Placing clocks on towers and tall buildings is a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, originating in Italy before spreading over the rest of Europe. In those days, churches in Stockholm would sound the bell every quarter, half- and whole hour; not too many people had their own watches back then, so keeping track of the time became a public practice.
In the mid-1700s, the Swedish government started subsidizing watchmaking in order to promote domestic production of clocks, which resulted in a long list of talented watchmakers establishing their businesses in Stockholm. F.W. Tornberg and Linderoths became the two leading giants on the market, the latter going on to become a chief manufacturer of very large clocks, many of which are now well-known features of Stockholm’s cityscape.
Here, in no particular order, we give you our five best public clocks of today.
As fans of all things nautical, we truly appreciate the marine theme at the top of Nordstjernanhuset. Overlooking Stureplan, the majestic pinnacle of the building is like a mast of a royal ship, topped with a light blue naval flag flapping in the cold Östermalm breeze. Below this rests a beautiful golden clock, framed by a foursome of mermaid-like stone figureheads designed by the renowned Carl Milles. The clock itself though was designed by architect Ivar Tengbom in 1919, as was the whole building façade,
What’s so unique about this particular clock is that it actually doesn’t display any numbers at all. Instead, it’s adorned with all manner of astronomical and maritime related symbols, such as the sun, the moon, an anchor, a Neptune trident, a variety of merchant ships, and naturally the North Star at six o’clock.
Few can imagine Slussen without Katarinahissen, and at the same time the clock at the top of the elevator has become as much of a Stockholm landmark as the Stomatol tube just a few buildings to the right. This digital time/temperature display next to restaurant Gondolen has been lending light to lively Slussen since the end of the 1960s, a modern addition to the elevator, which by then was already over 30 years old.
Stockholm–Roslagens Railways station clock
A block away from Stureplan stands little Engelbrektsplan. A neighbour of the Royal Library and Humlegården, this unassuming square used to be home to the terminus of the Stockholm-Roslagen line, and the beautiful building still carries a clock manufactured by Linderoth for the railway station back in 1915.
The black clock is richly decorated with gilded figures and symbols, the hour hand containing the years 1914/1915 while the minute hand displays the letters SRJ, which stands for Stockholm-Roslagens Järnvägar. The outer corners are ornamented with the astronomical symbols for Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Ceres and at the dial centre the sun shines brightly.
Åhlens Slussen’s clock
Surely the spaciest clock in Stockholm, it’s hard to imagine that something like the blue global clock by Åhlens at Slussen was constructed way back in 1942. The clock looks particularly splendid in the night-time when its neon charms get turned on and the ball shines blue, crowned with a suspended red ring.
The most interesting feature of the clock, however, is the Dala horse that stands on a pole topping the whole structure. The horse is a greeting from Insjön — the little town in Dalarna where Johan Petter Åhlén and Erik Holm founded their mail order firm Åhlén & Holm in 1899 — and represents a crumb of hidden history behind the big household brand’s humble beginnings.
Stockholm Tidningen’s clock
His back stooped from the effort, the man on the corner of Vattugatan and Klara Södra Kyrkogata doesn’t only seem to carry the weight of the Linderoth clock on his shoulders, but that of the entire large granite building,
The bronze sculpture was designed by Gottfrid Larsson in 1903 and placed on the old Stockholm Tidningens building. That building was however torn down at the end of the 1980s but the clock remained in the shadow of the replacement building, in the midst of a sterile and traffic-heavy area dotted with offices.
The words Stockholms Tidningen are engraved in the greenish bronze above the Roman numeral clock, befittingly topped with an hourglass. Perhaps the passing of time is the man’s ultimate burden.
Photos: Dagmar Aarse