Mickey and his friends try their hand at cleaning up a tower clock. Well…they tried!
Could it be that listening to the steady tick-tock of a clock and seeing its pendulum swing to and fro may ‘feed’ a child’s brain with the “food” of rhythm? Are kids attracted to clocks partly because they sense that clocks are good for them? We had good reasons to think so. In fact, in the fields of science, it’s well known that input from the five senses seeing, hearing, touching, etc. plays a crucial role in the brain development of young children.
Following our “hunch” we went to Dr. Kevin McGrew for his opinion. Dr. McGrew is an educational psychologist and the director of the Institute for Applied Psychometrics. We asked him if it was feasible for a young child to be affected, to some extent, in a positive way, by the sound of a ticking clock while awake, or even while asleep, or by the sight of the rhythmic swing of its pendulum.
“It is a reasonable hypothesis,” he said, “based on the extensive body of research currently available on mental timing (brain clock) research, “but,” he continued, “I currently have not conducted the systematic literature review and synthesis of the necessary research to determine the scientific support for the hypothesis.”
So the next step was to do our own research to see if there were any scientific studies that would confirm this “reasonable hypothesis”. So far none have been found; we’ll update this article if and when they are. But what we do know now, based on the results of the established studies on child development in general is that when children use their innate sense of timing and keep a steady beat, their speech flow, motor tasks, sports skills, reading and writing abilities and a lot more, are dramatically affected. These studies have inspired some to publish child development books and resources for parents, offering a wide variety of rhythmic activity ideas including interactive clock songs. Kids are drawn to these activities. When they play, it’s obvious to see how they love to express beats and rhythms, repeatedly, in new and different ways especially when they sing, clap, dance and laugh to music.
One of the studies mentioned above confirms the benefits of what kids do naturally. It made use of a system called “Interactive Metronome”, or “IM” for short. IM combines a metronome (a ‘clock-like’ device) with computerized technology to fine tune the human ‘brain clock.’ This is how it’s done: the metronome produces an audible metric ‘beat’ or rhythm, much like the tick-tock pattern of an analog clock; by a person interacting with the metronome’s beat through hand and foot movements, the brain becomes more efficient and synchronous. IM is recognized as an effective intervention therapy and is mainly used to treat learning disabilities, ADHD, dyslexia, autism, and more.
In light of the wide ranging benefits that have been achieved through rhythmic training and fine tuning the “brain clock”, it becomes clearer why children would have an instinctive attraction to the steady beat of an analog clock. Each year at the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors Museum, about 2,100 children between the ages of 3 and 8 years old are captured by the rhythms of the ticking sounds, chimes, gongs, gears, bellows, pendulums and escapements. More than most, museum Director Noel Poirier gets to see first hand the wonder and enjoyment children experience when they encounter clocks. “Children are fascinated by clocks and watches and I have yet to determine why that is” Poirier said, “I don’t know if it’s the sensory experience of the child…but what we’ve discovered is that children love looking at timepieces and really trying to understand them.”
The intrigue kids experience with clocks may be for a reason that goes deeper than mere interest or curiosity. It just may have something to do with ‘brain nutrition,’ that is, being ‘fed’ with the ‘food’ of rhythm.
Are you interested in a cuckoo clock for your little one? Check our selection of kids cuckoo clocks.
If you’ve enjoyed this article be sure to check out our other related article “Clocks Point To More Than Time”. For more information about Interactive Metronome and brain synchronization see www.themindhub.com and www.brainclock.net.
Photo # 1 – Tick tock and clock – scratchandpeck.blogspot.com
Photo # 2 – Man with magnifying glass – wphillips.com
Photo # 3 – Children clapping hands – liffeytruststudios.com
Photo # 4 – a fascinated child – mastercoaches.com
The Shepherd Gate Clock is located on the outside-wall of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, UK. It is a 24 hour electric clock and was probably the first clock to show Greenwich Mean Time to the public. The clock is known as a slave clock, displaying the time from the master clock inside the observatory. Signals are received from the master clock as electrical impulses.
