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    

Fantastic Beasts Magical Exposure Threat Level Alarm ClockLot Of 6 Antique Alarm Clocks Westclox Baby Ben, De Luxe, True Time Tiny TotVintage Swiss Angelus Folding Travel Alarm Clock 8 Day 47 X 69mm Parts / RepairAntique Seth Thomas 8 Day Long Alarm Mantle Clock Patented Aug 25, 1908 - No ResJaeger Lecoultre Recital 8 Day Desk Clock With Alarm @ 1960sVintage Angelus Super Travel Alarm Clock Leather Case Swiss Wind Up Rare Lecoultre 8 Day Thorens Music Box Alarm Clock - Red W/ 3d Song Bird CrystalVintage Semca Alarm Clock Light Blue Aqua & White Rhinestone Swiss Made 7 JewelsVtg 1936 Ge Up To 1725 Watts Appliance Tube Radio Alarm Timer Bakelite Clock NrLot Of 6 Vintage Westclox Big Ben(4), Baby Ben (2), Dial Alarm ClocksAmazing 1940's Cyma Amic 'dunklings' Woodgrain Travel Alarm Clock Original BoxVintage Art Deco Seth Thomas Catalin Bakelite Alarm Shelf ClockVintage Hammond Synchronous Clock; With Day And Date And Alarm.Vintage Ge General Electric Flip Alarm Clock Radio Model 7-4300aVintage True Time & Westclox 8 Day Jeweled Alarm Clocks RunningWestclox Moonbeam Electric Lighted Alarm Clock Working! Vintage Mid Century 1950Ansonia Antique 19th Century "king" Brass Movement Alarm Clock For PartsSwiss Army Victorinox Travel Alarm Clock... Great Deal!Westclox Big Ben Wind Up Peg Leg Alarm Clock Nickel Case White Face WorkingVintage New Stock! Swiss Army Victorinox Travel Folding Alarm Clock Nike CupLot 4 Antique Vintage Travel Clock +1 Alarm Muller Schild Hebco Waltham RepairVintage Tiffany & Co. Portfolio Brass Travel Alarm Clock Made In Germany Looping 8 Day Alarm Temperature, Barometer Brass & Leather Vintage Travel Clock!New Haven Alarm Clock Artlarm BakeliteEarly 1900s George Worthington (cleveland) Indian Harvard Alarm Clock - RunningVintage Westclox Big Ben Alarm Clocks (2) Not Working For Parts Or RepairAntique The Junior Tattoo Alarm Clock By New Haven Clock Company 1904 Patent Vintage-animated Alarm Clock--"the Spinning Wheel" By Lux--works GreatSailor Moon Alarm Clock Figure Doll SailormoonChristopher Radko Vintage Santa St Nick Alarm Clock Christmas Ornament L@@kVintage Alarm Clock By PilotVintage Travel Alarm Clocks (26 Total) *rare* *collectible* Vintage Westclox La Salle Dura Case 61 C Art Deco Alarm Clock Butler FinishRare Vintage 15j Angelus Gilt Bronze 4-column 8-day Alarm Clock For Repair Rare Vintage Waterbury 4 Column Mantle Clock With Alarm -runs - Parts Or RepairVintage Ge Tube Radio Alarm Clock Model 50 Trf Am Bakelite WorksSuperb 1940's West-german 'trenkle' Brass Hanging Miniature Alarm ClockCirca 1901 Working Parker Brass Rotory Alarm ClockLot 4 Antique Vintage Travel Clock +1 German Alarm Kienzle Waltham Schild RepairVintage Altman 8 Days, 15 Jewel, Wind Up Travel Alarm Clock SwitzerlandRetro Cartier Swiss Made Quartz Alarm Desk ClockSwiss Army Victorinox Travel Folding Alarm Clock Nib6 Vintage Ingram New Haven Westclox Big Ben Wind Up Alarm Clocks Parts RepairLot Of 3 Vintage Big Ben Alarm Clocks + 1 French Alarm Clock For Repair/partsVintage Rare Junghans 7 Steine Genuine Leather Folding Travel Alarm ClockStar Wars Talking Alarm Clock--r2-d2, C-3po--vintage 1977--bradley TimeVintage Westclox Moonbeam S5-j Bakelite Alarm Clock Works Parts RepairVintage Alarm Clock 60's Love Hippy Flowers Round Florn Alarm Germany Wind UpJunghans Alarm Clock - Made In Germany - Marked " Mariazell "Vintage Japan Rhythm Cat Bugle Novelty Alarm Clock Plays Reveille "rise & Shine"Antique Big Ben Alarm Clock By WestcloxAntique Alarm ClockAntique Ansonia 1883 Rosewood Steeple Gothic Shelf Clock 8 Day + Alarm WorkingLux Deluxe Jr. Alarm Clock Not Running Antique Collectible Rare Vinatge Angelus 15 Jewel Swiss 8 Day Travel Alarm Clock Cal 190Vintage Bucherer Travel Alarm Clock Swiss Made Rare Lionel Alarm Clock 100th Anniversary Train Railroad Talking NibVintage Phinney-walker Alarm Clock Table Top LighterLe'coultre Travel Alarm Clock 2-day Blue Hands Works ! 9-13-41-4? S35901 535901Spirit Of St Louis Alarm Clock / Travel Radio Am / Fm - Great Shape