If you’ve ever wondered what the point of that dumb, silent analog clock was on your wall, we’ve got some good news. Turns out – it actually has a purpose. In this blog post, we’ll go over exactly why clocks have minute hands and hour hands (even though they tell the same time), how to get one for less than $8, and what to do with it when you finally install it. No more needlessly staring at time ticking by!
This article includes affiliate links. All opinions are my own.
If you’ve ever wondered what the point of that dumb, silent analog clock on your wall was, it turns out, it actually does have a purpose.
Silent, analog clocks were once the standard time-keeping device for homes and offices around the world – but they’re about to become a thing of the past. The huge demand for electricity has meant that we now use digital clocks and watches more than we ever have before – with little time to spare in our busy lives. We’re always rushing around, or staring at our phones, and there’s no time to stand around and look at an analog clock. But even though the clock is silent now, it actually has a purpose!
What Does the Clock Do?
When you pull up a website like clock.com or clocks.com, you’ll see that all of them are for sale – except for one, called Silent Analog Clock . The reason it’s not listed is because this type of clock doesn’t tell time. It requires no batteries – and no electricity – to run. And while it doesn’t tell time or display the date, it can still be used to tell the time.
It may not look like much – but it’s actually a really smart little device. Silent clocks measure and keep track of the amount of sunlight that falls over a long period of days, hours, and seconds. Its hand turns slowly as you set up the clock (it uses 5 AA batteries), and it needs about two weeks to get to know its surroundings before it becomes accurate enough to keep accurate time.
But why is it so quiet? The answer lies in one special feature – a tiny circuit board called an “integrated circuit oscillator” (ICSO).
What have you got to lose?
The purpose of an analog clock is to tell you the time. Period. If your clock hands are broken, you can take it down and use a digital one that tells you the time just fine. For occasional reminders – as long as you don’t care if the clock is always on – it’s perfectly fine to have a digital one. Most of us prefer having the hands set all day, so fixing just this part – or just this little bit of annoyance – will get your clock looking great again.
Why do clocks have minute and hour hands?
They have minute and hour hands because they were originally designed to tell you the time to the nearest minute. That’s why we use a 60-minute hour and a 60-second minute. The clock hands are shaped like little triangles:
Why do we still use clocks with minute and hour hands when they don’t even tell us the time in whole minutes? They actually do still tell us the time to the nearest minute. This is because of a historical screw up that might have been caused by telling time by sundial.
Are analog clocks silent?
Many people don’t know why their analog clocks are so silent and always looking for a place to hide. It’s because most of them are mechanical – which means they have gears and pulleys. These kinds of clocks work by pinching between two plates (called the hands and the face) when the time changes – that causes the hands to rotate from one position to another. This is how mechanical clocks work, but it has a big downside:
If your clock is working like this – and it probably is unless you bought an old-school one that uses springs instead – it won’t be telling you the time at all until you “wind up” it. That can be inconvenient.
Sometimes, you don’t wind it up and it runs out of power when the time changes. Even worse!
The solution is to get a battery-powered clock with an automatic digital setting feature, if you can. These allow you to set the time – including setting Daylight Savings Time for your area – and they remember them perfectly without winding or resetting. They also often have a “snooze” function for those times when you need an extra 5 minutes of sleep. These clocks usually have little tiny screws under the back cover, so you need a small screwdriver (like the ones in eyeglasses) to access them.
How do you make an analog clock silent?
There are actually a couple different ways to make your clock silent. Under the back cover of your clock, you’ll find screws and a bracket. If you can take that off, you’ll see some plastic parts (called “sleeves”) with holes.
(These are usually called “sleeves” or “gears”.)
That’s what makes an analog clock silent. The designers of the clocks did their job right by making sure these sleeves were quiet on their own without touching gears – which, of course, would ruin the time. This might have been just as well; they probably didn’t think anyone would wind them up anyway.
There’s also a fair chance that your clock has pins instead of the sleeves. (Small, thin metal sticks.) Pins like these can stick out on their own to keep the time still. But if they rub against something, they sound like popcorn popping – really annoying.
These pins are called “stoppers” and they just stop the clock from turning.
Usually, they don’t make any noise in the first place, but if they have been rubbing against something for a while, that rubbing can create a high-pitched sound. This sound is due to friction between the pin and the wall of whatever it is moving against. That means your clock probably isn’t broken; it’s designed to do that.
The solution: Take off the back cover of your clock and find the small metal piece with a tiny hole in it (like in the image above).
What is the quietest clock?
How loud is a clock? To find out, you should slowly start turning the gears with your fingers, listening for the sound. The gears should be loud enough to be heard through normal conversation. So, even though they are silent in operation, if you touch them with fingers and listen carefully, you can hear them click and clack over time. That’s the noise that we want to avoid.
If it makes a quiet noise when it’s going slow or stops completely when it’s stopped (not even clicking any more) – or it sounds very soft and low-pitched – then your clock is making barely any sound at all. In that case, there is probably something wrong with how the clock is set up internally. That means that you need to take off the back of your clock and get a screwdriver, in order to set it up correctly.
This is all one category of clock – the “Quiet Clocks.” But if you’d like to know more about a specific kind of quiet clock that might suit your needs better than these ones, then keep reading.
As you can see, there are many different clocks on the market that might be perfect for you. If you need one that has hands and is silent while it’s operating – or if your clock hasn’t been turned in years – then these are the kinds of clocks that you should consider.
With digital models, the smaller ones are usually better at being silent for a longer period of time than larger ones. The digital clock with an automatic setting feature is really good at making sure that your clock works as it should. If you choose an analog clock with a manual setting feature, make sure that it is silent when you turn the gears by hand, but keep track of what time it changes to.
If your clock is making too much noise, you can either change the design of your clock or take off its back cover and fix it yourself. At this point, you might want to get some help from someone who is better at fixing clocks. The quietest clock on the market is one that is well-made. It’s a clock that doesn’t make any noise when it’s set up correctly.