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


A question opened Clock Facts Part One of this series : “If you don’t know what you don’t know, then how can you know that you don’t know it?” Well, if you’ve read part one and now know what you didn’t know before, here’s part two to start all over.



1. Henry Ford offered one million dollars for this clock
In 1928, the automaker Henry Ford, offered an astounding one million dollars to the Bily brothers for the eight foot, five hundred pound American Pioneer History Clock that they carved. But, the brothers turned Mr. Ford’s offer down. They didn’t want to part with it and kept it stored in their barn with the rest of their handmade collection. They never sold any of their clocks–not even one. (see: Bily Clocks Museum and Farmer Clock Makers.)




2. Great discoveries would have never happened without the clock

The invention of the clock has had a tremendous impact on history. For one thing, countless scientific experiments and breakthroughs that depended on the use of a stopwatch would never have happened if time measurement hadn’t advanced past the sundial. And what about keeping our schedules in business, travel, finance, medicine, government, recreation, schools, computers, and so on? Our lives would be radically impacted if not for the invention of the clock.


Blenheim Palace clock tower3. Why clock dials with Roman numerals use “IIII” instead of “IV”

For centuries, clock makers have inscribed within the ring of numbers on their clock dials the Roman numeral “four” written as “IIII” instead of “IV.” Why? It’s for symmetry: the “IIII” presents a better visual balance for the number “eight” written on the other side of the dial as “VIIl.”


Ten-Things-#2-Tower_aip.orgclock4. This tower clock helped Albert Einstein

While riding in a streetcar in Bern, Switzerland, Albert Einstein saw the city’s 13th century clock tower passing behind him (photo on right). He knew that since he was traveling away from the clock, the light of the clock’s image would have to catch up to him. But since light travels at 186,000 miles per second, so much faster than the 20 milers per hour of the streetcar, he of course knew there could be no perceivable delay in the clock’s image reaching him.

Some thoughts entered his mind: How would the clock’s image appear if the streetcar moved faster and faster? If that were to happen, the clock hands would continue to move more slowly. And if the streetcar traveled at the speed of light, the clock’s image would follow him at the same speed but wouldn’t be able to catch up to him. The result? The clock’s image would freeze, and time would “stand still.”  It was a streetcar ride on that day that gave Einstein a clue to the flexibility of time. Eventually, it led to his theory of relativity: E=MC ².

5. Why a clock repair person is called a “clock maker”

Many years ago, if you wanted to buy a clock you would have to see your local clock maker. He made clocks one at a time, commissioned by each individual customer. You would also have to see him if your clock needed adjustment or repair. Today, even though clocks aren’t made old-world style in a local clock maker’s shop, the tradition of calling a clock repair person a “clock maker” continues.

6. The Westminster melody has words to go with it

Almost everyone has heard the Westminster melody chiming away on one clock or another. But did you know that there are lyrics that accompany the melody?TEN-#2-wikepedia-westminster-chimes

O Lord our God
Be Thou our guide
That by thy help
No foot may slide.

 Ten-#2-ebay.com-rubies7. Why precious stones are put inside of watch movements?

What do you think happens inside of a watch when oil breaks down and metal rubs against metal? You have rapid wear on pivots and bearings, and the next stop is the repair shop.

To reduce wear and friction, watch makers of today use synthetic jewels such as rubies at the heaviest friction points because precious stones are much harder and longer lasting than metal.


8. What do the Latin words “Tempus Fugit” mean on a clock dial?

These words are often mistaken for the brand name of the clock,  but they are a Latin phrase that’s usually translated into English as “time flies”.


Ten-#2Grandfather-OceansBridge.com9. What does the grandfather clock have to do with grandfathers?

In 1836, American songwriter Henry Clay Work, wrote a song based on a folk story about a floor clock that stopped when its owner, a grandfather, passed away. He named the song “My Grandfather’s Clock.” Selling over 1 million copies of sheet music, it’s melody, and lyrics penetrated the hearts and minds of people everywhere and eventually the term “grandfather clock” became synonymous with this style of clock that inspired the song.




10. Selling time was their family business

In the early part of the 20th century, domestic clocks were still not very reliable and regular resetting was usually needed. So in 1836 John Belville, an assistant at the Greenwich Observatory, set his pocket watch and began delivering the precise time to offices around London as part of a government program.  After he passed away, his wife Maria continued the service as a private venture. She retired in 1892, handing over control of the business to their daughter, Ruth who carried the same pocket chronometer around London each week until she retired in 1940.

Well… after we finished writing this blog, one more clock fact came to mind.  We couldn’t resist adding it to the list, so here’s clock fact #11:

11. The origin of the term “o’clock”

The term “o’clock” came into use during the early part of the 18th century. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it was a shortened version of the phrase “of the clock” which referred to the time on a clock face.

