The Corpus Clock is one of the most striking public monuments in Cambridge. It is a unique and strange looking sculptural clock mounted at street level at Corpus Christi College. Invented by engineer and entrepreneur Dr John Taylor, we worked with his team of engineers and sculptors to create a truly spectacular landmark design.
Unveiled in 2008 by famous Cambridge Physicist Stephen Hawking, the Corpus Clock is a stunning mixture of ultra-modern design and traditional craftsmanship, a celebration of cutting-edge precision engineering and engaging clockwork whimsy. Our involvement in its creation was to develop the visual form of the clock face along with the look and feel of the ‘Grasshopper’ that walks the top edge. The clocks unique appearance has attracted global attention and debate from the media and academia.
Known as ‘the time eater’, the bug devours seconds at a time with every snap of its fearsome jaws, sting of the tail and release of the claws. The gold-encrusted monster – part grasshopper, part locust – and huge 1.5m golden display cost over £1 million to make and seven years to build.
Unlike a conventional timepiece, the Corpus Clock has no hands or numbers. Instead, it uses a series of 60 slits cut into the face, each six degrees apart, which light up to show the time.
The seconds are counted down by each step of the mechanical bug as it ‘walks’ the disc, edged like a lizard’s spine. Its movement triggers blue flashing lights which dart across the clock-face, running in concentric circles to mark passing seconds before pausing at the correct hour and minute.
The stunning clock face, shaped like ripples of molten metal, is in fact manufactured from hard stainless steel, plated with real gold. The engineers on the development team concluded that the best way to create the face was to use ‘explosive forming’ in which the flat steel blank to be formed is placed over a die and emersed in a giant drum of water. Controlled explosive charges are then detonated at key positions in the water above the plate which is forced onto the die by the shockwave.
A giant pendulum ball swings below the clock face to complete the visual drama. We are proud to have been involved in the creation of this unique and innovative design.
The clock was donated to Corpus Christi College by Dr Taylor and has become a popular stopping off point for visitors to Cambridge and the historic location is testament to the significance of the clock. In July 2014, tens of thousands gathered to watch stage 3 of The Tour de France leave the city centre and pass by the clock on route to London.