Skip to Content

28 Different Types of Clocks

Collage of different types of clocks.

Before clocks were common, the words “clockwise” and “counterclockwise” used to be known as “sunwise” and “widdershins,” respectively. The contraction “o’clock,” on the other hand, comes from the 15th-century phrase “stroke of the clock,” which refers to the medieval mechanical clocks.

The world’s most accurate clock was invented by the Institute of Colorado. It won’t lose or gain a second in 20 million years, and because it’s so accurate, it’s the time followed by the Internet.

A. Type

1. Wall

Round wall clock with a black frame and large, bold numbers. Source: Amazon

One of the most popular types of clocks for home and office use is the wall clock. These are very popular because it is usually fairly easy for somebody to find room on the wall where they can hang this clock. Because they are hung in a public place, it makes it easy for anybody who is in the room to quickly be able to glance up and see what time it is.

Unlike other types of clocks that sit on desks and make it difficult for many people to see the time at once, a wall clock is a great way to ensure that everybody knows exactly what time it is and that everybody is on the same schedule.

2. Oversized Wall

Large, modern-style wooden wall clock.Source: Wayfair

Oversized wall clocks are ideal in a number of situations where you want to have the wall clock available for everybody to see the time but need to make sure that it is a little bit larger so that nobody has difficulty seeing it clearly.

One situation where an oversize wall clock is a better choice is when you are hanging the clock in an area where people who have vision problems will be looking at it. This may include a nursing home or an eye doctor’s office. Another great use of an oversized wall clock is in a particularly large space where people will be sitting far away from the clock and otherwise unable to see the time.

Finally, these clocks are ideal in school settings, as it is easy for the teacher to be able to point at the time and help the students understand how to read a clock.

3. Mantel & Tabletop

Small, wooden tabletop clock.Source: Hayneedle

Unlike wall clocks which are significantly larger and displayed on the wall for everybody to be able to view them, mantel or tabletop clocks are smaller and a bit more private. These clocks come in a variety of different designs and styles, so you can easily find one that will match the décor of your home or office. They are usually more traditional in style, making them ideal in an office situation due to their classic design.

4. Maritime & Weather Station

Round maritime clock with a deep brown, plastic frame.Source: Wayfair

Not just a great gift for anybody who enjoys nautical design in their home or office, maritime or weather station clocks allow the owner to keep an eye on the weather outside while also knowing the time. Rather than having separate pieces of equipment to measure the time, the humidity, and the weather, when you opt for a weather station or maritime clock, you will be able to see all of this information in one convenient location.

This is perfect for anybody who is interested in monitoring the weather and learning more about it or anyone who simply enjoys the appearance of these fascinating clocks.

5. Alarm

Rectangular, LED clock with alarm. Source: Houzz

Just as popular as wall clocks are alarm clocks, as most people use these to help them get out of bed at a certain time in the morning. They are generally fairly small, and they can fit on a bedside table so that you can easily check the time during the night. When shopping for an alarm clock, there are a number of different features that you will want to consider, such as whether not the clock has the ability to snooze, whether it has a radio, and whether you can set multiple alarms at once.

Alarm clocks with multiple features are generally a little bit more useful because they are able to have more than one alarm, and you can choose to wake up to the radio instead of beeping. Additionally, there are some alarm clocks that will move when they are sounding, so the owner must physically get out of bed to catch them. There are others that are shot with a laser gun to ensure that the person is fully awake before they can be turned off.

6. Grandfather

Wooden, victorian-style grandfather clock.Source: Houzz

The largest and most traditional of all available clocks is the grandfather clock. These are incredibly beautiful clocks that are designed to be as aesthetically pleasing as they are functional. In general, grandfather clocks are freestanding instead of mounted on the wall, and they often have beautiful tones to choose from.

These tones can sound the quarter hour, half hour, and an hour. Due to their size and the design and work that goes into them, they are the most expensive type of clock that you can buy, and they are often passed down through generations as a family heirloom.

7. Cuckoo

Battery-operated, wooden cuckoo clock.Source: Wayfair

Cuckoo clocks are a fun way to keep the time, and they strike each hour with a cuckoo call, while at the same time, a small door opens, and a tiny bird pops out. The mechanisms that move each bird vary from clock to clock. Some birds only lean out of the clock, and others open their beaks at the same time.

This type of clock is considered a cultural icon of Germany, and it is a favorite souvenir for many people traveling to that country. When choosing a cuckoo clock, it is often best to consider whether or not you want your clock to sound in the middle of the night, as there are some clocks that you can turn off the sound, so it does not wake you up.

