Before The Alarm Clock


before-#2--rooster-commons.wikimedia.orgBefore modern alarm clocks, nature took care of things: crowing roosters, morning light and singing birds did the trick. These were just some of the ways to wake up without an alarm clock in olden times. And there’s more. We’ve collected an assortment of the clever methods used over the centuries to rouse sleepers out of a slumber, from candles, to water to incense and more.

1. Candles

Candles and clangs? Here’s how they went together to get snoozers out of bed. Candles were already used in olden times as a way to measure the passing of time. The method was simple: intervals were before-#2-candle-www.raumgestalt.netmarked along the length of the candle, each interval representing a certain amount of time. As the wax melted, the elapsed time could be measured by the interval mark that the candle had reached as it grew shorter. All it took to change a candle clock into an “alarm clock” was to embed one or more metal balls into the candle at one or more interval markings. As the the candle shortened, the melted wax released a ball which dropped onto a metal plate with a “clang” loud enough to wake you up. Some candle clocks used nails instead of metal balls. My guess is that nails made more noise. Hmm, now that’s creative!

2. Incense

Here’s a sort of sister to the candle alarm. The incense clock originated in ancient China and marked the passage of time with a burning stick of incense (some clocks used powdered incense). The sticks specially made to burn evenly and slowly at a predictable rate.  Along the length of the incense stick, intervals were marked. Each interval represented a certain amount of time it would take for the stick to burn down to reach it. In the alarm clock version of the incense clock, threads with small metal balls attached to their ends, were embedded into the stick at the interval markings. As the stick burned and reached an interval, the thread would break and the metal balls would drop onto a bell, gong or metal platter. Spiral sticks took longer to burn than straight ones and were used for longer range alarm planning.

3. The Knocker Up
What? A long stick as an alarm clock? How on earth…this is how it would go. An early morning riser, maybe a constable walking the morning beat, or a lamp lighter who the street lamps, or a retired person who wanted to earn a few extra pence a week would take up this part-time job. They would be called a Knocker Up, a profession that emerged in the early years of the Industrial Revolution and which last into the 1920’s before alarm clocks were affordable and reliable.

The job of a Knocker Up was to rouse his or her sleeping clients so they could wake up in time for work. Using a long stick, often made of bamboo, with an attached wire at the end, a Knocker Up would tap on a window to rouse customers at a predetermined time. Sleepers could rest assured knowing that Knocker Up wouldn’t stop tapping until they signaled their Knocker that they were awake. Some Knocker Ups worked directly for their client sleepers, other were hired by factories to make sure their employees got to work on time. Not all Knocker Ups used a long pole-type knocker. We know of at least one that used a rubber tube as a pea shooter Pretty clever!


Before-#3x--steam-whistle4. The Factory Whistle

This was a wake-up call that was hard to miss. In the time of the Industrial Age, it was common for people to live near the factory in which they worked. Maybe one of the reasons they lived so close was to hear the whistle each morning. To rouse their workers from sleep, some factories would blow piercingly loud steam-powered whistles, announcing that it was time to come to work. What a way to start the day. Which would you prefer, the tap of the Knocker Up or the shriek of the whistle? Bladder Control

Estimating how long it took for a few glasses of water to “inspire” a jaunt to the rest room, was an effective wake up technique when timed right. The earlier you needed to be up, the more water you would drink. The “alarm” was quiet…no loud noises, and with a little practice the technique was dependable. It was allegedly used by Native American Indians well into the 20th century.

6. The Water Clock (Clepsydra)

It is said that the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, invented the water-powered alarm clock. He did it by modifying a water clock, an ancient device used for thousands of years by the earliest civilizations. One account describes Plato’s clock as having lead balls that hit a copper platter, sounding the alarm. Another account describes how siphoned water, rising, forced air through a whistle, which certainly got a sleeper’s attention. Plato also made a version that played flutes, a more pleasant way to wake than lead balls and whistles.

Check this video to see how a water alarm clock works.

