This article is about the appliance. For timing reference for digital audio, see Word clock.
A digital clock is a type of clock that displays the time digitally (i.e. in numerals or other symbols), as opposed to an analog clock, where the time is indicated by the positions of rotating hands.
Digital clocks are often associated with electronic drives, but the "digital" description refers only to the display, not to the drive mechanism. (Both analog and digital clocks can be driven either mechanically or electronically, but "clockwork" mechanisms with digital displays are rare.) The biggest digital clock is the Lichtzelt Pegel ("Light Time Level") on the television tower Rheinturm Düsseldorf, Germany.
The first digital pocket watch was the invention of Austrian engineer Josef Pallweber who created his "jump-hour" mechanism in 1883. Instead of a conventional dial, the jump-hour featured two windows in an enamel dial, through which the hours and minutes are visible on rotating discs. The second hand remained conventional. By 1885 Pallweber mechanism was already on the market in pocket watches by Cortébert and IWC; arguably contributing to the subsequent rise and commercial success of IWC. The principles of Pallweber jump-hour movement had appeared in wristwatches by the 1920s (Cortébert) and are still used today (Chronoswiss Digiteur). While the original inventor didn't have a watch brand at the time, his name has since been resurrected by a newly established watch manufacturer.
Plato clocks used a similar idea but a different layout. These spring-wound pieces consisted of a glass cylinder with a column inside, affixed to which were small digital cards with numbers printed on them, which flipped as time passed. The Plato clocks were introduced at the St. Louis World Fair in 1904, produced by Ansonia Clock Company. Eugene Fitch of New York patented the clock design in 1903. 13 years earlier Josef Pallweber had patented the same invention using digital cards (different from his 1885 patent using moving disks) in Germany (DRP No. 54093). The German factory Aktiengesellschaft für Uhrenfabrikation Lenzkirch made such digital clocks in 1893 and 1894.
The earliest patent for a digital alarm clock was registered by D.E Protzmann and others on October 23, 1956, in the United States. Protzmann and his associates also patented another digital clock in 1970, which was said to use a minimal amount of moving parts. Two side-plates held digital numerals between them, while an electric motor and cam gear outside controlled movement.
In 1970, the first digital wristwatch with an LED display was mass-produced. Called the Pulsar, and produced by the Hamilton Watch Company, this watch was hinted at two years prior when the same company created a prototype digital watch for Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Throughout the 1970s, despite the initial hefty cost of digital watches, the popularity of said devices steadily rose.
Over the years, many different types of digital alarm clocks have been developed.
In Soviet Russia, the 7-segment digital clocks were known as Elektronika 7.
Digital clocks typically use the 50 or 60 hertz oscillation of AC power or a 32,768 hertz crystal oscillator as in a quartz clock to keep time. Most digital clocks display the hour of the day in 24-hour format; in the United States and a few other countries, a more commonly used hour sequence option is 12-hour format (with some indication of AM or PM). Some timepieces, such as many digital watches, can be switched between 12-hour and 24-hour modes. Emulations of analog-style faces often use an LCD screen, and these are also sometimes described as "digital".
To represent the time, most digital clocks use a seven-segmentLED, VFD, or LCD for each of four digits. They generally also include other elements to indicate whether the time is AM or PM, whether or not an alarm is set, and so on.
If people find difficulty in setting the time in some designs of digital clocks in electronic devices where the clock is not a critical function, they may not be set at all, displaying the default after powered on, 00:00 or 12:00.
Digital clocks that run on mains electricity and have no battery must be reset every time the power has an accident or if they are moved. Even if power is cut off for a second, most clocks will still have to be reset. This is a particular problem with alarm clocks that have no "battery" backup, because even a very brief power outage during the night usually results in the clock failing to trigger the alarm in the morning.
To reduce the problem, many devices designed to operate on household electricity incorporate a battery backup to maintain the time during power outages and during times of disconnection from the power supply. More recently, some devices incorporate a method for automatically setting the time, such as using a broadcast radiotime signal from an atomic clock, getting the time from an existing satellite television or computer connection, or by being set at the factory and then maintaining the time from then on with a quartz movement powered by an internal rechargeable battery. Commercial digital clocks are typically more reliable than consumer clocks. Multi-decade backup batteries can be used to maintain time during power loss.
An LCD battery-operated clock without alarm
A premium digital clock radio with digital tuning
A basic digital clock radio with analog tuning
Because digital clocks can be very small and inexpensive devices that enhance the popularity of product designs, they are often incorporated into all kinds of devices such as cars, radios, televisions, microwave ovens, standard ovens, computers and cell phones. Sometimes their usefulness is disputed: a common complaint is that when time has to be set to Daylight Saving Time, many household clocks have to be readjusted. The incorporation of automatic synchronization by a radio time signal is reducing this problem (see Radio clock).
