But what if the direction the hands of the clock turn depended upon the clock? I'm not referencing the novelty wristwatches marketed by Disney with pitcures of Goofy on them. They are intentionally 'goofy.'
As some may recall, back in July of last year I blogged about a clock tower in Prague, at the Jewish community center next to the Altneu Synagogue, where the hands go "Counter-Clockwise," and have been doing so since 1586. Which, as I mentioned, doesn't make sense linguistically. For that clock, 'clockwise,' is different.
I purchased a wristwatch while in Prague which is modeled after the Altneu Clock-tower. The time on the wristwatch shown is approximately 4:22. (My wife and I were married on April 22nd last year. Prague was our honeymoon. It's not a coincidence that I took the photo at that time.)
The direction of the clock has no relationship to the direction of the written language. Arabic is right-to-left, just like Hebrew. And it is probably Arabic numerals on the watch of most individuals reading this post. Watches and clocks that actually have Roman numerals don't turn in the opposite direction. Apparently, after some research, I have discovered that clocks were originally designed to imitate sundials. Interestingly, sundial movement is different in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, and if clocks had originally been designed in the Southern hemisphere, the usual definition of 'clock-wise' would likely be inverted.
Clocks and watches in Israel all run clockwise. (I shouldn't say "All," but Israel was another stop on our honeymoon, and I did look for watches there that ran counter-clockwise, and found none. I've also looked online since our return, without success. The Altneu wristwatch appears to be unique. And, for what it's worth, I've only seen Altneu-styled watches available online at auction sites such as Ebay. If you can't find it at an auction site, it appears you currently have to go to Prague.)
So - the clock tower in Prague - why does it do that?
Well, the person who designed the clock tower is deceased. (You may recall I mentioned above that it was built in 1586.) I am unaware of any record of his intent. There are actually two clocks on the tower, and the other one does have Roman numerals. Maybe the designer did decide, incorrectly, that the direction should be based on the written language. It's certainly possible Arabic numerals weren't in common usage on clocks in 16th century Prague. Perhaps the designer wanted the Hebrew clock to be 'different' as a metaphor for the community. Lots of possibilities.
Yad Vashem doesn't put a date on it, but some other sites with the same postcard state it is from 1890. If I were able to identify the motorcar in the photograph, I might be able to be more certain about the date.
Top Photographs - ©2012 John Newmark.