The Watchmakers Workshops of Babel

Updated: Oct 24, 2020

If infinite monkeys sat in front of infinite typewriters, after a while, somewhere, they would probably end up creating real masterpieces. This is the “infinite monkey theorem”. If there was a library with all possible combinations of 22 characters, a comma, a space and a period, it would contain all the books written in the past, present and future. This would be the “total library”. If infinite watchmaking workshops were created, with infinite watchmakers, probably all the watches created in the past, present and future would be built there. These would be the Watchmakers Workshops of Babel.

Let's assume that each of these workshops is hexagonal, 6 per floor, joined around a central 7th hexagon. The set of 7 hexagons represents only one floor of an infinite ascending and descending tower. A vertical tube runs through the center of the tower whose function is to dispense watch pieces. Around this tube is a spiral staircase whose walls have exposed the most revealing, the most mysterious and the most useless watches. Through the central hexagon it is possible to access each of the 6 workshops as well as the stairs. When visiting the workshops it is possible to see 3 glass and 3 wooden walls. Leaning against the 3 glass walls are 3 watchmakers' benches, one for the master, another for the apprentice. The third workbench supports the machines and tools built over the several generations of watchmakers in that hexagon. The glass walls provide all the necessary light, but no one knows the source of this light. This is the structure of the Watchmakers Workshops of Babel. The watches built here are also infinite, and have the capacity to predict, change the time or simply pass through it without attaching great importance to it. So far, three types have been identified, the revealing, the mysterious and the useless.


Revealing watches are capable of indicating the time of our death, the time of the beginning of life on earth, the time of creation of the first watches, or the hour of greatest happiness in someone's life. They simply show us the reality, explain to us what exists, without influencing the facts. They are honest watches like all good machines. The watchmakers who produce them are frightened by the newness, by the threat to what is established. They are opposed to any concealment, they want to access all knowledge, they are the accountants of time and at the same time ferocious hunters of facts and events. They obsessively control everything they achieve, they are terrified of everything they do not control. They are not the most creative. However, their watches are the most accurate, they are super chronometric machines.


Mysterious watches have the ability to change time. There are those who speed it up or slow it down, and those who stop or start it. These watches are the opposite of the previous ones. The watchmakers who produce them are mystical beings with hidden abilities. Nobody knows their secrets, they only know that they are fearless. They do not fear the consequences of changing the arrow of time. They find the most creative solutions to the most complex problems. They are time engineers.


Outside, reality is always absolutely raw, absolutely hard. In the absence of infinite monkeys, in the absence of the mysterious Total Library, in the absence of the Watchmaking Workshops of Babel, we look at our watch and go to work. We look at our watch but don't see its mechanism, hidden inside by the darkness of the case. We don't know exactly how it works and we are certainly not going to open it. That was what we did as a child, when we always disassembled everything without the slightest concern for the opposite way. Nowadays nobody has time for watchmaking adventures, much less courage. Without time or courage the mysteries grow, they become denser, more closed. Is this the best way? If there is one thing that childhood shows us, it is that courage and time are not qualities that can be abandoned. For this reason, we should all be watchmakers. I do not mean to go professional, I mean studying watchmaking, to truly know how everything works on a watch. There will always be a lot of mystery left to the most romantic ones and, let's face it, it can't be that difficult.


To illustrate the ideas in this text, I suggest creating a naturally hexagonal watch. With three glass windows capable of showing movement and allowing enough light to enter in order to observe the mechanism. The bezel will have 26 characters engraved, the 23 letters of the alphabet, a space, a period and a comma. You will have the 3 hands that you are entitled to, to indicate the hours, but also a fourth hand that will move randomly, fixing itself in each of the 25 positions for no more than 2 seconds. This jumping pointer will indicate a set of characters that can be written on a sheet. Four seconds in the same location will imply a repetition of the same character. It will be a watch with the capacity to create the "Total Library" of Jorge Luís Borges and in this way the whole reality. It will be called “Stochastic26”.

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