Mechanical clocks were not invented until the thirteenth century. Early peoples used sundials as a rudimentary method of keeping time. These timekeepers were used by ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Egyptians and Babylonians.
The details of where and when the first mechanical clock was invented is unknown. We do know that the oldest clock still in use is at Salisbury Cathedral and dates back to 1386. It is faceless and chimes the hours. Maybe those early clocks could not be relied upon for accuracy.
With the invention of the pendulum clock, more accuracy came into time keeping. This invention made it possible to keep time within a minute or two. The idea of keeping time with the use of the pendulum was attributed to Galileo. After watching a lamp hanging from a long chain swinging back and forth, he decided that each swing was equal and the rate of motion was dependent on the length of the chain. This idea was the forerunner of the pendulum clock concept.
It was not until 1656 that the first accurate pendulum clock was created by a Dutch astronomer, Christian Huygens. His clock used shorter pendulums that moved several times per second. A couple of decades later, William Clement, an English clockmaker, discovered that longer pendulums with weights took a complete second to move back and forth and that this would measure a full unit of time more accurately.
The development of grandfather clocks took place between 1630 and 1730. The accuracy in timing improved from a variance of a few minutes a day to a few seconds a week. As they became more precise, a minute hand was added. As the development proceeded, clocks became more than functional time pieces and were considered works of art. They were encased in glass so that the longer pendulum and weights were displayed.
As production costs for these clocks decreased, they moved from the ownership category of nobles and royalty to pieces used in family homes. In the late seventeenth century, these clocks were being produced in America. They were still quite expensive at that time and became a symbol of wealth and status.
Grandfather clocks have earned a timeless recognition in the art of home decorating. They provide an elegance and warmth that cannot really be achieved by any other piece, both because of their sound and also their appearance.
A dark maple finished clock adds texture and depth to a bright room. A solid cherry case lends warmth to a room while a rich oak wood can enhance an entry way. These clocks almost extend a welcoming call to the occupants. What a lovely way to tell time!