The New School News

Sniffing the Time

Photo from

Photo from

Over the course of history, a number of mechanisms have been devised to measure the passage of time. Intricately positioned sundials, medieval clock towers, status imposing wristwatches—even the stars. Aisen Caro Chacin, though, experiments with a new method. The post-graduate fellow and Physical Computing lecturer at Parsons wants people to tell time using their nose. Her chemical-based watch, Scent Rhythm, emits a mist of six different smells that match up with the body’s internal clock. There’s coffee for the morning, the scent of money (it’s actually tarnish and paper) in the afternoon, a whiskey-and-tobacco musk in the early evening and soothing chamomile near midnight.

“I wanted to play with sensory substitution,” said Chacin. “The idea behind the watch was to experiment with our sensory pathways, and if triggering new responses could bring greater awareness to something as innate as time.”

Made of heat formed poxy resin circuits, Plexiglas and a foamy material, the Scent Rhythm encases four small vials of liquid scent, which emit a mist finer than a spray bottle. Though set to go off every 10 seconds—and gradually change into the next fragrance—the user can monitor the amount and frequency.   

In the end, though, the watch isn’t really about time. “It’s about inducing a sense of state that matches our circadian rhythm,” said Chacin. A lot of research went into the particular fragrances and their effects psychologically. Each scent is chemically supplemented to potentially provoke a particular reaction.  Her decision to use the smell of money in the afternoon, for example, was on the basis of work. “I found that our most productive time is between noon and 6 p.m., so I wanted a smell that would get people going.” For the evening scent (from 6 p.m.- midnight), Chacin looked for one that would “smell like a party,” and was thus inspired by whiskey and tobacco.

As of now, Chacin has created a fully functioning prototype, but cautions there’s a lot more work to be done before the watch is mass produced. “There’s still so much research in terms of scents and perfumes, as well as in miniaturizing the device,” she said.

Read more about Chacin’s designs on her website at

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