London's top 10 timepieces

Time Out counts down our city‘s finest timepieces

  • London's top 10 timepieces

    Little Ben, Big Ben's stunted rival

  • 1 Most famousBig Ben, Westminster, 1856

    The world’s most celebrated clock is also a pedant’s dream. Big Ben is just the main bell, not the tower – we all know that. But then the über-pedants insist that the edifice isn’t even called ‘St Stephen’s Tower’, as the regular pedants hold, but is officially ‘The Clock Tower’. The clock still keeps surprising accuracy, thanks to a counterweight that relies on the stacking of old pennies.

    2 Most diplomatic

    Little Ben, Victoria Station, 1892

    At the other end of Victoria Street to its namesake, this evil twin’s hands are set one hour ahead of GMT, meaning it shows UK time in summer, but continental time in winter. Hence the ‘Apology’ on its side: ‘My hands you may retard or may advance /my heart beats true for England as for France’.

    3 Most undiplomatic

    St George the Martyr clock, Borough High Street, 1736

    On first glance, this looks like a run-of-the-mill clock. But look more closely. Three of the faces are white, while the fourth, east-facing clock is black. This is said to be a snub to Bermondsey parishioners, who refused to contribute to its construction.

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    Yodel-ladee-ho! The alpine campness of the Swiss Centre clock

    4 Most kitsch

    Swiss Centre, Leicester Square, 1984

    The West End is now an axis of camp goat-herding excellence, thanks to both ‘Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music’ at the Prince Charles Cinema, and the delightfully naff glockenspiel clock on the Swiss Centre. Get your alpine fix while you can, though, as the site’s impending redevelopment leaves the clock’s fate uncertain.

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    The Dolphin pub's bomb-struck clock

    5 Most haunted

    The Dolphin, Red Lion Street, Holborn, pre-1915

    When this snug corner-boozer was levelled by a Zeppelin bomb in 1915, one of the few things to be pulled intact from the rubble was the clock that today hangs to the left of the bar, hands frozen at the hour of doom. Locals say the clock can sometimes be heard to whistle, as though imitating the falling bomb. Bollocks, says the barman.

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