These mechanical clocks were intended for two main purposes: for signalling and notification (e.g. the timing of services and public events), and for modeling the solar system. The former purpose is administrative, the latter arises naturally given the scholarly interests in astronomy, science, astrology, and how these subjects integrated with the religious philosophy of the time. The astrolabe was used both by astronomers and astrologers, and it was natural to apply a clockwork drive to the rotating plate to produce a working model of the solar system.
Many devices can be used to mark passage of time without respect to reference time (time of day, minutes, etc.) and can be useful for measuring duration or intervals. Examples of such duration timers are candle clocks, incense clocks and the hourglass. Both the candle clock and the incense clock work on the same principle wherein the consumption of resources is more or less constant allowing reasonably precise and repeatable estimates of time passages. In the hourglass, fine sand pouring through a tiny hole at a constant rate indicates an arbitrary, predetermined, passage of time. The resource is not consumed but re-used.
While it’s not to be used in lieu of an alarm clock, this handy app will aggravate the hell out of you until you’re awake. You have to vigorously shake your phone for the duration of time previously set, or it’ll keep going. Pair this with sixty seconds after your new alarm clock going off, and you’ll throw yourself into a frenzy that you’ll need to power through to get out of. By that point, you’re already up.
In mechanical clocks this is done mechanically by a gear train, known as the wheel train. The gear train also has a second function; to transmit mechanical power from the power source to run the oscillator. There is a friction coupling called the 'cannon pinion' between the gears driving the hands and the rest of the clock, allowing the hands to be turned to set the time.
In mechanical clocks, the power source is typically either a weight suspended from a cord or chain wrapped around a pulley, sprocket or drum; or a spiral spring called a mainspring. Mechanical clocks must be wound periodically, usually by turning a knob or key or by pulling on the free end of the chain, to store energy in the weight or spring to keep the clock running.
As of the 2010s, atomic clocks are the most accurate clocks in existence. They are considerably more accurate than quartz clocks as they can be accurate to within a few seconds over thousands of years. Atomic clocks were first theorized by Lord Kelvin in 1879. In the 1930s the development of Magnetic resonance created practical method for doing this. A prototype ammonia maser device was built in 1949 at the U.S. National Bureau of Standards (NBS, now NIST). Although it was less accurate than existing quartz clocks, it served to demonstrate the concept. The first accurate atomic clock, a caesium standard based on a certain transition of the caesium-133 atom, was built by Louis Essen in 1955 at the National Physical Laboratory in the UK. Calibration of the caesium standard atomic clock was carried out by the use of the astronomical time scale ephemeris time (ET). As of 2013, the most stable atomic clocks are ytterbium clocks, which are stable to within less than two parts in 1 quintillion (2×10−18).
About 1581 Galileo noticed the characteristic timekeeping property of the pendulum. The Dutch astronomer and physicist Christiaan Huygens was responsible for the practical application of the pendulum as a time controller in clocks from 1656 onward. Huygens’s invention brought about a great increase in the importance and extent of clock making. Clocks, weight-driven and with short pendulums, were encased in wood and made to hang on the wall, but these new eight-day wall clocks had very heavy weights, and many fell off weak plaster walls and were destroyed. The next step was to extend the case to the floor, and the grandfather clock was born. In 1670 the long, or seconds, pendulum was introduced by English clock makers with the anchor escapement.
Auditory and projection clocks can be used by people who are blind or have limited vision. There are also clocks for the blind that have displays that can be read by using the sense of touch. Some of these are similar to normal analog displays, but are constructed so the hands can be felt without damaging them. Another type is essentially digital, and uses devices that use a code such as Braille to show the digits so that they can be felt with the fingertips.
The timekeeping element of a quartz clock consists of a ring of quartz about 2.5 inches (63.5 mm) in diameter, suspended by threads and enclosed in a heat-insulated chamber. Electrodes are attached to the surfaces of the ring and connected to an electrical circuit in such a manner as to sustain oscillations. Since the frequency of vibration, 100,000-hertz, is too high for convenient time measurement, it is reduced by a process known as frequency division or demultiplication and applied to a synchronous motor connected to a clock dial through mechanical gearing. If a 100,000 hertz frequency, for example, is subjected to a combined electrical and mechanical gearing reduction of 6,000,000 to 1, then the second hand of the synchronous clock will make exactly one rotation in 60 seconds. The vibrations are so regular that the maximum error of an observatory quartz-crystal clock is only a few ten-thousandths of a second per day, equivalent to an error of one second every 10 years.
“This little beauty works great. I bought it when the alarm on my mobile phone began to intermittently fail me. This little travel clock is beautiful in retro seafoam green and great for travel because its bright color ensures that you will never miss picking it up from your hotel nightstand at checkout. There is a faint, pleasant ticking, the hands glow in the dark, and the nightlight button is bright when needed. The pop-up alarm button is firm and works well though I am learning not to accidentally press it and turn the alarm off when picking up the clock. Overall, a fantastic alarm clock.”