Let’s pretend…

for now that the modern alarm clock, and I mean the nice, compact, little one you place on your night table, had never been invented. Which wake-up method would you choose if you had to?  Let us know which one and why.

Photo Credits:

Photo # 1 – Rooster –

Photo # 2 – Candle clock –

Photo # 3 – Incense alarm clock –

Photo # 4 – Knocker Up tapping on window –

Photo # 5 – Knocker Up with “pea-shooter” device –

Photo # 6 – Steam whistle

Photo # 7 – Glass of water  –

Video Credit –

Really, An Online Cuckoo Clock?


Out of nails or screws? You can still hang a cuckoo clock on your “wall”–digital wall, that is. It chimes on the hour and half hour, and it never needs winding or batteries. Yes, it’s our free Well Made Online Cuckoo Clock.

To share the clock on social media or by email, just use the share buttons right below the title of this article. You can also copy the URL of this page and paste it on forums or anywhere you like!  If you have a blog or website, just copy the embed code below the cuckoo clock image and paste it into the page of your choice.

Since this widget uses new HTML5 features, it’s not compatible with all browsers. We recommend the latest desktop versions of Google Chrome or Firefox.

Want to see the cuckoo bird in action right now? Click on the cuckoo door for a sample performance.

<iframe src="" height="860" width="440" frameborder="0"></iframe>

Click here to see this actual cuckoo clock offered on our website. One thing though…you’ll need a nail or screw to hang it.

The Well Made Online Cuckoo Clock was developed by:
Nerdy House Media

The History of the Cuckoo Clock


It seems that disagreements about when an invention was invented and who did the inventing, tend to bubble up here and there, and so it is with the cuckoo clock.

Hundreds of years have passed  since the famous clock first appeared in the Black Forest,and today horologists are still in disagreement about its beginnings. Maybe it’s understandable, because the Black Forest has always been a place of myths and fairy tales.önwald

The popular and traditional belief, which has lasted through the centuries, is that the cuckoo clock invented in 1740 by Franz Anton Ketterer, a master clock maker from the small village of Schoenwald (photo above) in the heart of the Black Forest of Germany. It is said that he was the one who devised a clever mechanical system using two small bellows and wooden whistles, much like the pipe organ, to reproduce the two-note call of the cuckoo. (photo on right).


Maybe the reason Ketterer chose the cuckoo for his clocks was because he knew that the familiar cooing sound of the cuckoo bird would perk people up, the bird being a welcome sign of the coming of spring and History-#2cuckoo-Sepia-Natural History- Birds by Philip Henry Gosse the end of winter. Before Ketterer added the cuckoo to his wall clocks, clockmakers had used a variety of winsome, animated figures such as dumpling eaters, laughing faces, beer drinkers, trumpeters and the like to bring mirth and appeal to their timepieces.


It wasn’t a surprise that before long the cuckoo clock gained popularity throughout Germany. Artisan clock makers of the Black Forest steadily developed their own styles and themes in the designs of their clocks, and clock peddlers traveled the countrysides and beyond, to far away places, selling the cuckoos.  Over time the wooden mechanisms of the clock were replaced by brass and other metals, and eventually History-#2-rombach-8222two main styles of cuckoo clocks emerged: the ornamented “railroad house” style known as the “Bahnhäusleuhr” (far left photo)History-RE-SIZED-Anton-schneider-8T-215-9 and the decorative “traditional style” known as the “Jagdstück”, (middle photo) which had  elaborate, hand carved hunting themes . Toward the end of the 19th century, modeled after typical Swiss and German chalets, guide-2--anton-schneider-cuckoo-clock-1686-91the “Chalet” style cuckoo clock emerged (photo above on right); some featuring music boxes and animated figurines and waterwheels to liven things up. Over time the cuckoo clock has become a worldwide symbol of the Black Forest.



In the span of three centuries, the cuckoo clock has remained in a mostly unchanged state. But now, there are more style choices, including quartz models and the contemporary/decorative designs that are usually smooth, flat, minimalistic and geometrical in shape. But regardless of its style, the whimsical charm and kinetic experience of a cuckoo clock, and the relationship it engenders, is still very much the same.


