Startup: The 10,000 Year Clock

This is a prototype for a clock designed to keep time for 10,000 years. How is that different from a well-made watch? Technically, a watch keeps time for 12 hours – then repeats that cycle. This clock shows the position of the sun, moon, stars, horizon, and the date in addition to the “mundane” time. It’s part of a project by the Long Now Foundation to build a monument sized version with a sixty-foot clock tower.

It’s an ambitious project because it’s goals limit it to bronze-age technology for maintainability, and many of the traditional clock parts, like gears, are being designed out because they just won’t last. The designers are also rejecting components that would make it difficult for an observer to figure out the operating principles of the clock through close inspection; atomic power and atomic timekeeping are out in favour of old-fashioned weights and pendulums. There are even plans for a solar synchronizer that would allow heat from the noon sun to deform a wire that would pull the clock back to solar time on sunny days and correct for the “true” time that the pendulums keep. My favourite component is the Equation of Time Cam (pictured at right) that also corrects the time on non-sunny days and accounts for the Earth’s wobble and the fact that we’re slowing down by about one second per century.

The purpose of the clock (in addition to knowing when it’s beer-o’clock) is to promote long term thinking. In line with this goal, there is even a chime system being built that will ring in each day with a unique tone. That’s over 3.5 million different combinations that will be produced automatically using a mechanical algorithm that combines star shaped plates and geneva wheels with bronze bells.

The first full sized monument is in development in Texas, overlooking the intended launch site of Blue Origin – a space company owned by founder Jeff Bezos who owns the land the clock is being built on and is funding the construction. The Long Now Foundation has also purchased a piece of property in the Snake mountain range in Nevada for a second potential clock.

No completion date (or even estimate) is currently available for the monument, but the original 8 foot prototype clock is running and lives in the “Making of the Modern World” exhibit at the Science Museum of London.

Check of the Long Now Fountation’s web site for more info on the clock, the men behind its conception, and some of their other interesting projects. True geeks to be proud of.

  • tiberiusẅisë

    (in addition to knowing when it’s beer-o’clock)

    It's beer-o'clock three seconds after you hear the chhhhh sound.

    <img src="; width="300">

  • OA5599

    Coincidentally, I have also developed a 10,000-year clock. It has no moving parts, and no external power source is needed. It is rectangular–roughly the size, shape, weight, and texture of a brick.

    I'll sell them for $10,000. That's only a dollar a year; considerably less than a penny a day for the world's finest timepiece. Better yet, there's a complete money-back guarantee. If you are ever dissatisfied with the clock or it fails to be completely accurate, please return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.*

    *Warranty is non-transferable and is valid for the original purchaser only. Clock must be calibrated before the guarantee offer becomes effective. Calibration costs $9999 and takes approximately 9,999 years to complete.

  • P161911

    A clock that will work for 10,000 years. I think that has sort of been done already.
    <img src=""width=500&gt;

    • TechieInHell

      Ah, but no. The clock (or sundial) you have pictured is only good for a day, then it repeats itself.

  • FЯeeMan

    Sounds like they first need to work on a countdown clock to indicate when the clock will be completed.

  • SSurfer321

    I hope the get it finished soon as it will no longer be relevant in a little over a year.

  • texlenin

    A potential part of the plan was to have a festival every year
    to haul some of the weights back up.
    A combination of Trade's Day,BurningMan, & the Annual Society
    of Horologist's Xmas party…..
    We should go this year!