Guillermo del Toro: Cronos: The Cronos Device

leading from

a) Developing the cronos device idea
When Guillermo del Toro first thought about the "Cronos device", he wanted an insect in a clock and it would be just like a clockwork machine.

First he imagined it as a clock with no hands, symbolically meaning that it was a clock that didn't tell the time but gave you the time and in this case, it made you eternal.

When they were designing the machine, del Toro was looking at some very old automatons from past centuries.

The ones he was looking at, he liked how they were very baroque and shaped in the form of an egg.

Some sculptures were circular and he thought about it as being an egg, then the legs came and it became a scarab.

b) The Maquech
This also came from the fact that when he was a child, he witnessed a fad in Mexico called Living Jewelry.

Women would buy beetles and put a golden band around them and wear then like living jewelry on their chest. It was very strange and cruel as well.

However this appeared to be derived from the idea of living insect jewelry called Maquech, which were still to be found on sale in Mérida in Mexico continuing the ancient Mayan tradition

A maquech

  1. Richard Reynolds: Do you recall how this idea first came about or what inspired it?
    Guillermo del Toro: A mixture of things: Catholic communion, Alchemical writings, “living jewelry” in the 1970’s (Beetles were fashioned into “living broaches” for women to wear) and the notion in Eastern Europe that the vampire ALWAYS comes home first.  Karloff in Vurdalak episode in Bava’s BLACK SABBATH.
    I wanted to make a middle-class story in which the vampire was “adopted” by his granddaughter and kept in a toy box. (
  2. AVClub: Can you remember when the image of the mechanical scarab first came to you?
    Guillermo del Toro: Yes. Originally, I just wanted to have the insect trapped in a clock. Just like a clockwork machine. I imagined it first as a clock with no hands, symbolically meaning it was a clock not to tell you the time but to give you the time. To make you eternal. When we were designing the machine, I was looking at some very old automatons, from centuries past. I really liked how they were very baroque, and shaped in the form of an egg. Some of the sculptures were circular, and I just thought about it as being an egg. And then the legs came and it became a scarab. But all of this came from the fact that when I was a kid, there was a fad in Mexico called “living jewelry.” What it was was, women would buy really good-looking scarabs and put the golden waistband around them and wear them like living jewelry on their chest. It was very, very strange. I don’t know if it was only in Mexico, or if anywhere else there was such animal cruelty. But it made a big impression, because it was a big, big fad in Mexico.(
  3. A Cronos vampire device from Guillermo del Toro’s first feature film Cronos. Initially hidden within the base of an archangel statue, this intricate insect-like machine was the central prop in the landmark movie and was intended by its creator, alchemist Humberto Oganelli, to provide eternal life.

    The Cronos device is made from metal, with a smoky brown coloured, elongated four-sided pyramid in the centre. The ornate surface is detailed with carvings of hands, limbs and leaves. This version of the prop also shows the “legs” of the insect, fixed in position on the underside.

    A number of different props were created for filming, each serving a different function. This one has a moving arm to the front, hinged at the centre, where it is attached to the fang. A disc section at the opposite end spins when accessing a tiny clasp on the inside. The prop itself splits into two sections.

    This prop was gifted to a close personal friend by Guillermo del Toro and specified as a movie used prop at that time. It is also directly comparable to the one illustrated in the book (pages 35 and 79) of del Toro’s personal collection, Cabinet of Curiosities (Titan Books, 2013). The device featured in the book is also described as a movie-used prop. It has also been noted in earlier del Toro interviews that all the devices were lost after filming, though contrary evidence clearly exists. Dimensions (closed): 9 cm x 6 cm x 5 cm (3½” x 2½” x 2”)

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