Bern and the meaning of time

Time waits for no man, that’s how the saying goes. And human beings have fought for years to try to understand the concept of time better. It’s the one thing we can never have too much of, and we can never get back once it’s gone. Time is so precious, and the more we can discover about it, and understand it, the better it will be for everyone. But, to really get to grips with the meaning of time, we have to take a journey to the town of Swiss capital of Bern.

Heading through this 12th Century city, you certainly get the feeling of years gone by. It’s the place where old and new converge, and where the history of time came to fruition. Bern’s famed clock tower has been the centerpiece of time for 800 years, and remains a popular and important tourist attraction. So, how has time become so intertwined with Bern? Read on to find out more!

The clock tower

When we hear the term ‘clock tower’ we instantly think of Back to the Future, but Zytglogge is another famous one to add to the list. The clock tower was first constructed back in 1220, and has undergone several renovations and repairs since then. Its 15th Century astronomical clock is one of the most beautiful in the world and a huge tourist attraction. The great bell in the tower, cast in 1405, is how it got its name zytglogge.

Governor of time

How cool does ‘Governor of Time’ sound as a job title? Well, that’s exactly what Markus Marti wakes up to every day, for he is in charge of this great clock tower. As a keeper of time, Marti plays a big role in ensuring this famous clock is running on time, every single day. He and his assistants are responsible for winding the clock, and helping the residents of Bern live their passage of time as accurately as possible. We don’t know about you, but this seems a pretty rad job to us!


Now, you might be wondering why zytglogge is so important and influential, and the reason is simple. It inspired one of the greatest minds the world has ever known. So the story goes, one fine spring evening in May 1905, a young man named Albert Einstein heard the chiming of the clock bell and something hit him. He had been wrestling with a scientific paradox for more than 10 years, when he suddenly wondered what would happen if his car raced away from the tower at the speed of light. Six weeks later he had written a paper on his theory of relativity, which foreshadowed space travel, the nuclear age, and the way we perceive space and time. Wow.

Present day

With a backstory like that, it’s no wonder the clock tower is so special, and it has UNESCO World Heritage status. Not only has it kept time for the best part of 800 years, but it played a pivotal role in helping Einstein come up with his best-known theory. These days, the clock tower is a huge tourist attraction, as well as an icon in the city of Bern. We hope that, when Marti finally retires as Governor of Time, someone else will take up the mantle, and the clock tower will continue to flourish.

Time is such an abstract concept, but, through the elegance of clock towers like zytglogge, we can gain a better understanding of how it works. This is such an important landmark in Bern, and played a big role in changing the way we look at time as a concept. Inspiring Einstein is one of the biggest breakthroughs the world has known, and this can all be traced back to one evening in May, beneath this legendary clock.