A finger to the clock

The distinct resonant tock of an old analogue clock. A hammer hitting nails in the analogue coffin. Their time is up, their glory gone in a sonorous din.


I like the idea of analogue clocks because they measure time exactly.

For example, the position of a hand on a clock face can indicate when the moment of a third of a second has been reached, whereas a digital clock is inherently incapable of this feat – at best it shows an instant in time in decimal notation to a limited number of decimal points.

And for irrational numbers that’s not exact.

But my problem with analogue clocks and watches is this: that the glory of analogue and continuous monitoring of time is punctuated. And how irrational is that?


It is true that this is largely down to the inherent mechanical design of a clock or watch (although some models do have “sweep” hands) but what I find close to unforgivable is that the precise toiling of the cogs and sprockets and springs and things is deliberately engineered that it grates on the aural senses with an audible “tick tock”.


Not just every hour, or every minute, but every single second. Actually, sometimes more; smaller watches have the rapid tick-tick-tick-tick, a tick every half second or so.

This ticking and tocking is arguably worse than the Japanese water torture where the irregular dripping of water causes psychological neurosis. But the regularity of the tick-tock means that the next one is expected. So we wait for it. And the next, and the next and the…



It’s an irrational crime against Analogue to interrupt or to mark the passing of predefined moments in such a way.

Tick tock cuckoo.

In this post I revealed what a Dutch clock is. Dutch clocks and grandfather clocks are the worst culprits as the swing of the pendulum creates such a thud of a tock that the body reverberates in an anti-echo of antagonised yearning of peace; their analogue glory gone in a sonorous din.

And if that’s not enough, most models mark the passing of each hour – sometimes even each half and quarter hour – with further exclamations emanating from the time piece to remind us of their presence. Aargh, the distinct resonant tock of an old clock.

A hammer hitting nails in the Analogue coffin. Their time is up, especially for those which have cuckoos or hideous figurines which come out and make quite literally a song and a dance about the time.

Pepper pot, Zwolle
The “Peperbus” (“Pepper pot”) in Zwolle, the Netherlands. Image courtesy: www.cloudshots.nl.

The chimes of Big Ben (London) are world famous. Not so well known is The Peperbus (Zwolle, Holland) plays a variety of songs (including the theme song to The A-Team) prior to donging local (and some not-so-local) inhabitants to near audible death. (Or how some Londoners might pronounce it, deaf! πŸ˜‰ ) Noise pollution. And yes (and bear in mind I say this as an unbiased practising Christian) I find the sound of a church bell untuneful, dull, and sickly lacking in sonic lustre or attraction.

Even my 2 year old daughter makes a more tuneful racket when thrashing a wooden spoon against the side of a baking tray (and admittedly I say that as a highly biased Dad!)

The thing about digital watches

The author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, made the comment in the first of that ‘trilogy’ (of 5…) that humans thought digital watches were “…a pretty neat idea”. And as a human, I tend to agree.

Digital clock

True, we need to read the time (numerically, in series) rather than ‘tell’ the time from a bizarre form of parallel (clock)face recognition.

And it’s true that some morons set their digital watches to make an hourly chime.

And it’s true that some digital watches have so many functions that the battery size required to power them all takes more space than my wife needs to parallel park.

It’s also true some digital watches and clocks are too faint to read in daylight, or too bright to allow sleep at night and burn red holes in your retinas as you desperately try to count sheep.

But digital watches and clocks are silent. There’s no noise with digital clocks. Silence is golden…they just simply let the time pass!

A final thought: If analogue clocks have hands, shouldn’t digital clocks have fingers? πŸ˜‰