Did you know that there is a 1920s historic clock in London’s Piccadilly Circus underground station? In fact if you walk too quickly you could miss it.
If you find yourself arriving in London’s West End through Piccadilly Circus take a moment to seek out the World Time Linear Clock and admire the station’s splendid 1920s architectural design. The Linear clock is truly one-of-a-kind timekeeping device.
What is the world Time Linear clock at Piccadilly station? Everything you need to know about the historic underground clock.
Just past the ticket entrance opposite the Frank Pick memorial in Piccadilly Circus underground station, you’ll encounter the World Time Linear Clock. It is a remarkable creation that resulted from the collaboration of architect Charles Holden and John Mowlem & Company.
This extraordinary timepiece was integrated into the station during its expansion in the early 1920s, adding a touch of timeless elegance to the bustling heart of Piccadilly Circus. The clock dates from the station’s redesign sometime between 1923-1925.
A unique Linear time clock
The time is shown and indicated by a unique mechanism in the form of a westward-scrolling time band. The clock band moves across its central line at the same pace as the earth rotates around the equator. It shows the time in Roman numerals across the band.
What makes this timepiece even more captivating is its ability to display both Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and British Summer Time (BST). This offers a rough but intriguing glimpse into the current times across the globe.
A small note on the clock reads:
This clock shows the time of day in any part of the world.
The time band moves across the map to correspond with the earth’s rotation so that the solar time at any place can be ascertained by taking a vertical line from that point to the band.
Piccadilly Station History and Timeline
Piccadilly Circus station was opened in 1906 by the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway Company. It was created for their line which connected Regents Park and Elephant and Castle. The original Piccadilly Circus station had a street level ticket hall designed by Leslie Green. It saw a footfall of 1.5 million passengers by 1907. An increase in passenger numbers by 1922 of 18 million meant a new station needed to be built.
The World Time Linear Clock Installation at Piccadilly
Charles Holden’s designed the underground station as an elliptical ticket hall with several entrances from the street level accessed by subways. The architects Charles Holden and builder was John Mowlem & Co refurbished the station in 1925 and completed in 1928. This is when the Linear clock was installed.
This Clock installation was said to be a nod to how the world had changed and how the modern commuter needed such futuristic devices to keep ahead of the times.
Top tip: if you put your ear to the Linear clock you can hear the heartbeat of it ticking!
The Clock in the Station now
Many people walk past the clock and do not even see it there. Even though it is meant to tell the time the timepiece doesn’t provide pinpoint accuracy due to the general nature of worldwide time zones that correspond with longitudes. However it remains an incredibly intriguing piece of machinery.
This charming combination of art and science is a valuable piece of the London underground’s history. Viewers can contemplate the Earth’s rotation and the concept of time in a unique and thought-provoking way.
A Unique Design
Small Illuminated lightbulbs draw attention to select cities. These cities London, Cape Town, Sydney, New York, Victoria (Canada), and Buenos Aires. The cities were once significant reference points for travellers back in the 1920s seeking to understand the time across the globe.
The sad thing is that few people notice the clock in the station, many commuters simply pass it by!
The Frank Pick Memorial opposite the Linear Clock
The station has since been renovated in 1984 the same year it achieved a Grade II listing. The clock is still in situ opposite the Frank Pick Memorial.
Frank Pick was the Chief Executive of London Transport with an unrivalled flair for design management. Pick changed the face of London Transport as he had a keen interest in design. He was responsible for the development of the London Underground’s and transforming it to what it is now.
In 2016 a memorial artwork by Langlands and Bell was installed to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the death of Frank Pick.
As of 2022, the station has nearly 27 million people exit and enter Piccadilly Circus station but still Holden’s design still looks as good at it did then. The clever design allows passengers to circulate to their destinations at the same time as the buses and Taxis above.
Every time I visit Piccadilly Circus I stop to admire the clock put my ear to the glass and listen to the passing of time. I hope you enjoy this beautiful piece of intricate horology and take a moment to reflect on the valuable resource for globetrotters in times gone by.