Last Updated on 13th January 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
Situated in the shadow of the tube-like ‘inside out’ architecture of the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Quartier de l’Horloge is a truly unexpected concrete find amidst the maze of narrow streets and plethora of bars that make up Le Marais area of the city. And, in the very heart of the shopping area, Le Défenseur du Temps (The Defender of Time) is a truly striking and unusual timepiece of stunning proportions.
When wandering around Le Marais (i.e. the third and fourth arrondissements of the city), many visitors are struck by the ‘medieval vibe’ that much of the district has to offer. After all, it’s here, more so than perhaps anywhere in Paris, that many historic buildings escaped the Hausmannian overhaul of the 19th-century.
Le Défenseur du Temps (The Defender of Time) Clock
Address | 8 rue Bernard-de-Clairvaux, 75003
Wander into a somewhat unknown concrete courtyard (for example, one entrance to the area is quite literally via a car park), and you’ll soon discover one of the more impressive clocks in Paris, if not all of France.
Designed by French artist, Jacques Monestier, the clock is around 4 metres high and weighs an impressive one ton. All brass features, the clock was unveiled to the public in autumn of 1979, when it was officially opened by then mayor of Paris (and later to become President of the French Republic), Jacques Chirac.
The automaton heavy piece features a man perched atop a rock and wielding a sword and shield. 3D in nature, the scene is of the man fighting a crab, bird, and dragon, which in turn represent the sea, sky, and earth. When the clock was functioning, each hour would have depicted the man fighting one of the three animals.
What’s more (and what makes the ‘horloge’ a clock as opposed to a timepiece) is that the clock would feature the sound of crashing waves, earth rumbling, or strong winds, depending on which animal the man was selected to fight. As an aside to those curious, a clock is only a clock if it strikes a noise when telling the hour. As such, all clocks are timepieces, but not all timepieces are clocks!
Unfortunately, the Defender of Time Clock has been out of order since 2003 and there are no announced plans for restoration any time soon. I’ve heard that the timepiece was truly a work of art to behold when it functioned, though there’s no denying that it remains an impressive hidden gem to this day.
It’s hoped that one day the clock will be restored, if the money can be found somewhere. And while I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to visit, it’s still worth checking out if you happen to be in the area! After all, the area is quite literally now named for the timepiece which it hides in plain sight…
Things to see and do close to the Defender of Time Clock
The Forgotten Passage de l’Horloge of Le Marais
Throughout Paris, and largely in the 2nd and 9th arrondissements, there are a smattering of covered passageways that are a throwback to times gone by. You see, during the 18th and 19th-centuries, around a hundred and fifty shopping arcades were constructed.
Collectively these are known as the covered passages of Paris, though it’s worth noting that there are only a few dozen left to this day. One of the more forgotten and overlooked of the passages is that of Passage de l’Horloge, which is no longer recognisable as a covered passage, safe for a carved stone keystone in the otherwise nondescript archway set into the wall. Today, the passage has been transformed into a Leroy Merlin garden and homeware store.
Visit Le Centre Pompidou
Visited the Louvre Museum and fancy exploring a little bit of modern artwork? Well, while the Centre Pompidou itself is a modern installation of architectural engineering, it’s the oeuvres d’art inside which offer the true treasure trove of things to see.
Home to a plethora of 20th-century artwork, inside the museum visitors will soon discover delights such as Picasso paintings and those by Georges Bracques. Head up to the rooftop terrace of the museum, and you’ll even get to spy one of the best views of Paris, offering a glimpse of Notre Dame and even the Eiffel Tower! Purchase your Center Pompidou Entrance Ticket to Permanent Collections here.