Jam Gadang, The Twin Brother of London’s Big Ben

Jam Gadang

One of the most iconic place in Bukittinggi is Jam Gadang. This clock tower is the heritage building from the Dutch East Indies era seems identical to the city that was once the capital of West Sumatra Province. There is a reason why this clock tower can be called as the twin brother of London’s Big Ben. Here is why.

History of Jam Gadang

Jam Gadang was built by the Dutch East Indies government on the orders of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.  This clock was a gift for the secretary (controleur) of the City of Bukittinggi or Fort de Kock that time, who served at that time, namely HR Rookmaaker.

The construction of this clock tower was built by the original Minangkabau architect, Jazid Rajo Mangkuto Sutan Gigi Ameh. Its construction was officially completed in 1926 at a cost of 3,000 Gulden.

Jam Gadang
Jam Gadang

The Unique of Jam Gadang

The Jam Gadang Monument stands 26 meters high in the middle of Sabai Nan Aluih Park, which is considered the benchmark for the central point (zero point) of Bukittinggi City. The construction did not use a metal frame and cement, but uses a mixture of limestone, egg white, and sand.

The Clock Tower building has 4 levels. The first level is the officer’s room, the second level is where the pendulum weights the clock.  While on the third level is the place of the clock machine and the fourth level is the top of the tower where the clock bells are placed.

On the bell at the top is written the name of the manufacturer of this clock machine. The clockwork used in this monument is a rare item that only two units were produced by the Vortmann Recklinghausen factory, Germany. 

The second unit of the same type is still used in the legendary clock tower of the City of London, England, namely Big Ben. That is why we can call the clock tower as the twin brother of London’s Big Bend.

The system that works in it moves the clock mechanically through two large pendulums that balance each other. This system allows the watch to continue to function for years without any source of energy.

The Design of Jam Gadang

The gonjong roof at the top of the tower that we can now see is not the original form of the building in the early days of its establishment. The initial design of Jam Gadang crest was round in a European style, with a statue of a rooster at the top.

Entering the era of Japanese occupation, the roof of Jam Gadang was changed to follow the Japanese architectural style.  When the era of independence arrived, the roof was remodeled into a bagonjong roof which is a characteristic of the original Minangkabau architecture.

All hour digits in Jam Gadang are made using the Roman numbering system, but the number four is written in an unusual way, namely with the four letters ‘I’ (IIII) and not with the inscription ‘IV’.  This is one of the attractions that creates curiosity for tourists who visit this city.

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