8. Outdoor

Vintage-style, deep brown outdoor clock.Source: Wayfair

If you want to be able to have a clock outside of your home on the deck or patio of your house, then it is important to choose one that has been specifically made and is rated for outdoor use. Otherwise, you are likely to run into a problem with dampness and moisture getting into your clock and causing irreversible damage. While outdoor clocks in the past were fairly basic in design, recently, more attention has been paid to the aesthetic appeal of these clocks.

This means that you do not have to worry about whether or not your outdoor clock will be attractive, nor do you need to worry that it will detract from your outdoor decor.

9. Floor

Traditional round clock with a tripod.Source: Home Depot

Floor clocks tend to be rather large, and instead of being hung on the wall, they rest on the floor. The most popular type of floor clock is the grandfather clock, but this classification is not limited simply to grandfather clocks. Recently, tripod floor clocks have become more and more fashionable and easy to find.

One of the benefits of this type of clock is that you can have a clock in your home, even if you do not have a lot of empty wall space. Another reason to consider a floor clock comes up when you are renting and are not allowed to put holes in the wall. This is a freestanding clock that will not require any mounting.

10. Pendulum

Wooden, dark brown pendulum clock. Source: Amazon

Pendulum clocks were first invented in 1656 and have been very popular ever since. While pendulums used to have very wide swings in order to keep time, more recent advancements have decreased the size of the swings so that these clocks do not take up as much room. There are a number of issues that can occur with pendulum clocks, including thermal expansion, which will cause the rate of the clock to change as well as atmospheric drag.

For a pendulum clock to work correctly, it has to be absolutely level so that the pendulum swings evenly between both sides. If the “tick” and “tock” of the pendulum clock are not even, then that is a clear sign that the pendulum clock has become uneven and needs to be leveled so that it will continue to work properly.

B. Feature

1. Digital

Mini-sized, cube-shaped digital camera in gray. Source: Amazon

Digital clocks are very popular, especially alarm clocks, because it is very easy for most people to quickly glance at the digital clock and be able to tell the time without any problem.

Most children learn how to tell time on a digital clock so that they do not have to struggle with reading minute and hour hands. One benefit of digital clocks is that the numbers often glow. This makes it very easy to tell the time, even in the middle of the night.

2. Analog

Square, vintage analog clock with round edges.Source: Hayneedle

Analog clocks have numbers around the outside of the face with hour and minute hands that are used to tell the time. They often have a second hand that can be used for measuring short periods of time easily. Although these types of clocks take more practice to learn how to read the time than digital clocks do, they are very popular in most offices and schools, and they have a very professional look.

3. Roman Numerals

Round, wooden rustic-style clock with numbers in Roman Numerals.Source: Etsy

While these clocks are not as popular as digital or analog clocks, it is possible to buy clocks that have roman numerals.

Although these clocks do not differ in any way in how they tell time, many people prefer to choose clocks with Roman numerals because of the way the clock looks. If you want a clock that is very attractive as well as functional, then a roman numeral clock may be just what you want. They tend to look a little bit nicer and classier than a plain digital or analog clock.

4. Battery Powered

Large, wooden, battery-operated wall clock.Source: Houzz

Many people do not want to have to worry about cords when they buy a new clock. For this reason, opting for a battery-powered clock is a good idea. Not only will this reduce the number of visible cords that are in your home, but if you do happen to lose power, your clock will be able to keep time without any problems.

Of course, if you do opt for a battery-powered clock, then you will want to make sure that you change the batteries on a regular basis before they begin to die. Otherwise, it is a common problem for clocks to slow down and begin to lose time as they run out of batteries. Generally, these clocks run on AA or AAA batteries, which means that it is very easy and inexpensive to pick up the batteries for your clock.

5. Automatic Chime Shutoff

Wooden, grandfather clock with chimes.Source: Houzz

While many people love the sound of a grandfather clock during the day, the constant noise during the night can make it very difficult for everyone in the family to sleep. Instead of feeling like you cannot have the clock that you want in your home, one great option is to choose a clock that has an automatic time shutoff. This means that you will be able to set your clock so that it will chime during the day, but it will not make a noise at night.

Doing so makes it very easy for everybody in your family to get to sleep, and it ensures that you can enjoy the full beauty and sound of your clock during the day.

6. Radio

Rectangular radio clock made of wood and metal.Source: Houzz

A radio clock is a great option for anybody who wants not only to be able to see the time but also to enjoy music without having two separate items on the desk or bedside table. One benefit of choosing a radio clock is that often you can set your alarm to a specific radio station so that you wake up to music instead of obnoxious beeping.

7. Calendar

Metal desktop clock with indicated date and weather.Source: Hayneedle

Perfect for placement on a desk, a clock that has a calendar included on the face makes it easy to know exactly what the date is without having to have a calendar also taking up space on the desk. These clocks generally do not show the whole month, but they do show the date so that you can always know what day it is. This makes them ideal in an office situation.

