Hidden in plain sight, next to the Europa Center in Budapester Strasse, there is a clock that looks like it comes from out of space. Called Mengenlehreuhr, this clock is famous for being the first timepiece that measures time with lights, colors, and set theory. And I bet you will take some time to learn how to read the time in it.
Some people call it the Berlin-Uhr (Berlin Clock), others call it the Mengenlehreuhr (Set Theory Clock), but everyone agrees that this clock looks insanely cool. When it was created, back in 1975, it was so revolutionary that it entered the Guinness Book of Records as the first public clock in the world to tell time using set theory.
The Mengenlehreuhr was commissioned by the Berlin Senate in 1975 for the city’s 750th-anniversary celebrations, and it was built and designed by watchmaker and electrical engineer Dieter Binninger. First, it was located at the Kurfürstendamm on the corner with Uhlandstraße, but it was decommissioned by the Senate in 1995. Then it was relocated to where it stands today, in front of the Europa Center, in West Berlin.
After it was shown to the public, the Mengenlehreuhr became quite popular, and desktop versions of the timepiece began being sold in shops around Berlin. But the home versions had better luck than the actual clock since it was quite complicated to keep this light clock working in the streets of Berlin. It required a constant light source, and it was lit with incandescent bulbs that frequently burned out due to its continuous blinking. And the maintenance wasn’t cheap. This is the reason why Mengenlehreuhr changed locations. Berlin didn’t want to spend any more money on it, and somebody else decided to take care of it.
Now that you know the history behind this futuristic looking clock, I will try to explain how do you read the time on the Mengenlehreuhr. Let’s try.
You have to start on the top and read row by row. Each light in the top red row represents 5 hours and each light in the bottom read row represents 1 hour. Add those together, and you’ll have 24 hours. Perfect. For minutes, the same idea applies.
Each light in the yellow upper row represents 5 minutes and, on the lower row, each light represents 1 minute. There is a blinking circular light counting the seconds and, when you add it all together, you will know which time it is.
But it probably changed already since you started counting but… Who really cares? Math is fun, and the Mengenlehreuhr is a piece of art that most people don’t even see when they walk around Budapester Straße.
But, now that you know everything about it, next time you’re in the area, you can try to see how fast you can read the time on the Mengenlehreuhr.