In a master clock system, electricity is used to give direct impulses to the pendulum, which in turn causes the clock’s gear train to move, or to lift a lever after it has imparted an impulse to the pendulum. In various modern master clocks the pendulum operates a light count wheel that turns through the pitch of one tooth every double swing and is arranged to release a lever every half minute. This lever gives an impulse to the pendulum and is then restored to its original position by an electromagnet. The pulse of current that operates the electromagnet can also be transmitted to a series of distant dials, or slave clocks, advancing the hands of each through the space of a half minute. Thus, a master clock can control scores of dials in a large group of buildings, as well as such other apparatus as time recorders and sirens.
Simple clocks intended mainly for notification were installed in towers, and did not always require faces or hands. They would have announced the canonical hours or intervals between set times of prayer. Canonical hours varied in length as the times of sunrise and sunset shifted. The more sophisticated astronomical clocks would have had moving dials or hands, and would have shown the time in various time systems, including Italian hours, canonical hours, and time as measured by astronomers at the time. Both styles of clock started acquiring extravagant features such as automata.
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