We hope you’ve enjoyed part two of our series. Please let us know!

Photo Credits:

Photo #1 – The American Pioneer History Clock – constanceore.com 

Photo # 2 – Blenheim Palace clock tower – www.timeassured.com 

Photo # 3 – Tower clock in Bern, Switzerland – aip.org 

Photo # 4 – Westminster chimes music – Wikipedia 

Photo # 5 – Group of rough uncut rubies – ebay.com 

Photo # 6 – Grandfather – OceansBridge.com 

Photo # 7 – Antique pocket chronometer – christies.com 

The Time Savings Piggy Bank Clock


Not all piggy banks are shaped like a pig. This one’s shaped like a clock. In fact it is a clock and it’s called the “Time Savings Clock”.

You might ask, who would use such a clock to save their coins? Good question. Somehow, insurance companies figured out that their customers would, and they made sure each willing customer had one of these 1950’s coin-operated timepieces. It was a novel way to help them save money for their premium payments. The idea was that two British florins had to be put in the coin slot at the top of the case to keep the clock going. After all, who doesn’t want their clock to keep ticking? After the clock would run for a certain amount of time,  levers and wheels in the movement would lock in place, and the clock would stop. So, time for some more coins. After the coin-drop, the clock movement was then free to tick away.

Piggy-Bank-Clock-#2-back-vintage-radio.netThe coins ended up at the bottom of the clock in a sealed chamber, and at regular intervals an insurance man would come to the customer’s home, unseal the chamber, collect the coins, then re-seal the chamber. (Photo on left shows a time saving movement and coins.)

Beyond this clock’s novelty is something more. It’s not just a piggy bank and time keeper rolled into one. When I step back for a moment and look at its coin slot and numbered face, I see the clock as a symbol, one that reminds me of the value of time itself.

Think of it this way: to get the clock to run, it has to be fed with money— and money, as we well know, is what we all use to buy something we value– such as a car, a home, an education, food, clothing, etc. By our putting money into the clock in order to keep it running, we are, so to say, buying time. Of course, time can’t really be bought, and the coins just get the clock gears to move. But in having to put something valuable, such as money, into the slot to keep the time going, the clock becomes a symbolic reminder that time itself is a thing of value.

Piggy-Bank-Clock-#2-hourglass-sculpturegallery.comIn fact, time isn’t just an equal among other things of value. Time has a worth that’s in a class by itself because  there’s only a limited amount of it.  And unlike many things that can be bought with money, time isn’t one of them. That makes time very precious. And when I get to thinking just how precious it is, I also get to asking myself how well I’m using it. And that leads me to other questions, about loved ones, the future…in fact the very purpose of life.

So dropping two coins in the slot of a clock to pay for insurance premiums can turn out to be a whole lot more.

Photo Credits:

Photo #1 – Time Savings Clock – britishmuseum.org

Photo #2 –  Inside view of a time savings clock – vintage-radio.net

Photo #3 – Hourglass – sculpturegallery.com

Born in the Winter: Black Forest Clock Making



When  time, incentive, and patience come together, something great can happen. And it did. The tradition of Black Forest clock making began with those three ingredients, some farmers, and the craft of wooden gear clock making, back in the last half of the 17th century.


During the long winter months when sowing, tending, and reaping were at a standstill, the farmers had plenty of time on their hands. And in that pause, a need was filled.

How? In the Black Forest, it was customary for a farmer’s oldest son to inherit the farm–-the younger son or sons were given only a small parcel of the farm. That created a need. Looking for additional ways to earn their living–here’s where the incentive comes in–some of the younger sons began crafting wooden clocks during the winter months to supplement their income. There were also cottagers and poorer farm families who took up the craft.

Clock making was a likely choice for their new venture, as linden wood was abundant in the region. The wood was soft enough to carve, yet hard enough to support the structure, and there were plenty of rivers and streams to power the lumber mills. The rocks that were used to power most of the weight-driven “Waaguhr” clocks, as they were called, were also in abundance.

Now for the patience: Farmers know that seeds grow at their own rate, and that mother nature can’t be rushed. Farmers know how to wait. Knowing how to be patient prepared them well to be clock makers. For long hours they could sit at their benches using their skill,Wood-Gears#2-uh.edu inventiveness, and the simplest of tools. The movements of the clocks, including the gears, were all made of wood. Without the benefit of electric-powered jigsaws, they had to hand-cut, file and shape every tooth on each gear, one at a time, carefully, slowly and precisely.

