The Linear World Clock: Piccadilly Circus station

The World Time Today…

Amongst the crowds of commuters and tourists within the circular concourse at Piccadilly Circus station lies this wonderful relic from London Underground’s past: the linear world clock.

Set within a solid oak frame behind a single pane of glass, this beautifully illustrated map features an illuminated horizontal timeline running across the centre of the world’s continents. It moves at the speed of the earth’s rotation axis so that the solar time can be determined in any part of the world by taking the vertical line from that point to the band.

Designed by celebrated architect Charles Holden and built by John Mowlem and Company during the station’s extensive and costly redesign in the mid/late 1920s, this world clock (originally titled What Time Is It?) would have been a state of the art piece of horological equipment when visitors first caught a glimpse of it during the new station’s unveiling.

In its heyday it was a well known talking point for all those using Piccadilly Circus station on their journey through the capital, with many queuing up to marvel at its global timekeeping abilities.

Today, sadly, it’s significance is mostly forgotten, with thousands of daily passengers passing by without giving it a moment’s notice. It’s still lit to this day, but sadly it’s timekeeping abilities are in need of repair. Note to TFL.

If you happen to be travelling through the station do stop by to take a look. Just imagine what it must have been like to have stood at the same spot all those years ago when the station reopened its gates to the public for the first time following its refurbishment. A very different London would have greeted you then…

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