Photo # 1 – smashingtops.com
Photo # 2 – masterclock.co.uk
When you start shopping for a new mantel clock, you’ll quickly find that there are many styles, models and price ranges from which to choose. How do you sort through so many achoices? This guide will help you do just that. We’ll be covering five major points: terminology, construction materials, features, pricing, manufacturer’s warranty and investment. (Note: The scope of this article will cover new mantel clocks only).
Knowing the name and function of each basic clock part is a good first step. If you’re new to mantel clocks, the section below will help you to better understand the features and descriptions of any clock you’re considering to buy.
1. Terminology: Mantel Clock Parts – Here are brief explanations on the basic parts of a mantel clock:
- Movement – This is the working inside the clock that controls it and allows it to keep time. Mechanical key wound movements are powered by spring tension; quartz are battery powered.
- Chime – This is the melody a clock plays. Depending on the model, a mantel clock plays one, two or three different melodies every hour or quarter hour; the numbers “4/4″ designate a quarter hour chimer. A single or double bell or gong strike is sometimes referred to as a “chime”. So if you see a clock described as a chiming model, check to confirm that it’s referring to its musical melody or to a strike.
- Gong/Bell – A single or double strike on a bell or gong signals the changing of the hour and half hour.
- Case – This is the exterior casing which forms the body of the clock and houses the clock’s interior workings. The case can be decorative or plain.
- Shut-off Switch – A lever or switch on the back of the clock case that allows the chime to be silenced.
- Key Wound – This refers to mechanical mantel clocks that require hand winding with the use of a key.
- Face – The clock face displays the time using Roman or Arabic numerals and moving hands.
Now, here’s some clarification about clock terminology: since mantel clocks are often used to beautify table tops and book shelfs, they’re also referred to as as “shelf clocks” or “table clocks”. Lastly, although Anniversary clocks are also used on shelves and tables, they’re not commonly referred to as “mantel clocks”.
2. Construction Materials: The kind of materials new mantel clocks cases are made of can vary greatly. Most use one or more of the following materials: solid wood, glass (clear and stained), crystal, wrought iron, china, stainless steel, brushed steel or aluminum, polished nickel or brass, plastic, forged brass and wood composite. Dials are usually made of metal and some are enamel. Low quality mantel clocks may have dials made of materials other than metal and enamel.
3. Features: what are you looking for in a clock? It might take some thought and planning before you can answer the questions below, but knowing the answers will help focus your mantel clock search:
- Style & Design: Is there a size, style and coloration that you’d like for decorative and/or nostalgic reasons?
- Convenience and Movements: Do you prefer to wind a clock or not? Do you want an automatic night shut-off or manual shut-off? How about volume control?
- Music: Besides hourly and quarter hour strikes, some mantel clocks also play music. Do you prefer the simple strike, or some music as well to liven things up? How about sound shut-off and volume control?
- Price: Do you have a price range in mind? If so, how does your budget “fit” after you’ve answered the questions above?
In the section below we’ve elaborated on the four points above.
- Style & Design – Mantel clocks come in traditional and contemporary designs. Some also feature pendulums. For helpful decorating tips see our extensive article about “Decorating With Clocks”.
Here is a list of mantel clock designs:
Bracket – This traditional design has a more or less square shaped case. During the 17th and 18th centuries when most of these clocks had pendulums, they were hung on the wall with a bracket to allow the pendulum to swing freely; hence the name “bracket clock”.
Carriage – When bumpy horse drawn carriages were one of the main means of travel in the 19th century, this sturdy, traditional design came about. Carriage style clocks are smaller than other mantel clocks and convenient to read only at close distances, such as on a desk or night table.
