Pendulum clocks are a type of clock that works by suspending a mechanical body so that it swings back and forth to tell the time. Pendulum clocks as we know today were perfected in 1656 and they represented man’s first invention at accurately telling the time. The clock has a face, a weight, a keyhole and the pendulum. The swing of the pendulum controls hidden gears inside the clock to move the hands on the face of the clock that resultantly tell the time in hours and minutes.
Pendulum clocks by modern standards look very simple compared to the sophisticated quartz models that we have today. But this presumed simplicity did not come easy. Pendulum clocks have a long history.
They began as an experiment by Peter Henlein, a German, when he tried to find a way to accurately tell the time. He wanted to develop something that would be used by everyone and serve as a common agreement on time. Henlein’s invention in 1510 closely resembled today’s pendulum wall clocks but was powered by a spring and did not accurately tell the time as he meant it to be. It had an hour hand only and thus posed difficulty when people had to decide on half hours.
In 1577, Christian Huygens, a Dutch, improved upon the work of Henlein and invented the pendulum clock. Four years later, he added a minute hand to give the time piece accurate time telling capabilities. It is no surprise that Huygens achieved such a feat. As a mathematician, he was very concerned about accuracy and precision so he was probably constantly worried about time being told on an hourly basis only.
After these marked improvements on pendulum clocks by Huygens, many other anonymous inventors and technologists worked on the device.
One of these innovations was the ability of the device to swing a little less. Earlier versions swung as much as 50 degrees to turn the gears inside the clock. Improvements led to pendulums swinging a lower angle of 10 to 15 degrees.
So the next time you see simple pendulum clocks swing on the wall, remember how far these antiquated time telling devices have come.