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]

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 Rare Jaeger Le Coultre Recital Model 105 Alarm Travel/desk ClockVintage Art Deco Swiss 1930's Zenith Chrome Small Travel Alarm Clock + CaseJaeger Lecoultre Manual Winding Travel Alarm Table/desk ClockVintage Art Deco French 1930's Blangy Unusual Green Bakelite Mantel Alarm Clock.Vintage Art Deco French 1930's Jaz Solid Chrome Swivel Alarm Clock.Antique Brevet Paris France Solid Brass Carriage Clock W/alarm And Leather CaseAntique Oak Castle Alarm Mantel Clock Vintage Gorham Sterling Cyma Swiss W Alarm Clock 321c Ornate Frame Yqz!! Works !! Vintage Telechron Brown Bakelite Alarm Clock Model 7h125Antique Rare E. N. Welch Roman Style Clock With Alarm, Key-wind, Time/strikeSwiza Alarm Clock Seth Thomas Metal Series Time And Strike Oak Alarm No.5 Parlor Clock. Runs, 1900Vintage "swiza" 8day Lantern Mantel 1950/60s Mechanical Alarm ClockVintage Planters Peanuts Advertising Alarm Clock Made By LuxAuthentic Vintage Tiffany & Co Travel Alarm Desk Clock Sterling Silver Antique Vtg E. Ingraham Brass Mantel Clock Movement Time Strike Alarm MantleVintage Hermes Desk/travel Alarm Clock Tortoishell Effect Enamel/gilt Brass FwoAntique Gingerbread Kitchen Clock With Alarm Unit Welch Great Carvings, Runs Westclox Big Ben Repeater Alarm Regulator Mantel Clock Art Deco Antique VintageVintage Retro Swiza Brass Blue Face Alarm Clock 8 Days 7 Jewels Swiss MovAntique E. Ingraham 1912 "indian" Peg Leg 8 Day Alarm Clock Working Well GoodRare & Beautiful 1960s Vintage Hermes Paris World Calendar Alarm Clock * 848 *1940's Wwii Telechron Electric Alarm Clock. Bakelite Case W/ Opa Price On Back. Surge Soda Alarm Clock Radio Coca Cola ProductGerman Mauthe Alarm Musical Carriage Clock Playing 'yankee Doodle Dandy'Vintage Tiffany &co 8 Days Swiss Travel Alarm Clock Leather Case Embossed MhpA GoldbVintage Westclox Clock Of Tomorrow Black Art Deco Chime Alarm WorksBeautiful Vintage Bulova Mother Of Pearl Wind-up Alarm Clock,germanyAntique Tip-top Traveler Radium Mini Alarm Clock New Haven Clock Co. Ca.1924Wehrle Commander Mechanical Genuine German Alarm Clock, In BoxVintage Antique Old Seth Thomas Alarm Mantle Clock Windup Style Great Look!Antique Parker Clock Co. Alarm Clock Patent Dated Dec.12,1911 Needs Minor RepairJaeger Le Coultre Musical Alarm Desk Clock Parts ProjectVintage Art Deco Brass Cortebert Alarm Clock With Music Box 7 Jewels 8 DaysStunning Atomic Age "candy Coated Pink" Philco Alarm Clock Pristine Condition!Vintage Guardier 15 Jewels Swiss Alarm ClockVintage Bakelite Butterscotch Westclox Moon Beam Alarm Clock S5-j FlashesVintage Phinney Walker Purse Shaped Clock With Music Box Alarm5 Vintage Alarm Clocks Telechron War Alarm Westclox Dialite General Electric GeAntique French Alarm Clock Movement,porcelain Dial,pendulum,hallmark,brassVintage General Electric Alarm ClockVintage Bucherer Alarm Clock SwissAntique Chelsea Alarm Clock Parts Pieces New Old Stock N.o.s.brass Glass GearsAntique Alarm Clock In Non-working Condition Nib Spirit Of St Louis Travel Alarm Clock Punk Style Trunk /scribe Hotel Paris Vintage Electric Digiclock Model 3700 White Flip Number Alarm Clock Brand New !! Art Deco Retro Chrome Amber Bakelite Mauthe Germany Alarm Shelf Clock RestoreAntique National Clock Co. Wooden Trestle Alarm Clock Working MovementAntique Ansonia 9 1/4 Kitchen Clock Movement With Alarm Parts RepairVintage Swiza Sheffield Alarm Clock Linden West Germany Retro Windup Pedestal Alarm ClockVintage Rhythm Talking Cow Alarm Clock No. 4re883 Made In Japan Very Nice Old Antique Jerome & Co.2 Door 8 Day Weight Clock Case W/ Alarm !!!Western Clock Co. 1920 Black Dialed "big Ben" Alarm ClockVintage Kaiser Table Desk Winding Alarm Clock Vintage Copper Wind Up Alarm Clock Twin Bell Hungary Glow In The DarkVintage Swiza C1950s Travel Wind Up Alarm Clock Aladdin's Lamp ShapeLionel 100th Anniversary Limited Edition Train Alarm ClockRare Unusual Vintage Flying Saucer Electric Alarm Clock Spin Start Runs