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Metronome: World's Most Confusing Clock

Field review by the editors.

New York, New York

This is a good example of why conceptual artists rarely get paid to design public clocks.

Metronome is big and strange and interesting to look at. Over a hundred feet high, it fills the outside wall of a building that faces Union Square. Plumes of white steam occasionally puff out of a hole ("The Infinity") at the center of a bulls-eye of 24 carat gold-covered bricks ("The Vortex"), topped by a giant hand ("The Relic"), none of which has much to do with telling time -- except for the puffs, which are especially big at noon and midnight.

The clock part of Metronome is "The Passage," fifteen big digital numbers that tick with atomic precision -- to a hundredth of a second -- if you know how to read their maddening mix of military time and backwards numbers. At precisely quarter to three in the afternoon, for example, they would display 144500000001509. And if you were walking past and saw 200658907015303, you would of course know that it was just shy of 8:07 in the evening.

It's doubtful that many New Yorkers realize that Metronome is a clock, even though it's been ticking away since 1999.

Metronome: World's Most Confusing Clock

14th St., New York, NY
On the south side of 14th St. between Broadway and 4th Ave., at the southeast corner of Union Square.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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