Wednesday Roam…Thinking About Clocks

About a week or so ago a writer friend posted a short piece about using a metronome in music. She is a musician — I am not, but her discussion continued to where she was thinking about time keeping, generally, and reminiscing about clocks.  That got me to thinking.

It made me realize that all but one of the clocks in my house are digital clocks. The lone exception is a smallish antique-looking mantel clock that runs on a battery and doesn’t keep correct time. It’s flawed somehow in its inner workings and lies to me every day. I change batteries from time to time and reset the hours and minutes every week or so but it immediately loses or adds time. As a clock it is worthless but I keep it anyway.  Sort of like penance. It’s an imperfect world.

I unconsciously went to digital clocks. I never planned to, but I think there is something accusatory about the face of a traditional analog clock. It shows a full twelve hour span of time and seems somewhat adversarial. It sits there and ticks off the minutes….”where have you been for so long?” or ”you should have left five minutes ago” or ”when do you think you will finally get up?”  I don’t need that kind of mocking attitude…I have a cat for that.

Digital clocks are quiet – no ticking. They only display the time for that particular moment that you are looking at them. They seem totally objective and unconcerned with my procrastination. “If you want to dilly-dally the whole day away that’s your call…it’s none of my business”.  The thing I dislike most about digital clocks is the sound of the alarm. The manufacturers seem to delight in making the alarm, well, very alarming. They buzz and screech or make some sort of indescribably irritating noise.

The sounds that I like best from a clock are the bells and chimes that ring out the hours. I remember a few from churches in Italy – Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan… Most were very noble sounding bells. There were dueling clocks in Perugia in Umbria — the town hall clock had one that sounded like someone beating a cast-iron plate with a hammer while the church across the piazza had a clock with a true bell but they didn’t always agree on the time. The town hall would clang out the hours and a couple minutes later the church bells would issue a correction. You knew you were in Italy. Here’s a YouTube video — the bells seem to be more in sync but you get the idea.  I warn you…it’s noisy.

I used to go SCUBA diving and got used to wearing one of those black waterproof dive watches. It would tell me all sorts of things and was always — almost always — correct. Once you figured out the controls using tiny little, elfin-sized buttons, you were all set. I could have military time, days and dates, stopwatch, and even regular digital hours and minutes.  I’ve had several of these watches over the years and the weakest part was always the wristband. The last one I had used an odd size (in width) wristband and when the band broke I couldn’t find a replacement. The watch worked fine.  I decided to buy a cheap replacement until I had the time and opportunity to find the right wristband. I chose an analog wristwatch with an expandable metal band like watches I had years ago. I actually liked the way it looked…my daughter called it “a big-boy watch”, not one of those black, rubber dive watches.  It has that accusatory face but they have tried to mitigate that by only having a few numbers with the hours mostly designated by tick-marks. It only has ’12’, ‘6’, and ‘9’. Where the ‘3’ should be is a little window that tells me what day and date it is, in English and Spanish — half the day I get English and the other half I get Spanish. I figure that the Spanish part indicates siesta time…that works for me. Oddly enough, the watch is made in Japan….go figure.

The original post that got me thinking about clocks is here:


2 thoughts on “Wednesday Roam…Thinking About Clocks

  1. I have always loved clock faces. The only digital clocks I own are on appliances. I have a mantel clock that chimes on the hour and a schoolhouse clock that ticks loudly as the pendulum swings back and forth. I insisted my kid’s first watches have faces so they would learn to tell time. It’s another problem of our digital age. Kids struggle with telling time.


  2. Thanks for stopping by. I often complain that I have a lack of self discipline. Maybe I need a big schoolhouse clock. Digitals — like many ‘conveniences’ — are mind-numbing shortcuts. I remember learning to tell time and wondering why the hour hand was the little hand instead of the big hand when it seemed to me that it was most important. Digitals will change our language…no more “quarter to six” if the digital says 5:45.


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