For nearly half a century, Milwaukee has boasted the world's largest four-sided clock high up on the Allen-Bradley tower.The tower might also be the world's tallest minaret.
Even the Guinness World Records book and Wikipedia say so. London's punier Big Ben has been eating our dust all these years.
But, alas, our affectionately nicknamed Polish moon has been eclipsed. A much bigger four-sided clock just went up in Mecca, and I don't mean the former Milwaukee Arena version of MECCA.
Arabia cleaned our clock with its Abraj Al Bait Towers, a.k.a. Mecca Royal Clock Hotel Tower, which overlooks Mecca's Grand Mosque, the holiest site in Islam and a destination for millions of Muslims.
They didn't just beat us by a little. Their clocks, which started operating this month in time for Ramadan, are by most accounts about 140 feet in diameter. Ours are 40.2 feet.
Milwaukee's four clock faces are illuminated by hundreds of fluorescent tube lights, which is how they came to be called the Polish moon at a time when the neighborhood was predominantly that ethnicity. The lights were doused during the energy crisis in 1973, but turned back on the following year after boaters on Lake Michigan complained that they missed the navigation aid.It would have been hard to one-up "This is London" with those chimes on the Beeb in any case. The St. Stephen Tower (the proper name for the tower that houses the clock, and the bell, which is what Big Ben refers to) is taller than the Allen-Bradley tower at 240 feet. Above the clock, however, is a lounge for corporate functions that offers an excellent view of Greater Milwaukee. The opening scenes of The Hindenburg were filmed from there. But a bell? A factory whistle would not have been out of place, although Allen-Bradley signalled lunch breaks and shift changes with bells that also served as a kind of intraplant telegraph. I remember a lot of requests for whoever had call sign 2-2-4.
The Mecca clocks have 2 million LED lights, plus 21,000 green and white lights that flash five times a day and call the faithful to pray. In Arabic script, the clocks say, "In the name of Allah."
The Allen-Bradley clock probably reminds people it's time for church, too, but it's just as likely that it summons the thirsty to neighborhood taverns.
The Saudis seemed most interested in besting Great Britain with this clock and intent on making Mecca the new time standard in place of Greenwich Mean Time. Most of the news reports I found online hardly mention Milwaukee's clock at all.
Big Ben's clock is a mere 23 feet in diameter on a tower reaching 316 feet. The story is that Allen-Bradley didn't include bells in its design so Big Ben could accurately claim it's the world's largest chiming four-sided clock.