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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 in 1926 and is over 35 metres high. The tower is located in the Merville district 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 Tour de la Découverte 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 at the top. This ‘time ball’ is a metal sphere installed on the tower in 1928 and was used as a clock for ships in the harbour. At the time, ship captains used visual signals to synchronise their ships’ clocks with the official city time. The Time Ball was therefore a reference for sailors. Re-opened in 2021, the time ball system is unique in France and is an important symbol of Lorient’s maritime history. It is manually operated every day at exactly noon and can be seen from many places in the city. The Time Ball is also illuminated at night to the delight of visitors and inhabitants of the city.

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.