What Was The First Mechanical Clock?

For as long as there have been civilisations there has been a need to tell the time, and whilst a beautiful personalised engraved clock is much a heartfelt gift as it is a tool for telling the time, many of us have some tool for telling the time either on our wrists or in our pockets.

Once larger groups of people started to live together in bigger communities, they needed a more accurate measure for telling the time than simply looking at the relative position of the sun in the sky, and so this led to the development of sundials and obelisks that allowed for the subdivision of time.

These were not useful at night, but the first clock that did not rely on the position of the sun at all came in the form of the water clock, which was a stone cup with sloping sides that let water drip at a constant rate into another bowl with markers that determined the passage of hours.

These were usable at night and more accurate than observing the sun, but they were not entirely accurate, which led to more advanced solutions being sought out.

One of the first attempts at this was the Tower of the Winds, which featured a huge water clock, as well as wind vanes and nine separate sundials in the second century BC.

Unfortunately whilst the great architect Vitruvius wrote about the clock in his treatise on architecture, the clock itself has sadly been lost outside of holes in the flooring where the water would flow in and out of the clock.

As it was based near the port of Athens, it was potentially used as a way to determine when goods would arrive by sea.