Why Do Clocks Tick?


Ticking is one of the most renowned features of a conventional clock and though there are quite a few clocks that don’t make any kind of ticking sounds that you can buy for yourself, there are still quite a few that we use in our daily lives which are fond of making these conventionally popular sounds. These sounds often raise curiosity in minds of many that what is it that actually makes a clock tick and why is it that it produces. So, today we decided to look into that very aspect of clocks and talk elaborately about it so without further ado, let’s get right to answering the basic crux of this article, Why do Clocks Tick?

The second hand of a conventional analog clock moves and stops every second for a bit, this leads to the small vibrations within the glass of the clock and prompts the “Tick” sound that we are so fond of hearing every so often.

This is the case with quartz clocks that produces a single “tick” sound with every moment. These are the clocks that we usually use at our homes and the ones that are usually run on batteries. However, one very important thing to note is that mechanical clocks ( Not that common nowadays ) do not work like this and in fact, they don’t make one “Tick” sounds but they go on to make two alternate sounds, one a bit sharper than the other and that is exactly where we often get confused and think that the clocks that we use nowadays at our homes also work this way. But this is not the case as most of the clocks that we use at our homes aren’t mechanical in nature but are rather battery-powered clocks which produce only one sound “The Tick Sound”

A Video Of A Clock Ticking For 30 Minutes

How do mechanical clocks function to make the two alternating sounds you ask? Well this is best illustrated in the Gif down below

A picture of how a mechanical clock works to better elaborate on "Why Do Clocks Tick?"

As is seen here, the actual gears inside the clock move forward and backward while a doubly sided fork is held above them to make them move forward ever so slightly. When the fork strikes the right side of the gear a slightly sharper sound is created as it engaging the outer side of the spike, which we are conventionally familiar by the name “Tick” and when it strikes on the left side engaging the inner side of the spike producing a comparatively higher based sound which we conventionally identify as “Tock”

Do Clocks Produce Two Alternating “Tick” And “Tock” Sounds?

No, the clocks that we use nowadays in our daily routine are battery run quartz clocks that only produce one sound “Tick”. However like we just discussed above, the mechanical clocks ( that are not that common anymore but were a while back like the pendulum clock ) are the ones that produce two alternating sounds “Tick” “Tock”

The actual gears inside the clock move forward and backward while a doubly sided fork is held above them to make them move forward ever so slightly( Illustrated in the GIF above ). When the fork strikes the right side of the gear a slightly sharper sound is created as it engaging the outer side of the spike, which we are conventionally familiar by the name “Tick” and when it strikes on the left side engaging the inner side of the spike producing a comparatively higher based sound which we conventionally

So in case you have a regular quartz battery-run clock, it wouldn’t be wrong to state that your clock only produce a single sound of “tick” and if you think otherwise its basically a result of a psychological effect which has been embedded over our years of hearing the clock and in reality these clocks only produce one sound over and over again and if you focus on the hand of the clock whilst it’s moving try clearly hearing the sound which is being made, you will be able to realize it is one sound “Tick”

History of Ticking Clocks

Ticking clocks like we have given the gist in the above paragraphs started with the formulation of mechanical clocks. There sound “Tick” Tock” became most popular when the pendulum clock was invented. As it was a mechanically run clock and produced two alternate sound after every second. This was used to align with the pendulum moving right and left, the pendulum moved left and the fork strikes the outside of a spike of the gear ( as can be seen above in the GIF ) to produce the Tick sound, and then the pendulum moved left prompting the fork to strike again onto the gear but this time in the inside of spike producing a slightly different sound “Tock” And this is how the history of ticking in clocks came to be

This not only means that the clocks that we had been using ( as they were mechanical clocks ) made two sounds “tick” and “tock” but the clocks that we now use ( not being mechanical but rather battery operated ) produce only one sound

How To Make Clock Sound Quiter?

There are quite a lot of people who are disturbed by the sound of a clock going “Tick” every second, whether when you are trying to sleep in a silent room or sometimes even when you are trying to study. Which often prompts the question how does one make this sound less disturbing is you can either try putting some weight on the back of the clock. Another thing that you can try is oiling the overall mechiansm

How Do The Rest Of The Clock Work?

The Insides

Three of the most fundamental parts of every clock out there are :

  • A TimeKeeping Mechanism: This is a way that the clock keeps an accurate account of the time passing by
  • An energy source: This is a way to provide energy to the motion of the clock, this could be a battery, solar power, an electric appliance, springs, or anything of that sort
  • Display: Finally, this is the part that everyone sees. This can come in quite various designs. It could be a cartoon character or an antique-looking wooden lady, entirely depends on the maker and what he wants his/her work to look like

So, Simply put,

A clock is something that uses the energy supply from an energy source, to makes its hands move at a consistent pace so that it can tell the variations in time spans

  1. So basically what happens is that the battery or the power source provides to the microchip circuit within the clock
  2. Then this current makes the quartz crystals that are precisely cut and placed within the clock to vibrate at a speed of 32768 times a second.
  3. TheMicrochip circuit detects the crystal’s vibrations and turns them into regular electric pulses, at a speed of one per second, because as we know that is what is needed for the accuracy and normal functioning of the clock
  4. These electric pulses then turn to mechanical power and move the gears
  5. The one gear that moves makes the other gear move. Hence, making the clock tick every second. Till the appliance of the power remains intact

Down below is a picture of the insides of an analog clock to better elaborate the procedure that we just mentioned

A picture explaining the insides of an anlog clock to better elaborate"Why Do Clocks Tick?"
A picture from explainthatsuff.com to better elaborate the insides of a clock
  1. Battery.
  2. Electric stepping motor.
  3. Microchip.
  4. The circuit that connects the microchip to other components.
  5. Quartz crystal oscillator.
  6. Crown screw for setting time.
  7. Gears.
  8. The tiny central shaft that holds hands in their places.

Hopefully, this article was helpful in answering some of the questions that you might have had about clocks and their ticking, if you have any related questions feel free to use the comment section below. And in case you are looking for some silent clocks, we have an article listing some of our favorite silent clocks, so do give it a look too if you re interested “Best Silent Wall Clocks: Stunningly Soundless ClocksOpens 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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