How Do Alarm Clocks Work?

Unless you have another person to wake you up chances are you probably have used an Alarm Clock some point in time, and you might have wondered, How does that blessing work? Well, if you have we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll go over some history, while answering your question “How Do Alarm Clocks Work?”

Here’s a quick explanation on how an alarm clock works, Analog alarm clocks involve a hammer striking a bell to produce sound, whereas a Digital Alarm Clock makes use of a Radio or a Sound Recording which is then sent through the speaker as an Alarm. This will be discussed in detail later in the article.

how do alarm clocks function

How Old Are Alarm Clocks?

The Alarm Clocks date back as far as 200 B.C. and were first used by a Hellenistic engineer and inventor, where he made use of some pebbles dropping on a gong at preset times. Later, Plato, a Greek Philosopher is also said to have used a Water Alarm Clock, which had an alarm signal similar to that of a Water Organ, he used it for his night classes.

Later Alarm Clock towers started to emerge, initially made by Chinese Engineers. The first water-powered alarm clock tower was made near the Umayyad Mosque in Syria, and it rang every hour. In 1235, a monumental clock tower was made in Baghdad which aimed at announcing Prayer times. During the 14th-century clock, towers started to emerge in Europe.

User-settable alarm clocks date back as far as 15th-century-Europe and the first American Alarm Clock was introduced in the 18th century and it was created by Levi Hutchins, but it wasn’t for commercial use, he only used it himself and it rang at so he could go to his job. The first patented adjustable alarm clock was invented in 1847 by a French Inventor named Antoine Redier.

How Does An Alarm Clock Make Sound?


In the older days, Alarm Clocks used water pressure, Gongs and Pebbles to sound the alarm. Nowadays, the procedure is much different, the traditional mechanical clocks make use of Bells and Hammer which strikes the Bell after the time has reached and the tension has been released from the springs which were wound up.

The more conventionally used Digital Alarm clocks nowadays make use of a Speaker, a Radio or some kind of Recording. When the time-base is set off, the digital clock uses Radio or a Recording which is then sent to the Speaker that is attached to the near front of the alarm clock.

How Long Do Alarm Clocks Last?

It depends on the quality of the product. If it’s from a known brand, chances are it will last you a couple of years before giving up. But it depends more on, how you treat the clock too. If every day you try to snooze the Alarm in an unconventional way, like burying it underwater or throwing things at it, then, of course, your clock will give up easily.

Furthermore, some clocks also require proper maintenance. To keep your clock in good condition, some clocks require proper oiling after every two to three years. Apart from that clocks should also be cleaned regularly, so that the dust doesn’t clog up all the gears and whatnot.

It also depends on the type of clock you are using, if you are using a mechanical clock, it requires a lot of maintenance and there are a lot of moving parts so it’s not a good choice if you are looking for durability. On the other hand, Quartz clocks are far more durable than Mechanical Clocks, because they have a lot less moving parts and thus require little maintenance. Digital Clocks are by far the most durable and accurate, due to the fact that they use electronic and digital components which require very little movement and thus are less prone to mechanical errors.

How do you service a clock?

Clocks can last a long time if you give proper care to them. Whatever type of clock you own, it needs to be properly maintained in order for it to function properly over the years. You need to do two main things in order to properly service and maintain your clock to increase its longevity.

  • Oiling: It is very important that you properly oil your clock for it to properly work over the years, the gears need lubrication for them to not wear out. Most clocks require them to be oiled every two to three years. You can oil yourself or bring your clock to a professional. If doing yourself be careful and use proper tools, bad oiling can harm your clock a lot and Do not oil the gear teeth.
  • Cleaning: Dust, when clogged, can damage your clock a lot and can cause it to severely malfunction. In order for you to clean your clock, you will need to open it and then you can use a towel or a small brush with rubbing alcohol in order to remove the dust.

How Do Analog Alarm Clocks Work?

analog alarm clock

Use of Analog Alarm Clocks is reduced quite a lot nowadays, due to the introduction of Smartphones and whatnot. But it’s still very interesting how these clocks work? These type of alarm clocks, conventionally make use of two metal bells with a hammer in between them. Due to the fact that analogue clocks make use of bells, they are much louder than the Digital Clocks. Analog Alarm Clocks have gears inside them which are usually battery-powered and they move the hands of the clock around.

An oscillating wheel is also used which helps in calculating the time and making it consistent. Usually, an extra hand is provided on the clock which can be turned around by a knob which can be found in the back. What this does is, it sets spring and when the hour hand reaches that point, the spring is released and the hammer starts striking the bell.

Types of the analog alarm clock mechanisms

There are three types of analog clock mechanisms.

  • Quartz: This is by far the best and more conventionally used. It makes use of an electronic oscillator which is regulated by a quartz crystal to keep time. The crystal oscillator creates a very precise signal and that is why they are far more accurate than the mechanical type. It is powered by a battery or in some cases wall power.
  • Mechanical: This type of clock mechanism was used in the older days. It required manual winding to operate. Mechanical Clocks use an oscillating mechanism that marks the passing of time. It’s much less accurate than the Quartz Clock
  • Automatic: This is a fairly new introduction int the clock world, and it requires kinetic energy to be transferred from the wrist of the person who wears it in order to function.

How Do Digital Alarm Clocks Work?

digital clock

The mechanism of a Digital Alarm Clock is much different than that of an Analog Clock. Instead of using springs and gears, sophisticated electronics are put in place. Digital Alarm Clocks use an electronic timebase instead of an oscillating wheel for judging and calculating the time.

Instead of clock hands, the time is displayed digitally on an LCD or LED. Which makes it much easier to read. Furthermore, these type of clocks makes use of capacitors and resistors in the internal circuit. Which is far away from the scope of this article. The Alarm Sound is made by either the Radio or in some cases an Audio Recording. Which is then transferred to the speaker which sounds the alarm. Most Digital alarm clocks are also quieter than the Analog clocks if they have small speakers.

How Do Sunrise Alarm Clocks Work?

Sunrise Alarm clocks are a fairly new discovery and they work on a basic nature’s principle. These type of clocks aim to provide a natural waking up experience. According to some professionals, these alarm clocks can be really effective as they tap into the body’s system. Researchers believe that light-based alarm clocks can give a gentle signal to the body for it to wake up.

Sunrise Alarm Clocks light up the room, due to an increase in light our body is given a signal. This signal turns up the body temperature and causes our cortisol levels to increase. At the same time, sleep-hormones like melatonin decrease, which in turn causes us to wake up from sleep

Hopefully, this article was helpful in answering some of your alarm clock related queries. If you have any related questions, feel free to use the comment section below. And if you want to know why clocks don’t appear in dreams, we have a great article on just that so do give it a click if you are interested “Why don’t clocks appear in dreams? Clocks and dreams!“. Here is also a link about the history of clocks if you want to give that a look “History of timekeeping devices“.

AK Iqbal

A University of London’ student with a passion for writing. Clocks have always intrigued me and the importance that they have in our lives is way beyond phenomenal. So, on this site, I write everything about clocks, everything from answering any clock-related queries that you might have along with recommending some of my favorite clocks accordingly. Moreover, I will also be conducting some researches on clock related topics and sharing the things that I learn. So stay tuned to ohmyclock for all the fun clocks related content

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