Steeple – In 1845, Elias Ingraham, a cabinet maker was commissioned to design and build a new style of clock case. It was modeled after traditional Gothic styles of architecture popular in America during the 19th century. Sternreiter Clocks is currently manufacturing, in limited production, a faithful replica of the Steeple clock.
Contemporary – Beyond the traditional “old world” designs are the modern and designer styled mantel clocks. Their cases are often made with only modest amounts or wood, or no wood at all (left photos).
Skeleton – This design (photo on right) features a clock movement – gears and all – that’s viewable from the exterior of the clock. Skeleton designs are found in both traditional and contemporary mantel clocks.
- Convenience & Movements – Mantel clocks are generally offered with two types of movements: mechanical key-wound and battery operated quartz. Your personal preference and daily schedule will tell you which movement might work best for you. Shut-off and volume control options are also something to consider.
Mechanical Key Wound Movement – These generally need to be wound once a week, even though they’re called “8-day clocks.” There are also 14-day and 31-day movements, although these are less common. Mechanical mantel clocks are wound by turning a key that’s inserted into a winding hole on the dial, and can be recognized by the presence of one, two or three holes. The middle hole winds the spring that powers the timekeeping of the clock. The right hole (as you face the clock) powers the chimes, and the left hole powers the strikes. So, if a key-wound mantel clock has just two winding holes, it doesn’t play a chiming melody. If there’s only one hole, then it strikes the time only.
One last point about a key wound movement–let’s not forget about having fun. A mechanical clock can give you a special kind of satisfaction; not only do you hear the perky clicking sound as the key turns, but you can feel the sensation in your fingers of the gears winding. When you wind the clock, you’re somehow “connecting” with the workings inside of it, even though you’re on the outside of it. Key winding is a pastime that most clock owners look forward to.
Quartz Movement – This is battery powered. If you like the no-fuss approach of no winding, you might consider a quartz movement. Although mechanical movements keep excellent time with minor periodic adjustments, they’re not as accurate as quartz movements, which can keep precise time to within fractions of a second per month.
Shut-off and Volume Control Options – Almost all mechanical and quartz cuckoo clocks have an automatic night time chime shut-off, a handy thing if you tend to forget to shut your clock at night.
Maintenance – Mechanical key wound clocks require regular cleaning and oiling. (see ‘What You Need to Know About Oiling and Cleaning Your Clock’). If you like the convenience of a maintenance free clock that needs only the batteries replaced every few years and want to save money on routine maintenance costs, then a quartz clock might be for you.
- The Music – Do you like to hear a sonorous melody throughout the day? Or do you prefer the simple strike of a bell? Most musical models (ones that play a melody) feature an optional shut-off setting to silence the music. Non-musical models are also available.
There are two ways a mantel clock produces music: mechanically and electronically:
Mechanically – Most mechanical key wound mantel clocks feature one, two or three melodies created by hammers striking on metal rods or brass bells. These mechanical sounds produce richer tone than the digitally simulated sounds of a quartz movement. The most common chime is the traditional Westminster. However, the more elaborate and expensive models feature the triple chimes of the Westminster, Whittington and St. Michael. Other forms of chimes include the two-tone bim-bam melody, the passing bell strike and the hour strike.
Electronically – Unlike 8-day mechanical movements, the chimes and bell strikes in a quartz movement are electronically simulated. Most, but not all, quartz mantel clocks usually play two melodies and chime every quarter hour.
4. Price Determiners
So now that you’ve read the previous section on mantel clock features, and know more about the different designs, movement types, convenience aspects and music, you probably have a good idea about what features you’d like in a new mantel clock.
The next question to answer is: how does your budget “fit” into that idea? Usually, the more features a product has, the higher will be the cost. So if your budget isn’t robust enough to handle all of the features you want, it comes down to prioritizing which features are important to you.
Higher quality mantel clocks will have a manufacturer’s warranty. The duration of coverage ranges from 1 to 5 years, depending on the brand and the start date of coverage can begin from the date of purchase or the date of manufacture.
