The 1,100 clocks Royal Family will change this weekend, and why palaces have ‘time zones’

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Autumn has finally arrived and the chillier season is marked by the changing of the clocks here in Britain. Many of us will have to retime the clocks of our appliances and cars when the clocks go back at 2am on Sunday, October 31. But spare a thought for the household staff of Queen Elizabeth II, who have a mammoth task ahead of them at the royal palaces.

How many clocks are in the royal palaces?

According to the Royal Collection Trust (RCT), there are 1,500 timepieces in the Royal Collection, with most of these distributed among the Queen’s official residences.

There are a staggering 600 timepieces at the Queen’s London residence of Buckingham Palace.

And there are another 450 clocks at Windsor Castle and 50 clocks at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Some 250 clocks are inside Windsor Castle castle alone, with the rest scattered across the royal estate.

The Berkshire-based estate, known to be a favoured home of the Queen, also boasts an incredible seven tower clocks.

The Queen’s residences are home to an incredible clock collection that has built up over the centuries.

For example, a French clock takes pride of place in Windsor’s State Dining room, and it was presented to Queen Victoria by King Louis-Philippe of France.

The RCT added that the royal clock collection consists of “musical clocks, astronomical clocks, miniature clocks and turret clocks”.

Windsor, Buckingham Palace and Holyroodhouse are the Queen’s official residences as monarch.

So the public are actually able to visit the residences to see the clocks themselves.

But the Queen also has private residences across the UK like her Sandringham and Balmoral estates, which are sure to house many more clocks as well.

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Why do some parts of the Queen’s palaces have ‘time zones’?

Due to the sheer scale of royal residences and the staggering number of timepieces, it is no wonder that changing the clocks can take a while.

The horological conservator of Windsor Castle told the BBC last autumn that 16 hours had been designated for changing all of the clocks on the Windsor estate.

Fjodor van den Broek told the BBC in 2020: “It’s just myself, and I have one colleague at Buckingham Palace who changes all the clocks there.”

But it is not just a matter of changing the clocks to the correct time in the royal households when the clocks go back.

There are actually differences in the clocks across Windsor, essentially splitting different areas into “time zones”.

He added: “People are still amazed that at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace there is a small time zone in the kitchens, where the clocks are always five minutes fast.

“This is so that the food arrives on time… it’s a constant reminder that this is important.”

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