Dieter Binninger

Dieter Binninger (1938 – March 5th 1991 in Döhren, Oebisfelde-Weferlingen) was a German inventor from Berlin.

Life and works

Binninger was a skilled clock maker and an electronics engineer at the University of Applied Sciences in the city of Bingen. The Eppertshausen – born head of the company “Videor” wanted to conquer the world with wrist watches, that tell the time based on the principles of set theory. He gave the huge prototype to the Berlin district of Charlottenburg. The plans to mass-produce the wrist watch were cancelled facing development costs for a chip in the order of 100.000 German Mark (18300 BP in the year 1975). 1.973 patented table and wall versions of the Berlin clock were produced.

Positioning the Berlin clock Binninger hadn’t considered, that the light bulbs would fail frequently due to the vibrations of traffic at one of Berlin’s biggest shopping streets Kurfürstendamm. As he had accepted the responsibility to maintain the clock, he had to rent a fork lift every time a bulb had to be changed. This amounted to yearly costs of 8000 German Mark (1.500 BP).

Dieter Binninger and the Clock he invented

Dieter Binninger (1938-1991)

As a result he thought to invent more durable bulbs. To assure commercial applicability, a precondition to acquire a patent, he considered to substitute SIG-bulbs used in traffic lights with regular light bulbs of double the nominal capacity that were dimmed. This led to a lack of blue light and made the traffic lights green Go-sign look brown. If dimmed more, according to the diagram in his patent, he expected a service life of 1.000.000 hours for a regular light bulb.

For this eternity bulb or longevity bulb he guaranteed a service life of 150.000 hours.


On March 5th 1991 Binninger died as his private plane crashed north of the town of Helmstedt. His son and pilot of the TB10 Tobago died in the same crash. Because his widow was unable to pay for the maintenance costs for the Berlin clock it was dismantled at its original location on Kurfürstendamm in 1995.

Berlin-Uhr is the first public clock in the world that tells the time by means of illuminated, coloured fields, for which it entered the Guinness Book of Records upon its installation on 17 June 1975

You can see the clock in it’s current location at Budapester Str. 45, 10787 Berlin, Germany

Besides its attractive futuristic design from the 1970s, the clock became even more popular as Berlin’s landmark after part of the message of the famous Kryptos Sculpture was decoded. When deciphered, part of the text on this sculpture located at the CIA headquarters reads “BERLIN CLOCK.” Today, many code breakers which are still trying to solve the Kryptos riddle, visit the Berlin Clock hoping that it will help them find the solution.

Kryptos is a sculpture by the American artist Jim Sanborn located on the grounds of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Langley, Virginia. … The sculpture continues to be of interest to cryptanalysts, both amateur and professional, who are attempting to decipher the fourth passage.

In September of 1992 the company VIDEOR D. Binninger GmbH registered the brand vidilum. Compact fluorescent tubes were marketed under this brand name.

Documentary drama

“Binningers Bulb” director and film script writer Andrew Hood, 1997

Berlin Uhr:

“The Set Theory Clock, also known as the Berlin Clock, makes use of the principle of set theory to depict the time. The time of day is displayed in a 24-hour format and can be determined by simply adding and multiplying the glowing lights.”


“Thomas Edison, the first mass-producer of the Lightbulb, may himself have believed that Lightbulbs could shine on indefinitely.*

It was the Phoebus Cartel (General Electric, Osram, Philips) which set the standards of mass manufacture, so it would be them that are behind the Conspiracy.

There are rumours of people having tried to break the standard set by the Phoebus Cartel having been killed. One such rumour is that of German Inventor Dieter Binninger of which no English Wiki-Page is available yet. In the 90s, a movie on his lifes work and his inventions was made.

In 1991 Binninger bought a small lightbulb-manufacturing company in order to begin with the production of what he called “an eternal lightbulb” that had been patented. Only a few days after the purchase he died in a plane crash of mysterious circumstances.

Do you think there is any truth to the Light-Bulb Conspiracy Theory?”


Binninger’s patents (DE 2921864, DE 3001755 and DE 3213333) can be researched on DEPATISnet at DPMA, the German Patent and Trademark Office.

A fan of the Set Theory Clock tells of his encounter with Binninger: “Die Berlin-Uhr – Die Stunde schlägt nicht, sondern leuchtet!” (‘The Berlin Clock: The hour doesn’t toll, it lights up!’)

Models of the Berlin Clock produced by Binninger and a successor company turn up now and then at flea markets in Berlin and at ebay.

A tabletop version of the Set Theory Clock is currently being manufactured by the firm ASMETEC.

There are a number of Apps to download, do a search for “Berlin Uhr” and take your pick.

Berlin Uhr - Kurfürstendamm 113714a

The clock at its original location in May 1979 (credit: Willy Pragher)

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