Chess Clocks & Timers

All About Choosing & Buying Chess Clocks & Timers.
Including Reviews of the Best and Most Recommended Chess Clocks & Timers of 2016!
Better Late than Never: A Brief History of the Chess Clock

For several hundred years in the winding history of chess, players often found themselves in contest with their own endurance rather than wit as matches dragged on inexorably for hours, days - and what must have seemed like eternity.

Before the 19th century, there was no limit to how long a player could contemplate their move or how long a match could carry on. On average, a single game would take several hours to complete. In many a not-so-extreme case, days would go by before a checkmate was placed or a draw was (frustratingly) achieved. In the great tedium of endless anticipation, emotions were sure to have been triggered and discourteous language was almost certainly commonplace.

After several centuries of growing popularity and the great forbearance of players and spectators alike, it became painfully obvious that without a chess timer system, the great game would be consigned to those with infinite patience and time at their disposal.

The mid-1800s saw the first proposal of chess timers after several international tournaments had taken place. Due to the competitive and time-constricted nature of tournaments, it was no longer practical to permit single matches to last up to 9 hours on average. The first iteration of a chess clock was a simple set of sandglass, and the first officially timed chess match was played in 1861.

By the 1870s, chess timers were becoming standardized and tournament players would be given the option of choosing between sandglass timers and makeshift chess clocks, usually consisting of a pair of watches. By 1883, the first mechanical chess timer was created called the "tumbling" chess clock, which was composed of a pair of identical pendulum clocks balanced across a beam. A player would complete his move and position the pendulum to stop his timer and initiate the opponent's clock. It was with this first official chess clock that it became an accepted rule that the first player to run out of time should forfeit the match (prior to this, as chess timers were becoming a customary practice, players were merely fined for exceeding their time limit).

The analog push button clock was implemented by the early 1900s, along with the chess flag that made it easier to see when your timer was running out. The first electronic chess clock was manufactured in 1964 followed by the first digital chess clock in 1973. In 1988 the first digital chess clock that added time increments after each move was constructed, patented by and named after chess champion Bobby Fischer. The majority of chess tournaments today employ use of digital clocks for the purpose of time delay and increment control.

I Want to Buy a Chess Clock, What is the Right Choice?

A chess clock makes a fine addition to any chessboard and is a great way to practice increasing your chess tempo and calculation speed. It adds an edge of competitiveness to what might otherwise be a casual game of chess with family or a friend and can be a motivating factor in taking your skill and enthusiasm to the next level.

There are a great deal of chess clocks on the market today ranging from the basic and inexpensive to the ornate and valuable. Although a chess timer can be found to fit any board and budget, the principal decision lies in the choice between analog or digital.

Well Then, Analog or Digital?

There's a general saying that the analog chess clock is a thing of the past. There are reasons to support this claim, such as the fact that the majority of chess tournaments today use the digital clock for purposes of time control, such as delay and increments. This is a very important factor in the professional chess world, where delays and increments prevent the necessity of "racing" the opponent by completing your move faster and "banging" the clock.

Another argument you are likely to hear against the analog chess timer is the fact that due to its mechanical nature, it is far more likely to suffer wear and tear and break down much sooner than its digital counterpart. Again, it is true that analog chess clocks are made from moving parts and do run the eventual risk of malfunctioning (but surely you've heard of the centuries-old grandfather clock that keeps on ticking?).

In spite of all the reasons to consider the analog chess clock a relic of the past, manufacturers all over the world still produce them in large numbers. Why? It's because there is still a large market for them. Chess players all over the world adore their analog chess clocks, and if they ever do break down beyond repair (analog chess clocks are not guaranteed to break down), they are simply replaced by their loyal admirers.

There is something about the analog chess clock that has a classic and authentic feel and look. The chessboard itself is a simple and old-fashioned implement, therefore it only feels natural to accompany it with a chess clock of the same character. Analog chess clocks also tend to be of higher quality and design than their digital counterparts, often serving as much decorative purpose as practical. It is not to say that digital chess clocks cannot be attractive, but the antiquated nature of the analog chess clock does give it an ornamental aura that is often lacking with the digital version.

