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24 March 2023

Creation – The Time Ball in Lorient

A look back at the reactivation of the Time Ball.

The Tour de la Découverte is an emblematic monument of the city of Lorient, in Brittany. It was built, for the first time, between 1737 and 1744. It was rebuilt in 1786 after being hit twice by lightning and measures more than 35 meters in height. The tower is located in the port enclosure on Faouëdic hill. and is accessible to the public. From the outside, the tower is impressive with its domed architecture and imposing height. It is often used as a landmark in the city. The Discovery Tower is therefore a must for visitors to Lorient who wish to learn more about the history of the city.

The Tower is also famous for the Time Ball which sits at the top. This “time ball” is a metal sphere installed on the tower in 1882, which was used as a clock for ships in the port. Back then, ship captains used visual signals to synchronize their ships’ clocks with the official city time. The Time Ball was therefore a reference for sailors. Returned to operation in 2021, the time ball system is unique in France and is an important symbol of the maritime history of Lorient. It is operated manually every day at noon sharp and is visible from many places in the city. The Time Ball is also lit up at night to the delight of visitors and city residents.

Crézé’s mission is to create the Time Ball, an element that marks the uniqueness of this place. Using historical photos of the Tower, we were able to recreate the time ball. It is made of black powder-coated stainless steel in the Crézé workshop. The time ball slides along a stainless steel square mast, which serves as a guide and a rail. The ball is suspended by means of a halyard connected to a clock which activates the mechanism for the fall of the ball and its rise. A stainless steel spring damper is fitted at the bottom of the mast in case the halyard breaks.

We worked in collaboration with the company Lussault, a specialist in monumental clocks and watches, which used all its know-how to set up a complex mechanism consisting of a mechanical clock with a pendulum that allows the time ball to function every day. Following extensive historical research that shed light on its operation, the Time Ball was returned to its place at the top of the Tour de la Découverte.

An achievement in the service of history and a new testimony to the “passage of time”.At 35 metres high, the Time Ball is an important symbol of the maritime history of Lorient.

At 35 metres high, the Time Ball is an important symbol of the maritime history of Lorient.

A system of cables and shock absorbers allows the ball to fall and rise again.