London is a city well-known for its numerous public time-pieces, and its most prominent symbol is a 19th-century clock tower. Knowing how much Londoners care about accurate (and sometimes extravagant) timekeeping, it’s not a surprise that tourists taking advantage of great hotel deals through Premier Club Rewards ask to see some of the clocks at first opportunity. Of course, some of London’s clocks are so famous they need little introduction, while others are well tucked within the network of streets and may not be discovered so easily. There are enough of them to organise a whole city tour based on clocks, a tour that will take you through some of the busiest streets and most beautiful squares in London.
Of course, it may take some expert assistance to find all the clocks that have an interesting backstory or stand out for advanced design. This list may not include all the fantastic clock faces in London, but it’s a good start for anyone interested in this part of London’s history.
It’s very hard to find a visitor to London or a guest of Park Grand London Lancaster Gate who has never heard of Big Ben, although some might have trouble finding it on their own.
If we want to get technical, the true name of this landmark is Great Bell, while the tower in which it’s embedded was formerly known as Clock Tower but is now officially called Elizabeth Tower. The tower itself is a part of the Palace of Westminster, which certainly contributed to clocks popularity as this area has been a tourist Mecca for decades, if not longer. Amazingly, Big Ben still relies on the original mechanism from the Victorian era, which is a testament to the level of mastery necessary for its construction. Unfortunately, if you are coming to London soon you won’t be able to hear its famous quarter-hour chimes since it’s currently undergoing reconstruction and won’t be operational until 2021 at the earliest.
Although it looks very much like its more famous big brother, Little Ben doesn’t share its awe-inspiring scale and is made of cast iron. Both clocks are located on Victoria Street in Westminster, with Little Ben occupying the opposite end near the intersection with Vauxhall Bridge Road. The clock was first unveiled in 1892 and has been intended as an expression of friendship between France and England. If you are staying at Park Grand Paddington Court, you are perfectly positioned for a quick encounter with both Bens and should definitely leave some time on your schedule to explore this area.
Horse Guard’s Clock Tower
This is one of the oldest clocks in London, dating back to the 18th century. Before Big Ben was built, Horse Guard’s Clock Tower was considered the high standard for time-keeping accuracy. It still attracts a lot of visitors, who are mesmerised by its old-school charm. An interesting detail with historical significance is an intentional black spot next to the ‘2’ digit, symbolising the time when King Charles II was executed in a nearby street. The clock is located between the Palace of Whitehall and the Palace of St. James, so it won’t be hard to fit into a sightseeing tour around central London.
Regent’s Street is the home of one of the liveliest and most unique clocks in all of London. It owes its name to the owner of the shop in front of which it is permanently displayed since 1875, Arthur Liberty. It’s characteristic for the animated motif of St. George and the Dragon, placed right above the clock’s face. Each quarter-hour, the saint chases the dragon, finally slaying it after the clock sounds off at full hour. Needless to say, there is never a shortage of onlookers for this little performance, many of whom are ready to capture it with their smartphones.
Shell Mex House
Shell Mex House clock may not be as old as some other examples on this list, but it’s not without its own urban lore. This huge clock face (largest in London) is positioned atop of a Grade II listed building that long served as an HQ for the Shell oil company in the UK, and is still used as premier office space. Due to its association with the oil industry, it is occasionally nicknamed ‘Big Benzene’, although this can be confusing for foreigners looking for the similarly named, more famous clock. Owing to its location along the Strand as well as high position and size, the building and its clock became a popular landmark. It’s very close to the Thames, so you can read the time while you are touring London on a riverboat or just walking along the banks.
Some modern clocks found in London are definitely worth a bit of your time, including one sitting in Leicester Square. Swiss Glockenspiel was once a part of the larger Swiss Centre but now remains as a stand-alone structure with a memorable design that includes bells and moving figurines. It was originally gifted to London as a token of friendship from Lichtenstein and Switzerland, and it has an unmistakably Alpine identity that stands out in this type of surroundings. Kids just love the glockenspiel, and even serious adults can’t resist the urge to smile when they see this mechanism in motion.
Fortnum & Mason
Another impressive clock that combines large size with incredible attention to detail is attached to the front of a building in Piccadilly. It weighs more than 3 tons and features 4-ft high statues of the founders of the famous Fortnum & Mason Company. The statues emerge from the mechanism every hour, providing a spectacle for the onlookers and telling a story about the clock’s early history. The clock is also equipped with bells, and capable of producing some inspiring old music tunes. You can make a great video with Fortnum and Mason clock in the main role and keep this clip as an enduring memory of London’s bustling atmosphere.