Alarm clocks go back to the ancient Greeks. Their clocks ran on water, dripping at a consistent pace. Once the captured water reached a certain level, it would rush into a jar. As the air escaped through holes in a siphon, it created a whistling noise—the alarm.

Today when we think of antique alarm clocks, the picture in our minds looks more like a mechanical clock. The first mechanical alarm clocks were developed in Europe sometime in the 14th or 15th centuries. They were large, public clocks that chimed every hour to notify the local villagers of the time.

Alarms were first used in household mantel, wall, and grandfather clocks in the 17th century. By the 18th century, European immigrants had brought the concept of alarm clocks with them to the U.S.

One American, Levi Hutchins, is often attributed with creating the first mechanical alarm clock in 1787, but alarm clocks were already in use in Europe, so historians are not unanimous on this point. Regardless, no one denies that Hutchins did in fact create a clock that sounded an alarm at 4 a.m. daily, the hour he wished to wake up.

From then on, clockmakers put a great deal of creativity into their alarm-clock designs, trying just about everything to get their customers out of bed in the morning.

The early 19th century saw the Tugaslugabed, in which a ring attached to a string that lead to the clock was placed around the user’s toe before they fell asleep. When the alarm went off, it pulled the string, which in turn pulled on the sleeper’s toe to wake them.

That clock was kind compared to the Mr. Savage’s Alarum Bedstead, unveiled in 1851. This alarm began innocently enough, sounding a bell to wake the user. However, if it was ignor...

Around the same time, in 1847, Antoine Redier of France received a more practical patent for the first alarm clock that could be programmed by a user to go off at a specific time. In 1876, the Seth Thomas Clock Company received a patent for a bedside alarm clock.

Westclox released the Big Ben, a wind-up clock with a bell in the back, in 1908. In 1915, the smaller Baby Ben keywound alarm clock was released. With their sleek, simplistic, nickel-plated design and the bold numbers featured on their faces, the Big Ben and Baby Ben alarm clocks epitomize the Art Deco style of the time.

The Big Ben and Baby Ben were just the first of many popular clocks developed by Westclox. It released the Chime alarm in 1931, the Moonbeam in 1949, and its first snooze alarm, the Drowse, in 1959.

Westclox was one of the first alarm-clock-only companies, but many prominent clockmakers, such as Ansonia, Waterbury, and New Haven, experimented with their own alarm-clock designs.

Alarms have been placed in numerous types of clocks over the years, such as German cuckoo clocks that chirp or play music, elaborately painted antique banjo clocks, and advertising clocks promoting everything from Corvettes to Coca-Cola to Disney.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]

Clockhistory.com

Clockhistory.com

Bill Stoddard's clock history site offers a trove of great reference information on clock and watch makers includin… [read review or visit site]

National Maritime Museum

National Maritime Museum

Check out this sampling of nautical and maritime items held by the U.K.'s National Maritime Museum and Royal Observ… [read review or visit site]

Dan and Diana's Lux Clock Collection

Dan and Diana's Lux Clock Collection

Dan and Diana Lockett's amazing collection of several hundred novelty Lux clocks made by the Lux Clock Manufacturin… [read review or visit site]

