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1FMechanical Timepieces

Introduction of this section
Next, we describe the birth and development of mechanical timepieces. The first mechanical clock is thought to have been made at a monastery in northern Italy around 1300 A.D, to help the monks adhere to their strict daily routine, built around seven sessions of prayer. Larger tower clocks driven by heavy weights were soon used across Europe to allow all to share the same idea of time. Subsequently, the inventions of mainsprings, pendulums and balance springs gradually enabled the manufacture of smaller, more accurate and more portable clocks and watches.

Pendulum Tower Clock

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A prototype for London's Big Ben
This Pendulum Clock was a prototype produced for the famous 'Big Ben Clock Tower' at United Kingdom Parliament. It was made in 1854, five years before Big Ben's construction was completed in 1859. The clock in Big Ben's had a pendulum 3.9 meters in length, nearly 2.5 times longer than this prototype, but the mechanism was exactly the same. To eliminate any external shock on the heavy hands that were exposed to wind and rain, and to turn the wheels precisely, it was epuipped with a unique 'double three legged gravity escapement.' It was an important development as it kept precise isochronism, with each arm of the escapement pushing the pendulum regularly in tune, within a limited swing and thus avoiding external shock and friction on the escapement. Even today, Big Ben uses the same mechanism as when it was built. It is surprising that it achieved extremely high accuracy of just one second a day already 160 years ago.
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