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Hooniverse Asks- Analog Clocks in Cars, Classy or Nasty?

Robert Emslie November 4, 2013 Hooniverse Asks 51 Comments


There are certain elements of supposed luxury that have passed into the annals of history- crushed velour upholstery, padded landau roofs, and ocean liner-like rides among them. One tradition that seems to have stuck around with herpes-like tenacity is the analog dash clock, an institution of luxury identification that may be found to this day on everything from Chrysler’s lowly 200 to Rolls and Bentley models that most of us can’t afford to so much as look at.

Knowing the time in an automobile can be a useful thing, and in fact with modern technologies we not only can know how long we’ve been behind the wheel, but also the time it will take to reach our destination, calculated with both traffic and global strife taken into account. It’s a simple matter to add local time to the display of a dash-located trip computer or infotainment system, and yet many car makers choose to clutter up the dash designs of their cars with redundant analog clocks as a nod to some supposed classic aesthetic. That of course means that there are two (or more) time devices on the dash, and how annoying is it when they don’t match precisely? Arrgh!

What do you think about analog dashboard clocks, do you appreciate their aesthetic as a icon of luxuries past? Or, do you think their use looks like Betty White at a Jonas Brothers concert? 

Image source: Maserati Enthusiasts’ Page

  • Sjalabais


    <img src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_zp5hU5oekAI/TNi0dyozA3I/AAAAAAAAE4o/7hMivu1xiZ4/s1600/volvo 240t dash.jpg" width="600">

    I was waiting for a ferry in my newly bought first car, a '77 Volvo 242, in 2002. Something was ticking. I got all nervous, did I buy a wreck after all? Is this a leak? Expanding or shrinking metall? No, it was the clock.

    • Sjalabais

      Turns out, you can take this great and simple design inside, too:

      <img src="http://img0.etsystatic.com/021/0/7588292/il_570xN.479460504_sn9x.jpg&quot; width="600">

      • FuzzyPlushroom

        I've got one just sitting around for which I really need to build an enclosure.

        How is this example adjusted, though?

        • Sjalabais

          I have no idea. The website appears to be selling all sorts of weird stuff, but I think this is some 3D-printed enclosure. Since the item is sold, I could not find any image of the back. Alternatively, in the true Volvo spirit, it is adjusted once and will survive nuclear armageddon.

  • Maymar

    For the most part, classy. Even in the lowly Chrysler 200. That said, those BVULGAR monstrosities in some mid-2000's Cadillacs were pretty tacky. I mean, that's some pretty awesome plastic. I could totally see justify paying $10k to wear that on my wrist.

  • dukeisduke

    In some newer cars, they look classy. In that Quattroporte, it looks stuck on and cheap. And that accelerator pedal looks out of place, not to mention the name branded into the wood, that reminds one of those branded wooden signs bordered with rope, that you find for sale at the state fair.

    • nanoop

      I saw that pedal on my neighbour's 2012 Skoda Octavia 4×4 yesterday.
      Oh, and classy on cars before 1990. After that, digital was mandatory. Today, in a classy car, I'd expect a display showing an analog clock, in shades matching the weather conditions. And a decent FLAC recording of a very nice "tick, tick, tick".

    • quattrovalvole

      In that QP, everything looks stuck on and cheap anyway. Someone clearly forgot about the instrument binnacle until the last minute and just super glued the whole cluster on top of the dash.

  • OA5599
    • http://www.automobile-catalog.com/ P161911

      1970s Oldsmobile.

    • JayP2112

      Those clocks were louder than the engine.

      • Devin

        It sounded sort of like the bomb at the end of Goldfinger.

    • http://www.wegmuller.org dwegmull

      How about digital analog: http://dash.teslatime.com/?s=5f0e9cb79b246416180f
      This page is designed to run on the Tesla Model S's in dash web browser…

      • nanoop

        Dang, I'm getting old (see my post above). So how's the ticking over the sound system?

        • http://www.wegmuller.org dwegmull

          I've never tried it myself. The car comes with not one but two digital clocks (one in the instrument cluster, itself an LCD display, the other at the top of the main screen).
          I don't think the web browser has access to the car's audio system. At least not yet!

  • http://www.hooniverse.com LTDScott

    Analog clocks in cars could go away completely in cars and I'd never notice. Then again, I've never owned a car fancy enough that would have one.

    I think digital clocks are safer. It takes an extra second for me to mentally process the time on an analog clock.

    • https://secure.flickr.com/photos/deadelvis/collections/72157607912481786/ dead_elvis

      I'd argue the exact opposite – at least for those of us old enough to have grown up with analog clock faces. I need only to see where the hands are, rather than process what the numbers say.

  • http://www.automobile-catalog.com/ P161911

    The only cars I owned/ridden in with analog clocks were 1970s and 1980s American cars. I can't remember a single one where the clock actually worked.