8. Musical

Brown, musical clock with a volume control. Source: Amazon

Musical clocks have the ability to play music, and as such, they are a fun addition to the family room or a child’s room. Before buying a musical clock, you want to make sure to check what songs are included in its repertoire so that you can ensure that you will enjoy the music that it is able to play.

9. Light Sensor

Elegant-looking clock with a brown metallic case. Source: Amazon

A clock that has a light sensor is very beneficial if it is going to be located in a child’s bedroom, as it will not make any noise once the room becomes dark. This means that no matter when you put your child to bed, turn off the lights, and draw the blinds, you will not have to worry about the clock making noise. Unlike clocks with an automatic chime shutoff, clocks with light sensors are more sensitive and will self-adjust.

10. Large Display

Plastic-framed atomic clock with a large display.Source: Hayneedle

It can be very difficult for some people who have vision problems to see the numbers on the clock and to be able to tell the time. For this reason, opting for a clock that has oversized numbers on a large display is a good idea. This simply makes it significantly easier to see what the time is without having to get close to the clock.

A clock with oversized numbers is especially important in the bedroom, as it makes it easy for owners to see the time during the night when they do not have their contacts or glasses on.

C. Shape

1. Round

Round, plastic-framed analog clock in black.Source: Home Depot

A round clock is very popular for wall clocks and desk or mantel clocks due to its attractive shape. This shape is very traditional, and it is very easy for most people to find a round clock. When used on the wall, they add a lot of interest to a gallery wall because they do not have sharp corners the way most of the items on the wall tend to.

The numbers on a round clock are evenly spaced around the face so that the clock is very easy to read.

2. Square

Square-shaped digital clock with a sleek finish.Source: Wayfair

Square clocks are generally smaller and used as an alarm clock or on the desk. When you are looking for a clock that will also tell the date or the weather, then you will likely find one that is square, as these clocks are generally digital and have plenty of space for all of the information that buyers want to be able to have.

3. Rectangle

Rectangular radio alarm clock in Gray.Source: Wayfair

While there is nothing functionally different about a rectangular clock, the shape does add a little bit of extra interest to the appearance of the clock. Because of the extra size on the face of the clock, these clocks are generally digital and may have weather information as well.

4. Novelty

Wooden wall clock in brown and black with a unique shape.Source: Etsy

Clocks that are in a novelty shape are a lot of fun, and they are a great way to express your personality and interests while still making sure that you are able to keep track of the time in your home or office. One thing to consider when looking for a novelty clock is where your interests lie. Then, you can search for a clock that represents this.

No matter whether you have a specific animal that you love, enjoy fishing, or are simply looking for a clock that is as much a piece of art as it is a functional timepiece, looking for a novelty clock is your best option. These clocks usually serve as conversation starters, so you never have to worry about what you will talk to somebody about when first meeting them in your home or office.

D. Mechanism

1. Atomic

Small, black-framed atomic alarm clock. Source: Amazon

Unlike some types of clocks where the time needs to be manually set by the owner, atomic clocks rely on an electron transition frequency to keep time. This means that these types of clocks are the most accurate ones known, and they are used for international time distribution because there is no variance in the time.

If you are worried about whether or not you will ever be late, or you do not want to have to set the time on your clock after replacing the batteries or after a power outage, then an atomic clock is the right choice for you, as it will automatically update the time without your help.

2. Mechanical

Gold, mechanical clock inside a glass frame.Source: Houzz

This type of clock is going to be powered by a spring that has been wound tight. The spring is able to store energy and then transfer it to other springs and gears to release energy and power the clock. If you do not want to commit to winding your clock on a regular basis, then it may be time to consider a different type.

These clocks must be wound regularly and correctly, or they will not keep time and can be damaged.

3. Electric

Tall, silver-framed electric clock.Source: Houzz

Instead of having to wind your clock regularly, you can choose a clock that is powered by electricity. With this type of clock, all you have to do is plug it in and forget about it. The main problem that people run into when they choose an electric clock is that if the power in the home or building where a clock is located goes out, then the clock will not keep time.

Depending on whether or not the clock is atomic, the owner will have to set the time and make sure that the clock is plugged in to continue working once the power has returned.

4. Quartz Movement

Silver-framed, soccer-themed clock.Source: Wayfair

This type of clock relies on the electronic oscillator regulated by quartz crystals to ensure that the clock is able to keep time.

The crystal oscillator keeps very precise time which makes this type of clock much more accurate than mechanical clocks. First built in 1927, quartz movement clocks became very popular in the 1980s when they became less expensive and more compact. This is when they became much more common in homes all around the world.