How People Told Time Before Watches

How People Told Time Before Watches

As you may expect, before watches existed telling time was a completely different ball game and people went to all sorts of different lengths to figure out what time of day it was or even what day of the week it was.

Though not everything worked in the same means as it does today, time telling was still a necessity and was used to order life in a manner much like that of today. So, what did people use to tell the time before the arrival of emerald jewellery covered watches and the like?

Sun Dials

Many of us are familiar with the sun dial and though it wasn’t near small enough to fit in your pocket, it still is a surprisingly accurate way to tell the time. Sun dials are essentially a cock that uses the position of the sun and the shadows created to tell the time on a stone dial. They may not be like the watches today with diamonds and emerald jewellery, but they most certainly were amazing for their time.

One significant thing of note with the sun dial was the fact it couldn’t tell you the time when you weren’t in the sunlight. This meant it wasn’t as suitable for the UK as it would have been for elsewhere.

Sundials originated in Egypt about 1500 years before the birth of Christ.


People could also tell the time, albeit less accurately from the sun and the moon. Through watching the position of the sun and the size and the shape of the moon, the people could tell what date it was, what part of the year they were in and what time of the month it currently was. They could also use the sun to tell the time to a fairly accurate degree as well as the seasons. This is something we really couldn’t perceive today and shows the abilities of the people of the past in many ways were far superior to those of our time.

Many of these changes were done through recognition of the repetitive changes that occur throughout the year. These cycles allowed people to understand the times and then figure out the times.

Water Clocks

In ancient Rome, water clocks were used to tell the time and though not like the emerald jewellery encrusted watches of nowadays, they were often only owned by the wealthy. These water clocks had a container that allowed water to flow to a level on the hour, each hour. This limitation of flow allowed for the hour to be represented accurately and often was attached to a clock face as we know it and moved the dial and second hand. These often also were linked to cuckoos and bells and could tell the time aloud. They were also used to count down time in the senate and for racing too.

As only the rich could afford them, they were the jewellery encrusted watch of their day.

Parriss Jewellery offer a great range of Emerald jewellery mounted in Gold, Silver and Platinum.

Photo Credit: Out of Ideas

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