In the quiet backstreets near Musée Georges Pompidou is one of Paris’ most unusual clocks – the Defender of Time (Défenseur du Temps). The clock is a mechanical scene of a brass warrior swinging a sword at a crab, a bird, and a dragon. Every hour from 9am to 10pn, the clock would initiate a battle against one of the opponents. And at noon, 6pm and 10pm, all three animals attack the warrior at once.
When the bird would attack (air), sounds of wind would play. For the dragon (earth), rumbling earth would accompany. And the crab (water), the sound was breaking waves.
The clock is colossal, coming in at more than 4 metres (13 feet) high, and weighing over a ton. It was created by Jacques Monestier in 1979, a French artist known for his use of mechanical figures and gold finishes. The clock is made of steel, brass and gold leaf and a circuit board with tape recorders and timers controlled the mechanism. Jacques Chirac himself commissioned its opening, and naming the small collection of streets the Quartier de l’Horloge (Clock Quarter), after the clock.
Sadly, the clock is no longer operating, having been decommissioned in 2003 due to lack of funding for maintenance. For now, it’s still available to find, and although it no longer moves, it’s a wonderful hidden treasure to discover.
If you want to find this little-known artwork for yourself, it’s at 8 rue Bernard de Clairvaux, in the Quartier de l’Horloge.