Clocks, Their History and Functions | Free Essay Example

Clocks, Their History and Functions

Words: 847
Topic: Tech & Engineering

In the world of nowadays, time is one of the most important aspects of our life. Contemporary people like to stick to their plans and schedules where every minute of their day is occupied. We feel comfortable when we know what time it is. This knowledge gives us an opportunity of estimating our daily duties, planning our leisure or work and arranging meetings. Today not everyone is aware that even though the idea of the clock is ancient, the technology that allows us to plan and organise our lives so well and with so much precision was not invented until recent times. For contemporary people, it is impossible to imagine life without knowing the precise time; this is how tightly our modern culture is connected to the technology of clocks.

The first prehistoric clocks carried practical and cultural functions. First of all, primitive clocks were designed to let people know the best time for planting seeds. Besides, the clocks gave prehistoric humans the knowledge of the most suitable seasons for mass migrations. Finally, first clocks were used for the organisation and planning of religious rituals such as celebrations, sacrifices and feasts (History of Telling Time n. d., para. 1). The first technologies used for estimating time were sundials and water clocks that originate from the second millennium BC (History of Clocks n. d. par. 3). Of course, the devices of these types were not precise.

The first mechanical clocks in human history were invented in Europe in the second half of the fourteenth century. The issue with these mechanisms was their weak power sources (History of Watches n. d., para. 2). These clocks were powered by weights, they were imprecise, and their mechanisms were very fragile, yet these technologies were the ground for all the further inventions. They created the popularity of clocks around Europe. This period of time can be considered as the beginning of the watchmaking industry.

In the second half of 1600, the watches and clocks entered a new phase called the “age of decoration”. This means that the technology of clocks remained without significant improvements, yet the outer design of these devices underwent multiple changes. The industry of watchmaking attracted the interest of businessmen and investors. Clocks and watches became an attribute of the fashion, a demonstration of the high status of the owner. This makes clocks and watches an important part of social life. Various designs and styles of clocks and watches started to appear. The new technology became an influential aspect of culture. The first person known to wear a watch on the wrist was Blaise Pascal, the well known French philosopher and mathematician (Bellis 2014, par. 5).

The first clock supported by a battery was built in 1906, an electrical impulse was sent from the battery and moved the mechanism of the clock (Clock a History 2014, par. 9). The first quartz clock was invented in 1927 by Warren Marrison; the device was very big and accurate; the clock’s mechanism was based on vibrations of a quartz crystal and electricity. These inventions improved the precision of the technology.

To my mind, this technology has influenced social life quite a lot. From the point of view of technological determinism, clocks have affected the way people view time today. The whole idea of high-speed technologies has developed due to the impact of clocks, creating a social fixation on time and precision. Clocks became a disruptive innovation of their time, generating a new market, a whole new sphere of life and a new way of thinking. The high speed of life did not occur until people invented clocks and divided days into hours and minutes. We can notice a significant difference comparing contemporary western people to cultures such as African or Asian tribes that have no notion of precise time and no modern clocks. Clocks made our society more intense, more effective and more active.

Watchmaking industry quickly adopted all the newest scientific discoveries Clocks were always moving along with the technological progress. Since 1600s clocks and watches never went out of fashion. Watchmaking industry today is shared between the most influential and prestigious companies based all over the world and making the most beautiful items. For wealthy people nowadays, just like centuries ago, having an expensive watch is a question of self-respect and a requirement of their social status.

Bullet points

  • The first primitive clocks were fashioned with a purpose of organising meaningful events such as migrations, religious and cultural celebrations and farming activities.
  • Time telling devices have been a very important part of people’s lives ever since prehistoric times.
  • The first mechanical clocks appeared in Europe in the fourteenth century; they were based on weights balance.
  • The second half of the 1600s is known to be “the age of decoration” for the clocks.
  • Battery and quartz clocks appeared in the 1900s; they gave the basis for all the further innovations of this field.

The clock became a disruptive innovation of their time and determined social fixation on time, speed and precision. Today clocks and watches carry both practical and aesthetic functions.


Bellis, M. 2014, Clock and Calendar HistoryWeb.

Clock a History 2014, Timekeepingsite, Web.

History of Clocks n. d., History World, Web.

History of Telling Time n. d., Time for Time, Web.

History of Watches n. d., Historyofwatch, Web.