What are the different types of clocks?


Clocks are everywhere we look, and they have had an immense impact on our daily life for quite a few centuries now. The clocks came into being out of necessity as we as a species needed something to guide us through the different times of the day.

Nature itself provides us with many clocks, to begin with. When humanity was still a bit young we used to mark time by the rising and setting of the sun, and a month by the waxing and waning of the moon. But as we grew we built better and more precise ways of telling time. Like a water drip clock, a pendulum clock, and finally Quartz crystal oscillators. All of these clocks have one thing in common they measure periodic events. For instance, how long it takes for a pendulum to swing back and forth. Or the earth to move around the sun. And today, we are using the same idea to function something even more accurate, Atomic clocks

Atomic clocks

Atomic clocks are clocks that measure the oscillations (movement) of atoms. This is pretty complicated stuff, but the basic concept is that all atoms of a given element vibrate or tick the same number of times per second. To elaborate, there are 9,192,631,770 ticks in one second. And though this number seems a bit weird, it is quite important. Since today the international standard for what a second is based on that many vibrations/ticks of a cesium atom. Down below is a video explaining atomic clocks

Atomic clocks have a big impact on our world as a whole. But how does the atomic clock affect our daily life?

Let’s start with the internet, where exact timings are critical. And atomic clocks as we know by now is what helps with that accuracy. Moreover, for GPS satellites to work out your precise position, your timing of the signals it sends and receives has to be super accurate. The signals travel at the speed of light, which means that an error of even a single microsecond error translates to an error of 300 meters on the ground. The timing has to be so precise that even tiny effects like relativity need to be tracked. So we do have Einstein to thank for that because if we didn’t have his equations we wouldn’t have a GPS.

To be exact with each and every microsecond GPS satellites have to carry atomic clocks. The more accurate the clock is, the more accurate GPS can calculate your location

The Astronomical clock

It is a clock that displays astronomical information to whoever that takes a glance. It tells information like the relative position of the sun, the moon, and sometimes even major planets. To represent months, the astronomical clock uses zodiac. Moreover, the zodiac signs are more often displayed inside the time dial. Also, to project the movement of the earth, the clock usually features it in the center of the clock

A picture of the astronomical clock to better answer "What are the different types of clocks?
What are the different types of clocks?

The oldest functional astronomical clock is well over 600 years old and is named as the Prague astronomical clock. It has nonetheless stopped working a few times and was repaired to keep the functionality intact. Most of the astronomical clocks out there have a 24- hour analog dial around the edge. And the current time is told by a picture of the sun or a ball at the end of the pointer

A Slave Clock

Its a clock that depends on other clocks for accuracy, the clock this clock depends on is known as the master clock which are in essence “Atomic Clocks”. They might be connected through the internet or by radio time signals or even to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). These clocks come in many different shapes, some of them are analog and other wall clocks that use and are connected to the atomic clock in Colorado

A picture of a slave clock
What are the different types of clocks?

For scientific purposes, these clocks are some of the most accurate clocks that we can use in our daily life. This synchronization between the slave and master clock is done by phase-locking the slave clock. Moreover, to adjust for the transit time from the time when the time from the master clock is received to the slave clock, the phase of the slave clock can be adjusted with respect to the signals from the master clock. This will mean both clocks are in line with each other. And, hence each second occur simultaneously in both clocks;

The Candle Clocks

This came to be in China in near 500 A.D. An example of how it worked is that as the candle burnt down whilst the passing of the day, the time would be determined by seeing how much the candle has already burnt and which mark it has crossed. To further elaborate, here is a picture

 A picture of the candle clock to better answer "What are the different types of clocks?
Different types of clocks used in ancient time

Then came the mechanical clocks in the 14th century which soon became the standard. It started off by having a weight hanging from a pulley that turned the geared the single hand. Which indicated the hours as well as the portions of the hour. Then came the spring-wound clocks in the fifteenth century. This was around 1400 A.D. when coiled springs began to be used in clocks. And as most of the locksmiths were also clockmaker, hence they were simultaneously introduced in clocks too.

If you want to know more about candle clocks “Click Here

Grandfather Clock

A grandfather clock is a tall, mostly standing, mostly 6 to 8 feet tall clock that with a pendulum held inside the tower and or the waist of the clock. It is most elaborately carved and gives off an antique look. A grandfather clock is a symbol of exceptional cultural significance. Its functionality and design gave it a special place in the world of clocks. The grandfather clock had a deep attachment to the lives of people around it, for it told the household members and servants when to work, when to eat, and when to rest.

This was a big jump in the clockverse when we talk about accuracy. This clock became popular trough the famous scientist Galileo and was the most accurate type of clock till 1930 with moderations being made through the passing of the time.

A picture of a grandfather clock
What are the different types of clocks?

A pendulum is the main timekeeping element of a pendulum clock. Clock pendulums are usually made out of weights suspended on a wood rod or a metal rod. In better clocks, the weights are usually heavier as it increases the accuracy of a pendulum. The pendulum is kept in its momentum with the help of an escapement. Each time the pendulum swings through its center position, it releases one tooth of the escape wheel.

The Sandglass/ Hourglass

Probably, the most famous of ancient clocks and there is a high chance you have at least seen it once. The sandglass consists of two glass bulbs which are vertically connected with a narrow neck. The neck allows some amount of sand to pass through the upper glass to the lower glass. Usually, the upper and lower glasses are exactly alike, so the sandglass would measure the exact same time regardless of its orientation

A picture of a sunglass clock
What are the different types of clocks?

The first sandglass clock is said to have been made by a french monk named Liutprand during the eighth century A.D. The sandglass clock is also known as the hourglass as it could only tell when an hour was up. They were used to set off blocks of time. And hence, they were all designed to measure one hour. Nowadays if you wish to buy an hourglass/sandglass for decor, there are some that cost thousands of dollars due to their unique history.

Water Clocks

The first device used to measure time after sundials were the water clock back in the 5th century B.C. To elaborate, some amount of water was put in a vessel. That was allowed to escape through a hole in the bottom. The time determined varied according to the size of the vessel and the hole made at the bottom

A picture of an ancient water clock to better answer "What are the different types of clocks?"
What are the different types of clocks?

This was all before we had the liberty of wearing fancy clocks on our wrist. Or even the scientific knowledge to make the atomic clock, which are clocks that help function the internet as well as the GPS system as we know them. So, how was it possible for anyone to maintain some kind of a schedule. As sundials which were the predecessors of water clocks could only tell the time in the day time. Invention of Water Clocks was more or less a necessity

So, Egyptians thought of making a time measurement device using the most common liquid around, water. They were educated enough to know that as the level of water in a container drops, the outflow of the stream coming out of the hole made will also drop

The Skeleton Clock

A skeleton clock is a clock in which the internal functioning part of the clock is visible. It is mostly just to showcase the design and intentionally view the plain view of the gears, springs, and wheels. A major part of the clock should be the openly visibly from the front of the clock

A picture of  a skeleton clock
What are the different types of clocks?

These clocks mostly display the parts that move the most are just attractive to look at. Most often the moving parts that are displayed are the balance wheel, balance spring, mainspring,  tourbillon, and escapement. These clocks are often used as gifts or to give a better look to the already set decor of the house.

This was an extensive list of different types of clocks. Hopefully, it was helpful and catered to your queries well. Moreover, if you still have any further related questions do use the comment section below.

Lastly, 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!Opens in a new tab.

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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