MASTERMIND: John Rosevear

John McKenna Rosevear has a highly eclectic resume, even for Ann Arbor. The former housepainter, current inventor, and future entrepreneur, is also the author of Pot: a Handbook of Marijuana.

His singular invention, Skyclock, may bring him his greatest fame. If he can turn Skyclock into a wristwatch or something that can be installed on a car dashboard, he may gain wealth, as well
Skyclock is a unique graphic representation of time – local time, time tied to the exact location of the time user. Using the familiar 12-hour circle, it shows relative solar time in three colors for daylight, twilight and night.

"We invented local time," Rosevear says. "Local time puts you more in touch with where you are. All the clock has to do is know where it is. You can put it in a car - most accidents take place at twilight. It's also good for boats and planes."

"We" refers to Rosevear and his Skyclock Company business partner, Rob Baxtresser. Rosevear is president and CEO of Skyclock. Baxtresser is Skyclock’s COO. Neither man is an engineer. Neither one has academic credentials related to time and its measurement. Both are interested amateurs, a.k.a. time geeks.

Rosevear, a dapper man in late middle age, has been tweaking his idea for 45 years. Now, he's on the verge of monetizing it. Good thing. He spent his life savings getting the Skyclock software developed. "I spent myself out of a place to live. I ended up in a cabin one mile north of Rose City on a lake," he recalls.

Despite financial setbacks, on June 2, 1987, he received US Patent #4669891 for an Area Code Twilight Clock, an early version of Skyclock. More recent refinements -- Skyclock V5.1 -- resulted in a 12-hour clock face showing daylight hours in blue, twilight in orange and night in black. Formatted for PCs, it's available for purchase on the Skyclock web site for $10. Mac and handheld-device versions are under development. Skyclock may be viewed for free on the web site and on the home page of The Ann Arbor Chronicle, one of the most steady sources of click-throughs to the Skyclock web site, Rosevear says.

Who needs Skyclock besides time geeks? Housepainters have a special interest in hours of daylight per day. Ditto anyone else who works outdoors. Sports people, travelers, safety- and weather-conscious people, Rosevear says. Not only that, good design - like Skyclock - leads to a better quality of life, he says.

Just days ago, Bert Weedon, a retired Royal Air Force pilot, emailed an encouraging note to Rosevear with a wish of his own: "Watch manufacturers have tried hard to display all kinds of parameters, altitude, air pressure, heading, depth, etc., on watches, but missed the fundamental parameter of daylight. Current pilots' watches in particular are totally anachronistic. With changing time zones, odd reporting hours and fatigue management, the watch on a pilot’s wrist should be a crystal clear indication of local time of day - aka Skyclock."

Travelers may find day-to-night conditions at a destination vary greatly from what they experience at home. Within a time zone, there's a big difference between sunrise and sunset times from east to west. Both are in the Eastern time zone, but Grand Rapids enjoys a later sunset than Boston by almost an hour, for instance.

China has only one time zone, Rosevear points out. That means tremendous variations in time of daylight, twilight, and night from border to border, east to west. Skyclock helps travelers orient themselves.

While painting houses, Rosevear thought about the natural world, the sky and time. His first step towards becoming a time authority came with the publication of Visible Sky, a graphic that showed planets, moon phase, moonrise and set, time of sunrise and sunset. The image ran in the Detroit News weather and almanac section daily from 1979-1983. It showed the moon and planets visible to the naked eye in Southeast Michigan on a given day. It was elegant. The concept begs for revival as a blog.

After its run in the Detroit News ended, Rosevear began designing a clock without the moon and the planets, just the sun. The area code clock patented in 1987 morphed into a circular clock that coordinates the date, the elevation of the sun, and the time zone.

A 2006 article in the Bay City Times about Rosevear was picked up by the Associated Press and eventually appeared in The Ann Arbor News. Baxtresser saw it and contacted the inventor. They formed Skyclock Company to commercialize the concept. "I got two calls from that story in The Ann Arbor News: Rob called, and also an old girlfriend who happened to live in Ann Arbor. I've been in Ann Arbor since then," Rosevear says.

His autobiography, written for a 2004 high school reunion, is unconventional, to say the least. Rosevear lists "homelessness, felony conviction and imprisonment, drug experimentation, bigamy, mountain climbing, and US Marine Corps service" among his life activities.

"I've seen a UFO, a boloid, and have died thrice: Ocrakoke Island in 1991, drowned in the surf; in a pick-up truck accident in Baja, Calif. 1995; and in 1970 was driven out to a field with six rifle-carrying men and shot," he wrote.(For the record, Google says a boloid is a burning object falling from the sky.)

What adventures are next for Rosevear, Baxtresser, and Skyclock Company?

"We haven't been proactive in sales and marketing. Before we launched, we wanted to be sure the product is good, the software is right, no glitches. We're there now," Baxtresser says.

"The software's right. We're thoroughly confident the product is good." Rosevear concurs. "This year, I’d like to see Skyclock on iPhone, Android phones, Blackberry, a Mac version."

A watch, a wall Skyclock, and a projection version for airports are also on the futures list. The time can't come fast enough.

Constance Crump has an uncanny sense of timing. She is an Ann Arbor writer whose work has appeared in Crain's Detroit Business, The Ann Arbor News, The Detroit Free Press, and Billboard Magazine.  Her previous article was Big Ideas For Georgetown's Mall.

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All Photos by Dave Lewinski


John Rosevear at U of M's North Campus

John Rosevear is Always On Time

John Rosevear's Book on Pot

John Rosevear at U of M's North Campus

Dave Lewinski is Concentrate's Managing Photographer.  He doesn't wear a wristwatch. 

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