Back to Blog

The Cincinnati Union Terminal Clock

Our Blog: There are many great people and resources who have done a terrific job gathering resources, facts, and images of the Union terminal over the decades. It is not our intention to recreate the story of the Cincinnati Union Terminal, or assemble the vast resources onto one blog; instead we aim to acknowledge and share the resources by linking to them while discussing in our blog what we find tremendously important. The links will open in a new tab for you to check out these great resources so be sure to see the embedded links throughout the articles for great resources and historical assets.

Who Designed The Union Terminal Clock?

The clock was built by the Seth Thomas Company, but who designed the clock?

The first question myself and others had about the CUT clock is Who Designed It? We know that the clock was part of the design of the building and that Paul Cret was hired on by the New York architectural firm to add the art deco to the design of the train station. But was it Paul Cret who drew the design of the clock? Was it a team inside of the architectural firm? Or even one of the other renown architects? No one seems to know precisely whom drew the design for the Union Terminal Clock.

The Union Terminal Art Deco Clock Was a Part of the Original Art Deco design blueprints.

Union Terminal Cincinnati Ohio Blueprints of Clock

The art deco clock on the exterior front face of the Cincinnati Union Terminal was part of the original art deco design by the New York architecture firm Fellheimer and Wagner, who specialized in train stations. Fellheimer and Wagner had a team of architects on the design and brought on Paul Cret specifically to add the art deco exterior design to a previously established traditional gothic design. It is believed that Paul Cret is responsible for the exterior art deco design and he is the most likely person to be responsible for the designed the Union Terminal Clock.

Architect: Alfred T. Fellheimer of Fellheimer and Wagner.

Architectural Project Manager: Roland Anthony Wank of Fellheimer and Wagner;

Architectural Critic and Adviser on the exterior appearance of the building: Paul Cret;

Mural Designers: Winold Reiss and Pierre Bourdelle;

Exterior pilaster relief designs: Maxfield Keck

Designer of the Rookwood Tea Room: William Hentschel


The Union Terminal Clock Specifications

  • Clock face measures 18 feet across
  • Minute hand – 7 feet, 4 inches
  • Hour hand – 6 feet, 4 inches
  • Clock face is composed of 28 amber glass panels of various sizes and 24 red glass panels to demarcate the twelve hour positions (Indices)
  • The clock face is backlit while the hands are lit by neon tubes outlining them
  • The hands are made out of Aluminum
  • The Clock weighs roughly 5 Tons, or 10000 LBS!

The Clock was connected to IBM's brilliant synchronizing mechanism revealed at the opening of the Union Terminal. All of the clocks in the CUT were synced to the first public digital clock created by IBM so that no matter who you are or where you were in the Union Terminal you knew exactly what the station time was.

In 1933 The Clock Hands Were "Skeletonized"

View the whole series of black & whites of the Cincinnati Union Terminal in 1933 HERE

Below is an image from 1933 of The Union Terminal Clock showing that the hands are see through, aka "skeletonized". Only the frame of the hands comprise the hands. We have been told in unconfirmed reports that the clock after the restoration will again have Skeletonized hands in 2018. We shall see!

The 2018 Restoration of the Clock.

The Verdin Clock Co was trusted with the restoration of the Union Terminal Clock. Verdin has been operating our of Cincinnati since 1842. The 52 glass panels and the large iconic aluminum hands were taken down and replaced with white material to support the metal frame of the clock dial while the glass, and metal dial framework, are being cleaned.

Why is the Union Terminal Clock Missing Article WVXU Cincinnati.


Below is a picture of The Union Terminal Clock Hands At Verdin being cleaned during the 2018 restoration.


In the May 2018 update of the Union Terminal restoration the video shares a brief close up of the clock with the clock face removed, a worker for scale, and the internal gear mechanism being reinstalled.

The "New" Verdin Company factory on Eastern Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio. Look through the windows the next time you are passing by, you never know what you'll see standing up in there!

Verdin Factory on Eastern Ave Cincinnati

Below you see the Cincinnati Union Terminal's clock hands after NeonWorks Of Cincinnati installed the signature neon outline on the hour and minute hands during the July 2018 restoration.

The hands will now go back to Cincinnati's Verdin company where they will be balanced and finished. Neonworks of Cincinnati used The American Sign Museum's workshop for the repair of the hands.

A Change To The Look of The Clock is Coming.

We have been told by Neonworks Of Cincinnati that the hands are to be returned to their original "skeletonized" version, or see through.

If this is correct then the hands will not have white in the middle of the hands but instead will be see through, only the aluminum frame of the hands outlined in neon light will be part of the hands.

At some point in the history of the clock white, possibly aluminum, plates were added to the center sections of the hands giving them a fun modern feel. Neon tubes were added to the perimeter of the hands; together they gave the impression from afar that the clock hands were red-orange.


Neonworks Of Cincinnati working on replacing the neon tubes on the clock's hands. Picture taken at the American Sign Museum's workshop.


The Union Terminal Watch

When Cincinnatian Rick Bell designed The Union Terminal Watch he made great efforts to ensure the hands were the correct color, look, and shape of the hands on the CUT; he also made great efforts to ensure to include the white circle second hand cap.

Two variations of the Cincinnati Watch dial were presented to the Union Terminal and the watch you see is the version selected.

The Union Terminal holds special meaning to all Cincinnatians, especially with Mark Stegman, one of the c0-owners of Cincinnati Watch Co. His Grandfather, Joe Haworth and his Great Grandfather "Timer", worked at the Union Terminal from it's inception till 1955. Joe Haworth said that the best seat in the house for Cincinnati Reds Opening Day at Crosley Field was from "Sitting on top of the Union Terminal clock".

How the Union Terminal clock works:

The clock uses weights and gears to keep time. Electricity is used to engage a motor every thirty (30) minutes to pull a heavy weight up. The weight is then pulled down by the force of gravity which in turn is the force turning the gears. The clock's minute hand ticks a half minute once every 30 seconds.

Cincinnati Union Terminal Clock Resources

Historical photos of the Union Terminal exterior

Below are links to a two-part blog post detailing a tour of above the rotunda, the Clock and going behind the scenes at CUT.

Cincy Whimsy Union Terminal Dome Roam

Cincy Whimsy Union Terminal Dome Roam Part 2

2013 Blog Focused on Art Deco design of the CUT.

Questions We Still Have:

Seth Thomas Company built the Clock. Did they work on the design of the clock? We would love to pinpoint exactly who is responsible for the CUT Clocks design.

Who was the 1989 donor who got the clock going again with their own private time and money?

What year did the hands on the clock get fixed with neon and have the space between the hands filled in?

What will the clock look like when Verdin completes the restoration? Stay tuned because The Cincinnati Watch Company has just been invited to tour the Verdin clock company and see first hand what the Union Terminal Clock is going to look like!

Get Notified of upcoming watch pre-sale release dates; don't miss the exceptionally low 30 day pre-order pricing period on release

* indicates required
/ ( mm / dd )
© 2021 Cincinnati Watch Company. All Rights Reserved. Web: The Langley Group