Clock towers were the most reliable way to tell time until people started checking their phones or wristwatches all the time. Until the 13th century, when mechanical clocks were developed, civilizations used obelisks and sundials to combine timekeeping and building design.
Clock towers, such as London’s Elizabeth Tower (or Big Ben), continue to be recognized globally as symbols of pride and identity. The beautiful and practical structures add to the cityscape’s aesthetic appeal and frequently figure moving figures or bells daily to inform and entertain passersby. Whether you’re in Venice to see a clock from the 15th century or Saudi Arabia to see a tower that broke the world record, each of these 12 clock towers is impressive.
1. The Iconic Clock Tower of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building
- Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malay Peninsula, Malaysia
- Construction Year: 1894-1897
- Height: 135 feet (41m)
The world-famous clock tower in Kuala Lumpur is on Jalan Raja of Dataran Merdeka, as is the Royal Selangor Club (Malaysia). The majestic tower housed several government agencies during the British occupation. This is the location of the newly founded “office of information and communication.
“Each of the three spires features a copper-covered onion dome at its peak. The building’s design features red bricks with white plastered arches and banding, earning it the nickname “blood and bandages” style.”
2. The Enchanting St. Mark’s Clock Tower
- Location: Venice, Itlay
- Construction Year: 1496-1499
- Height: 323 feet (98.45m)
The famous Piazza San Marco in Venice is home to the Torre dell’Orologio, also known as St. Mark’s Clock Tower. The Astronomical Clock was created by Zuan Carlo Rainieri and shows the current time, the zodiac signs, and the moon’s phases. Restoration work on the clock tower began in 1752, 1857, and 1996.
“At the top of the tower are two bronze figures that chime the hour; on certain occasions throughout the year, the three kings and angel sculptures make their way past the Madonna and child statue, which is displayed on a balcony above the clock face.”
3. The Timekeeper of Prague: The Fascinating Astronomical Clock
- Location: Prague, Czech Republic
- Construction Year: 1410
- Height: 228 feet (69.5m)
Besides its magnificent castle, the tower clock in Prague is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. You may find this tower clock, which dates back to the Middle Ages and is housed in Old Town Hall in Prague. The Orloj astronomical clock is widely recognized as a top-tier timepiece. This extraordinary work of art displays the locations of the sun, moon, earth, and constellations. You can see the current time and date on the clock.
“Legend claims that a ghost whose head is mounted atop the clock will nod in confirmation if the clock’s proper functioning is jeopardized, and that the city would suffer as a result.”
4. The Majestic Abraj Al-Bait Clock Tower
- Location: Makkah, Saudi Arabia
- Construction Year: 2012
- Height: 1971 feet (601m)
It is the tallest clock tower in the world and is located in Mecca (Saudi Arabia). The clock itself occupies four floors of the 120-story iconic famous tower. Since it has the most prominent clock face in the world, it also has the most LED lights: 2 million. The hotel and residential Abraj Al-Bait complex was developed and built by the Saudi Binladin Group.
“There is an astronomy display hidden below the clock faces. There is a scientific facility in the base of the spire and on the glass floors that is used to sight the moon at the start of each Islamic month and to run the atomic clock that regulates the tower clocks.”
5. The Musical Clock Tower: Rathaus Glockenspiel Clock Tower
- Location: Munich, Germany
- Construction Year: 1908
- Height: 259 feet (79m)
The clock tower in Munich, Germany, is a work of art. It has 43 bells and 32 sculptures of dancing figures. It represents “new energy” after the plague’s illness and fatalities and “men’s commitment to the king during trying times.”
“Every day, figures in the upper area depict scenes from the 16th-century wedding of Duke Wilhelm V, while coopers are seen dancing the Schäfflertanz, or coopers’ dance, in the bottom portion.”
6. Wonders of Messina’s Bell Tower and Astronomical Clock
- Location: Sicily, Italy
- Construction Year: 1933
- Height: 196 feet (60m)
The Ungerer Company of Strasbourg was responsible for designing and building the clock tower of the Cathedral of Messina in Sicily. Each day at noon, the gilded bronze figures on the face of the astronomical clock, one of the largest in the world, reenact important moments in the city’s history. In addition to the time, the clock tower shows the moon’s phase, a perpetual calendar, and the solar system’s rotations.
