outside at this time of year, I found that reading the time proved to be a bit troublesome because of the glare coming off of the snow underfoot. I’ve since tied the ring to my rucksack and am looking forward to field-testing it further when I hit the hiking trails again in the spring.
Now if only I could find a way to shrink my Sunset Wheel.
The Aquitaine Sundial Ring is available to order from: