ATO - clocks

Electric clocks





Electric clocks
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Anybody exploring the field of electric clocks will ask the question how it all began.
Who invented the first electric clock?
When was the first electric clock built?

It isn’t easy to give a quick answer to any of these questions. Even the historians can’t agree. 

One trace leads to Verona in Italy, where the prior G. Zamboni invented in 1812 the “The Zamboni Column”, which let a free pendulum swing through the energy of electricity.

Prof. Ramis in Munich evolved Zamboni’s invention and on March 18th 1815 he introduced an electric clock that moved hands.Late in April 1815 , Karl Streizig presented an electric clock with hour and minute hands in Verona, based on ‘Zamboni’s column’ principle.


Etwas später im April 1815 präsentierte Karl Streizig in Verona ebenso eine elektrische Uhr mit Stunden- und Minutenanzeige, die ebenfalls auf dem in Verona entwickelten Prinzip der "Zamponischen Säulen " aufbaute.

This invention was further developed by Professor Carl August von Steinheil in Munich, who already in 1839 described the principle of an electric clock that drives several slave clocks.

At this time there were many attempts by different inventors from England, France, Italy and Germany to use electricity to power clocks.



Paul Garnier und Breguet



Prof.Steinheil und  Matthias Hipp



Wheatstone und Alexander Bain

Alexander Bain is well known in English literature as being the person who, on 10.10.1840, obtained the first English patent for an electric clock.

Unfortunately, he was unable to mass produce this clock and very few clocks were produced, making them highly sought after by collectors.

Matthias Hipp (1815-1893) built electric clocks in Germany and Switzerland. The so-called Hipp’sche contact can still be found today in many top grade clocks.

Wanduhr von Alexander Bain

Tischuhr von Matthias Hipp


During industrialisation, the need for reliable timekeeping increased, so that the same exact time could be shown in different places.

This problem was solved in 1876 by Matthias Hipp when he introduced a facility which could steer 745 slave clocks and 41 lines. 

This lead to the possibility of reliably running a number of slave clocks with the help of one so-called mother clock.

Because of constant demands from industry and the growing railway system for accurate timekeeping, the number of firms producing electric clocks grew.



Brillié, Ato, Bulle



Siemens, Carl Theodor Wagner, later TuN



Favag , Zenith



Synchronome, Gent's of Leicester

These days, the old conventional clock system with pendulum are of no importance in industry or railways because of the necessary high level of maintenance and the costs.

Today the clock systems are electronically controlled by a radio signal from the Mainflingen station near Frankfurt, with the extremely exact time provided by the PTB in Braunschweig.

This brief history of the development of the electric clock, especially the workings, can only give the reader a small insight into the multi-technical possibilities of the workings of the electric clock.

To go into the complete development of this subject would probably overload this homepage