Detex Watchman's Clock Album

Detex Watchman's Clock Album

Philip Haselton's guide to watchmen's time recording equipment. Includes 19th century German portables, 20th centur… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Art Deco Le Coultre Swiss Travel / Desk Alarm Clock - Good WorkingAntique E. Ingraham Co. Peacock 8 Day Mantle Clock With AlarmVtg Must De Cartier Alarm Clock 1970´s Paris Swiss Made.Antique 8 Day Porciline Di Sterling Tiffany & Co Running Travel Clock With Alarm1930's Lux Animated Black Sambo Organ Grinder Alarm Clock No ReserveFabulous French Bayard Art Deco Antique Boudoir Desk Alarm Clock In CaseVintage Swiss 1920's Zenith Gilt 8 Day Mantel Alarm Clock.Mid-20th Century Zenith Travel Alarm Clock. Carriage Clock. Modernist. Art Deco.Antique Seth Thomas Mantle Kitchen Clock With AlarmTag Heuer F1 Helmet Alarm Clock Vintage And Rare Swiss Flag Type New Old StockVintage Art Deco Red New Haven Alarm ClockArt Deco Antique 8 Day Swiss Wind Up Miniature Alarm Clock Tabletop Travel SizeAntique Unusual Sessions Walnut 8 Day Shelf Parlor Clock Working Well With AlarmVintage Small Angelus Swiss 8 Day Alarm Clock Travel Clock Very CleanAntique Seth Thomas 5 7/8 1/2 Kitchen Clock Movement With Alarm Parts RepairMontblanc Mini Travel Alarm Clock Black Leather Alarm Quartz Leather15 Jewels Gubelin Swiss Travel Alarm Clock 8 Day W/ Leather Case & Original BoxToy Stamp & Vintage Mickey Mouse Telephone And Rare Alarm Clock From FranceVintage Rare Roy Rogers & Trigger Ingraham Alarm Clock Rings But No Keeping TimeVintage Angelus Abercrombie & Fitch Co. Swiss 8 Day Alarm Clock Travel ClockVintage Gilbert Alarm Clock With Wind Up Movement And The Original Box Vintage Imhof Bucherer Swiss Alarm Brass Clock Victorian Era Kitchen / Gingerbread New Haven Clock With AlarmDisney Retired Mickey Mouse Animated Talking Alarm Clock Display Figure FigurineHuge Lot Of 16 Vintage Alarm Travel Shelf Clocks Parts RepairVintage Electric War Alarm Clock Telechon Model No. 1Antique Seth Thomas Og Weight Driven Clock Movement W/alarm Parts RepairLot Of Vintage Alarm Westclox Big Ben Clocks Parts Repair1934 New Haven Clock Co Popeye Alarm Clock Retro Vintage RareVintage Lecoultre Swiss Made 8 Day Dark Blue Travel Alarm Clock - Excellent !Lecoultre Carriage Clock / Travel Alarm Clock With Music Real Nice ConditionImexal 15 Jewels Swiss Brass Alarm Clock 1970 VintageVintage (rare) 1960 Westclox "dynamic" S-10r Pink Alarm ClockAntique Carriage Clock Old German Musical Alarm Mantle Desk Working SteampunkAngelus All-wheather 4-sides Barometer Alarm Clock Swiss Made Table/shelf ClockVintage Art Deco White Bakelite Electric Alarm Clock General Electric Ge 1930'sMontblanc Boheme Travel Alarm Clock Watch Lizard Leather Perfect + Warranty Vintage Rare Miniature Hermes Paris Travel Desk Alarm Clock Luxor S.a.swiss 1074Vintage Looping 15 Jewels Galli Zurich Swiss Alarm ClockAntique Ingraham Kitchen Parlor Clock Movement With Alarm Parts RepairSwiza 8 Day Tempus Fugit Alarm Carriage Clock For Spares RepairsLuminox Travel Alarm Clock , Luminox Watch Co.Tiffany & Co 8 Day Alarm Desk Clock Maybe A Concord Movement? Nice Parts ProjectVintage General Electric 7-4300e Ge Flip Numbers Alarm Clock Radio Vintage Silver Craft Goldentone Boudoir Alarm Clock W/ Jeweled Filigree Case1930,s Rare Vintage Filigree And Petit Point Dressing Table Round Alarm Clock AfLux "hy Tone" Alarm Clock, Shelf, Circa 1920s/'30s, Art Deco, HytoneVery Early Verge Morbier Comptoise Clock With Alarm 1950's Ge General Electric Pink Alarm Clock Am Tube Radio Vintage Swiza Sheffield Tempus Fugit Brass Alarm Clock Carriage Parts RepairVintage Swiza 8 Key Alarm ClockVintage Art Deco Cream General Electric Alarm Clock Model 7h154 Working Order!Vintage Gubelin Travel Alarm Clock W/ Case, No ReserveVintage 1940's Hopalong Cassidy Alarm ClockLot Of Cowboy & Train Lunch Boxes, Flashlight, Alarm Clock, Knives, Clock, Sign!Wittnauer Longines Symphonette Alarm Clock Radio With Telescope Light Lcr511Westclox Big Ben Deluxe Model 2 Alarm Clock Antique 1927 Pink WorksRare! Antique Bon Marche Seattle Westclox Big Ben Wind Up Alarm Clock Peg LegsVintage Ornate Matson Gold Plated Alarm Clock Birds Dogwood Hollywood RegencyVintage Lux Symphony Alarm Clock For Repair Or Parts