Well, whether it was Ketterer or someone else who first invented the cuckoo clock, congratulations for a job well done, for we can now enjoy the mirth of these charming creations. As for our other animated friends, the dancing figurines, beer drinkers and other characters, they’re also found on many a cuckoo clock, spinning, dancing, moving about and making merry. Some things just don’t change.

Check our large online selection of heirloom quality cuckoo clocks.


Photo credits:

Photo # 1 – Clock maker in his clock shop –

Photo # 2 – Village of Schoenwald, Germany –

Photo # 3 – Cuckoo clock bellows and pipes –

Photo # 4 – Cuckoo Bird drawing – from “Natural History: Birds” by Philip Henry Gosse

Photo # 5 – Rombach and Haas “Railroad house” style cuckoo clock

Photo # 6 – Anton Schneider traditional style cuckoo clock

Photo # 6 – Anton Schneider chalet style cuckoo clock

Photo # 7 – Rombach and Haas modern style cuckoo clock

The History of Hermle Clocks–Made in Silence


history-cuckoo#2-BRN-burtonlatimer.infoImagine you are a clock maker sitting at your bench, assembling the intricate parts of a clock–and there is noise all around you. Distracting, isn’t it? Now, imagine how it would be if it there were silence. Less distracting, right? So, here’s a question: in which environment could you do the best job: the noisy or the silent? My guess is that you chose the silent.


Yes, to produce timepieces the right way, it takes…silence. Franz Hermle knew it. That’s why the serene and small town of Gosheim, nestled in the Black Forest region of Germany, was his likely choice for the founding of the Hermle Clock Company. That was over ninety years ago. Hermle-#2-history-archaeology.about.comToday the Hermle Clocks is located in the hush of the Swabian

Alps,  still far away from the distractions of a city. In those mountains, Hermle workers can immerse in an environment that’s most conducive to the meticulous and focused art of clock making. Silence is one of the key elements that ensures the high accuracy and perfect precision of every Hermle component, and it’s one of the reasons why Hermle clock movements are among the world’s best.

“Nothing is more useful than silence.”  –Menander of Athens

Silence is one important ingredient, and tradition is another. “We’re bound by tradition and committed to maintaining a traditional approach in our company” said Rolf Hermle, the current owner of Hermle. Part of that tradition Hermle-#2-history-22864_070340-darkis maintaining a family owned and operated business, now in its third generation. In 1953, the operation was passed on to Franz’s four sons who continued to build the business into the world’s leading manufacturer of mechanical clock movements.

Since it’s beginning in 1922, it took only a decade for Hermle to gain worldwide recognition. Since then, they’ve been masters in hand crafting clockwork mechanisms. In 1977 Hermle opened an additional plant in Amherst, Virginia, USA, to serve the North American market.

When you buy a Hermle clock, you’re not just getting the precision and quality and tradition, you’re getting the hush as well.

Have a look at this an excellent video produced by the Hermle clock company. It’s filled with history, fascinating closeups of clock workings, and clock makers working their craft.


Click here to view our large selection of Hermle clocks.


Photo Credits:

Photo # 1 – Clock maker in his shop –

Photo # 2 – The Swabian Alps –

Photo # 3 – Hermle mantel clock –

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Clocks – Clock Facts Part One


If you don’t know what you don’t know, then how can you know that you don’t know it? This article is about things you never knew about clocks. And if you really don’t know about them, you will after you read this blog. So here we go, here’s our first “I never knew that” fact:


1. Who would ever think that the ancient sun dial has everything to do with why our clock hands move clockwise and not counter clockwise? Here’s the tie-in: long before the invention of the mechanical clock, people used the sun dial to tell time and in the Northern Hemisphere, and the shadow on the sun dial moved clockwise as the sun went across the sky. So, the medieval clock makers of Europe, naturally designed the clock hands to move in the same  familiar direction as the shadow on a sun dial. If the sundial had been invented in the Southern Hemisphere, maybe our clocks would now be turning counterclockwise; and if that were so, we’d probably be calling that direction “clockwise.”
Comment: Can you imagine reading a clock if the hands went the other way?

