Understanding antique clock weights

Understanding antique clock weights will take a little time and effort on your part, but it’s probably simpler than you imagine it to be.  What are the weights on a clock and why are they important? The weights on an antique clock are what power the mechanism and allow it to keep time.  Since the entire purpose of a clock is for it to keep time, the weights are a very important part of any clock.  While clock weights started out utilitarian, it wasn’t long before more complex systems were designed and more weights were added to a clock, leading to a more elaborate time keeping system.  While these changes weren’t truly necessary, it did add to the complexity of a clock, and with more complexity came a higher price that clockmakers could charge.

How Do Weights Power A Clock?

One of the primary forces in the universe that you experience all the time and probably never even think about is gravity.  Without gravity you wouldn’t be able to sit or stand here and read this.  You’d be flying off into space.  In fact, without gravity, you wouldn’t even be here at all since gravity helps hold the universe together.  Gravity is everywhere and it is a constant force in our lives that most people probably never even think about.  What does gravity have to do with antique clocks? As a matter of fact, without gravity, many types of antique clocks wouldn’t even work!

Today we have a lot of different power sources at our disposal.  When you need to charge your phone, you plug it in and electricity derived from solar, nuclear, wind, hydroelectric, or coal plants flow into your phone and charge it.  If you have an electric car the same thing happens, just on a larger scale.  If you have a gas-powered car, you fill it up with liquid fuel in the form of gasoline.  The point is that today, we have options that didn’t exist in the past.  In the past, without access to instant power, other innovations were necessary to allow machines to function.  One of the more ingenious of those innovations was clocks that used weights and gravities to function.

Clock weights work by providing a clock with energy derived from the primal universal force of gravity.  A weight is suspended over a wheel and as it falls the wheel turns, and the hands on the clock move.  Now, you’re probably thinking, how long of a cord is that weight attached to if it powers a clock for a week at a time or more? It’s not the length of the cord that matters, it’s the friction devices built into the clock’s mechanism that slows the release of the cord that controls and harnesses the energy allowing the clock to run.

By adding a pendulum to the clock, the rate that the cord is released can be finely controlled, allowing for an accurate measurement of time! Why was a pendulum necessary? Because the amount of time a pendulum takes to swing from one end to the other depends upon the length of the pendulum.  By using different lengths, it was possible to precisely control the rate that the clock weight was released, allowing for the keeping of time.  When you think about it, the genius of antique clocks should give you an idea of just how innovative our ancestors were.