4.03 – Running Time

Last Update: 07-25-2022 @ 02:55

4.03 – Running Time

The running time of a clock is the third point of view of the taxonomy. The source of its power limits its running time. Weight mechanical clocks seem limited by the time weights take to go down. The springs’ length and thickness seem to limit the working time of mechanical clocks. But it is more complicated than that. It’s a set of factors that determine mechanical clocks’ running time, including escapement, gears, and pendulum. In both cases, the minimum duration is 30 hours and eight days, except for most alarm clocks that run for 24 hours. Some spring clocks go up to 14 days, but most often, it’s 31 days. The exception is anniversary clocks that can run 400 or 1000 days without rewinding.

In theory, clocks connected to the alternating electric current should run all the time, but power outages happen. Battery-powered electric clocks work until exhausted. Finally, some clocks have a perpetual movement.

4.03.1 – Running Time of Weight Clocks

4.03.2 – Running Time of Mainspring Clocks

4.03.3 – Running Time of Electric Clocks

4.03.4 – Perpetual Running

Next: 4.04 – Alarms and Chimes

Home » 4.00 – Taxonomy of Clocks » 4.03 – Running Time

Generally, the first weight clocks could operate for up to 30 hours: Illustrated, the weights of a Comtoise held by ropes. Only one of the weights is used to power time. The other is for the ringtone. The weight acts as a source of power in the same way as the mainspring in a spring clock. Do not think that the running time of a weight clock depends on the length of the rope or the chain that holds it. It is much more complex than that. For more information, see Pendulum Clock Parts | HowStuffWorks

3.02 - RUNNING TIME - 8 Day Weights


The 8-day weight clock operates similarly to the 30-hour weight clock. Only the gears of the train of time and the pendulum vary. That’s why the movement is interchangeable in an equivalent size and look case. In this one, there is no winding key. To run this grandfather clock for eight days, you must pull the weights up using the chains. The lunar phases are adjusted manually.

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Once winded, most mechanical alarm clocks lasted about 24 hours before rewinding. The Westclox Big Ben of the Western Clock Co. and its like, because there has been a lot of imitation, are 24 hours. Illustrated: a Big Ben Style 1a from the 1930s.

(Image ID028: All rights reserved, Bordloub)

The standard running time of an American spring clock from the 18th and 19th centuries was generally 30 hours between rewinding, but so-called 8-day clocks could also be purchased as an option for the same model. Represented here a black mantle clock 30-hour Bim-Bam, E. Ingraham from 1929.  

(Image ID023: All rights reserved, Bordloub)

3.02 - RUNNING TIME - 8 Day Mainsprings

For a few more dollars, American consumers could buy a clock whose running time after a complete wind was a good week, like this black Greek temple-style mantle clock with its Corinthians columns, a Sessions from the early 1900s.

(Image ID148: All rights reserved, Bordloub)

14-day clocks are not the norm. I have one in my collection. It’s a Monroe Bim-bam made in the USSR.

(Image ID292: All rights reserved, Bordloub)

See 31 DAY on the dial of this HOMEX clock. This brand is as obscure as many Korean clock brands, apart from the brand Cotrin which is very well known. The 31 DAY is almost a trademark for Korean clocks. It’s an excellent way to recognize them. I bought this clock for the modest sum of $2.50 US ($5.00 – 50% discount that day) in an American charity thrift store. Its weights are false because the movement is spring-driven. After several efforts, I managed to make it work because of a missing part, a rod attached to the flat spring of the pendulum. The right length had to be determined for it to keep time decently. It was a trial and error operation!

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Here is a clock with a running time of at least one year or even 400 days. It’s a German Schatz clock from 1952, with a twisted balance. The 400-day clocks were called Anniversary because they were often offered as a birthday present, a gift that worked non-stop for at least a year.

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On the same principle as the 400 days, here is a clock whose mainspring is very long to the point that it can work for almost three years. The movement itself is adjusted accordingly. It is a German Schatz from 1956, with a movement model 54.

(Image ID131mvt: All rights reserved, Bordloub)

Here is an electric clock, a Telechron, model 4H99, which has a device to report a power outage. Look at the tiny red dot on the dial. When it appears, it means that the clock has lost its power. To make it disappear, you have to unplug and reconnect the clock or pulling the time adjustment button. It was a practical solution. Telechron obtained a patent for this device and sold licenses to several other manufacturers, including General Electric.

(Image ID106: All rights reserved, Bordloub)






Here is a marine battery clock from the U.S. Maritime Commission. Its case and dial are in brass, a rust-resistant material. A battery, size AA, with at least a one-year lifespan powers the small quartz movement.

(Images ID096 & ID096mvt: All rights reserved, Bordloub)

The prototype of the perpetual domestic clock is the Jaeger-Lecoultre that we mentioned in the propulsion modes section. The model pictured is the most common, but there are more sophisticated and pricier ones. They work without the need to rewind them, but they also sometimes break down. These are complicated and expensive clocks to repair when this happens. They should therefore be installed on a solid, well-level surface. Avoid moving them if not necessary.

(Image CP: All rights reserved, Bordloub)

Danny Hillis developed in 1986 the project of a clock that would operate continuously for 10,000 years. Three prototypes have been developed through the Long Now Foundation, one of which is on display at the Science Museum in London. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is one of the contributors to the construction of a 10,000-year-old mechanical clock, according to the Hills prototype.  It will be 500 feet high and will be built in Texas on a site own by Bezos. Click on the following articles for more details:

 ( Image by deadgekko authorized under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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