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3D CT scan confirms mysterious secret signaturesPeter Henlein’s pomander watch from 1505

The TPW test centre Neuss was finally able to confirm, what the owner of the 500 year old pomander watch tried to proof for a couple of years. The accredited labor used a 3D computed tomography and detected a number of “PH” (“Peter Henlein”) signatures, which were discussed by scientists over the last years. The “PH” signatures were found in the factory and housing parts of the watch and were mostly under 0.05 millimeters long.

Since 2006 the TPW, a high tech and professional material testing laboratory, works with 3D computed tomography. This procedure which is primarily used in medicine helps to reconstruct three dimensional images. During the 3D CAT scan the objects are rotating 360° and get scanned two-dimensionally. Afterwards, with the help of mathematical algorithms the three-dimensional print gets calculated.

After, the scan objects can be showed in 200-fold magnification and decomposed on the computer. This technique was now used to examine the pomander watch which was manufactured in 1505 by Peter Henlein. The 3D computed tomography system “phoenix nanotom m” only examined a 9.1 millimeter long cotter.

Even in this small cotter several „PH“ (Peter Henlein) and “PHN” (Peter Henlein Nürnberg) signatures were found. The system is often used in science and allows the scan of strongly absorbing materials such as metal and ceramics. The so called “Voxel resolution” in this examination was 1.47 nanometers, this equals 10-9 meters - in the detail examination even 1 nanometer.

The watch was placed on a rotating plate und got scanned in 1.000 to 2.000 steps. Afterwards the single images, recorded by a detector, got evaluated by software. The results were impressive. All signatures were clearly identified in the CAT-scans of the TPW test center.

Already in the first scans small letters were found in the cotter. The master watchmaker and passionate collector, Hermann Grieb was sure after his first assessment: “This is the original. There is nothing tinkered. If you are a watchmaker and have some experience you know if something is real, reconstructed or faked.”

Established as not just any watch the 92 gram heavy and only 4.5 centimeters large pocket watch is a scientific sensation with a fascinating history and will be on mind of many scientists for a long time. According to the information of the owner the pomander watch was found in 1987 by an apprentice watchmaker at a flea market. He bought the watch for a couple of pounds together with some watch spare parts.

A couple of years later the present owner bought the watch and realized two years later how old and rare it actually was. He that there was only one other pomander watch which is exhibit in the Walthers Arts Museum in Baltimore.

After a couple of other examinations the tiny signatures were found on the watch. Because of this the professional 3D computer-aided scan was the only method to get the certitude about the mysterious signatures. Because nothing comparable with this kind of signature was ever found in history this confirmation is a scientific sensation. But the question how it was possible to leave this micro-engravings remains and of course the questions about the “Why?”.

The international interest about the pomander watch from 1505 is huge. The present owner took this as a reason to think about selling the watch, for example to a museum to make the watch available for a huge public. The estimated selling price is likely to be in doubledigit million ranges.