The Evolution of Clocks: The Complete Guide

Clocks have been a primary time telling device for so long. For centuries they have been imperative in the life of people of all classes and eras. A mechanical clock is a centrepiece for many homes and provide an accurate telling of the time as long as they are cared for correctly. If they are wound once a day and the inner workings are maintained with regular cleaning you will find that there is little that can go wrong with a mechanical clock.

With the invention of electricity it was inevitable that our need for time telling would progress along with it. The digital clock was invented in order to minimise the upkeep of a mechanical clock. No longer would they need to be wound once a day and no longer would we need to clean the inner workings quite so often. The digital clock was much more practical but of course relies on the constancy of an electrical outlet in order to run consistently.

These are the two types of clocks that we have come to know in this day and age. Each has their own pros and cons which is why they continue to develop side by side both as favourites for us all in the previous decades up until the modern era. From the sun dial to the digital clock, clocks have progressed and grown with the times as technology has changed in leaps and bounds. In this day and age everyone needs to know the time, from work to outings to a decent time to go to sleep, our lives are dictated by the time and this is why it is a necessity, not just a want in our day to day lives. But what is the history of the clock and who invented such a revolutionary creation? When did the first clocks appear? Here we will look at the brief history of clocks and how we have come from the mechanical clock to those of the present day.


Who invented clocks?

Although it was Galileo who had the initial idea of using a swinging bob to regulate the motion of a time telling device it was actually Christiaan Huygens who is credited with being the inventor of the modern pendulum clock. He created the mathematical formula in which pendulum length is related to time. He also had the first pendulum clock made in the 17th century. The first model of the clock was built in Hague, but in England the idea really took hold and the first longcase clock was created, or also known as the grandfather clock, by clockmaker William Clement in 1670. He also introduced the pendulum suspension spring. Daniel Quare is attributed for introducing the concentric minute hand as well as the second hand later on.

What is the history of clocks?

Now that the first mechanical clocks had been invented it was only a matter of time before they were able to be mass produced. Due to the precise nature of creating a clock it was certainly hard to rush through the process. The smallest error could mean that the clock would not work so accurately and potentially not at all. The British specialised in the production of watches in the 1800s, but it was the United States where the manufacture of clocks really took off. They utilised the same equipment as the British watch companies in a bigger scale in order to produce accurate machines that will function adequately for years to come. This is why so many antique clocks are still able to run so efficiently with little maintenance or restoration. The basic premise has remained the same since their creation in the 1600s.

They remained this way until the invention of digital clocks that came along with electricity in the 1800s. With the invention of batteries came the invention of the first electric clock which was powered by dry pile batteries.

How did people tell time before clocks?

The first clock was of course the sun dial, which utilised the way in which humans had told the time for centuries before its arrival. The position of the sun in the sky above us was used in order to tell what the time of day was, but even then this was simply a best guess situation. Even now people learn how to tell the time somewhat accurately from the sun in case they are ever in a situation where they do not have access to a working clock of some kind.

The position of the sun against the dial would point directly to a time, which reflected the rotation of the Earth. It displays the shadow on the flat surface and moves with the sun. The markings that are inscribed on the sun dial correspond to the time of day, or the hours. They were used widely in ancient times and are so accurate that they can measure time within a minute or two.

There are other ways in which we have measured time, which include egg timers and water clocks, but it was not until the 1600s until the first mechanical clock was invented. This was coupled with the invention of the pendulum which ensures the consistent movement of the hands of the clocks so that the time remains accurate.


How did the first mechanical clock work?

The first mechanical clocks work similarly to those that we see today. They sue a system of pendulums and springs in order to maintain a consistent rhythm and make the hands turn at the same rate. The gears are powered by the swinging of the pendulum and move along with the hands in order to tell the time. Generally, mechanical clocks do need to be wound once a day in order to keep them functioning properly and keep the mechanism in motion.

When was the first digital clock invented?

The first digital clock came after the invention of the electric clock in the early 1800s. It was Francis Ronalds who made the first battery powered clock in 1815 and things have progressed from this point. Alexander Bain of Scotland patented the first electric clock in the year 1840. The mainspring of the clock was either would electronically by an electric motor or with an electromagnet. It was in 1841 he also patented the electromagnetic pendulum, a revolutionary idea in the clock world.

It was in 1956 in the United States that the first recognised digital clock was invented. It was registered by D.E. Protzmann and his associates on the 23rd of October. They patented another digital clock in 1970, using less moving parts than the original. In the same year the first digital wristwatch was invented with LED display and was also mass produced. It was created by the Hamilton Watch Company and named the Pulsar. Even though they began quite expensive, the popularity of the digital watch steadily rose from its release.

Since this time many different kinds of digital clocks have been invented and their popularity has increased exponentially. It is likely that every one of us has some kind of digital clock available to us, whether it is part of an appliance or on our phones, even in the car. It is certainly amazing how wide spread this device has become since its invention less than fifty years ago.


How does a digital clock work?

There are two main kinds of digital clocks, one which displays the time in 24 hour time and the other uses the more common 12 hour notation, with an AM/PM indication. It uses one of many different types of displays. The main kinds are of course LCD, LED or VFD illumination.

There are a combination clock, a flip clock, uses a digital display and works mechanically. It can be the happy medium between the two types of clocks. When the power fails on a digital clock, most will reset themselves to 12:00 while blinking to indicate the power failure. Without a backup mechanism they are unable to realise the actual time without interaction. This is why a flip clock can be the way to go to get the digital look without the worry of a reset without notice and potential outage.

This is of course a very brief history of how clocks were invented and how they have progressed through the years since they first came about. From the very early sun dials to the modern day digital clocks, they have been a prevalent invention for us as humans in this day and age when time is so important. It is a construct that has been invented by us and for the most part rules our lives and this is why telling the time is such a necessity. Whatever your preference, whatever your desire for a clock in your home, there is an option for everyone to suit any manner of d├ęcor and any type of home. What kind of clock hangs from your walls? Perhaps now you will have