    I'm pretty sure the clock is the most valuable part of most Maserati Bi-turbos.

    • OA5599

      <img src="http://www.performancecargraphics.com/images/Dash_Stuff/Restoration/Instrument_Panels/E-body_Rallye.jpg&quot; width=500>

      I have had a couple of them in Challengers, and while I never bothered to drill out the rivets to look inside, I had read up a little on how they operated. They used a spring mechanism, like a wind up clock, and had an electrical plunger-type device to occasionally wind the spring. The clock would still tick for a short while after the battery was disconnected or the fuse was pulled. After a few years, the parts would start to accumulate a little rust, and not operate smoothly. They were pretty susceptible to weather changes, too. I think my best one would work for about 14 hours in the summer, but sometimes only 30 seconds in the winter.

    • dukeisduke

      GM clocks used what was called a "three-minute spring", with a spring and set of contact points (like ignition points). The points would make contact and then jump apart (accompanied by a loud click), winding the spring, and allowing the clock to run. The process would repeat roughly every three minutes. Eventually the points would burn and the clock would stop working. When I had my '76 Vega, I had the clock in the car, a spare I had bought at the dealer, and another spare I bought from a guy that had parted out a couple of Vegas, including a Cosworth. I took the clocks apart and cleaned up the points, and when one died, I would rotate in another one with good points. I could pull the instrument bezel, lens, and clock setting knob, and swap out a clock in a couple of minutes.

  • zsvdkhnorc

    I invariably prefer analog clocks to digital.

    The ability of a carmaker to put something in the dash that is less reliable than something you would find on a dollar store shelf, however, leaves only a hint of doubt.

  • buzzboy7

    I love the one in our W116
    For driving lemons it's really easy to glance at the position of the dial and know how much longer you have until you're supposed to come in for the next stint.

  • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    I prefer an analog clock, much like I prefer analog instrumentation, because it's quicker to gather the information at a mere glance.

    This said…some analogs are horribly done. Some digital ones aren't much better, however. I'm looking at you Toyota/Lexus…the clock in my wife's 2002 RX300 should not look identical to the one in an '85 Tercel.

    <img src="http://cimg.carsforsale.com/374582/JTJHF10U920249200_27.jpg"&gt;

    • Devin

      Toyota's digital clocks are bizarre. They're always awful, and they're always so bad at integrating them. Even when the interior is decent the analog clock is crap. It's like a Toyota exec is being blackmailed by the president of "Ugly Digital Clocks Inc." so he's forced to put these things in the entire line.

      • Sjalabais

        Exactly! Our 2002 Camry has the exact same digital clock that our '96 Corolla had. It looks so incredibly out of place, the UDC president must have had a giant bargaining chip.

  • http://hooniverse.com/ Tanshanomi

    I like the one in Mrs. T's Chrysler 300.

    <img src="http://www.tanshanomi.com/temp/2005-Chrysler-300-dash.png"&gt;
    I also like the simplicity of it. There's no AM/PM, date function, etc. There's one pushbutton that speeds up the clock hands. Let go when you reach the correct time. Easy peasy. No need to look up the clock setting procedure in the owners manual twice a year: "With the ignition off, press and hold the high beam momentary flash switch for three seconds to enter program mode. Lock and unlock the passenger-side rear door until the preferred 12/24 Hour display setting is selected…"

    • OA5599

      My wife's car has auto clock set via GPS. Auto daylight savings time adjustment, too.

      The problem is, the government changed the DST dates after the clock was programmed, so now it adjusts for DST a couple of weeks off unless you do it manually.

      • http://hooniverse.com/ Tanshanomi

        The first rule of programming: never hard-code anything.

  • Devin

    I'll take an analog clock in something older where it fits the analog aesthetic, but since new stuff has screens everywhere anyway, might as well just integrate it there digitally, one less thing to clutter up the dash. If you really want to make analog clocks, give new owners a free watch (I looooooove a nice watch).

    • Preludacris

      Agreed! How cool would that be 25 years down the road?

      I bet there's a pretty significant overlap between Hoons and watch lovers.

  • Van_Sarockin

    Analog clocks can be far superior to digitals. Particularly when they are legible and keep accurate time. The, they are much quicker and easier to read accurately and comprehend. They don't have to be fancy, but they do need to be big enough, and fit the rest of the dash design.

  • hwyengr

    When they don't replace vital instrumentation, analog clocks are nice. Where they take the place of what could be a tachometer in a budget trim level, I hate 'em.

    Back in the early '90s, not long after Nissan launched Infiniti with the dashboard clock as their signature piece, my teenage self and a buddy were supposed to meet his parents back at their car in a mall parking lot. Neither of us were wearing watches, and neither of us had any idea what time it was. So, we just hung out by their car for what seemed like hours admiring the brand new Q45 parked next to us, remarking about how fancy its dash clock was, and lamenting that we had no idea what time it was.

