A water clock is one of the most ancient clocks that we know of. It was one of our primitive inventions to cope up with the lack of coordination. 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. And, one of our first tries to this was the water clock. If you want to know more about the history of clocks interestingengineering.com has a great article written on just that “ The very long and fascinating history of clocks“, so do give it a look if you are interested. As in this article, we are just going to discuss the water clock in more depth
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 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
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
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
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“
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 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
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.
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
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
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.
Before mechanical clocks there were other clocks like the candle clock that were used to tell time, if you want to know more about candle clocks “Click Here“
What Is A Water Clock?
The very first water clock that was used to measure time was back in 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
It was all before we had the liberty of wearing fancy time-telling devices on our wrists. Or even the scientific knowledge to make the atomic clock. Which helps function the internet as well as the GPS system properly. So, how was it possible for anyone to maintain some kind of a schedule. Well, we had sundials that used the shadow made through the sun to showcase what time of the day it was, but this wouldn’t work on cloudy days or even at night as there would be no sun to produce any kind of a shadow. 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
History Of Waterclocks
Egyptians started off by using the water clock as more of a timer than a clock. It started off being used in the Egyptian courtrooms where a lawyer would be allowed one bucket of water to let him know of the time he has left whilst presented his case. Moreover, in order to account for interruptions and or breaks, they would simply close the whole with a whole.
An advancement in this way of water clock was seen in the Jarasandh period of Korean history. Engineers of this time took advantage of the buoyancy force,( the upthrust force that the water applies on any object when it is immersed into the water) to develop an alarming system. They already knew through the teachings of Archemdis. That the buoyant/upthrust acting on the body could cause the body to float depending on the density of the object.
So, they build another mechanism, where the runoff water fills the secondary vessel object. An object with a lower density is placed in the second vessel. Which will float and come up as the water is filled in the second container.
Some further history
This helped the Korean dynasty that used this technique to create an alarm clock that made different sounds for different times of the day. As time went on, this technique came into further use through various different forms. But, there was a problem, time was measured from a starting point. And the container needed to be emptied and refilled constantly. But then came along the solution,”Siphoning”. This is where we use a vacuum that allows external atmospheric pressure to move liquid from a higher placed cup/object to a lower placed cup/object
This flow of liquid will continue till either the liquid heights from the ground at equilibrium. Or, the upper cup runs out of fluid. It starts off like shown in the picture below
More details on how the water clock works
And then the liquid from the upper cup is pulled from the upper cup to the lower cup due to the atmospheric pressure and gravity. And once surface heights reach equilibrium, forces will be in balance in the siphon. Leading the flow of liquid to stop. With the understanding of this(siphon), Sidious, a greek engineer was eventually able to make this system automatic and self restarting. This was something that the world had never seen before. This ultimately led to the biggest problem of the water clock, which was the constant need to get it refilled, being solved.
But, there was still one problem. This was that at that time, daylight hours were divided into twelve. So, the hours were shorter in winter than whilst in summer. So, to solve this, Sedious added two-hour lines to differ in their locations. And appear near or further apart depending on the time of the year. This solution by Sedious led to the Greeks having the most accurate clock of the time. Moreover, a clock that worked 24/7 without the use of refilling.
Are water clocks still used today?
Nowadays, we have excelled in our technology to a level where no water clock can reach. But, the sinking bowl water clock is still used in some parts of the world today as a timer.
Who used the water clock?
The oldest water clock dates back to 1500 b.c. The Greeks began using them around 325b.c. and dubbed them Clepydras (water thieves).
This was an elaborate answer to “What Is A Water Clock And How Does It Work? 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“