Take a walk through the streets of Cape Town’s CBD and you’re bound to spot many an interesting sight. The architecture and the many landmarks in our city centre reflect a variety of historical periods, and it’s a source of pride that the city has preserved so many of the buildings and items from bygone eras.
One such unique feature is the Smiths landmark electric brass clock which stands proudly outside Philip Zetler Jewellers in St Georges Mall. According to Philip, a Cape Town resident, “The clock, which is probably close to 100 years old, was manufactured in England by one of the first companies to produce synchronous electric clocks, and represents a particular vintage, offering antique charm in an otherwise busy street. People come from far and wide to marvel at the clock, to take pictures with it, and to admire its intricate workings. It has become a beloved landmark, a symbol of Cape Town’s rich history, and a testament to the ingenuity of the people who built it.”
While the historic clock belongs to the building, which is situated in St Georges Mall between
Castle and Hout Streets, Philip has looked after it on a voluntary basis for the four decades he has run his business there. This involves regular servicing of the clock’s parts and checking that it keeps perfect time.
“In recent times,” he explains, “the clock has begun to take more of my time because load shedding is having a negative impact on it. I have discovered that, with the frequent power outages we are experiencing, the clock has begun to run 15 minutes fast. As a result, I regularly have to climb up a ladder to adjust the clock’s timing.”
While this is a laborious task, Philip is happy to do the work in order to preserve this important bit of history. “For as long as I am able to do so, I will continue to climb up to adjust the time,” says Philip. “This icon of a previous time is a living, breathing piece of history that deserves to be preserved for generations to come.”
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