Precisely seventy years ago, a Swiss designer designed a Swiss clock. A Swiss clock that has gone on to become a railway icon.

Apart from its design, the clock has one other unique feature in how it works.

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The second hand takes 58.5 seconds to rotate around by 59 seconds, then the second hand pauses. It waits until a nationwide pulse is sent to every Swiss railway clock that a minute has passed, then the clock jumps to the minute and carries on for another 58.5 seconds.

It’s part of that railway’s famous accuracy and timekeeping.

If you want to see these clocks synchronize in unison, then a Swiss railway station would seem the place to be.

…or London maybe?

In fact, there is a cluster of Swiss railway clocks here in London. At Canary Wharf to be precise.

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Back in 1999, Canary Wharf wanted a “village square clock” as a meeting place next to the soon to be completed Jubilee Line station, and put out a tender. To everyone’s surprise rather than one clock, they went for six of them.

The design, by Konstantin Grcic has one slight difference from the Swiss clocks, in that each face only has one numeral. With six clocks and twelve faces, the numbers on the clocks collectively add up to make a single face.

If you are particularly clever, you can say you will meet under the 4 clock at 4 O’clock.

Other than that, they behave exactly like their Swiss counterparts, with a seconds hand that also takes 58.5 seconds to reach the 59th second.

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9 comments
  1. I am quite a fan of my picture holding up a Mondaine watch against one of these. Do I win a prize?

  2. Antonio Rodríguez says:

    After Apple being sued by the company that makes these clocks for using its design as an iOS icon without autorization, it’s ironic that the typeface used for the numbers in the faces is Chicago, which was designed specifically to be the original Macintosh’s system font…

    • ianvisits says:

      Apple wasn’t sued — there was a media fuss, and Apple realising it was infringing, and the Swiss Railways realising it had been infringed came to an agreement to license the design. No lawsuits involved.

    • Antonio Rodríguez says:

      Lawsuit or not, Apple used the design without bothering to contact the owner. Not the best behavior for a company that has spent two decades claiming Microsoft had copied its main product. I once was a fan of Apple, of its simplicity and elegance, but sadly its actions in the “iOS era” has taken me away from it.

    • ianvisits says:

      I am no Apple apologist, but there is a difference between deliberate acts of copying something and what to all intents sounds like an innocent mistake in not realising a design was copyrighted. And settled amicably by both sides within a few days of being realised.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I love the Swiss Railway clock and have the now deleted Android app.

    I am in the process of a property renovation and hope to buy a clock for either my living room or kitchen.

  4. Sophi Medrens says:

    I also really like londons’ six swiss railway clocks, most of the time when I see this clock then feel like it is a combination of lighting pole and clock. Superb.

  5. David S says:

    I still love the clock at Redbridge Underground station with the bulls-eye as the hours.

  6. Kris Williams says:

    Great read! FYI the ‘wanted’ link to CW page is 404

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