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    

Serviced Antique Vintage Rca Debonair Clock Tube Radio Alarm – Works Great!Antique Rare The Thunder Wall Alarm Clock Made In Germany For We Watts & GilbertArt Deco Machine Age Telechron Electric Clock With Alarm Excellent Running Cond.Vintage Art Deco Zenith Silver Plate/ Chrome 8 Day Alarm Clock.Vintage Telechron Signalette Electric Alarm Clock-parts/repairServiced Antique Vintage Zenith Telechron Clock Tube Radio Alarm – Works Great!Vintage 1950's Harley Davidson Advertising Electric Alarm Clock Rare WorkingOld 1800s Antique En Welch Mini Ogee Lg Shelf Mantle Alarm Clock RunsVintage Lladro Clown Alarm Clock Figurine #5056 - No Reserve CollectionOld 1800s Antique Terry Co Cottage Parlor Lg Shelf Mantle Alarm Clock Runs Vintage Round Alarm ClockJaeger Lecoultre, Travel Alarm /mantle Clock, Running!! C.1960 No Reserve!!!Rare 1930s Lux Animated Alarm Clock, Black Americana Antique Shoe ShineArt Deco Seth Thomas Alarm Clock R.d.1931 In Butterscotch Bakelite Catalin CaseRare Large Lot Of 20 Westclox Baby Ben De Luxe, Baby Ben Alarm Clocks Ec Vintage Cyma Amic Swiss Made Brass Travel Alarm Clock Mid CenturyVintage Panasonic Rc-6015 Am/fm Flip Alarm Clock Radio Back To The FutureRare Antique Waterbury Mantle Clock With Alarm 8 DayVintage Lux Child's Faux Cuckoo Wall Alarm Clock Key Wind Waterbury Ct ConnRare Vintage Lux Clock Corp Wind Up Alarm Clock WorksAntique Seth Thomas 8 1/4 Kitchen Clock Movement With Alarm Parts RepairVintage 1970 Panasonic National- Rc6551- Am/fm/afc Flip Alarm Clock Radio Nice!Vtg 90s Nickelodeon Time Blaster Light Up Alarm Clock Am Fm Radio Tested & WorksNib Swiss Army By Victorinox Dual Time Travel Alarm Clock - New In BoxArt Deco Luxor Copper 8 Day Alarm ClockVintage Le Coultre Alarm Clock 8 Day Clock Music Box #59 For PartsHalcyon Days Enamel Quartz Travel Alarm Clock ~ 'strawberries' ~ Boxed Antique Vintage Westclox Big Ben Peg Leg Alarm ClockVintage 1936 Telechron Alarm Clock 7f75 Mayfair Copper & Bakelite WorksVintage Panasonic Flip Alarm Clock Radio Rc- 6030 Wood Grain " Groundhog Day "Vintage Wind Up Westclox Big Ben Chime Alarm And Clock Lot 8Vintage New Haven Artlarm Art Deco Alarm Clock Westinghouse Cathedral WorkingVintage 1970 Panasonic National- Rc7469- Am/fm/afc Flip Snooze/alarm Clock RadioAntique/vintage Alarm Clock Solid Cobalt Blue GlassSimpsons Lot 7 Homer Radio Gumball Machine Usb Lamp Alarm Clock Candle Wesco MipOriginal Antique Small German Alarm Clock Rare Quality Vintage Painted Brass Musical Jaeger Alarm Clock Parts Repair KTiffany & Co Uc Berkeley Swiss Quartz Desk Travel Alarm Clock Box & PapersJaeger Lecoultre Memovox Vintage Swiss Travel Alarm 8 Days Clock Art DecoRare Vtg. Antique Alarm Clock Coin Bank Ingraham deco Metal Case Vintage Art Deco Jaeger 2 Day Travel Desk Alarm ClockRare Copper Cased Gustav Becker Shelf Alarm Clock With RepeaterVintage Nhk Rhythm Talking Japanese Samurai Alarm Clock Works!! Very Rare NwbVintage Alarm Clocks Lot - Big Ben De Luxe - Black - Peg Leg - Flat - For PartsCloisonne Brass Bird Cage Clock--double Animation And Alarm Component-wind UpLot Of 6 Vtg Alarm Clocks Westclox, Baby Ben Linden Acurite Spares/repair/craftsTelechron - Ge Model 7h98 "corporal" 1940s Vintage Electric Alarm ClockThe Simpsons - Homer Simpson - Duff Beer Alarm Clock - Works Great!Vintage Lecoultre Mechanical 2 Day Travel Alarm Clock Running Anime Talking Alarm Clock Eternal Japan Used Rare Seiko Sailor Moon Tiffany & Co Junghans Quartz Brass Desk/travel Alarm Clock 2" X 2" X 1" RepairBradley Time Elgin Gold Double Bell Mickey Mouse Alarm Clock W/ Box Model #6550Lego Kids` 9002168 Red Plastic Alarm Brick Clock , New, Free ShippingSemca 8 Day Travel Alarm Clock - RareCartier Santos Travel Alarm Clock 2750 In Original Box1974 Janex Raggedy Ann And Andy Talking Alarm Clock In BoxVintage High Quality Concord Movement Spaulding Desk Alarm/clock!Antique/vintage Semca Rhinestone 1-jewel Swiss Made Alarm ClockVintage Westclox Germany Wind Up Alarm Travel Table Clock Rare Mint Vintage Swiss Made Semca, Blue Enamel Musical, 7 Jewel Alarm Clock W/brass Trim