INGENIOUS SWISS RAILWAY CLOCK12/01/2012
Who else but a Swiss engineer could design something ingenious that ensured train punctuality and would be made visible to everyone in Switzerland.
Hans Hilfiker a Federal Railway employee realised that electrically powered clocks could be unreliable so decided to invent a reliable timepiece that would become “the most punctual clock in the world.”
Not content with just the precision of Swiss railway clocks, Hans Hifiker perfected a trick to make certain that each clock in every station would show exactly the same time.
Hilfiker accelerated the railway clocks so that the second hand (a unique design, visible from far away) comes up to the 12 o’clock position after 58 seconds. Here it stays awaiting release from an automatic electrical impulse sent through the electric power network that happens every full minute. First the black minute hand jumps to the next position and then the red second hand on all the clocks in the network begin a new rotation, ensuring synchronization of the entire rail system.
This exclusive attribute has fascinated travellers since the classic design was invented in the 1940s – an era where electric and quartz movement as well as radio and satellite based timekeeping did not exist. It is the only system of its kind in use and has furthered Switzerland’s image as the most punctual country in the world.
Zurich watchmaker Mondaine has incorporated this highly individual motion within its Official Swiss Railway SBB Watch. The fascinating execution “Stop to Go” like on the original clock, features the famous red second hand that turns full circle in 58 seconds and then waits at 12 o’clock for the black minute hand to move on before starting its next rotation.
A timepiece that ticks off a minute in only 58 seconds at first baffled people and continues to charm them today, but this unique feature of the Swiss Railway Clock has ensured smooth and absolutely precise departures of Swiss trains on the full minute for the last 60 years.