The Defender of Time – Paris, France - Atlas Obscura

The Defender of Time

A mechanized clock where a man fights off a dragon, crab, and rooster. 


While most of the Quartier de l’Horloge, or the Neighbourhood of the Clock, in Paris is dreary concrete, the mechanized time piece for which it is named is a stunning automaton called “Le Défenseur du temps,” or “The Defender of Time.”

Unfortunately, it’s been stopped since July 1, 2003. However, when it was in action, it was incredible, and even in its frozen state it’s still a spectacle. The epic scene of man vs. nature was made by French artist Jacques Monestier in 1979. On a craggy landscape of brass, steel, and gold leaf gilding, a metal man with a massive sword engaged in battle with a dragon, rooster, and crab on the hour, except three times of day when he was barraged by all three. The animals represent the ground, the sky, and the sea, respectively, and the sounds of the earth moving, the wind, and the waves would soundtrack the battles.

While the man always won his battles against the animals and time marched on, funding for the preservation of the clock dwindled. Despite a 1995 restoration, it has now fallen into disrepair, its metal streaked and its beautiful mechanizations frozen. However, there is still interest in its restoration if the money can be found. 

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