How many gear teeth did the average Waaguhr have and how long do you think it took to make such a clock? Based on our research, we estimate that the movement had, more or less, 140 to 150 gear teeth among its three gear wheels. As for how much time it took to make one of these timepieces…we can only guess! But the winters were long, and it was good that they were.

When spring came it was time to, so to say, “harvest” the clocks and bring them to market. The farmers gathered them up, and had traveling clock peddlers find eager homes for them. These were the first, the simple Waaguhr clocks, which were followed some decades later by the immensely popular cuckoo clock. Artisan clock makers steadily developed their own styles in the designs of the cuckoo clocks, and the Black Forest gained a worldwide reputation for producing timepieces of great beauty and craftsmanship. What had begun as a small cottage industry, in the pause of winter, grew and flourished throughout the region and beyond. In time, the clock making tradition of the Black Forest gained worldwide recognition.

So, great things did happen…when time, incentive, and patience came together.

Below is the “Hohenzollern”, a 17th century replica by Rombach and Haas. Click here for more details.


Photo credits:

Photo # 1 – Potato Planters by Jean-François Millet – hoocher.com

Photo # 2 – 17th century replica of a Waaguhr style wall clock – uh.edu

Photo # 3 – 17th century replica  ” Hohenzollern” – Waaguhr style clock by Rombach and Haas



The Hohenzollern Rock Clock by Rombach and Haas


For a time, it was chocolate cakes, glass products, and lumber for which the Black Forest of Germany was best  known. But in 1640 that began to change. It was the “Waaguhr” clock that did it, the first affordable mechanical clock for the new and growing middle class of the European society. Waaghur-#2-Rombach-7640People were taking up a trade in the new industries. Farmers became millers, bakers, and craftsmen of all kinds, and they began to buy, sell, and trade with other middle class tradesmen. The Waaguhr helped them keep better track of the starting and stopping time for the breads they baked, the grains they milled, and the products they crafted. (Photo: Rombach and Haas antique reproduction Waaguhr style clock.)

Before the invention of the Waaguhr, people had estimated the passage of time by using the sun’s position, unless they lived close enough to a church clock tower to hear its bells ring at special times during the day. Some may have used candle clocks or flipped over their hourglasses. But when the Waaguhr came along, it must have been a big relief for them, for it was easier to know when to take their breads out of the ovens and to time all their other tasks.

The clock went over big in spite of one shortcoming, its accuracy. Having a movement made of all wood instead of metal parts had a lot to do with its lack of precision. By today’s standards, losing, let’s say, fifteen minutes a day, would be unacceptable. But think of it, compared to how people had been measuring the time, the new and affordable Waaguhr was a great and practical convenience, even if it wasn’t perfectly accurate.

Not only did this clock make life easier, but it also added eye-catching interest to any home and shop. Why? Because of what powered the clock’s 12 hour, weight-driven movement–and that was usually a heavy rock. Some clocks, had a glass vile filled with pebbles or sand, instead of a rock. Adding to the Waaguhr’s unusual appearance was its curious looking yoke-shaped balance which continuously twisted back and forth. (Waaguhr means “Foliot”, which is the name of the type of movement of the clock.)

Over time it became known that the Black Forest had more to offer the world than delicious chocolate cakes, lumber, and glass products. The production of the Waaguhr began the tradition of Black Forest clock making, a tradition that just kept on growing and growing.

So, sit down and relax German-style with a piece of chocolate cake, a glass of schnapps,  and a Waaguhr style clock hanging on your wall. Check out an antique reproduction model of the Waagur clock on our website. Be sure to also see our related article “Born in the Winter: Black Forest Clock Making”.

See this video of how the foliot works. (The clock shown in this clip is for demonstration purposes only).

 Photo:  Waaguhr style antique reproduction wall clock – Hohenzollern #7640 by Rombach and Haas


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 wereBefore-#2-www.japanese-incense.com-time.htm 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 extinguishedbefore-#2-knocker-bigpicture.ru 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 theirbefore-#2-knocker-pea-bigpicture.ru 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?

Before-water-www.artelista.com.htmljpg5. 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 – commons.wikimedia.org

Photo # 2 – Candle clock – raumgestalt.net

Photo # 3 – Incense alarm clock – japanese-incense.com

Photo # 4 – Knocker Up tapping on window – bigpicture.ru

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

Photo # 6 – Steam whistle

Photo # 7 – Glass of water  – artelista.com

Video Credit – kotsanas.com

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.



