The City Clock-Tower

In 1775 the Frenchman Chevalier visited Varna and described it as following: "There are approximately 16000 citizens, 12 mosques, 2 churches and 1 bell-tower built 20 years ago, on top of which a clock with a bell can be seen..." From these diaries it becomes obvious that even back in mid XVIII century there had been a city clock in Varna. That clock tower was located in the green grounds behind the present theatre and it was also used by firemen as their watchtower. How did the tower look like, was it made of wood or stones? We don't know. As we also don't know when exactly it had been destroyed. It could have happened in the years of the 1828 siege of the city or in the fierce fire in Varna during the Crimean War

The idea to build an impressive city clock tower was accomplished in 1888 at the time when Krastyu Mirski was mayor of Varna. Varna municipality assigned to architect Sava Dimitrievich the project of a stone fire tower with a clock that should be 24 metres high. The construction site was carefully chosen - the new clock tower in the city park and the Cathedral formed the city centre boundaries of those times. The same year Concordia theatre hall burnt out and another hall for meetings and theatre plays was planned to be built close by the tower. 

In two years' time the new clock tower and Saedinenie (Union) Hall were ready and officially opened to visitors. Firemen used the tower since high buildings were still rare and from top of it they could watch over the entire city. At daytime they used coloured flags to signalize for fire and at night signals were exchanged by lit lanterns. Those fire prevention activities stopped in 1898, when the fire brigade was equipped with a telephone line. The clockwork was purchased from England and the prominent revolutionary Oton Ivanov fixed it on the tower. 

Though it remains unrevealed to people's glances, the clockwork itself is a real masterpiece. It is quite strange that contrary to traditions the name of the producing company was not inscribed on it. The whole system is fitted in a big wooden "box" reached by a narrow winding staircase along the stone walls. The dial-plate in front is used to control the pace of the clock, as well as to correct it. Each fourth second a system of axles and gears transmits the motion to the clock hands on the tower outside. Instead of springs used in contemporary clocks, this clockwork mechanism is driven by weights suspended in the middle of the tower. The winding up is performed by the help of a simple crank arm of a huge drum besides the main group of gear wheels, which winds the string with the hanging weights. Another axle transmits the motion to the bell knocker at the tower top. Till 1930 the bell had been measuring hours two times within an interval of one minute. 

The watchmaker Oton Ivanov (who died in 1932) dedicated his life to the clock tower. His son Oton Ivanov inherited his father's profession and love and continued to maintain the clock until his death in 1976. His successor today is Boyan Nikolov, an apprentice with Oton Ivanov since 1940 and thanks to his cares the 100 year-old clock still shows the time accurately. 

A couple of years ago the clock stopped and newspaper articles stated that it needed repair. However, the truth was that snow had been blown in the dial-plate thus hindering the movement of the clock hands. When the clock needs actual repair, its hands are manually moved so that citizens of Varna can always be on time. 

After a long period of construction works the railway station and its clock tower were finally finished in 1925. Pitel-Brauseweter Co. was the company to carry out the entire railway station composition and it suggested that a clock should be placed there, which was actually done in 1929. 


Special thanks to Esin Halid for the translation of this page.

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