Birks Clock

Pedestrians crossing Georgia St. at Granville ca. 1972-74. Photo: COV Archives, CVA 69-24.08 8

Welcome to the Vancouver Lexicon. Its purpose is to pin down the patois of the City of Vancouver by recording its toponyms, nicknames, slang terms, personalities, places, and other Van-centric things. Full A-Z here.

Birks Clock | landmark, meeting place | A conspicuously tall standing clock in downtown Vancouver named after the Canadian jewelry store that it stood out front of for decades. For several decades preceding the cellphone era it was the city’s standard rendezvous spot. “Meet me under the Birks clock” was a common – almost cliché – refrain.

What Vancouverites fondly know as the Birks Clock actually started life as Trorey’s Clock. Even the iconic phrase associated with it came from “Trorey the Jeweler”, as there are references to Vancouverites meeting “under the Trorey Clock” found in early local newspapers.

George E. Trorey was early Vancouver’s premier jeweler and watchmaker. He opened his first jewelry store in 1893; by 1900 he opened a store in the Haddon Building on the northeast corner of Granville and Hastings. In 1905, to celebrate his 5th year in business, Trorey requested and got permission from the city to install a public clock on the street corner outside his store. The ornamental iron clock with four electrically illuminated dials was made especially for Trorey by E. Howard & Co. of Boston. Though the 6.5 meter high clock was delivered to Vancouver in November 1905, it wasn’t installed until February 1906 because of renovation work on the Haddon Building. In 1907, Trorey sold his jewelry business to Henry Birks and Sons of Montreal. (Trorey joined staff at Birks as Secretary Treasurer and General Manager of the Birks Building until he retired in 1931).

  • Georgia at Granville, Birks Clock between 1940-48. Photo: COV Archives, Jack Linsday, CVA 1184-1809
    Georgia at Granville, Birks Clock between 1940-48. Photo: COV Archives, Jack Linsday, CVA 1184-1809
  • Henry Birks & Sons / Trorey Jewlery Store at Hastings Street at Granville Street in ca.1907. Note: the clock dial reads: Trorey. Photo: COV Archives, Phillip T. Timms, CVA 677-647
    Henry Birks & Sons / Trorey Jewlery Store at Hastings Street at Granville Street in ca.1907. Note: the clock dial reads: Trorey. Photo: COV Archives, Phillip T. Timms, CVA 677-647
  • Birks Clock and Birks Building at Hastings & Granville, 2014. Photo: C.Hagemoen
    Birks Clock and Birks Building at Hastings & Granville, 2014. Photo: C.Hagemoen
  • Birks Clock at Granville at W. Georgia, 1951. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives,  CVA 772-7
    Birks Clock at Granville at W. Georgia, 1951. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 772-7
  • Pedestrians crossing Georgia St. at Granville ca. 1972-74. Photo: COV Archives, CVA 69-24.08 8
    Pedestrians crossing Georgia St. at Granville ca. 1972-74. Photo: COV Archives, CVA 69-24.08 8
  • Birks Clock and Birks Building at Hastings & Granville, 2014. Photo: C.Hagemoen
    Birks Clock and Birks Building at Hastings & Granville, 2014. Photo: C.Hagemoen
  • Looking west along Georgia Street from the Hudson Bay store building, 1946. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 586-4615
    Looking west along Georgia Street from the Hudson Bay store building, 1946. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 586-4615

When the company moved into their new building at Granville & Georgia in 1914 they took the clock with them. By then the dials, which had previously displayed Trorey’s name, had been altered to show the Birks name. Thus to the public the clock became firmly associated with Birks for its 60 year stand at the corner of Granville & Georgia.

The clock remained at its fabled corner even after the Birks Building was torn down in 1974 to make room for the Scotia Tower. It was moved again when Birks took over the old 1908 “temple bank” style building at Granville & Hastings in 1994. It was also temporarily removed from its post during the 2006 Canada Line construction. During this time it was put into the hands of horologist Ray Saunders (creator of the Gastown Steam Clock), for a complete overhaul and restoration. After it was refurbished it was re-installed to its current position in 2010.

The Birks Clock now stands about 35 meters – directly across Hastings Street – from where George Trorey had it originally placed 114 years ago. Whether or not it remains a popular rendezvous point is entirely up to you.

Usage: “Long ago when Vancouver revolved around the intersection of Georgia and Granville, the Birks Clock was like its spindle.”

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