We all watch the clock from time to time. For the past couple of months, I’ve been watching one in particular: the Filene’s clock hovering above the street vendors along Washington Street. This clock belongs to the now-unsupported facade of the former department store (and its basement!) whose stalled development has left a gaping hole in its wake. (I know this has been covered so I won’t comment further) The sad thing about these vestigial remains is that the actual time on the clock never registers – the hands are always frozen in the 12 o’clock position. One wonders: was this deliberate? (I think so) Did the demolition crew leave the hands pointing towards the sky to eulogize the building’s time of death? And if this is a record of the building’s demise, what would be the clock’s birth-time?
There’s a pretty straightforward answer for wristwatches. The hands of clocks and watches are most commonly set to 10 minutes past ten in an effort to best frame the manufacturer’s logo or emblem, which is often displayed on the faces of timepieces just below the 12. Since building timepieces are likely a more custom item, I’m not sure there’s as obvious an answer. Perhaps a building clock both is born and dies when the hand strikes 12.
The watch I wear is favored by – in no particular order – Pierre de Meuron, my friend Peter, George Thrush (so I hear, though this is unverified), and my mom. Ironically, Swatch has called this model “Ligne de Vie” (i.e. “lifeline” en francais), which contrasts strongly with the Filene’s clock, a timepiece that rather than keeping time, serves as a daily remembrance of things past.