Clock renovation gets mixed reaction

Most people prefer the previous, less aggressive color scheme

The Astrological Clock on the Old Town Hall was unveiled Sept. 28, after months of renovations to restore both its internal workings and its outer appearance in time for the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia.

The clock was actually unveiled a month ahead of schedule, meeting with applause from the crowd of both locals and tourists who assembled, many by chance. Fanfare from three musicians was played as the cloth covering was lowered. City Councilor Jan Wolf read some opening remarks on the history and restoration.

The new face is much more bright, with bold red instead of the faded orange at the bottom of the clock’s circle. The red is also shaded, turning deeper until it does black. This is meant to represent twilight.

The blue parts are also brighter and the gold details are highly polished.

Aside from the bolder and brighter color, an outline of the globe was added to the center, made of a gold-toned framework of curved lines.

Restorers previously said that this design was closer to how the clock looked in the 19th century and that it had been hastily restored in 1948 without much attention to detail. The clock was heavily damaged by fire at the end of World War II.

The post-war mistakes were partly fixed in 1979, when the familiar orange-and-blue plate was installed, fixing some glaring errors in the background lines.

But the new plate design is just a guess, and one of several designs that were considered.

Among scientists and historians, there is disagreement over what the backing plate used to look like as photos are in black and white, and it changed several times over the centuries.

The plate is used to read the position of the sun and moon against the Zodiac constellations, and the clock is based on an astrolabe, an early navigational instrument.

It also tells the time is several methods, including Babylonian and Old Bohemian as well as a modern 24-hour clock.

Mathematician and historian Antonín Vrba, formerly with the Academy of Sciences, was one of the leading voices against the new design before it was unveiled. He in particular complained to daily Mladá fronta Dnes about the shading for twilight, as that is something sailors at sea would be concerned about, but not people on land. He found the change senseless, as the meaning is completely lost on the casual tourist who simply wants to see the procession of saints.

He also said that the new look will cause the city some embarrassment next year when the city hosts a major conference of international astronomers, who will spot it as a modern intervention with no basis.

Several people commenting on a side-by-side photo online after the new look was unveiled said the older pattern seemed warmer and more inviting, and that the new shade of red was very aggressive. About two-thirds of the comments were along similar lines, while the remainder praised the work of the restorers.

The negative comments also got more likes. The most popular comment said that they would have preferred to the old plate to have been polished and cleaned instead.

But one person said “hats off to the restorers,” and that comment also got several likes.

On another social media post, one of the commenters pointed out that the restoration was part of a global trend to “Disneyfy” tourist locations, and make them artificially brighter and cleaner than they ever have been in their pre-tourism history. This turns the city into a sort of Disneyland for tourists, rather than a true representation of a place where people live and work.

She gave post-hurricane New Orleans as an example: A pretty replica that lacks the soul of the original.

A graphic designer who lived in Prague in the 1990s and 2000s said that the change to the clock face for her meant that the era of the 1990s was now gone forever, as slowly almost everything she remembers of the city is now gone or changed, even the centuries-old clock. The 1990s to her were a very special time, and the somewhat gritty and rundown nature of Prague was a large part of that feeling.

The Astronomical Clock was first built in 1410, redesigned in 1490 and again in 1552–72.

The clock underwent a large renovation in 1797–91, and the rotating Apostles were added around this time. Another repair took place in 1865–61, and the sound of the rooster was added. More repairs took place in 1912.

It was burned badly in May 1945, and the original statues were destroyed. The clock mechanism was modernized during the repairs in 1948, and new wooden statues were made, but they did not fully resemble the previous ones.

Some errors to the Astronomical Clock face were fixed in 1979. Further repairs took place 1984–86.

During the recent repairs, the clock mechanism was restored to how it worked in the late 1800s, the Apostles and other statues were refurbished but kept their post-war designs, the doors the Apostles appear behind were changed from wood to glass, the lower wheel, which takes a year to turn, was replaced with a new copy of Josef Manes’ original.

The clocks on top of the tower were also changed back to their gold-detailed Baroque faces, with the larger hand pointing at hours and the smaller one at minutes.

The Orloj, as it is also called, is the third-oldest Astronomical Clock in the world and the oldest one still operating.

The James Joyce Irish Pub

Best Irish Pub in Prague

Ristorante Casa de Carli

Authentic Italian cuisine in Prague

Pražské Benátky

The Prague Venice company

Balloon Adventures Prague

Welcome to the ballooning world!

Prague Boats

Prague river cruises – popular Prague tourist attractions


Escape rooms in Prague

Prague’s # 1 source for Czech news in English…

Digital lifestyle magazine platform promoting life in Prague.