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Early History of Mechanical Clocks

Cameel Halim


Cameel Halim has collected more than 600 clocks, and has converted an old Victorian house into a museum to house them all. As clock collectors like Cameel Halim know, the clock has a long history, and mechanical clocks have only been around for approximately seven to eight centuries.

While the first attempts at a mechanical clock originated in China, reliable mechanical clocks were invented in Europe near the end of the Middle Ages. In addition to reflecting the length of the day, these clocks sought to capture the movement of heavenly bodies. By the 1300s, elaborate clocks taking decades to create had been built. The first illustration of a working clock mechanism dates to this period, though the oldest surviving clocks come from a few decades later.

These early clocks were quite large. Domestic clocks did not come about until the 15th century. Before then, large clocks were often placed in central civic locations, such as churches or bridges. Some of the oldest surviving clocks were both installed in these types of locations. Dating to 1386-1392, the Wells Cathedral clock shows the movement of astronomical bodies. In Rouen in France’s north, the Gros-Horloge dates to 1389 and strikes every quarter hour.

Cameel Halim has collected more than 600 clocks, and has converted an old Victorian house into a museum to house them all. As clock collectors like Cameel Halim know, the clock has a long history, and mechanical clocks have only been around for approximately seven to eight centuries.

While the first attempts at a mechanical clock originated in China, reliable mechanical clocks were invented in Europe near the end of the Middle Ages. In addition to reflecting the length of the day, these clocks sought to capture the movement of heavenly bodies. By the 1300s, elaborate clocks taking decades to create had been built. The first illustration of a working clock mechanism dates to this period, though the oldest surviving clocks come from a few decades later.
These early clocks were quite large. Domestic clocks did not come about until the 15th century. Before then, large clocks were often placed in central civic locations, such as churches or bridges. Some of the oldest surviving clocks were both installed in these types of locations. Dating to 1386-1392, the Wells Cathedral clock shows the movement of astronomical bodies. In Rouen in France’s north, the Gros-Horloge dates to 1389 and strikes every quarter hour.

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