An astronomer's paradise in Belgium: Zimmer Tower

Fascinating clocks, astronomical master pieces and a peek into the life and works of Louis Zimmer, Belgium's Zimmer Tower is interesting as it is revealing and educative, says Pooja Bhula    

An astronomer's paradise in Belgium: Zimmer Tower

Pooja Bhula

Fascinating clocks, astronomical master pieces and a peek into the life and works of Louis Zimmer, Belgium's Zimmer Tower is interesting as it is revealing and educative, says Pooja Bhula.

The tour of the tower begins even before you enter. Its right facade has four automatons in the form of statues (representing childhood, youth, adult age and old age) that perform a striking sound every 15 minutes. At noon, figurines of local and national personalities parade from a hatch in the facade.

As you walk towards its front facade, you’ll notice the- 2D Jubilee Clock. Its central dial shows Belgium’s official time and the 12 smaller ones surrounding it show–

#1 The 19-year moon cycle. #2 The equation of time (difference between the sundial’s true solar time and the mean time shown by the clock). #3 The zodiac. #4 The 28-year solar cycle. #5 Days of the week–each represented by Greek and Latin divinities. #6 The meridians. #7 Months of the year, represented by typical characteristics of each like harvest, snow etc. #8 Seasons of the year (and their length) depicted artistically–eg. the painting of a woman reading a book by the hearth, shows winter. #9 High tide and low tide in Lier. #10 and #11 The age and phases of the moon. #12 The moon’s orbit with epact...

Zimmer gifted this aesthetic, astronomical masterpiece to Lier on Belgium’s 100th year of independence in 1928.

As the audio guide, at his Astronomical Studio on the first floor, explains–the clock as well as the other instruments in the tower are permanently in motion. The ceiling has a revolving disc that replicates our Northern hemisphere; the studio also has a planetarium and other dials depicting different time zones, the official time of various countries, periodic phenomena, climatology and several calendars. On the second floor is the gear mechanism, controlled by a master-clock, which adjusts all 75 dials every six seconds.

In the pavilion next to the tower is another world-renowned masterpiece–the 16-foot, 4500-pounds, Wonder Clock with 93 dials, built by Zimmer in 1960. One dial, considered the world’s slowest mechanism takes

25, 800 years for a revolution. But who’s going to be there to see it? Worth checking out are two automatons: one depicts a man weighing 70kg on Earth; his scale also shows the weight on other planets and the moon. The other, has nine lasses posed in action on nine planets; they show that although each weighs the same and jumps with the same energy, the different gravity of each celestial body affects how high they reach.

Before leaving, browse through Zimmer’s old-fashioned equipment, a reconstruction of his old workshop, a painting of him with the tower in the background, an eagle sculpture by the art metal-worker Lodewijk Van Boeckel and other memorabilia.

 

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