There are a number of famous clocks in the world that have become tourist attractions. My intent with this article is not to create another list of famous clocks as there are a number of famous clock lists available if you search the internet.
Famous Clocks because of where they are located.
Every list of famous clocks I have seen includes the Big Ben clock in London, England. The clock is located in the building known as the Elizabeth Tower since 2012. The Elizabeth Tower is a part of the Parliament building. A couple of sources have indicated this building is the most photographed building in all of London. The clock is impressive as a result of the size of the faces and the hands on the clock. The clock faces are 23 feet in diameter which several sources say makes it the largest four-faced clock on the planet. The faces are made from 312 pieces of opal glass. There are four smaller bells that are used to do the quarter hours chimes and then the large bell from which the name Big Ben is derived tolls the hours of the day. The clock is operated using a complex mechanism involving chains that the average never gets a chance to see. I firmly believe the clock is a tourist attraction mostly because of the location in the Parliament building.
When I started drafting this article, I thought the four-faced clock in Grand Central Station, New York City was also famous because of the location. It has been a part of the station since 1913. While thousands of people pass through the station each day on their way into or out of New York City, the clock does not chime or do anything that would entertain people visiting the clock site. There are a number of other factors that make this clock appear on virtually every famous clock list you will see. First, the clock has appeared in a number of movies since 1942. Second, the clock has always been a popular meeting place for city residents but became even more popular after appearing in the movies. Finally, there is the value of the clock. The four faces of the clock are made of Opal that is very valuable. Two of the world’s largest auction houses place the value of the clock at between 10 and 20 million dollars. A fact I found interesting is that there is another famous clock at the station. There is a sculpture that sits at the top of the terminal. A part of this sculpture is a clock with a 13-foot diameter face. That face is the world’s largest example of Tiffany Glass. This clock barely gets mentioned much less included in lists of famous clocks. Another fact about this clock that I found is the small point on the top of the clock. It appears to be a decorative item but in fact, it is a compass that another author indicates “points to true north with 100% accuracy”.
Clocks that entertain visitors.
The Prague, Czech Republic, Astronomical Clock provides visitors entertainment every hour on the hour and has been doing so for more than 600 years. The entertainment is provided by statues of the Apostles that appear when two windows near the top of the clock open. The statues come to the window, turn to face the square and then move on to reveal the next statue. The clock has been repaired and had features added during the 600 years since it first was placed in service. I have seen information that the clock was damaged during the second world war which kept the clock out of service until 1948. The clock displays the time in three different time zones, displays the day of the week, and the position of the day in the week, month and year. If you know where to look, you can see the position of celestial bodies on the clock and see which sign of the Zodiac reigns when you visit the clock. The picture I was able to use for this post shows the clock in some detail but if you really want to see the clock in action you can watch a YouTube video here. It is easy to see why this clock is always on the famous clock lists.
The Glockenspiel Clock in Munich, Germany is another clock that provides lots of entertainment to visitors. This clock has existed since 1908 and provides a 15-minute show up to three times each day. The show is performed at 11 am and midday every day. Between the months of March and October, a third performance occurs at 5 pm. The show includes two different stories. They are a royal wedding from 1568 which includes a jousting tournament between Bavarian and French knights and the Coopers Dance which remembers dancing from the time when plagues were ravaging Europe. The first story occurs on the upper level of the clock and the second story happens on the lower level of the clock. The clock is located on the Town Hall and a block from the famous Munich Hoffbraeuhaus resulting in lots of people to view the activities. All of the photographs and videos I have found of this clock are copyrighted so if you wish to see this clock in action follow this link for a YouTube video that does a pretty good job of showing the clock in action.
The Steam Clock in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada is another clock that draws lots of people to see it in action. Compared to the earlier two clocks, the steam clock’s action is relatively minor. On the hour, steam causes sound through the corners of the clock and then through the center of the clock to mark the hour. This clock is more famous for the fact that it is one of a hand full of steam-powered clocks in the world most of which were constructed by one man. It is a relatively new clock having been constructed in 1977. Thanks to YouTube, you can see this clock in action here.
Clocks that are accurate and unusual
I have always been fascinated by Sundials so when I found information that indicated there was a Sundial that was accurate to within two seconds, I knew I had to include that clock in my famous clock group. This Sundial is located in the country of India. It was completed in 1738 which makes the accuracy of time measurement even more spectacular. Made of stone, this Sundial is known locally as The Vrihat Samrat Yantra or great king of instruments. The structure is so large, it is difficult to capture in a photo. The best view of the Sundial I have found is renderings that accompany articles describing how the Sundial works. One of the most straightforward descriptions can be found here. I think one of the most interesting aspects of the Sundial is that several articles indicate you can actually watch the shadow move on the curved arms. On most Sundials, the face is so small seeing movement is unusual but the sheer size of this Sundial makes seeing the movement quite easy.
If you love to travel and love clocks, I hope this article has given you some ideas about places you can visit and see famous clocks at the same time.