Tock of the world: Here are seven great clocks around the globe
Britain’s Big Ben fell silent in August for extensive repairs and won’t regularly bong again until 2021. If that leaves you with some time on your hands, check out these landmark timepieces.
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Before you do anything at Musée d’Orsay, go to the fifth floor for some of the best views of the city.
Peek from behind the back of the giant clock face in this rail station-turned-museum on the Left Bank, and you’ll see part of the Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries and Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre in the distance.
It’s a super-popular selfie spot (be patient and take your turn) as visitors angle to capture the panoramas framed by the clock’s Roman numerals and hands.
After that, see the Renoirs and Van Goghs in this 1900-era building, a work of art unto itself — but not before you post on Instagram.
Info: Musée d’Orsay, Rue de Lille, Paris
Ferry Building, San Francisco
The clock tower at Ferry Building, which takes its design from a 12th century bell tower in Seville, Spain, has been a landmark for more than a century, surviving the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes.
The original 1898 clock on the ninth floor still keeps time. If you want to see the mammoth dials in action, go to the clock around 1:15 a.m. Nov. 5, when antique clock expert Dorian Clair will move the hands for the change back to standard time.
“It takes about a minute and a half,” Clair said.
Info: Ferry Building Marketplace, Embarcadero and Market Street, San Francisco
Grand Central Terminal, New York
Grand Central Terminal, which nowadays hosts commuter train and subway riders, contains an elegant clock that sits atop an information booth.
The four-sided timepiece may look dinky, but it’s not; it’s just dwarfed by the cavernous 1913 Beaux-Arts building.
It’s also worth a small fortune. The clock’s glowing faces are made of opal, valued at $10 million to $20 million, according to some estimates.
If your friends say, “Meet me at the clock in Grand Central,” they likely mean this one. Just in case, you might want to check the terminal’s other landmark clock on the front of the building made with Tiffany glass clock and adorned with figures of Minerva, Hercules and Mercury.
Info: Grand Central Terminal, 89 E. 42nd St. (at Park Avenue), New York
Mecca Clock Tower, Saudi Arabia
The Mecca, or Makkah, Royal Clock Tower is the tallest clock tower in the world at 1,972 feet tall. Each of its four faces measures 151 feet in diameter.
The slender clock tower is a modern-day beacon for Islamic pilgrims the world over who come by the millions each year to the holy city. It flashes green and white lights as a call to prayer and has an observation deck in its ornate crescent-shaped spire.
This also is about the closest you can get to the sacred Kaaba and Masjid al-Haram mosque. The tower is part of a Fairmont Hotel in the Abraj Al-Bait complex that includes six other residences and hotels.
Info: Fairmont Makkah Clock Royal Tower, Abraj al Bait Complex, Mecca
Spasskaya Tower, Moscow
The brick-red 15th century Spasskaya Tower bordering Moscow’s Red Square has been the Kremlin’s official entrance for hundreds of years. These days you have to be a dignitary or ambassador to pass through.
It was a guarded tower before the first clock appeared toward the end of the 16th century. Clocks have been replaced over the years, most notably one bought in 1706 by Peter the Great. He found it in the Netherlands, and it took 30 carriages to bring it to Moscow.
The clock also chimed the anthem of the Russian Empire — until the 1917 revolution put a stop to that.
Olga Hayes, an independent travel specialist who was born in Russia, says it’s the most famous clock in the country because it is where Muscovites come for the New Year’s Eve countdown to midnight, an event broadcast around the country.
Info: Spasskaya Tower, Red Square, Moscow
Clock tower, Bern, Switzerland
The key to seeing the Zytglogge, as it’s called, is to allow some time.
Arrive on the hour to watch bears (the city’s symbol), a cockerel, jester and other characters strike bells and spin around. The big tolls come from a large mechanical figure at the top of the tower striking the bell — and these are just the sideshows.
The heart of the timepiece is a 15th century astronomical clock from you can discern day of the week and phases of the moon, if you know how.
For $6.50 to $13, you can climb inside the tower to tour the clock’s inner workings and take in panoramas of Bern’s old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Info: 1 Bim Zytglogge, Bern
Universal Studio Tour Hollywood, Universal City
Great Scott! No other clock has such pop-culture cred as the one in Courthouse Square on Universal Studios Hollywood backlot set.
Even if you haven’t visited the theme park, you undoubtedly have seen this clock. It was in all three “Back to the Future” movies from 1985 to 1990, and also appeared in 1962’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and 1963’s “Bye Bye Birdie.” (You can see it in the scene where Conrad Birdie sings goodbye to his fans.)
The clock’s movie-famous tower almost burned down twice. You may see the clock on the studio tour ($105 to $116 for theme park admission) unless it’s being pressed into service for filming.
Info: Universal Studios Hollywood, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City
Get inspired to get away.
Explore California, the West and beyond with the weekly Escapes newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.