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Twelve Most Famous Clocks in the World

October 9, 2014.

Clocks have been adorning towers, walls and buildings for centuries and they are some of the most iconic landmarks admired in cities across the globe. Here are some of the most famous clocks in the world, and a little bit of information about each of them.

1. Big Ben, London, UK

Big Ben by John-Morgan Arguably the most recognisable clock in the world, and one of the most misleading names too. Big Ben doesn't relate to the tall tower of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, but to the clock itself, and indeed it's actually just a nickname for the "Great Bell" as it is officially called. The diameter of the clock face is 27 feet (7 metres) and the hour hand is much taller than the average man at 9 feet (2.7 m) long. It is the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world and has been chiming out the hours across London since 1859.

2. Astronomical Clock, Prague, Czech Republic

Astronomical Clock Prague by George M Groutas The oldest astronomical clock in the world, that is still working, is the one found on the front of the Old Town City Hall in Prague. Pražský orloj, or Prague Orloj, as it's known to the locals was installed in 1410 has been overlooking Old Town square ever since, and watching the figures "perform" on the hour, every hour, is one of the highlights of any visitors trip to Prague. In addition to telling time, astronomical clocks are built to track the movement of the sun, the moon and the Earth and also the signs of the zodiac (among other things!). While there's also a separate calendar plate for tracking the day of year, this is actually a replica and the original can be seen at the Museum of Prague.

3. Grand Central Terminal Clock, New York, USA

Grand Central Station Terminal Clock by ArtForWorksSake Clocks in railway stations must be among the most looked upon in the whole world and the clock inside New York City's Grand Central station has had lots of extra eyes gaze on it thanks to also being featured in a number of famous films, including The Godfather, Men in Black and Superman. Sitting on top of the information and ticket desks in the centre of the terminal, the clock has been helping commuters get to their trains on time since 1913 and like Big Ben, it has four faces.

4. Salisbury Cathedral Clock, Salisbury, UK

Salisbury Cathedral Clock by Ben Sutherland Considered to be the oldest working clock in the world, Salisbury Cathedral Clock isn't much to look at it but it's age and let's be honest, workmanship has to be admired if you consider it has been "alive" since the 14th century. Now displayed in an aisle of the Cathedral, the clock doesn't have a dial and was astonishingly not re-discovered until as recently as 1928 when an horological enthusiast digged deeper into its potential past. He concluded that it dated back to 1386, though some have disputed this. It is one of many clocks built within a 100 year period across nearby towns of southern England so you could even go on a "clock tour" in the area, That said, the most famous of them, Wells Cathedral clock, which depicts a geocentric view of the universe, is now housed at the Science Museum in London.

5. Abraj Al-Bait Clock Tower, Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Aerial_View_of_Abraj_Al_Bait_Under_Construction From the oldest to the biggest and tallest, Abraj Al-Bait Clock Tower in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, boasts not only the tallest positioned clock, but also the largest clock face. It is also the most recent on this list, as the building was officially opened in 2012. The clock face is a whopping 43 metres in diameter. As a point of reference, the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio is shorter than this at 39 metres. It is positioned on the tower at 530 metres, which is nearly the length of six football pitches.

6. The Shepherd Gate Clock, Greenwich, UK

Shepherd Gate Clock by Bob Johnson The clock which keeps Greenwich Mean Time can be found in the Royal Observatory, a place that has been incremental in the history of both astronomy and navigation. The clock, which is one of the earliest electric clocks was part of a master and slave clocks system which saw a main clock power other "slave" clocks by sending electric pulses to them. Named after the man who designed it, Charles Shephard, it was the first clock built to show Greenwich Mean Time to the public and still serves that purpose today.

7. L'Heure de Tous, Gare de St Lazarre, Paris, France

L'heure de tous by Chris Alban Hansen More a sculpture than a clock, and more multiple clocks than just one, L'Heure de Tous, or "Everyone's Time" can be found outside Gare de Saint-Lazare station in Paris. Created by the famous French sculpture Arman Fernandez in 1985, it was recently reinstalled in its rightful spot after six months away for some repair work. Should you head there to check this fine clock sculpture out, please do not actually use it to tell the time as every clock face will tell you a very different time.

8. St Mark's Clocktower, Venice, Italy

St Marks Clocktower by ahisghett There has been a clock in a tower overlooking Piazza San Marco since 1499 when father and son pair Gian Paolo and Gian Carlo Rainieri built an astronomical clock there. The subject of some controversy due to extensive reparations over the centuries -including almost complete reconstruction in the mid-18th century - more recently there has been uproar about the restoration which began in 1996 which was heavily criticised due to poor workmanship. Despite this, it remains one ofthe most photographed clocks and clocktowers in the world and certainly one of the simplest astronomical clocks to look at.

9. Glockenspiel at Neues Rathaus, Munich, Germany

Glockenspiel Munich by Stephan A The glockenspiel style clock found in the tower of Munich's Neues Rathaus is considered the most famous of its kind and is watched by visitors every hour of every day, a fact that has somewhat soberly meant it was voted one of the world's most overrated tourist attraction. A fairly young clock - it was built in 1908 - it's hard to tell from photos but the 32 figures that dance around on the hour are actually life-sized. They are accompanied by 43 bells and their performance tells the story of the marriage between Duke Wilhelm V and Renata of Lorraine. The whole thing lasts over twelve minutes so we recommend you head there during Christmas market season so you have a warm gluehwein in your hand while watching.

10. The clock at Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

Musee d'Orsay Clock by HockeyholicAZ We're back in Paris with another clock in a train station. Musee d'Orsay is a museum that is housed within one of Paris' old train terminals. It has been displaying artwork since 1900, most famously it is home to many of Monet's impressionist paintings. One of the highlights to a visit is the opportunity to stand behind the station's two clocks and if you stand back far enough - or can get high enough on tip toes, you'll be able to see the Sacre Coeur in the distance. While you're there you should also make sure you look out for the old station clock hanging in the Main Hall, a classic example of dainty and detailed Beaux-Arts design.

11. Clocktower at St Pauli Landungsbruecken, Hamburg, Germany

Landungsbrücken,_Hamburg Not a predictably famous clock but one that is unique is the clock standing watch over Landungsbruecken in Hamburg. Historic for being a docking station for steamboats in the 19th century, the clock tower doesn't just tell those arriving and those leaving the time, but there is also a water level gauge telling sailors how high or low the river Elbe currently is. Built in 1910 the clock tower's architecture is a classic example of minimalist art nouveau with its curves and turret.

12. Back to the Future Clock, California, USA

o-BACK-TO-THE-FUTURE-CLOCK-TOWER-facebook You may argue that it's not a real clock, but I think this clock definitely deserves to be on this list... and it does exist! Although it's just a movie set in Universal Studios, California, the courthouse and clock that sits on top of it was incremental to the time travel hit movie Back to the Future and is arguably Hollywood's most famous clock as the same set was also used in several other films like Bruce Almighty, Gremlins and Bye, Bye Birdie. Cited by Universal Studios tour guides as "the most photographed town square in America", the clock itself has had a chequered history as it has been damaged by fire on more than one occasion, ironically one of the fires being caused by a bolt of lightning as happened in the original Back to the Future film.

Do you have a favourite clock that isn't on this list?

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