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Build your own Swiss Railway Clock

It's virutally impossible to say "Swiss Army" without thinking Swiss Army Knife. Likewise, many fans of Swiss Railways quickly recall the ubiquitous platform clock with it's distinctive face and 'red ball' second hand. These clocks move with a precision that mirrors the punctuality of the Swiss Railways themselves. The design is so well known that specially-licensed companies such as Mondaine have watches and clocks available for sale (at a 'discrete' price) to the general public.

With my son Dietrich's help (I could have done it, but he's sitting home all summer so why not put him to work?), I built an inexpensive Swiss Railway Clock in just a few minutes. The basis for this creation is a cheap battery-operated wall clock that I picked up several years ago at a garage sale (with this express use in mind). Similar clocks are available at large discount and department stores for $5-10.

While it is possible to purchase replacement clock hands to duplicate an exact look, starting out with the railway clock in mind, I found a fairly plain, modern looking clock with comparitively wide, squared-off minute and hour hands and a long thin second hand. I disassembled the clock which involved removing the battery, popping off the clear bezel, removing each hand in turn (mine were simply pressed on; yours may be different), and pulling away the paper clock face.

After masking the mechanism, I painted the clock housing with chrome silver paint. Meanwhile, Dietrich was at the computer drawing a 6-7/8" circle and accurately placing the 60 'tics' around the perimiter using the Mondaine design as a guide. To duplicate the 'red ball' look, I used a single-hole paper punch to punch two circles out of a self-adhesive address label. I then peeled the backing paper from each and stuck them back-to-back on the end of the second hand (trapping the second hand between the two). To finish the second hand, I painted it red (don't get red paint on the stem that presses into the clock mechanism!).

Meanwhile, Dietrich finished the clock face and applied the SBB logo (borrowed from the SBB website) and lettering (a plain Arial font). We printed our clock face on glossy cardstock using an ALPS MD-1000 printer - it should also turn out fine on a color ink jet printer.

Now to assemble our creation. Following the faint line around the perimeter, I cut the face out using scissors. If your original clock face had a paper tab that keyed into a slot in the housing, don't forget to include it in your trim job - it keeps the face from turning; mine had a tab at 12 o'clock. With a hobby knife, cut out the center hole to clear the shaft. When installing the face, you may want to place a few pieces of double stick tape on the back side to hold it flush to the housing. On my clock this wasn't a problem as the edge of the clear bezel traps the face so it can't rise up and interfere with the arms.

Here is an Adobe Acrobat file containing our Swiss Rail Clock face sized for a 6-7/8" clock. Print this in color on thin card stock and create your own courtesy of the Società Lepontina Ferroviaria!

Download the latest Adobe Acrobat Reader to view and print the clock face.

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