Louis Zimmer, one of the best and most innovative clockmakers in the world, was born in Lier, Belgium on 8 September 1888. He was clockmaker to H.M. the King of the Belgians and constructed two world-famous masterpieces : the Centenary Clock and the Astronomic Studio, which took him 5 years to construct.
He gave the Centenary Clock to his native town of Lier on the hundredth anniversary of Belgium's independence. The Astronomic Studio was opened in 1932. The Centenary Clock is fixed in the front of the Zimmer Tower and the Astronomic Studio is installed on the first floor of it. It covers 9 sections with 57 dial-plates. The Zimmer clock ranks among the world's most famous astronomic clockworks on account of its originality and ingenuity.
His Greatest Work - The Centenary Clock
The Centenary Clock has one large dial in the centre (1.5 m diameter) showing the exact time with 12 other dials around the one in the centre. The other dials serve the following purpose :
Dial 1 - The Equation of Time : This dial shows the difference in minutes between Greenwich time and solar time. Greenwich time can be the same, faster or slower than solar time.
Dial 2 - The Zodiac : Every year the sun describes an imaginary circle around the earth, which is called the Zodiac. The hand of this dial shows consecutively : the Ram, the Bull, the Twins (Signs of Spring), the Crab, the Lion, the Virgin (Signs of Summer), the Balance, the Scorpion, the Bowman (Signs of Autumn), the Capricorn, the Water-bearer and the Fishes (Signs of Winter). The hand needs one complete year to go round.
Dial 3 - The Solar Cycle and the Dominical Letter : The Solar Cycle covers a period of 28 years. On the inner circumference, the hand indicates in which year of the Solar Cycle we are, and on the outer circumference you can see the Dominical Letter.
Dial 4 - The Week : This dial marks the day of the week.
Dial 5 - The Globe : All places on earth who pass under "the golden belt" (meridian line) have noon at the same time, while their antipodes have midnight.
Dial 6 - The Months : This dial indicates the month of the year using appropriate symbols, January (ice-month), February (duck-month), March (fish-month), April (harlequin-month), May (flower-month), June (shearing-month), July (hay-month), August (harvest-month), September (fruit-month), October (wine-month), November (slaughter-month) and December (resting-month).
Dial 7 - The Calendar Dates : You can read the exact date from this dial. There are 31 days on it. When the month only has 28, 29 or 30 days in it, the hand automatically moves forward to the first day of the following month.
Dial 8 - The Seasons : The dial shows four symbols, representing the four seasons. Spring is represented by a child with flowers, summer is represented by a mower, autumn is symbolised by a cornucopia and winter is represented by a housewife reading by the fireside.
Dial 9 - The Tides : The dial indicates the tides at Lier, Belgium. A big ship indicates Flood and the smallest ship indicates Ebb.
Dial 10 - The Age of the Moon : The dial visualises the age of the moon by means of a hand, indicating the day in the cycle of the moon and showing on the inner circumference the phases of New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon and Last Quarter.
Dial 11 - The Phases of the Moon : This globe, one half coloured gold and the other half coloured blue adorned with stars, shows the passing phases of the moon.
Dial 12 - The Metonic Cycle and the Epact : The hand on this dial revolves once in 19 years, pointing to the Golden Number or the Metonic Cycle of the current year. On the inner circumference there is a set of 19 numbers, the Epact, indicating the age of the moon on the first of January of the current year.
The Striking Work of the Zimmer Clock
In the wing of the tower there are four niches, occupied by four allegorical figures, representing the four phases of human life : childhood, adolescence, maturity and old age.
The child is Bertha, from "Ernest Staas" by Anton Bergman.
The adolescent is Anton Bergman himself.
The adult is the artist Louis Van Boeckel.
The old man is Meneer Pirroen, a character from Felix Timmerman's work.
The first three figures each strike the bells once for the first quarter of the hour, twice for the half hour, three times for the third quarter and four times for the hour. The fourth figure only strikes on the hour. Every day, exactly at noon, the square window opens and we see passing in parade the years 1830-1930 : the coat of arms of Belgium, the first three Belgian Kings, the coat of arms of Lier and the burgomasters who governed the town during the first 100 years of Belgium's independence.