The Philips Wake-Up Light offers a choice of five pleasant nature sounds — or for the more traditionally minded, FM radio — for your morning wake-up call, but the real star of the show is the sunlight simulation. Twenty to forty minutes before your programmed wake-up time (you set both times), the clock will slowly begin to simulate the sunrise, complete with the softest dawn reds and oranges gently brightening into sunny, yellow light.
If the only thing that will get you out the door in the morning is some serious nagging, Clockman is for you. This chatty clock refuses to shut up, even after you get out of bed. He'll greet you at your desired time, sing while you get dressed, and even yell if you anger him. While Clockman speaks only Japanese for now, his wake-up-and-get-going message isn't lost in translation.
In a typical verge-and-foliot escapement, the weighted rope unwinds from the barrel, turning the toothed escape wheel. Controlling the movement of the wheel is the verge, a vertical rod with pallets at each end. When the wheel turns, the top pallet stops it and causes the foliot, with its regulating weights, to oscillate. This oscillation turns the verge and releases the top pallet. The wheel advances until it is caught again by the bottom pallet, and the process repeats itself. The actions of the escapement stabilize the power of the gravitational force and are what produce the ticktock of weight-driven clocks.
Some clocks have several displays driven by a single mechanism, and some others have several completely separate mechanisms in a single case. Clocks in public places often have several faces visible from different directions, so that the clock can be read from anywhere in the vicinity; all the faces show the same time. Other clocks show the current time in several time-zones. Watches that are intended to be carried by travellers often have two displays, one for the local time and the other for the time at home, which is useful for making pre-arranged phone calls. Some equation clocks have two displays, one showing mean time and the other solar time, as would be shown by a sundial. Some clocks have both analog and digital displays. Clocks with Braille displays usually also have conventional digits so they can be read by sighted people.
Electric currents can be used to replace the weight or spring as a source of power and as a means of signaling time indications from a central master clock to a wide range of distant indicating dials. Invented in 1840, the first battery electric clock was driven by a spring and pendulum and employed an electrical impulse to operate a number of dials. Considerable experimental work followed, and it was not until 1906 that the first self-contained battery-driven clock was invented.
In a clock driven by a weight or a spring, the power is first transmitted by the main, or great, wheel. This engages with a pinion (a gear with a small number of teeth designed to mesh with a larger wheel), whose arbor (a turning rod to which gears are attached) is attached to the second wheel that, in its turn, engages with the next pinion, and so on, down through the train to the escapement. The gear ratios are such that one arbor, usually the second or third, rotates once an hour and can be used to carry the minute hand. A simple 12-to-1 gearing, known as the motion work, gives the necessary step-down ratio to drive the hour hand. The spring or weight is fitted with a mechanism so it can be rewound when necessary, and the arbor carrying the minute hand is provided with a simple slipping clutch that allows the hands to be set to the correct time.
Many alarm clocks have radio receivers that can be set to start playing at specified times, and are known as clock radios. Some alarm clocks can set multiple alarms, a useful feature for couples who have different waking up schedules. A progressive alarm clock, still new in the market, can have different alarms for different times (see Next-Generation Alarms) and even play music of your choice. Most modern televisions, mobile phones and digital watches have alarm clock functions to turn on or make sounds at a specific time.
In mechanical clocks, the low Q of the balance wheel or pendulum oscillator made them very sensitive to the disturbing effect of the impulses of the escapement, so the escapement had a great effect on the accuracy of the clock, and many escapement designs were tried. The higher Q of resonators in electronic clocks makes them relatively insensitive to the disturbing effects of the drive power, so the driving oscillator circuit is a much less critical component.
Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy (like pillows), but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed (that’s four-to-five-star reviews and lots of ‘em) products and single out the most convincing. While we’ve tried to find the nicest-sounding alarm clocks and ended up with picks for the best alarm clock and a voice-controlled alarm clock, we wanted to see what other ways to wake up were out there. So we found the best alarm clocks on Amazon, according to hyperenthusiastic reviewers. (Note that reviews have been edited for length and clarity.)