NB. I meant to write this up as soon as I got back from Sri Lanka on Jan 16th. However, so many things happened there, and I was given so much information, that I wanted to look a lot of things up myself first before sharing them – and it all just took longer than I expected. It's also a lot LONGER in length than I expected, which is why I have divided it into two parts!
[By the way, if you've not read Part 1 yet, you can find it here. And if you haven't already seen the video of my journey down the platform at Galle Train Station, you can watch it here!]
Here goes part 2...
At the end of the platform, leaning on a post, there was a Sri Lankan man in a dark red shirt, waiting for me. As soon as I got close to him he knew who I was; he ended his phone call, looked towards me and said, straightforwardly, as though it was no biggie: You want the Portuguese Time Traveller? When he turned to face me I saw why he was able to be so self-assured – he was holding a picture of me in his left hand. He waved it towards me and laughed a bit, congratulating me on how much I looked just like myself – and that was when I saw that this was not just some photo from my website or something, but a photo of me as I was dressed THAT day, in the very dress I was wearing, which I had bought for the trip to Sri Lanka, and which I had never worn before! I even had my shawl on in the photo! And I NEVER wear a shawl, I had just wanted to look sophist while I was there! It looked at first like I had a comedy chicken on my shoulder too, but when I asked him for a closer look I saw that actually it was just that I was sitting in front of some kind of chicken-related poster. In short, it was not a photo I had seen before, the reason being that – as far as I knew – it was not a photo that had ever been taken. I asked the guy where he had gotten it, and if I could keep it, to which neither question met with success. Then I tried a different tack – keen to a) find out what the hell was happening and b) be able to pass on the details to everyone who knew I was going over there to meet him, I asked what it was like being a time traveller, and where (when?!) he had travelled to so far – and was he about to take that photo of me himself so he could give it to his past self to use to recognise me, etc etc...
Alas, yet again he laughed in my face, before holding out his arm to show me his watch – the most magnificent watch I've ever seen.
This, he said, was the portuguese time traveller, not him. He was an horologist who lived in Colombo, where he was about to catch the train back home to from Galle. I found the above photos on the internet (he wouldn't let me photograph his watch, and doesn't know I took that video of him waiting, eek). They and the following information are what I've uncovered about the portuguese time traveller since geting back home again, based on the details he gave me at the time...
The watch in question, which is made by Swiss manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen, is called a 'Portugieser Perpetual Calendar', and was produced in 2015 (the same year I received the letter from myself in Moscow, which started all of this off). IWC Schaffhausen, which was founded in 1868, is renowned for the unprecedented level of its precision engineering and technical invention – and is also the word's pre-eminent designer of pilot's watches. On its website, IWF describes the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar's features like this:
Analogue date displays with hands have a long tradition in IWC watches featuring perpetual calendars. In the case of the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar, for instance, the date, day and month are to be found on three subdials and, thanks to the clear layout, are extremely easy to read.
The classic moon phase display with discs is usually found at “12 o’clock”. The Ingenieur Constant-Force Tourbillon is one exception and displays the double moon at approximately “1 o’clock”. The moon phase display used in the Portugieser Grande Complication is astonishingly accurate and deviates by just 0.002 per cent, or 1 day, in 122 years. The Portugieser Perpetual Calendar is even more precise. Larger moon phase wheels with a higher number of teeth reduce the deviation so drastically that a future inheritor of the watch would theoretically need to take it to a watchmaker to have the moon phase display adjusted by only 1 day in 577.5 years.
In advance of the release of this particular model, the horologist told me, there had been much speculation on what the watch's new 'complication' – i.e. its unique new feature – would be. Rumours circulated that the 2015 watch would be so technically advanced that for the first time ever it would be capable of actually manipulating time and not merely recording it. This led to the myth of the 'Portuguese Time Traveller'. Predictably, "time travel" does not appear on the list of features given on the IWC website. It does include this intriguing description though:
In the anniversary year of the Portugieser (Portuguese) family, both watches have been modified in terms of technology and design. For the first time ever, the double-moon model comes with the railway-track chapter ring typical of the Portugieser, while the designers have transformed the entire moon phase display into a star-studded night sky, so that the moon and stars appear to hover in infinite space.
According to the horologist, the time travel expectation did not come to pass, which is probably for the best given that this particular model costs £30,000, meaning that only the rich would be able to take advantage of it. (Although – if that were the case – this whole Trump debacle would make a lot more sense. Biff Tannen's Pleasure Paradise, anyone?!)
HOWEVER, the horologist told me that in early 2015 he was visited by a foreign chronographer, who had come by one of these new models and who had made certain alterations to the mechanism herself. This was the watch that he was wearing that day, and which would, so I had been told, in conjunction with my CERN data tape, help me to successfully complete my time machine in the future. Kneeling on the train platform, he placed my tape upside down on the ground, carefully opened up the case of the watch and, placing it onto the metal disc on the tape's base, began to readjust its three sub-dials, using the code running down the side of the tape as a reference guide:
As soon as this was done, the moon phase dial began to rotate rapidly – but I only saw this for a second; as soon as the movement began, the horologist lifted the watch away from the disc, readjusted it and put it back onto his wrist. I picked up my CERN tape too, only to find that the metal disc on its base was scorching hot to the touch.
'This is as she said it would be', he told me, and said that he would need to take the tape, along with the watch, back to Colombo with him to give to the chronographer, who had also been the one who had given him my photo and instructed him on when and where to be to find me. I felt extremely uneasy about this – for one thing, if this chronographer had the watch in the forst place, knew who I was, where I'd be and what I needed, then why hadn't she just come to meet me herself, rather than do it all through this random horologist? For another thing, my whole reason for coming to Sri Lanka was to bring this tape, which clearly had great significance – could I really just give it away to a total stranger?
He showed me again the photo he had brought with him, looked at me very intently and said that I just had to trust him, that there was nothing else to be done, and that when I needed it I would find it again, in the right state for the job it had to do. And so that's what I did – I gave the man the tape, and I left him there at the station, waiting for his train back to Colombo, while I went back out into Galle to find Luke and tell him what had happened...
Two days later, on the morning of the day we were due to fly back home, we booked a tuk tuk to take us down the coast to Unawatuna beach. When it arrived and we got inside, we both had a good LOL about the fact that behind Luke's seat was a photo of a chicken, very similar to the one in the background of the PTT owner's photo of me. We swapped places so I could replicate the image as I had described it to him. When Luke emailed me all of his photos at the end of the trip I saw that the photo we took that morning was in fact the exact same photo I had seen – two days before it had even been taken – at the station. Would it ever have existed if I hadn't seen it in advance and consciously replicated it? Surely it can't have done. But that's what happened, and now here it is, out in the world, ready for some future person to take it off the internet and take it back in time to the Sri Lankan horologist, so he can find me again on platform 2 of Galle station on January 13th 2017.