One of the World’s Oldest Clocks Stops Ticking, Briefly


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When he’s accomplished, the engineering marvel that began ticking in 1410 may have been returned to its medieval roots in methods each seen and invisible to the crowds that assemble every day on the sq. beneath. In an effort to be true to the unique clock grasp’s design, he’ll, in impact, have turned again time.

Mr. Skala, 71, plans to switch a few of the extra fashionable metallic gears that flip the intricate equipment of the clock with a wood system modeled on the unique design.


The clock grasp Petr Skala, heart, eradicating the calendar dial final Could.

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Michal Cizek/Agence France-Presse — Getty Photographs

On the outside, the colours on the clock’s face can be tweaked to revive their authentic shading, and a number of other of the sculptures that adorn the tower will as soon as once more symbolize one of the best and worst of human traits: satisfaction, envy and avarice paired with compassion, generosity and humility.

Evincing the final of these virtues, Mr. Skala stated humbly that he was merely working to “take away inappropriate and detachable changes and return the clock to its authentic look.”

A sculptor by commerce, Mr. Skala has lengthy been fascinated by clocks — for each mechanical and romantic causes. “A clock measures time,” he stated. “And time is probably the most treasured reward we’re given.”

As a baby, he stated, he would take away the clocks from the partitions of his residence to take them aside and probe the way it was doable to measure the passage of time.

“I really like historical past,” he stated on Monday after climbing a set of slim, winding stone steps to achieve the tiny nook that homes the center of the machine within the tower of town’s previous City Corridor.

Staff disassembled the timepiece as he spoke, and Mr. Skala later loaded a few of the treasured cargo into his beat-up previous hatchback parked on the road beneath to be taken to his studio.

From the primary clock to the Apple Watch, measuring time has been central to human ingenuity. “The entire growth of expertise is written within the clock,” Mr. Skala stated.

Maybe no different clock higher demonstrates the genius of the early pioneers of time preserving than the Orloj. Marking the minutes and hours is barely one of many many measurements it gives.


Mr. Skala performing his weekly upkeep of the clock in 2012. He has been taking care of the clock for eight years.

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Petr David Josek/Related Press

It tracks Previous Bohemian time, when the brand new day started with sundown; Babylonian time, which tracks the day from dawn to sundown; Central European time, which is marked with a particular hand within the form of the solar; and Star time, measured by the way in which the celebs seem to maneuver due to the Earth’s rotation.

A calendar dial notes the times of the week, month and 12 months, and a zodiacal ring exhibits the trail of the solar and moon via the sky.

However it’s the astrolabe that’s the coronary heart of the clock’s mechanical operation. The equipment, which tracks the place of the solar, moon and stars, has been a necessary software for astronomers and mariners relationship again to antiquity.

Mr. Skala, who has been an authorized clock grasp for 25 years, stated he was honored when requested to deal with the Orloj eight years in the past. He’s liable for a number of different well-known clocks across the metropolis, together with the one at St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Citadel. However none examine to the one on the previous City Corridor.

“That is the place Czech historical past occurred,” he stated from the clock tower, pointing to the close by memorial to Jan Hus, who was burned on the stake for his beliefs and whose demise set off the 15th-century Hussite Wars.

“The clock simply retains ticking,” Mr. Skala stated.

Over the centuries, it has been modified, broken and repaired — however at all times returned to full working order, even after taking a fusillade from German troopers in World Battle II.

Its longevity has impressed numerous myths surrounding its operation, together with at the least one which predicts doom: When the clock stops working, the legend goes, the Czech land can be thrown into struggle and privation.

One other legend holds that whoever tries to have an effect on the machine will die or go insane.

Requested whether or not he gave such legends any credence, Mr. Skala smiled.

“I can not imagine the tales,” he stated, “or else I might by no means be capable to work on the clock.”

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