Iconic Swiss train station clocks lose second hand

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Malcolm Curtis - [email protected]
Iconic Swiss train station clocks lose second hand
Clock at Lausanne railway station. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

The sweeping second hand on Swiss railway clocks with its distinctive red disc will disappear from some stations because the part is too costly to repair when it breaks down, according to a report.


The motor driving the second hand wears out quickly and Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) is balking at the replacement charges, of around 3,250 francs for each motor, the Zurich-based newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported on Wednesday.

Because of the high costs, SBB has decided to simply not replace the second hand at certain stations when the mechanism wears out, the newspaper, citing an official.

And in some cases, the parts are no longer available.

“As long as the clocks operate, we will keep them,” said Lea Meyer, SBB spokeswoman told Tages Anzeiger.

Tages Anzeiger said the second hand on the clock, a symbol of Swiss punctuality, will be missed by commuters who want to know whether they have five or 55 seconds before a train departs.

SBB maintains that the second hand will be maintained on platform clocks.

Although it seems like the Swiss railway clocks have been around for ever, before 1953 they did not have a second hand.

SBB engineer Hans Hilfiger originally designed the clock in 1944.

He added the second hand, in the shape of a railway guard’s signalling disc, in 1953.

It actually takes 58 seconds to make a revolution before pausing at the top as the minute hand advances.

The clocks are manufactured under contract by Moser-Baer AG in Sumiswald in the Emmental region of the canton of Bern.

They have become such an icon that Apple pinched the design for its iPads.

When SBB complained, the American computer giant agreed in 2012 to pay $21 million in damages and agreed to licence the clock’s design.

Mondaine, the Swiss watch brand, also has a licencing agreement to use the design.



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