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The phrase ‘gravity-defying inventions’, for many, will conjure up images of the Wright brothers’ biomimetic escapades at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina; others may think of Leonardo da Vinci’s sketched-out ‘fancy-of-flight’ (to invert a popular phrase), which he called the ‘aerial screw’, and which pre-dated helicopters by half a millennium. Those whose understanding of gravity goes beyond Newton’s apple into actual equations will no doubt highlight the invention of the wheel.

But devotees to all things horological would sooner point to a breakthrough achieved by Abraham-Louis Breguet around 1795, when watches were still worn in the pocket. Observing how gravity

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