5 Most Famous World Clocks and
Their Rich History
Time, an intangible concept, governs our lives with unwavering precision. Throughout history, mankind has sought various ways to measure and display time accurately. World clocks, with their remarkable designs and engineering feats, have become iconic symbols of this pursuit. In this article, we will explore the five most famous world clocks around the world and delve into their captivating history.
Big Ben – London, United Kingdom
Nestled in the heart of London, the Great Clock of the Palace of Westminster, affectionately known as Big Ben, is one of the world’s most renowned timekeeping structures. Erected in 1859, Big Ben stands tall at the north end of the Palace, serving as the iconic backdrop to the UK’s political hub.
The Great Clock features four massive clock faces, each with a diameter of 23 feet, making it visible from afar. The clock mechanism, designed by Edmund Beckett Denison and Edward Dent, is a masterpiece of Victorian engineering. It employs a double three-legged gravity escapement, ensuring accurate timekeeping. The resonating sound of the Great Bell, housed within the Elizabeth Tower, has become an auditory symbol of London itself.
Prague Astronomical Clock – Prague, Czech Republic
In the heart of Prague’s Old Town Square, the Prague Astronomical Clock, or Orloj, stands as a testament to medieval horology. Dating back to the 15th century, this astronomical clock is the oldest working clock of its kind. Its intricate design combines astronomical features, a calendar, and a captivating hourly show.
The Orloj features four main components: the astronomical dial, the calendar dial, the hourly show, and the sculptures. The astronomical dial displays the positions of the sun and moon, while the calendar dial showcases the months and zodiac signs. The hourly show, known as “The Walk of the Apostles,” entertains onlookers with a procession of moving sculptures. The Prague Astronomical Clock is a living relic that continues to mesmerize visitors from around the world.
Rathaus-Glockenspiel – Munich, Germany
Standing proudly in Munich’s Marienplatz, the Rathaus-Glockenspiel enchants both locals and tourists alike. Constructed in 1908, this intricate clock graces the façade of the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall). With its 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures, the Rathaus-Glockenspiel performs a captivating show at 11 am and 12 pm daily.
The performance tells two tales: the “Schäfflertanz” (Coopers’ Dance) and the “Ritterturnier” (Knight’s Tournament). The former commemorates the end of the plague in 1517, while the latter depicts a jousting tournament held for the wedding of Duke Wilhelm V in 1568. The Rathaus-Glockenspiel is not only a timekeeping device but also a cultural treasure that celebrates Munich’s history.
Zytglogge – Bern, Switzerland
Nestled in Bern’s old town, the Zytglogge (Clock Tower) has been a symbol of the city’s rich heritage since the early 13th century. Originally a guard tower, it was transformed into a clock tower in the 15th century. The Zytglogge’s clockwork mechanism has undergone several modifications over the centuries, resulting in a harmonious blend of medieval and modern elements.
The Zytglogge features an astronomical clock with a main dial displaying the hour, a zodiac dial, and a calendar dial. Every hour, the clock comes alive with a charming show, known as the “Bärengraben” (Bear Pit) show. This captivating spectacle, featuring a bear and a jester, delights onlookers young and old, carrying forward a tradition that has lasted for centuries.
Mecca Royal Clock Tower – Mecca, Saudi Arabia
The Mecca Royal Clock Tower, part of the Abraj Al-Bait complex, is a towering structure that stands as a symbol of Islamic architecture and religious significance. Completed in 2012, the clock tower stands at a staggering height of 601 meters, making it one of the tallest structures in the world.
The clock faces of the Mecca Royal Clock Tower, with a diameter of 43 meters each, are the largest in the world. Designed to be visible from great distances, they incorporate intricate calligraphy and Islamic motifs. The clock tower also houses a museum, displaying Islamic artifacts and exhibits related to timekeeping and the history of Mecca. During Ramadan, the tower’s lights create a stunning visual display that illuminates the night sky.
World clocks stand as remarkable testaments to human ingenuity and the pursuit of accurate timekeeping. From the grandeur of Big Ben to the medieval charm of the Prague Astronomical Clock, each of these iconic timepieces carries with it a rich history and cultural significance. As we marvel at these magnificent structures, we are reminded of the profound importance of time and its enduring impact on human civilization. Read more about Big Ben.