Re: My favourite strange clocks

My favourite strange clocks ~eapl

Re: My favourite strange clocks ~ew0k

I have been meaning to reply to this one because it is a subject that interests me. I have read about a variety of clocks and owned a couple of unusual watches, along with a small collection more normal stuff like a few Casio digitals, a G-Shock, a hand wound/mechanical and a high precision quartz (+/-15 seconds a year, rather than a +/-20 seconds month, like most quartz).

Here is some more on a couple of my watches (largely quotes from my other posts) and some thoughts on an older method of tracking time and how it can still be useful in the modern world.

Binary wristwatch

I am wearing a binary watch as I write this. It is also BCD but encoded slightly different than the ones that eapl linked to.

How to read the Binary-coded decimal (BCD)

In the first linked image from eapl's post there are six columns, representing each of the 6 individual decimal digits in a time like 12:00:00 and every decimal digit of this six is encoded separately. In mine the hours are as encoded as one binary number and the minutes as another. As such my watch has two rows, rather than 6 columns.

Binary wrist watch

A couple of weeks back I bought a binary watch (well… BCD–binary coded decimal) on on whim. It was cheap and ugly but I figured it would be kind of fun to test myself a little. A quick mental puzzle whenever I want to know the time. 😀

My binary wrist watch

Interestingly, while telling the time was somewhat cumbersome at first, it is rapidly getting easier. I have realised that I am starting to simply memorise quite a few positions, so that I can often read the time at a glance. I have also begun to notice patterns I had not really thought about or considered before wearing a watch like this […]

"Slow watch"

ew0k wrote:

It made me remember "Slow Watches"; a brand that makes watches with a face numbered 1-24 and only the one hand moving one lap every 24 hours. The markings on the clock face have a precision of 15 minutes, making it a little hard to estimate the time on the minute.

I have one of those myself and used it almost continuously for a year and then on and off for different periods since then. When I eventually get around to changing the battery I might start using it again.

Just noticing when it is directly between two markers will get you down to roughy 7½ minute precision and in reality, unless you are long sighted, you can do a little better and get within 5 minutes. But then you are really staring at it and not just glancing at it, which perhaps goes against the point.

I actually mentioned this watch in my post about simple things.

Because it's simple!

"Why do you own a watch with a single hand?"


Because it is simple!


The watch in question has a single hand that moves one revolution over 24 hours. Even a young child who does not understand numbers, gets it.

Despite the lack of precision the watch is perfectly good for the main purposes of a watch: seeing where you are in a day; being on time for anything that happens on 00, 15, 30, and 45 minutes past the hour. Which if you think about it, is actually the vast majority of things. In fact the inability to see the exact minute means you tend to turn up a little early for things (just in case), which is actually kind of nice.

When you need a different, specific time, e.g. while waiting for public transport or timing things on a short scale, it is obviously less good but for those I would just pull out my phone or look at a different clock. Another nice use is when explaining the passage of a day to a young child. Initially they are confused (because it doesn't seem to move) but you can easily explain that different positions always correspond with different parts of the day, like breakfast or lunch. That is also true with a normal, watch with an analog interface but it is much clearer on this watch because there is no repetition (e.g. the 7 position on a normal watch could be morning/breakfast or bedtime). Having only one hand also greatly helps understanding because kids can mix these up. They also do not need to be able to read the number to get the concept, just understand the position. Even as an adult seeing the passage of the day like this is nice. Giving you a nice visual, like a pie chart or perhaps more accurately a sundial. If the hand points down it is night, to the left morning, top midday, right evening.

Hour glasses

An additional, nice, visual method for keeping track of time that *does* work for the shorter timescales, when you need to keep track of an hour or less, is an "hour" glass (though they also sell them in other intervals e.g. 30, 15, 10, 5, 3, 1 minutes). I have also written about these previously in my journal.

My journal § 2022-01-07 - 14:58

Another simple thing that I like are hour glasses. I own a few. They were particularly great when explaining to my kids how long something was (in terms of time). For example I would flip one exactly one hour before their bed time, and then explain that when it finished it would be time to go to sleep. This is [very] useful in Norway, where in the summer it stays bright for a long time. A ten minute one is also useful when saying how much more "screen time" they have left or when preparing them for how long until "we leave for X".

While the kids have largely outgrown the need for this type of visual explanation of time, my youngest often still talks about stuff in terms of how many "big hour glasses", rather than just hours. 😆 Anyway, if you have small kids I recommend them. They are both simple and "easy to use". Also handy for adults who want to time things (e.g. cooking) without the annoying ring. Just remember to look at them (and flip them) from time to time. Well… unless you like burnt stuff!

If you do buy one, do not buy something overly cheap and double check that is close to the rated duration (if not your should probably return it). I do have one "10 minute" hour glass that is actually around 7½ minutes. A little variation is too be expected (none are super precise) but that IMHO is too much.

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