Beautiful Clock Towers That Stand the Test of Time
Telling time around the world
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Turning back the hands of time is a bit trickier when the minute hand measures over 14 feet long and is suspended nearly 300 feet in the air, as is the case for London’s iconic Big Ben. While historic clock towers are less and less relied upon for telling time (thanks to wearable timepieces and modern technology, ahem, smartphones), they still know how to draw a crowd and continue to function as notable landmarks and architectural splendors all around the world. From the towering heights of Big Ben to the intricate detailing of Prague’s Astronomical clock, here are 10 of the world’s most interesting, iconic, and visually stunning clock towers.
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Centenary Clock Lier, BelgiumAstronomer and clockmaker Louis Zimmer built the Centenary Clock, mounted on the front of the Zimmer tower in Lier, Belgium. On this piece, 12 clocks circle a central clock with 57 dials. From the phases of the moon to the changing of the tides, each of the 12 encircling clocks show a variety of periodic phenomena.
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Big Ben London, United KingdomCommonly referred to as “Big Ben” for the giant bell housed inside, the Elizabeth Tower is the most prominent feature of the Palace of Westminster and stands 315-feet tall. Completed in 1859, the building is rumored to have received its nickname from the clock tower’s commissioner, Sir Benjamin Hall, though its official name, Elizabeth Tower, was voted on by the Members of Parliament in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The reliable clock — officially dubbed “The Great Clock” — is manually wound three times a week, but also relies on gravity and a stack of coins to keep ticking. Check out the brave cleaners that dangle hundreds of feet in the air to give the clock's face a proper wipe down: "How to Clean a Monument."
Astronomical Clock Prague, Czech RepublicBoasting a reputation as one of Europe's best-known tourist attractions, the Astronomical Clock sits at the heart of Prague's Old Town Square. This medieval timepiece dates back to 1410 and features a mechanical clock with an astronomical dial. From its stationary spherical backdrop (representing the Earth, sun, and sky) to its movable Zodiac ring and its procession of the Twelve Apostles, this photogenic clock is steeped in symbolism and tells a lot more than just the time.
Ferry Building Clock Tower San Francisco, CaliforniaThe Ferry Building’s famous timepiece is situated at the foot of Market Street along the Embarcadero. Built in 1898 and standing 245-feet tall, the clock tower has been a dramatic icon along San Francisco's waterfront for more than 100 years.
St. Mark's Clock Tower Venice, ItalyHoused in Venice's St. Mark's Square, the Torre dell’Orologio astrological clock (as it's also known) has undergone several restorations since its construction first began in 1496. This ornate timepiece displays more than just the time: it also showcases the phases of the moon and the dominant sign of the Zodiac.
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DUMBO Clock Tower Brooklyn, New YorkA historic gem with one-of-a-kind views, this clocktower sits atop a residential building in Brooklyn's DUMBO neighborhood (standing for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). The building’s penthouse apartment broke Brooklyn's real estate records when it closed for $15 million in 2017, making it the most expensive condo ever sold in this New York borough.
Anker Clock Vienna, AustriaDesigned in typical Art Nouveau fashion, this decorated clock sits on a bridge between two parts of the Anker Insurance Company's building at the old Hoher Markt square. The clock chimes at noon each day as one of 12 historic figures parade across the bridge to various melodies from Vienna's past.
Rathaus-Glockenspiel Munich, GermanyEvery day, twice a day, 43 bells chime as 32 life-sized figures re-enact two 16th-century stories for the delight of Munich locals and tourists alike. The spectacle can last for up to 15 minutes and ends with a tiny gold rooster chirping three times.
Kremlin Clock Moscow, RussiaThe Kremlin Clock on the Spasskaya Tower overlooks the Red Square in Moscow, Russia. The clock chimes two different melodies: a short excerpt from Russia's national anthem and the chorus from Glinka's opera "A Life for the Tsar".
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Mekkah Royal Hotel clock Mecca, Saudi ArabiaClocking in at a whopping 1,972-feet tall, the Mekkah Royal Hotel clock is the tallest timepiece in the world. With a diameter of 141 feet, it also boasts the world's largest clock face.