World Clock in Berlin (Weltzeituhr)

One of the most important landmarks gracing Alexanderplatz is the Berlin World Clock, the epitome of freedom and peace throughout the world, and the most popular meeting place in the capital. On 9 November 1989, when the Berlin Wall (Berliner Mauer) fell, Berliners and tourists alike saw the World Clock for the first time. They displayed the time of all time zones and major cities in the world simultaneously and also had the inscription "Time will destroy all walls" (Die Zeit wird alle Mauern niederreißen). This clock, along with the fallen Berlin Wall, has become a symbol of a new era, freedom, peace and unity.

The unique chronometer is a 10-metre-high column with a cylindrical dial. At the top of the structure are rings with spheres — symbols of planets moving in orbits. On the pavement around the base of the column is a mosaic of the "Rose of the Winds".

History of emergence

The opening ceremony of the clock took place on 30 September 1969. The same year, the Berlin TV Tower (Berliner Fernsehturm) appeared on Alexanderplatz to mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of the GDR, which was celebrated on 7 October. East Berlin Square, known simply as "Alex", was enlarged several times and transformed into an example of socialist art nouveau, built according to the requirements of the era. The clock, which became part of the complex, appealed to East Germans. The GDR even issued postage stamps depicting the clock and minted a commemorative coin.

The project was conceived by industrial designer Erich John, and brought to life by designer Hans-Joachim Kunsch. Erich John's brainchild became a design icon, but his name remained hidden from the public. Erich was a German born in 1932 in Czechoslovakia. He later lived in Berlin and taught design at the Higher School of Art (Hochschule der Künste), which was later renamed the Berlin University of the Arts (Universität der Künste Berlin). The "World Clock" became very popular and it was later said that John should have won the GDR Design Award for his project, if it had existed in 1969. He did later win it, but only in 1982 and for a different work.

In German sources, the building is often referred to as the "Urania World Clock" (Urania-Weltzeituhr). During excavations during the redevelopment of Alexanderplatz, workers stumbled across one of the so-called "Urania columns". At the time, the find was of no historical value and was perceived as a relic from the time of the Kaisers. There were originally 18 of them, which appeared in the streets of Berlin in 1892. They were made of stone and covered with cast iron decorations, had a square shape and ended at the top with a large clock. There were two or even four clocks on each column — on each face.

The people used to call these columns "weather columns" because they held weather instruments, such as thermometers or barometers, at eye level. The idea for these columns belonged to the Urania Society, which sought to educate the people about the achievements of science. Later, the columns ceased to have that function, and from 1923 they continued to serve as advertising poles in the town. But the citizens liked them as well: they were gladly used as meeting places.

The World Clock forms an architectural ensemble together with the Berlin TV Tower, the Stadt Berlin hotel building and other modern buildings and historical landmarks. Alexanderplatz not only symbolises the unity of nations, but also successfully combines past and present in architecture. The square is always crowded and lively. Alexanderplatz serves as a crossing point for old tram lines and high-speed trains, three underground lines cross here. Under the famous clock, romantic dates and business meetings can be arranged.


In 1997, the Berlin World Clock underwent a renovation that cost the city authorities, when converted into euros, 245,000. During the renovation work, not only the exterior of the building was renewed, but also its "contents": Leningrad was replaced by St Petersburg and Alma-Ata by Almaty. In addition, 20 new cities appeared on the clock, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Since 2015, the building has been officially protected as a historical monument. And in 2018, on the eve of its 50th anniversary, Erich John allowed a young company in the capital to sell souvenirs of the clock.

"Berlin World Clock" Award

The famous clock quickly became one of the hallmarks of Berlin and Germany. In 2003, Jens Lorenz, a Berlin-based jewellery and watchmaker, suggested that the Berlin Commission for UNESCO introduce the Berlin World Clock prize. Today, the UNESCO Prize is awarded to people and organizations that have done much to overcome racism, class and religious intolerance and other barriers between people. Many prominent political figures such as Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Helmut Josef Michael Kohl, Mikhail Gorbachev, Pope Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Mother Teresa and many others have received the award.

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