If you wander up the Hohen Markt street in Vienna’s centre at the top of the hour, expect to see a crowd of people peering up expectantly at an insurance building. The object of their fascination: a clock called the Ankeruhr.
- Art Nouveau mechanical clock built in 1914
- 12 historical figures rotate slowly around the front
- Be there at midday when the figures do a complete turn
- See also: What to see in Vienna | Haydn location guide
The Ankeruhr is another creation that falls into that turbulent period of Austrian history when modernism, imperial tradition, and the chaos of war all collided. It’s a beautiful Art Nouveau clock that forms a bridge between two buildings.
The clock was built in 1914 by the Anker Insurance Company (now Helvetia) as part of the expansion of their headquarters, the work intended as both an artistic contribution to the city’s culture and a subliminal reminder of the importance of life insurance. So, for example, you have figures representing “life” and “death” flanking the sun motif above the centre:
The painter and sculptor, Franz Matsch, designed the clock at the height of his fame (he was once a close associate of Gustav Klimt). But people don’t collect there just to admire the architecture. A set of 12 figures rotate slowly around the minute display twice a day, so a new one appears each hour. The clock also marks the top of the hour with organ music, each piece matching the figure associated with that hour.
The big excitement (and the biggest crowds) come at midday, when all 12 Ankeruhr figures go through a complete rotation:
Who are the figures?
A plaque next to the clock reveals the identities of these 12 figures, who represent a journey through Austrian history.
- Joseph Haydn, who was not bad at music. The piece played at his appearance is from his own oratorio, The Creation. Haydn appears between 12 and 1, then subsequent hours reveal…
- The Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, who died in Vienna (then the city of Vindobona) in AD180
- Charlemagne, who first incorporated “Austria” into the Holy Roman Empire around AD800
- Leopold VI, Duke of Austria, who awarded Vienna its city charter in 1221
- Walther von der Vogelweide, a famous travelling singer of Leopold’s time
- The first Habsburg ruler of “Austria”, Rudolf von Habsburg and his wife
- Hans Puchsbaum, the 15th-century architect and master builder closely associated with Stephansdom cathedral
- Emperor Maximilian I, a major player in the expansion of the Habsburg monarchy in the early 16th century and a supporter of the arts
- Johann Andreas von Liebenberg, mayor of Vienna at the time of the second Turkish siege of 1683
- Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, who led the defence of the city in 1683
- Prince Eugene of Savoy, military genius, saviour of various Habsburg causes, and builder of Belvedere
- The 18th-century Empress, Maria Theresa, and her husband
How to get to the Ankeruhr
The clock is very close to the central square dominated by the cathedral.
Subway: Take the U3 or U1 to “Stephansplatz” and walk down
Bus: Take the 2A to “Rotenturmstraße” or the 1A or 3A to “Hoher Markt”
Address: Hoher Markt 10-11 | Website (in German)