2. Who “nose” about this one? In the old days, some people used to place kerosene soaked rags inside of their grandfather clocks, thinking that it would prevent rust from forming on the metal parts.
Comment: But how did that smell?

3. This one is one of those “no–no’s”. As a general rule, never move the hour hand independently of the minute hand on a chiming or striking clock. Without your having to touch the hour hand, it naturally moves when you move the minute hand. Uh oh, if you do move it, that will probably throw the strike out of sync with the hands.
Comment: Oops!.. off to see the clock doctor.

4. AA_coloredGFCmillersville.eduFor this one we go back about 400 years. Galileo Galilei was attending a church service and noticed a swinging lantern. That led him to the discovery that the pendulum could be used to accurately measure time. Comment: What a brain.

5. Now for, guess what? Telephone companies. These days they have their own atomic clocks to keep their computers in sync with one another. When you call someone hundreds of miles away your words are broken up and transmitted between computers at both ends. Every second these computers jump back and forth thousands of times between one call and another. For that to work, the computers have to stay in perfect sync, and the atomic clocks make that possible. They’re what make your phone conversations comprehensible.
Comment: I’m glad something does!

6. Ten-Things-colored-eb3experience.comUgh! In the late 18th century Great Britain imposed a hefty tax on every clock in use, even in private homes. It was known as the “Parliament Clock Tax”. The new tax was resented by most. So clocks and watches ceased to be bought and droves of clock makers literally went out of business. Within a year the burdensome tax was removed.
Comment: Hey, what about a tax refund?


7. We thought we were done with “no–no’s”, really, but we just had to squeeze another one in. Never give a clock as a gift in China. The Chinese word “sòng zhōng” means “clock”. But it’s pronounced the same as another Chinese word which means “terminating” or “end”. That’s why, in the Chinese culture, clocks are often associated with funerals, and giving someone a clock as a gift, signifies the end of relationships or even the end of the gift receiver’s life.
Comment: Whew, I’m glad I found out now!

Ten-shp3x--bulk-pennies8. Would you have ever expected this? Old penny coins are what keep London’s Big Ben clock of the Palace of Westminster accurate. Each coin added to or taken off the pendulum makes the clock go faster or slower by 4 tenths of a second in a 24 hour period.
Comment: Is this what they mean by penny-wise?

9. Some people just don’t like to sleep late. Levi Hutchins was one of them. Because he believed in starting his workday on time and early, the 26 year old clockmaker, in 1787, invented the very first mechanical alarm clock to rouse him from sleep. But it would only ring at 4 a.m., and that’s the way he wanted it. His sole purpose for inventing the clock was to avoid oversleeping. He never patented or mass-produced his invention.
Comment: Is 4 a.m. before the rooster crows?

10. Did life’s daily work and play eventually become more precise because of this invention? It sure did, after the world’s first minute hand was invented in 1577 by Jost Bürgi, a mathematician, Swiss clockmaker, and a maker of astronomical instruments. Burgi’s invention was part of a clock made for Tycho Brahe, an astronomer who needed an accurate timekeeping device for his work.
Comment: Wait a minute! What about the second hand?

So, now you know what you didn’t know. So what?…

Well, you won’t have to go to the clock doctor, and you know who not to give a clock to as a gift, and who to thank for the minute hand and the alarm clock, and why the hands of your clock go in the direction they do, and why you might catch a whiff of kerosene around an old grandfather clock and those other handy tidbits. But, I bet there’s still plenty that you don’t know…well, I guess you can’t know everything, can you?

