It’s only fitting that a story about a clock has an element of circularity to it. The timepiece in question is the great Paolo Uccello clock at the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (a.k.a. the Duomo) in Florence. Uccello, a 15th-century Italian artist, painted the colossal clockface in 1443, with frescoes of four prophets and a dial that measures hora itálica, a 24-hour system based on the time of sunset. In the ensuing centuries, the clock was repaired and rebuilt many times, including its mid-18th-century conversion to a 12-hour timekeeping system and a 1973 renovation that restored the original Uccello artwork as well as the 24-hour mechanism, which has a single hand that sweeps counterclockwise.
In May, the Uccello treasure emerged from the latest restoration of its intricate mechanism, an operation sponsored by Officine Panerai, the venerable luxury watchmaking company that set up shop in Florence in 1860. (Here comes the circularity.) Although the original Bottega Panerai—the city’s first watch shop—was located on the Ponte alle Grazie, the company moved its flagship at the turn of the last century to the Archbishop’s Palace in the Piazza San Giovanni, directly across from the Baptistery and the Duomo.
More than a hundred years later, Panerai continues to honor its Florentine heritage and its prestigious surroundings by supporting local institutions such as the Museo Galileo and providing the resources that allow the Uccello clock to maintain both its artistic and its mechanical integrity. That’s a gift that will keep on giving for decades to come.
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