The popular and traditional belief, which has lasted through the centuries, is that the cuckoo clock History-Cuckoo-#2-Bellows-Clockworks.com-cu2was 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 – burtonlatimer.info

Photo # 2 – Village of Schoenwald, Germany – black-forest.org

Photo # 3 – Cuckoo clock bellows and pipes – clockworks.com

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 – nawcc.org

Photo # 2 – The Swabian Alps – archaeology.about.com

Photo # 3 – Hermle mantel clock – TheWellMadeClock.com

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 treatiseHOUR-SH2Xindiamart.com “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!hour-dayonedigital.co.uk

Unlike most any other timepiece you will find anywhere, the hourglass visually represents the present as hour-icons.mysitemyway.com-being 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 – en.wikipedia.com

Photo # 2 – Sailing ship – forum.paradoxplaza.com

Photo # 3 – Nautical hourglass – indiamart.com

Photo # 4 –  Hourglass icon (blue) – dayonedigital.co.uk

Photo # 5 – Hourglass icon (green) – icons.mysitemyway.com

Photo # 6 – Hourglass icon (red) – iconsdb.com


The Grand Central Terminal Clock–Not the Usual Act


What if, one day, you decided to become a Hollywood star? Where would you begin? A good start would be to take acting lessons, but let’s say you’ve already amused your family for some years in countless living room theater plays and acted in small parts in your local town, in summer stock, and then off-Broadway. Now, you’re on a plane to Hollywood and searching for an agent. If you work hard, it might not be long before you catch your first part in a film. You’ve made it, you’re a Hollywood star.

But a person isn’t the only one who can become a star–sometimes it’s a clock. Let’s take a look at how it happened for the Grand Central Terminal Clock, the magnificent structure adorning the top of Grand Central Terminal’s information booth at the main concourse area. Did the clock take clock lessons or practice how to tick, or hire an agent? Did it have to sing, dance and ride a horse? Did it need a photo-op and portfolio?

Nope. None of that. Let’s just say all it had to do is just ‘be’. Standing tall, its four faces looking out above the concourse, right in the heart of New York City’s biggest train terminal, Grand-2-chicago-architecture-jyoti.blogspot.commade it the perfect place for friends and lovers to meet. And that’s  a recipe for the movies. So, what did the clock have to do? it had to do nothing; it was discovered. And in 1947, when over sixty-five million people, forty percent of the U.S. population, traveled the rails via the Grand Central Terminal, the clock made its film debut in the “Grand Central Murder.” Its screen appearance was a success, and from there, other film producers and directors cast the clock in their movies. It appeared in The Godfather, Men in Black and Superman, Midnight Run, the Cotton Club, The Fisher King and North by Northwest, starring Cary Grant, and many more.

In North by Northwest, the clock was filmed for the first time in Paramount Picture’s Vista-Vision Technicolor. Dan Brucker, the terminal’s official Tour Guide, told us that, “The color, and purity, and richness and detail were so fine, so crisp and exact, that the clock almost pops out at you, like 3-D.” It was probably the clock’s most memorable performance yet.

Grand-2-Smithsonian-Now, you know how one thing leads to another? Well, its appearance in these films increased its charm as a meeting place. “Meet me under the clock.” That declaration was not only a famous phrase in films, but a common phrase among New Yorkers and any of its visitors. At least four generations of New Yorkers have known where to go when they want to “meet under the clock”. Soldiers returning from war re-unite with their loved ones, friends get together to socialize, a lover proposes, a photographer uses it as a backdrop and as an icon on postcards.

Photo: Grand Central Station's 100th Anniversary postage stampAnd as if film wasn’t enough, the ambitious clock has recently branched out into the US Mail. Just last year (2013), a new Express Mail Stamp to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Grand Central Terminal was published, and none other than yours truly found a spot right in the middle of the stamp. It took its place among the other stamps of the Hollywood stars like Humphrey Bogart, Humphrey2-Bogart-Stamp-John Wayne, Bette Davis, Jimmy Stuart and Katharine Hepburn. Grand-John-Wayne-StampAnd, as part of the centennial Grand-2-Katharine-Hepburn-stampanniversary, a stylized design of the century old clock became the official logo for the Grand Central Terminal.





If you’ve never been to this great terminal, what some call the “city within the city,” and decide to go to see the clock, it’s not likely to give you an autograph, but I’m sure it will gladly pose for a photo.



Top – Closeup of Grand Central Terminal Clock – blakerobinsonphotography.com

Photo #1 – Grand Central Terminal Clock -chicago-architecture-jyoti.blogspot.com

Photo # 2 – Meet Me Under The Clock at Grand Central Terminal – si.edu

Photo # 3 – Grand Central Station’s 100th Anniversary postage stamp

Photo # 4 – Humphrey Bogart postage stamp

Photo # 5 – John Wayne postage stamp

Photo # 6 – Katherine Hepburn postage stamp

Photo # 7 – Grand Central Terminal logo- grandcentralterminal.com