Time meters have been around for a long, long time: sundials have been used since Antiquity, in many parts of the world. Hourglasses and water clocks can measure the length of an interval of time, even if they can’t indicate the precise time of day or night.
In Europe, the Renaissance brought an increased interest in the natural sciences, and a revolution of our image of the world due to the findings of Astronomers like Copernicus, Kepler, and Galilei. At the same time, navigators set out to travel the oceans of the world in what has become known as the “Age of Discovery.”
Both activities relied very much on our ability to measure time accurately. No wonder, then, that this period also saw the invention of the spring driven clock. The first pocket watches appeared shortly after 1510—the German watchmaker Peter Henlein is usually credited with their invention.
The 17th century brought the pendulum clock, an increase in accuracy which was further refined by watchmakers over the next couple of centuries—most notably John Harrison, a British carpenter turned watchmaker, who devoted much of his life to perfecting a pendulum clock that would run accurately on a swaying ship.
His success made it possible, for the first time in the history of navigation, to correctly determine a ship’s position in the open ocean: not only its latitude—which could be read from the position of the stars—but its longitude as well. It may have prevented many a shipwreck!
Then came the 19th century with its railroads, and the importance of precise timekeeping reached a whole new level. The need to coordinate railroad timetables led to the introduction of standard time, time zones, and the Greenwich meridian.
These days, we have mass-produced quartz clocks and watches barely larger than a penny, digital displays, and coordinated world time measured out to the tiniest fraction of a second by the quantum vibrations of a Caesium atom.
Steampunk has brought with it a renewed fascination with the elaborate mechanisms and ostentatious casings of old clocks. Here is a selection of jewelers and crafters, and their various time measuring and time traveling devices. We are assured that they work, too!
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