TO ANTIQUE CLOCKS
attraction of antique clocks lies in the combination of
mechanical and aesthetic form. In our current age we are
almost always aware of the precise time. Because we take the
measurement of time for granted it is probably difficult for
us to understand its importance.
families by the late nineteenth century probably had a clock
in every room in the house and each adult probably had a
pocket watch. Before the railways made national time a
necessity, every clock was adjusted to local time. The clocks
and watches were mainly set by the local church clock, which
was in turn set according to a sun dial. Yes... a sun dial!
of time with a mechanical clock as we know them is relatively
recent but there were forerunners of our clocks. The
best-known is the sun dial that was probably discovered by the
Sumerians who also observed the sun, moon, and stars, just
like the ancient Egyptians.
The simplest sun dial is a stick placed in the ground.
They also discovered that a sun dial can only provide accurate
time when it is known precisely when the sun is due
followed the discovery that the position of the shadow
depended on the position of the sun, which varied at different
times of the year. In about 1000 BC the Chinese discovered
that it is better to place the indicating arm of a sun dial at
an angle and at right angles to the plane representing the
supposed daily travel of the sun around the earth. In reality
the indicator is positioned parallel to the earth's axis.
Although small errors can occur, these discoveries made the
sun dial a very reliable means of measuring time.
This meant that seafarers needed to take account of
the place where they were with their sun instrument. The
sextant developed gradually into a complex: instrument that is
still widely used to this day throughout the world.
A water clock was used in ancient Mesopotamia to measure
time. A container was specially constructed so that the water
it held ran out slowly. A scale on this container (the One
into which the water flowed) indicated how much time had
passed. It was later reaIized this could be indicated by means
of a pointer and also that the flow of water could be used to
power a mechanism. Antique water clocks are virtually
impossible to procure since they were so prone to breakage.
The hourglass filled with sand is based on the same
principle. It may seem strange but the first hourglasses were
not made until the fifteenth century. Only then had
glassblowing reached such a level in which the hourglass could
be I accurately made. Antique hourglasses are very
collectible and extremely reasonable in price.
The sun dial was the most reliable timepiece for a very
long time and the arrival of mechanical timepieces did
not instantly make them redundant, since the mechanical
clocks were far from accurate. A a mechanism was needed that
was entirely independent of the apparent movement of the sun,
leading to the basic clock mechanism.
history of clocks runs through a never-ending series of
improvements in order to sub-divide time into increasingly
uniform units. All clocks rely upon the creation of a motion
that is constant. Considerable effort was required to reach
this state of clock evolution.