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INTRODUCTION TO ANTIQUE CLOCKS

Measuring time 

The 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. 

WeIl-to-do 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!



Measurement 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 Sun Dial
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 south. 

From this 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. 

The Sextant
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. 

The Water Clock
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
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.

Mechanical Timepieces
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. 

The 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.

 

 

 

 


 

 

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