Zimmer tower: world’s most complicated clock

Zimmerplein 18, 2500 Lier, Belgio

Simona Bertolaso



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The little town of Lier contains three extraordinary clocks constructed in the 1930s by the local watchmaker and amateur astronomer Lodewijk Zimmer.

He began by building a beautiful astronomical clock on the outside wall of an abandoned tower from the fourteenth century. It features two globes decorated in blue and gold and ten clock faces with signs of the zodiac, tides in Lier, phases of the moon, days of the month, months of the year and other arcane facts.
Zimmer went on to design a Wonder Clock which he exhibited at New York’s World Fair in 1935. Described by the New York Museum of Science as ‘the outstanding wonder of the age,’ it is now displayed in a small pavilion next to the Zimmer Tower.

Three years in the making, it was an extraordinary construction with 93 small dials and 14 automata. The various clocks display the time divisions of the world, the movements of the planets, high and low tides in the world’s principal ports and dozens of other details. The fastest clock hands revolve once around the dial in one-hundredth of a second, while the slowest rotates once every 26,000 years.

A small crowd gathers each hour on the square in front of the Zimmer Tower to watch a mechanical show on the side wall. An old man strikes a bell, the red shutters flip open and a series of portraits slowly slide into view, representing one hundred years of Belgian history.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”.

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