The Evolution of Clocks

Topics: Clock, Clocks, Horology Pages: 10 (1944 words) Published: April 8, 2012
1.0 Introduction

According to (Baillie et al., p. 307; Palmer, p. 19) “A clock is an instrument used to indicate, keep, and co-ordinate time. The word clock is derived ultimately (via Dutch, Northern French, and Medieval Latin) from the Celtic words clagan and clocca meaning "bell". A silent instrument lacking such a mechanism has traditionally been known as a timepiece.”

Design and accuracy of clocks have evolved along with progression of technology and industry and even though their main function was to measure the time designers paid proper attention to the decorative aspect and psychological aspect (e.g. Clocks that were designed to help a person cope with waiting).

The clock is one of the oldest human inventions as a solution to the need measuring interval shorter than years , months and days . Different devices with different mechanisms were used for Time – Keeping through the ages and evolved into the clocks we have today.

This paper intends to study the evolution of clocks, In terms of mechanism, design and the social and functional factors which led to improvements in each stage of this evolution. Along the way the psychological and symbolic significance of clocks will be briefly discussed.

2.0 The Evolution of Clocks

The Timeline

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1400 B.C 1100 B.C 1400’s 1600’s 1930’s Onwards Present

Sundials (From 1100 B.C)

The oldest time-measurement instruments which works according the position of sun. During the day as sun crosses the sky it casts a shadow on the dial. Some sundials measure the time by the length of the shadow and some measure it based on the angle of it (Figure.1).


Since sand flows at an even rate it’s used to measure time as it flows from the top container to the bottom one. Depending on the size of the container it can measure an hour, half an hour or even shorter periods of time (Figure.2).

Small Hourglasses which measure the time needed to boil an egg are called egg glasses. Some also were used to limit the time a speaker could talk. After Introduction of computers Microsoft Windows Used an animated Hourglass as Mouse cursor which implies user must wait for a task to complete.

Water Clocks (From 1400 B.C)

A Timing Device working based on controlled inflow or Outflow of water. . In use, the vessel was filled with water, which leaked out slowly from a small hole near the bottom; the time being indicated by the level of the water remaining within (Figure.3).

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Fig. 1 Fig.2 Fig.3

Candle Clocks

Just like Water Clocks one the ideas behind candle clocks was to fill in for sundials for interior spaces and nighttime. Made with marked candle ( Figure 5 ) in which marked areas show the passing time .

Incense Clocks

Made use of Incense material with a known combustion rate to measure Seconds , minutes and hours . It has been widely used in ancient Chinese homes serving both as a Clock , a decorative object and an ancient alarm clock . Figure 4 shows dragon-boat-shaped vessel with one or two burning incenses, on which several strings tied with metal balls on both ends lie transversely. The incense will burn off one string in every period of time, dropping the metal balls into the lower vessel to make a noise so as to report time.

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Fig.4 Fig.5

Water Clocks, Candle Clocks and Incense Clocks were made since during the nighttime, Indoors and on cloudy days Sundials became useless and these clocks seemed like a good alternative or as a...
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