It strikes me that the world may have a fascination with big clocks. Most major cities have one and it seems that each new clock must be bigger than the last! There was a time when every village square had a large clock that kept local affairs running smoothly, but in this era of cell phones and affordable timepieces, big clocks are monuments that demonstrate architectural and clock-making skill on a grand scale. Next time you’re travelling, be sure not to miss these fine chronometers!
Big Ben: England’s most famous clock is perched at the top of the Elizabeth Tower, one of the towers of Parliament. More often the whole tower is referred to as Big Ben, which is not the name of the clock at all, but a nickname for the giant bell inside the tower. The official name of the bell is Great Bell. Got that? Well, it doesn’t matter because everyone calls it Big Ben. Take a tour up the 334 stone steps of Elizabeth Tower and listen to the hourly chimes. Clock-geeks will love the mechanism room and getting behind the clock faces, and everyone can enjoy the views of London from 62 metres up.
Glockenspiel: In Munich’s Marienplatz, one of the oldest squares in the city, sits Glockenspiel, built in 1908. You will want to be present at 11 am, 12 pm or 5 pm to catch the clock’s grand performance. Thirty-two life-sized figurines act out two scenes of Bavarian history while forty-three bells chime: first, the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V, featuring a joust between Bavarian and Lothringen knights (hint: Bavaria always wins); and second, the cooper’s dance – a legend from 1517 when the city was struck by the plague and the coopers danced through the streets to show perseverance and lift spirits. The spectacle is roughly 15 minutes long and ends with three chirps from a golden bird.
Prague Astronomical Clock: Prague’s Old-Town Hall houses one of the world’s most famous astrological clocks, completed in 1410. A skeleton, representing death, strikes the hour while the twelve apostles appear at the doors at the top of the clock each hour, with all twelve making an appearance at noon. The clock was nearly destroyed by fire during World War II and the townspeople are credited with bravely putting out the flames.
Samrat Yantra: The “Supreme Instrument” located in Jaipur, India is the world’s largest sundial, reaching a height of twenty-seven meters. Built between 1727 and 1734, the sundial and observatory at this location are recognized on the World Heritage List as an important representation of astronomical skill from the Mughal period. The sundial’s shadow moves 1 mm per second and can be used to tell time within two seconds of Jaipur local time.