Check out part two of this series: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Clocks – Clock Facts Part Two

Photo Credits:

Photo # 1 – Sun dial – University of South Florida

Photo # 2 – Diagram of pendulum motion –

Photo # 3 – Tax time clock face –

Photo # 4 – Penny coins from Great Britain

History of the Hourglass – From Sailing Ships to Icon


Maybe the idea of the hourglass came about when a beachcomber, long ago, scooped up a handful of sand and watched it slowly trickle out between the fingers. It could’ve happened that way. Well, no one reallyHour-Shrp2X--EN.WIKIPEDIA.COM knows how it was “invented” or who invented it. Some say that the hourglass, which is also know as the “sand clock”, was created as far back as 1300 when it started showing up on the shopping lists of sea vessels. Also about that time, it turned up in Ambrogio Lorenzetti frescos and in written records as well. Certainly the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all had the know how, technology and materials needed to create one. Maybe they did? But when it comes down to it, the who, what and when of it doesn’t really matter, what does matter is that the hourglass was invented.


It found its place as a convenient, dependable and accurate way of keeping track of the time. At the beginning, it was used on ships. Neither the water’s humidity nor the ship’s swaying interfered very much with the steady and even movement of the sand. One sea captain, Hour-sailing-#2-forum.paradoxplaza.comFerdinand Magellan, was especially keen on them. When he sailed the seas, each of his vessels kept on board eighteen hourglasses to track the time. The job of turning the hourglass on a ship fell to the ship’s page, who then rang a bell at each turn, to indicate the amount of time that had passed. The speed and the distance traveled by the ship was then calculated and entered into the ship’s log. Missing a turn of the hourglass would profoundly effect navigational calculations, the crew’s work schedule and more; woe to the forgetful page who missed a turn!; it often resulted in austere disciplinary action.

By the end of the fourteenth century, the hourglass was being used in workplaces, churches, and especially in kitchens. In fact, it had become a common household item. The making of the “sand” was a routine job for the woman of the house. The earliest recipe appeared in a household “The Goodman Of Paris” written by the Menagier de Paris in the late 1300’s. Among recipes for preserves, glue, ink and toothache remedies is the one for making the filling material for the hourglass. The recipe says “Take the grease which comes from the sawdust of marble when those great tombs of black marble be sawn, then boil it well in wine like a piece of meat and skim it, and then set it out to dry in the sun; and boil, skim and dry nine times; and thus it will be good.” Other materials were used such as powdered egg shells, sometimes mixed with red ochre or plumbago. Lead and tin were also used.

Eventually, the new spring-powered, wood-geared, mechanical clock was invented. But due to its expense and size, the popularity of the hourglass prevailed for a time. After 1500, with steady progress in design and production, more portable, more accurate and less costly versions or mechanical clocks emerged. They were convenient and made keeping track of time easy. The once very popular hourglass eventually became less useful, but didn’t completely disappear. Because of its aesthetic form and materials it was an attractive design piece for Renaissance artists who used it as a symbol of mortality, empiricism and the sciences. Today the hourglass is used as an artistic decorative piece, a timer for games and eggs, and as a symbol in computers and the Unicode Standard. It continues on as a universal and endearing icon. That’s versatility!

Unlike most any other timepiece you will find anywhere, the hourglass visually represents the present as between the past and the future; the sand on the bottom representing the time that has passed, the sand on the top, the time yet to come, and the sand in hour-iconsdb.comthe middle, the all important now. This has made it an enduring symbol of time itself.

For centuries the hourglass has been with us, and has certainly found a colorful place in human history. But isn’t it nice to have a decorative modern day analog clock on your wall, shelf or living room floor? Unlike an hourglass which puts you to work with constant hourly turning, the modern day clock is wound just once daily, weekly or not at all if it’s battery powered. And you never have to worry about missing a turn. So why not take a browse through our fine selection of well made clocks.

Photo  Credits:

Photo # 1 – Fresco painting –

Photo # 2 – Sailing ship –

Photo # 3 – Nautical hourglass –

Photo # 4 –  Hourglass icon (blue) –

Photo # 5 – Hourglass icon (green) –

Photo # 6 – Hourglass icon (red) –