    We figured it out eventually. But an embarrasingly long time had elapsed.

  • JayP2112

    A pal got a Passat loan car last week- 3 clocks, analog in the middle of the dash, digital in the dash display, digital in the infotainment center.

    You have to work hard to be late in a Passat.

  • http://www.washington.edu/news/archive/52703 mdharrell

    <img src="http://hooniverse.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Zombee.jpg&quot; width="500">

    If an analog clock is good enough for the 2011 HCOTY, it's good enough for me.

    • https://secure.flickr.com/photos/deadelvis/collections/72157607912481786/ dead_elvis

      You own cars with fancy instrumentation like a clock?

      • http://www.washington.edu/news/archive/52703 mdharrell

        I installed these on the glovebox door of the racing 96:

        <img src="http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7027/6557918239_e0fbdcbdaa.jpg&quot; width="400">

        The clock, unlike the stopwatch, even works!

        • https://secure.flickr.com/photos/deadelvis/collections/72157607912481786/ dead_elvis

          Those are sharp! I'm familiar with Smiths dials on British motorcycles, but I don't imagine they ever supplied the Swedish auto industry, did they?

          • http://www.washington.edu/news/archive/52703 mdharrell

            The factory clock is a VDO. These are strictly aftermarket rally timers. Smiths provided the clocks for the early-style Volvo 1800 dash, but that's the only OE example I've seen in a Swedish car:

            <img src="http://www.volvosolutions.com/files/IMG_239.jpg&quot; width="300">

  • dukeisduke

    My grandfather's '51 Chevy had a clock that you actually had to wind. He was a lifelong watch and clock repairman (my grandparents' house was always full of repaired clocks that the owners never returned to pick up after repair), but never bothered to fix the one in the Chevy.

  • SSurfer321

    Just because you have an analog clock in your dash, doesn't make you luxury. I actually really dislike clocks in the dash. It's almost like the car is trying too hard to be classy.

    **edit** Mr. Emslie knows the Jonas Brother broke up right?!

  • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    Going back to standard time, yesterday, it was obvious I forgot how to change the time in the new-to-me 1998 Grand Cherokee 5.9L's Vehicle Information Center (VIC). The OEM radio has a clock, too, but it has small, recessed buttons to press. Easy.

    The VIC, however…it has two buttons, select and set. I remembered holding set got you into where you can actually change the time/date, but pushing select merely changed from 12-hour to 24-hour time.


    It would have been slightly less painful had I not owned one of these from '97-'99 (just a Limited, however).

    I blew it off as the COOLANT SENSOR BAD, i.e., the ignition is 'on', warning kept going off, so I figured I'd get around to it at some point. It's the 3rd car, so meh.

    <img src="http://i.ebayimg.com/t/93-95-JEEP-GRAND-CHEROKEE-VEHICLE-INFORMATION-CENTER-DISPLAY-VIC-1993-1994-94-/00/s/NTMxWDgwMA==/z/ZX4AAMXQAEFSFZiK/$(KGrHqUOKpYFIKf1iJs-BSFZiKtOdw~~60_35.JPG"&gt;

    When we pulled up to the restaurant, it had somehow rolled back an hour, and was now correct.


    The ones in W124/W126 Mercedes were nice because small, analog, in the cluster not Bogarting useful space, and they keep remarkable time.

    • OA5599

      Hours and date are set with the VIC buttons. Minutes are set via the radio clock to stay in sync.

      I think you hold the set button until the display blinks, then push it momentarily to advance the value.

  • Alcology

    True class is having someone else who knows what time it is for you. That being said, I'm with Devin. Depends on the age of the car.

  • Preludacris

    I prefer my analog clock to be just outside the car – attached only by a steel rod wrapped in the finest of bearskins.
    <img src="http://i194.photobucket.com/albums/z313/ndrwhrnr/DSC_2020_zps93d70183.jpg&quot; width="600">

  • mac350

    The only analog clocks that worked for as long as I owned the cars were the ones in the 69 Karman Ghia and the 72 Mercury Capri. Otherwise, I assumed electrical/mechanical analog clocks in cars were junk and never depended on them to work. Although, I really liked the style of some of the clocks in the 50s and 60s cars my family owned. In some cars the clock would balance out the speedometer in the dash – like in this 48 Ford:
    <img src="http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5262/5667561377_baa686b01c_o.jpg&quot; width="600">

  • Razvan

    Good integration. Middle dial in center console.
    Alfa Romeo 156

  • http://www.datinghome.eu/index.php?m=member_profile&id=153 diy storage sheds

    WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching
    for hooniverse asks- analog clocks in cars

  • vickie wohlgamuth

    What year did they quit putting analog clock on dashboards of cars and what car was it last put in.


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