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The Magic and Muggle World of Horology

In the Harry Potter world, there are countless variations of time keeping devices that, here in the muggle world, would absolutely mesmerize us, enchanting the walls of our living rooms, schools and even in our own pockets and wrists. While the movies capture some interesting and notable timepieces that aren’t referenced in the books, there are so many other timekeeping and clock like contraptions that aren’t featured in the blockbuster films, and we don’t plan on skipping them!  

From the unmissable Hogwarts clock tower, to the grandfather clocks in the common rooms, to the magical clocks in the homes of some of our favorite wizarding families, there’s plenty of clocks and watches in this wizarding world, some doing more than simply keeping time, to keep our muggle heads spinning in this magical world. 

Starting with one of the most obvious and also one of the most notable time pieces in the Harry Potter franchise is the infamous Hogwarts Clock tower. It may surprise you to learn that the clock tower is never mentioned in the books, other than being depicted on the cover art despite its dramatic role in the third film installment, The Prisoner of Azkaban. 

In the film, the clock tower housed what appears to be four bells, each of a different size. According to Pottermore, the online interactive universe created alongside the creator and author of the Harry Potter books JK Rowling, the clock would chime on the hour and half hour mark, as well as at the beginning and the ending of each class.  

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets

Though these bells were supposedly audible in any room in the castle, save for the dungeons, this was not the only way the students and faculty could know the time; in the book there are a few references to clocks being on the walls in various classrooms, and in the Gryffindor common room Harry is depicted reading the time off of a grandfather clock. 

The reason the clock tower was given the spotlight in the film is an easy connection, though, in case you haven’t seen the movie a spoiler alert is needed for the next enchanted time piece up for discussion: The Time Turner. 

In the third year of our favorite magical trio, Hermoine, the beloved book worm, has taken on so many classes that she was granted access to this magically endowed time piece by Professor McGonagall who is the transfiguration teacher as well as the head of Gryffindor house. Before she could give this to Hermione, she had to get permission from the Ministry of Magic, and Hermoine was sworn to only use it for school work and nothing more, as the ramifications of meddling with time were speculated to be severe. It’s speculated that this was a trial run to see if the Time Turner could be practically used for academics or as the movie entails, save innocents from unnecessary evil.  

A notable watch that’s referenced in the books is Dumbledore’s pocket watch; one that would have been awe inspiring to see in the film, but didn’t quite make the cut. In the book, the watch is described as being gold with twelve hands and planets that were suspended in orbit inside the watch case, in lieu of the standard hands. The scene in which he uses this fascinating piece to read the time, he notes that Rubeus Hagrid is late delivering Harry to number 4 privet drive that chilly night on November 1st, 1981, his parents having been murdered October 31st, three months after Harry had his first birthday.  

To discuss the next and one of the more thought-provoking timepieces in the Potter film franchise we’ll use our Time Turners to travel ahead to the 1996-1997 school year when Harry stops Professor Slughorn at the end of a club meeting by saying he was admiring an hourglass on the professor’s desk as a ruse, in order to get Slughorn to open up about Tom Riddle, aka Lord Voldemort at the request of Dumbledor. 

Slughorn explains to Harry that this was no ordinary hourglass, that the flow of the sand was dependent on how stimulating the conversation was.  Jokingly, he mentions how it shows that his club meeting wasn’t so stimulating due to the sand flowing fairly noticeably.  

Harry Potter Clocks
Harry Potter Clocks

Truly, this hourglass is one of a kind. It features the traditional glass vessels that hold the traditional sand found in any muggle hourglass, encased by three green and silver serpents on either side of each vessel. The sand, which was also green, was also suspended within a green fluid like substance, most likely the magical essence of the spell empowering the hourglass to detect when conversations were stimulating or …not so stimulating.  

As Harry starts to question Slughorn about Lord Voldemort, the sand starts to slow, eventually so much that it becomes seemingly frozen. A vast improvement in stimulation from the club meeting that ended only moments before.  

On a different note, our favorite red headed wizarding family, The Weasley’s have two unique clocks that we could not pass up the opportunity to write about. The first is a clock that doesn’t actually tell the time, instead it offers up chuckle worthy reminders such as: Time to make tea, time to feed the chickens or you’re late. Anyone who loves tea and chickens would love to see this clock hanging in their home! 

The other notable clock in the Weasley home is their family clock. It displays the whereabouts of each member of the Weasley family, their portraits magically embedded onto an individual hand. There are multiple options on the dial of the clock these hands can point to, informing those who peered at it of the locations including “home” “school” “work” “hospital” “lost” “prison” and “mortal peril”.  

When the second wizarding war started and Voldemort returned Harry noticed that all the family members were pointing to the same location–mortal peril. While JK Rowling referred to this as a grandfather clock in the book, Mrs. Weasley is depicted as carting the clock around with her from room to room as she was cleaning the house to check to see if any of the hands had changed.   

Our last and not as well-known Weasley timepiece is Mrs. Weasley’s late brother Fabian’s watch, also not depicted in the films. It’s customary in the magical world to gift a wizard a watch on the day they come of age at 17 and can now perform magic outside of school without what’s called “the trace” being in effect; a spell that tracks the magic of underage witches and wizards to prevent children from exposing them to the muggle world and other dangerous, yet preventable scenarios. 

In the book, Mrs. Weasley gives this watch to Harry on his 17th birthday. She mentions how it isn’t new like Ron’s, it’s broken and dented in the back, but she thought he should have something to follow in the tradition. This shows just how thoroughly she considered Harry a part of her family, passing a treasured heirloom onto him instead of any of her elder sons, including Ron, who had already celebrated their coming of age. 

These aren’t all of the timepieces in the Harry Potter universe but they’re definitely some of our favorites. One thing is for sure: it appears the timeless art of horology is one of the few items that transcends the magical and muggle worlds.  

To end this journey, I leave you with a question to ponder: If your mom or mother figure had their own version of the Weasley family clock do you think they’d worry about you less, or even more than before?