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World Clock Towers

Updated on February 13, 2013
Tower of the Winds
Tower of the Winds

Hickory Dickory Dock

According to a simple definition, 'time is what clock measures'. Before man devised mechanical clocks and water clocks to check the passage of time.

When clock towers first came into existence, they served an important purpose - to tell time to the public. They were erected in public places like town centers or marketplaces and were the tallest structures in the area. Early towers did not have clock faces. Instead, the striking clocks were fitted with resonant bells that could be heard over great distances.

The Big Ben
The Big Ben

Going Back in Time

The earliest example of a clock tower is the Tower of the Winds in Athens. It was built by the Greek astronomer, Andronicus of Cyrrhus probably in the first century BC. The octagonal 12 - meter tall structure has a water clock combined with sundials. Each side points to the eight principal wind directions and bears sculptures of eight ancient deities.

A Chinese polymath name Su Song constructed a complex water - driven astronomical clock tower in Kaifeng in 1088. The 12- meter tower was crowned by a bronze armillary sphere ( metallic framework of rings depicting the equator, tropics etc). It turned in synchronization with a celestial globe inside the tower. A five - storied Chinese pagoda at the front of the structured housed little Chinese figures that appeared through miniature doors to indicate the hour of the day. Years after Song's death, Manchurian invaders dismantled the clock, taking it to Beijing. But despite Su Song's detailed illustrations, the tower could never be successfully re- constructed.

The Zytglogge Tower
The Zytglogge Tower
The Rathaus - Glockspiel Clock Tower
The Rathaus - Glockspiel Clock Tower

Around the World

The Big Ben is undoubtedly the most iconic clock tower known to man. Big Ben is actually the nickname of the clocks's great bell that was named after an 18th Century politician, Ben Hall.

The clock tower is part of the Palace of Westminster that houses the British Parliament in London. Standing tall at 96 meters, it is the largest four faced chiming clock in the world. The clock is noted for its accuracy and tourists often set their watches to its chimes. Big Ben celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2009.

The early 13th century Zytglogge tower in Bern, Switzerland, served as a guard tower and prison before its clocks were installed in 1405. Massive clock faces adorn its eastern and western sides while a third beautiful astronomical clock shows the days of the week, phases of the moon as well as the signs of the zodiac. A gilded figure of Chronos, the Greek personification of time, hammers the great bell at the bottom of the spire when the clock strikes the hour.

Come noon , the tourists thronging Marienplatz, a square in Munich, Germany, await a splendid spectacle. The central tower of the New Town Hall houses the Rathaus - Glockspiel, a majestic 43 - bell clock that comes to life everyday at 11am, 12 noon and 5pm. At the stroke of the appointed hour, 32 life - sized statues dance to four different melodies, enacting the celebration of the marriage of local Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine. The fascinating show comes to an end with the chirping of a teeny golden bird at the top of the Glockenspiel.

The University of Mumbai is the proud home of the 85m - tall Rajabai Tower modeled on the lines of the Big Ben. A fusion of Venetian and Gothic styles of architecture, the monument was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, an English architect and financed by Premchand and Roychand, a prosperous broker and founder member of Bombay Stock Exchange.

At the heart of Venice, Italy, lies the Pizza San Marco (St. Mark's Square). Standing over an arch is a clock tower embedded with an astronomical clock dating back to 16th century. The 12 signs of zodiac shimmer in gold on the blue enameled dial speckled with golden stars. Engraved, in marble the clock depicts the 24 hours of the day in Roman Numerals. The tower is also known as the Moor's Clock Tower as it is topped by two dark bronze figures, which strike the hours on a bell.

Abraj Al - Bait Towers
Abraj Al - Bait Towers

Standing Tall

Saudi Arabia is set to rewrite the record books with its new building complex, Abraj Al -Bait Towers. Also known as Mecca Royal Hotel Clock Tower, it is the tallest clock tower in the world with the world's largest clock face. Its dimensions are stupendous - it dominates the skyline at the towering 577 meters; each of the clock's four faces is 46 meters in diameter and is visible from more than 25 miles away, each dial will be illuminated by two million LED lights !

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