Deciding on which to choose depends on what manner of chess you intend to use it for. Both variants serve the same purpose - they give the match a time limit by which it must finish. Digital chess timers are ideal for games of a more technical nature where increments and delays are preferred. For owners of elaborate, refined chessboards, analog clocks of the same nature are preferred. It is often found that serious chess players are owners of both variants of the chess clock, a simplified solution to preference.

Chess Clock Reviews - The Best Chess Clocks & Timers of 2016:

In this article, we will review five chess clocks to give you a better idea of the different styles and functions there are to choose from.


#1 BHB Large Tiltback Chess Clock:

A popular brand and model used by countless chess players worldwide, the BHB Large Tiltback Chess Clock has a reputation for durability and appeal. This large analog chess clock comes in a maple wood case with your choice of natural color or mahogany stained wood.

It has a tilted wooden base for easy viewing and is equipped with a red hour flag to determine end of play and last minute tracking. The clock functions with an easy-to-use winding mechanism that provides hours of play on a single winding. It is designed to withstand years of wear-and-tear and countless chess games with faithful accuracy. More Details: BHB Large Tiltback Chess Clock at TheChessStore.com

#2 BHB Digital Chess Clock:

The recognized chess clock manufacturer's digital variant is highly popular among tournament players and chess enthusiasts worldwide who prefer technically-controlled play. It is equipped with all the necessary functions sought after by players who prefer top-quality digital clocks for their chess games. The BHB Digital Chess Clock comes with 30 standard pre-set programs and lets you create your own custom programs. Sound on and off options are available and there are levers on opposing sides of the clock for quick and easy switching of sides. It comes with instructions and a program list at the bottom of the clock for convenient reference. More Details: BHB Digital Chess Clock at TheChessStore.com

#3 Chronos Digital Chess Game Clock:

Chronos is known for its tough and stylish design of chess clocks and the Digital Game Clock is no exception. This digital chess clock comes in 2 versions with a push button or touchpad to choose from. Designed for durability and sophistication, the sleek Digital Game Clock is built with a tough metal casing to endure years of rigorous play. It comes with over 70 pre-programmed time controls and lets you avail of 12 custom defined time settings. 3 AA-batteries included with purchase. More Details:
Chronos Digital Chess Game Clock - BUTTON (HouseOfStaunton.com)
Chronos Digital Chess Game Clock - TOUCH (HouseOfStaunton.com)

#4 ZMart Fun II Digital Chess Clock with Black Exterior:

The ZMart Fun II Digital Chess Clock with Black Exterior is an all-purpose digital chess clock with all the necessary time setting required for various chess modes. It boasts lightweight, anti-slide attributes for maximum stability and is housed in a durable plastic case for long-term use. It is equipped with stainless steel touch sensors and comes with various time controls that include blitz, tournament modes, move counter options, delays and increments and other game modes as well as up to 3 programmable settings. Sound and light on and off options are available and it comes in 3 different LED light and button colors - red, blue and green. Requires 4 C-batteries for use (not included). One year warranty included. More Details: ZMart Fun II Digital Chess Clock with Black Exterior at HouseOfStaunton.com

#5 Chess Clock Dark Stained Wood Case with Base:

The Chess Store's Chess Clock Dark Stained Wood Case with Base is a durable and practical analog chess clock designed for long-term use without the need of batteries. Just wind-and-play for hours of chess play on a single winding. It comes with a red hour flag to notify you when you're running out of time and display last-minute tracking. This attractive analog chess clock is designed for years of use with consistent precision. More Details: Chess Clock Dark Stained Wood Case with Base at HouseOfStaunton.com

These are just some of the many chess clocks to choose from. No matter what you decide, have fun and always enjoy the game. Best of luck!

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