Mechanical clocks have a better long-term value and are more likely to become collector’s items than quartz clocks. Why? One reason is that centuries of clock making history and development are alive and well inside each clock. These are embodied in the workings of its gears, escapement, and all of its intricate mechanics and craftsmanship. History, detail, and human labor are important factors that add to the value and appeal of not just collectibles, but to heirlooms as well. So if you’re looking for a clock that you can pass on to your grandchildren, think “mechanical”.
We hope this guide will help you make the best buying decision. With proper maintenance and care, your new mantel clock should last for generations and become a cherished heirloom. Click here to view our large selection of Mantel Clocks.
Photo #2 – Man reading a book – williamsonac.com
Photo #3 – Mantel clock on a book shelf
Photo #4 – Hermle tambour style mantel clock
Photo #5 – Hermle bracket style mantel clocks
Photo #6 – Sternreiter carriage style mantel clock
Photo #7 – Sternreiter steeple style mantel clock
Photo #8 – Hermle contemporary mantel clocks
Photo #9 – Hermle skeleton style mantel clock
Photo #10 – Hermle mantel clock and key
Photo #11 – Charlie Chaplain clock maintenance – moma.org
Photo #12 – Sheet music – knickoftimeinteriors.blogspot.com
Photo #13 – Cash register – financialramblings.com
Photo #14 – Hourglass and money – effectivesoftwaredesign.com
Why are clocks so fascinating? What is our connection with them? The mystery of time is surely a broad topic and plenty of blog articles could be written about it from many different viewpoints, such as science, philosophy, theology, first-hand experience, etc. In this article, we’ll look at two of them. Taking a view from plain old experience and from a bit of science, we can find out something more about the allure of time and clocks.
Experience tells us that the relationship we have with clocks is deeper than what we see on the surface. Yes, clocks keep us organized; order, flow and continuity come from their reliability, enjoyment comes from their aesthetics. But there’s more. And it has to do with rhythm and pattern. Rhythm is found in any recurrent sound, movement, arrangement or condition in any sphere of life, including clocks.
Let’s look first at the hands of an analog clock. They follow a circular pattern and always arrive back at the place where they started, only to begin again as so many patterns and rhythms of nature do. Accompanying that continuum of movement is the delightfully ordered and rhythmic tick-tock of the clock’s mechanism. A swinging pendulum yet adds another layer of rhythm.
So if you’ve ever sensed a certain connection when you looked at a clock, or listened to its ticking, or watched its pendulum swing, there is a reason. In its simple and unassuming way, a clock mirrors the order and rhythm of nature and reminds us that we’re connected to that rhythm. Rhythm is an integral part of our being, so much so that we can even say that we’re “rhythmic beings,” and because we are, we have a natural affinity to the presence and workings of rhythm all around us in the patterns of the seasons, galaxies, mathematics, music, sports, poetry and so on…and in the patterns of the clocks.
Now to throw in some science, biology, at that. It’s well known in the fields of science that rhythm is an inseparable and intrinsic part of our physical bodies; our brain is a “master clock” that coordinates all of our body clocks. Our brain controls our internal timekeeper, called a “circadian rhythm,” so that all parts of our body work in sync with one another–all moving together like the precise gears and mechanisms of a finely tuned clock.
Children naturally experience, over and over again in different ways, just what we’re talking about–the beats, rhythms, and patterns, when they sing, clap, dance, laugh to music…and listen to the steady tick of a clock.
So we feel this connection with clocks because they’re closer to us than we might realize. When we look at and listen to a clock something inside us resonates, something that speaks of the rhythm that moves in us and all around us, and is perhaps the most basic pattern in nature. It’s our plain old experience that confirms it; clocks are just fascinating.
Photo # 1 – Clock face – we-are-star-stuff.tumblr.com
Photo # 2 – Pointing hand – thriftyartist.blogspot.com
Have a look at Germany’s amazing glockenspiel clock in Munich.