“It is one of the oldest astronomical clocks in the world still in operation. The clock was built in the 14th century and has been keeping time for over 600 years.”
7. Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower: A Baltimore Icon
- Location: Maryland, United States
- Construction Year: 1911
- Height: 288 feet (88m)
Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, also known as the Emerson Tower, is a Baltimore building designed by architect Joseph Evans Sperry and completed in 1911. The 15-story tower was modeled after Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio and constructed for Bromo Seltzer creator Isaac Edward Emerson.
“The clock face reads BROMO-SELTZER in place of traditional numerals.”
8. Peace Tower Clock: A Timeless Symbol
Location: Ottawa, Canada
Construction Yeat: 1927
Height: 321 feet (98m)
The famous clock tower of Ottawa can be found above the Central Block of Parliament. The Peace Tower has become an internationally known emblem of Canada. Approximately 65,000 Canadian troops lost their lives during World War One, and this 28-story memorial is in their honor.
In addition to the tower, a Memorial Chambom nearby honors Canadian servicemen and women who gave their lives in conflicts abroad. There are 53 giant bells in the peace tower, along with a “peace” flag.
“The original tower clock was presented to Canada by the United Kingdom on the 60th anniversary of the country’s Confederation. There is no way to reset the master clock, therefore every year at the end of daylight saving time a government worker must manually stop it for an hour.”
9. The Zimmer Tower: Monument to Innovation and Progress
- Location: Lier, Belgium
- Construction Year: 1425
In the early 15th century, the Zimmer Tower was constructed as part of the city’s fortifications in Lier. Clockmaker and local resident Louis Zimmer gave the 12-dialed Centenary or Jubilee clock to Lier in 1930, marking the centennial of Belgium’s independence. The dials show various data, such as the Metonic cycle, the seasons, the zodiac signs, and the moon phases. In 1980, the tower received national historic landmark status.
“This clock is a work of art, with its 13 different faces and 56 individual dials. Even a globe is included at the base. Multiple factors, like the movement of continents and the tides, are depicted on its many faces.”
10. The Zytglogge: Time Bell of Medieval Engineering
- Location: Bern, Switzerland
- Construction Year: 1218
- Height: 178 feet (54.5m)
The iconic nature of this clock tower has attracted visitors from all over the world. This historic timepiece has been recognized as a cultural treasure by UNESCO. The addition of music to this astronomical clock increases its overall attractiveness. The Zytglogge Clock Tower is a well-known landmark and icon in Bern, Switzerland.
“The hour hand is larger and points to the outer ring of huge golden Roman numerals on the eastern clock face, while the minute hand points to the inner ring. The picture shows Chronos swooping down, cape flying, and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise by an angel below the clockface.”
11. The Spasskaya Tower: Moscow’s Power and History
- Location: Moscow, Russia
- Construction Year: 1491
- Height: 232 feet (71m)
It’s hard to imagine Moscow without the iconic Spasskaya Tower. Located on Red Square, it is next to the equally historic St. Basil’s Cathedral. The Clock Tower, a world-famous Moscow (Russia) landmark, once functioned as the main gateway to the Kremlin.
The clock was explicitly built to greet visiting dignitaries from other countries and is widely recognized as Russia’s most iconic symbol. The dial’s diameter is an impressive 6 meters.
“The Spasskaya Tower is one of the 19 towers that constitute an integral element of the walls that surround the Red Square.”
12. İzmir Clock Tower
- Location: Izmir, Turkey
- Construction Year: 1901
- Height: 82 feet (25m)
It was built in 1901 by the Ottoman government to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. The tower stands 42 meters tall and is an important historical and cultural landmark in the city. It is also known as Saat Kulesi in Turkish, which translates to “Clock Tower.”
“The tower’s clock was stolen in 2016 as part of protests against a failed coup in Turkey.”
The landmarks mentioned above are all examples of well-known clock towers from different parts of the globe; individually, they tell fascinating stories about the history of the cities they represent. These fantastic ageless clock towers reflect the old world’s spectacular architecture and jaw-dropping design.