Lenzkirch clocks are without a doubt the most highly collectable of all antique clocks made in the Black Forest region of Germany during the 1800s. Their quality and beauty set them apart from all others. The craftsmanship and highly decorated cases quickly established Lenzkirch clocks as the best of the best. Founded in 1851 as a stockholder corporation, the Lenzkirch clock factory was the first of its kind in the Black Forest. Prior to that clock making was mainly a cottage industry. Aktiengessellschaft fur Uhrenfabrication Lenzkirch (Stockholder Company for Clock Manufacturing in Lenzkirch) was the brainchild of Edward Hauser. He was born August 21, 1825 the son of a teacher.
Eduard Hauser was born August 21, 1825, died July 22, 1900. Born the son of a teacher, he apprenticed as a music box maker at about the age of 15 under Johann George Schoepperle. After completing his apprenticeship, Eduard left the small village of Lenzkirch and traveled extensively in France, Switzerland and England where he studied clock making at the major manufacturing facilities. During this time he developed the plan to bring precision manufacturing techniques back to the Black Forest. On his return to Lenzkirch, Eduard worked out his plan to introduce the precision assembly line methods he had learned. Up to this time, Black Forest clocks were not known for their quality or precision.
Eduard believed that through precision machinery techniques he could manufacture parts that could then be assembled into a functioning clock. By using the precision parts, Eduard hoped to make Black Forest clocks that would be competitive with the French, English and Swiss.
About 1848 Eduard Hauser partnered with Ignaz Schoepperle and opened a modest machine shop. At first they made parts for other clockmakers. Eduard used this time to convince others of his vision and to raise the necessary capital required to purchase the required machinery. This technique of manufacturing would be much more efficient and profitable than the traditional handmade method of making clocks.
Working upstairs in the musical organ factory, Eduard lead his small group of employees using hand powered flywheel lathes and gear cutting engines. In the beginning progress was very slow. The newly formed company lacked the marketing connections to promote their products. Buying the necessary tools and equipment took most of their money. To take the business to the next level, a stockholder corporation would be necessary. On August 31, 1851, Eduard Hauser and Ignaz Schoepperle joined forces with 5 other men, Franz Josef Faller, Paul Tritscheller, Johann Nikolaus Tritscheller, Joseph Wiest and Nickolas Rogy. Together they formed Aktien-gesesellschaft fur Uhrenfabrication, Lenzkirch (Stock Holder Corporation for Clock Manufacturing, Lenzkirch).
For the first few years the Lenzkirch clock factory imported movements and parts from France. Eduard wanted to reduce their dependency of French goods and soon begain making their own. The first movements made in Lenzkirch were exact carbon copies of the French movements they had been importing. It is impossible to know exactly when the transistion occured. From other readings I have done I believed this occured around 1860 but I have no proof to back it up.
In the early days after the factory began producing complete running movements, they bought the finest clock cases from the Heer Brothers in Voehrenbach to put their movements into. Many were in the Oeil de boef or eye of the ox style. After all, French clocks had dominated the quality market for a long time. Could this be where the rumor began that Lenzkirch made movements that were incased by other clockmakers? If so it only applies to the extremely earliest movements made.
When Lenzkirch introduced the German regulator style clock fashioned after the Viennese Regulator, they quickly gained a reputation for making out-standing quality and highly reliable timepieces. Under Eduard's leadership the factory grew into a large modern manufacturing empire. Workers no longer had to use hand-powered machines to make the parts. Steam engines now powered all of the machines in the factory. The Lenzkirch clock factory also had their own sawmill, foundry, tool and die makers and even did their own gold and silver plating.
In order to be successful they still had to get their clocks to market. The old traditional method of clock peddlers transporting the clocks around the country hoping to find a buyer was inefficient. The Lenzkirch factory come up with an idea and produced their first clock catalog in 1855. The first catalog was little more than outline drawing of the clocks they had for offer. After receiving the order, the clock was made to the customer's specifications and shipped to them. The clock catalog was the brainchild of Franz Josef Faller.
Eduard's eldest son would join his father's business. He was a skilled architect and artistically talented. The esthetic beauty of Lenzkirch clock cases for nearly 30 years can be directly attributed to his contributions. This is one of the main reasons Lenzkirch clocks are so popular and collectable today. Eduard's youngest son Paul also followed in his father footsteps and became a tool and die maker at the factory.
In the years to come, the Lenzkirch factory would win many medals for their clocks. The medals were:
An original Lenzkirch factory business card from around 1910 with the medals on it.
For the complete history on Lenzkirch clocks you should read my book.
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