Types of Clocks

Clock Types: Different Types of Clocks with Their Names

Updated: July 14, 2023

4 min read

Clocks and timepieces have been a staple of our day-to-day lives for centuries, and many facets of our world have been shaped around the ticking of a clock. From when we eat, sleep, and work, clocks have been there to keep us on time and on task. In this article, we'll be looking at the different types of clocks that reflect not only changing clock styles throughout the centuries but also the change in purpose and form of these timepieces.

What Is the Difference Between a Digital Clock and an Analog Clock?

Almost all types of clocks will be referred to as analog or digital, so before we begin our list, let's quickly clarify the differences between these two clock names. Analog clocks tell the time using a mechanical structure, be this cogs and gears, or a pendulum, to tell the time. They feature a face that will display the time in 12hr format using numbers or Roman numerals.

Digital clocks use electronic displays and will most commonly tell the time in a 24hr format. Digital clocks tend to be easier to read than analog clocks thanks to factors such as light-up displays and tend to be preferred in the modern-day for practical use over analog clocks, which still hold the edge when it comes to aesthetics.

Analog Clocks

Most commonly, we refer to two types of clocks; analog and digital. But what came first? Well, the answer is most definitely analog. Analog clocks are what most likely pop into your head when you picture a clock, particularly the iconic alarm clock with its two ringing bells. This type of clock has a mechanical mechanism and features numbers or numerals on the outside of the instrument's face. Analog clocks feature an hour, minute, and sometimes secondhand.

Wall clocks

Wall clocks are a mainstay of schools, offices, and kitchens around the globe. As their name might suggest, this type of clock is mounted directly to the wall, meaning it doesn't take up valuable counter or desk space and can be seen by multiple people at once, which is why it's so convenient for an office or school setting. Wall clocks can be either analog or digital, but the former is far more common in these kinds of clocks.

Grandfather clocks

Grandfather clocks are one of the most iconic types of clocks that we think of when we think about antique timepieces. With no large home or country manor complete without one, grandfather clocks are recognizable by their large size, free-standing form, and pendulum mechanism. The grandfather clock is one of those clock types which can speak volumes about the style and tastes of the era it was produced. The style and casing of these clocks can vary greatly, and the mechanism can be housed in anything from simple oak to ornate mahogany.

Mantel clocks

Mantel Clocks were most popular in the Victorian era through to the middle of the last century when the hearth was the center of the home. Placed on the mantlepiece, the piece of stone or wood that sits atop a fireplace, mantle clocks could be simple affairs or ornate status symbols. Also known as shelf clocks, mantel clocks were designed to be attractive yet functional pieces of home decor that are still sought after today.

Cuckoo clocks

Cuckoo clocks originated in Germany and became popular souvenirs for travelers to acquire on their journeys and bring into their homes. Almost always made of wood, and with the best examples hand-carved, cuckoo clocks get their name from the small bird, which appears out of little doors on the front to call out each hour. A charming novelty piece, nowadays, it isn't just the humble cuckoo that can sprout from the depths of these pieces, but a variety of characters and themes may also be used to enchant their owner.

Digital Clocks

Digital clocks have been around since the 1970s but gained their popularity in the 1980s thanks to their futuristic look and 24hr time display, which made telling the time as easy as a quick glance. Most commonly with light-up displays, digital clocks are convenient for use in the bedroom and are used as alarm clocks by many. The display and style of digital clocks can vary just as broadly as the grandfather clock, and most examples use batteries as their source of power.

Sunrise clocks

Sunrise clocks are a recent invention designed as an overall improvement to the humble digital alarm clock. Designed with health and better sleep in mind, this type of clock will emit more light as it nears the users' wake-up time. This is designed to make the process of waking up in the mornings more gentle and less disruptive to our circadian sleep patterns.

Weather clocks

While simple variants of this type of clock have existed for centuries, like the sunrise clocks, these are advanced digital clocks designed not just to tell the time but track and tell the weather and temperature. Some models of weather clocks will use an Internet connection to track the changes in the weather pattern as they are reported, whilst other models require the installation of an outside sensor for more accurate results.

Online clocks

Online clocks are included in almost every form of modern gadget, from mobile phones to laptops. An easy way to keep track of the time, an online clock has almost superseded the use of watches and has moved many types of clocks into the function of decorative overuse as working clocks. Able to display the time down to the second in a customizable format, online clocks are great because they never lose track of time or require replacement batteries or repair work.

How Many Different Types of Clocks Are There?

This article has only scratched the surface of the many types of clocks used throughout history and are still in use today. From ticking away in our kitchens to the sometimes aggressive beep of the digital alarm clock that dragged us out of bed for work or school, clocks have a fascinating history and range of purposes that we simply couldn't live without.

Burak Özdemir
My name is Burak, and I used to have difficulties waking up in the morning due to unreliable alarm clocks. Over the past few years, I've dedicated part of my life to sharing my knowledge about time and alarm clocks with people through this blog.