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Clock Tattoos: Meanings, Pictures, Designs, and Ideas

Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings, and history.

Discover the history and meaning behind clock tattoos, and peruse various designs.

Discover the history and meaning behind clock tattoos, and peruse various designs.

The Timeless Clock Tattoo

Clocks are fascinating objects, both visually and symbolically. A clock tattoo can be designed to incorporate a variety of symbolic and meaningful elements, and since there are many different types of clocks to choose from, it's easy to create a unique and personal design.

Clocks are not really a mainstream tattoo design, so when you do see one, it can really catch your eye. To accommodate the detail and shading in the clock and its mechanism, these tattoos tend to be larger. When done well, they can be extremely stunning and completely unique. Clocks can be designed to look masculine, feminine, or neutral, so anyone can wear one.

Below, you will find a discussion of clock tattoo designs and meanings, with many pictures, to help you find inspiration for your next tattoo.

Time and tide wait for no man.

— Chaucer

An "Alice in Wonderland"–inspired clock tattoo.

An "Alice in Wonderland"–inspired clock tattoo.

Time is the longest distance between two places.

— Tennessee Williams

Clock Tattoo Meanings

The clock tattoo can represent a variety of different meanings. Although they represent time, they can represent so much more. Remember, your tattoo symbolizes what you want it to. Below are some possible meanings of this tattoo.

  • Time
  • Incarceration (literal or metaphorical)
  • A special moment
  • Life or mortality
  • Death
  • Existence
  • Endlessness or infinity
  • Structure
  • Stability
  • A beating heart or a drumbeat
  • Endless love

Life and Death

In general, a clock symbolizes life and death. Time never stops, and we tend to forget that fact. One day, time will catch up with us all, and our short time here will be over.

Clock tattoos can be designed to represent this very understanding. A tattoo designed to represent life can incorporate various living elements such as flowers or roses, while those meant to represent death might incorporate skulls, fire, or the grim reaper. To represent Christian life, angels or a cross might be used.

Endless Love

This tattoo could also symbolize an endless love. It could be the love you have for your parents or your children (in which case, their names, faces, or dates of birth might be incorporated). One common symbol that is used for such designs is the heart. Doves, flowers, angels, and stars could also be used.

Inspiration

These tattoos might also be designed with inspirational quotes (such as “Don’t let time pass you by” or “Make every second count”) included on banners or embedded into the clock itself.

A wrist tattoo of a watch.

A wrist tattoo of a watch.

Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.

— William Shakespeare

Clock Tattoo Design Options

wristwatch

hourglass

mantel clock

broken or melting watch (like Salvador Dali)

stopwatch

grandfather clock

cuckoo clock

the white rabbit from "Alice in Wonderland" ("I'm late!")

sundial

analog or digital display

clock tower

Big Ben (in London)

pendulum clock

alarm clock

pocket watch

tempus fugit ("time flies" in Latin)

Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.

— Bil Keane

Time moves in one direction, memory in another.

— William Gibson

Before You Get Your Tattoo

There are some very important things that you should remember before you choose a tattoo of a clock (or any tattoo, for that matter).

  • Make sure that you take the time to fully research it and think about what it should mean. Make sure you’re absolutely clear on the details of what it will look like and how it will fit on your body.
  • You want to make sure that you completely understand what your tattoo stands for. You don't want to find out afterwards that it might represent something completely different from what you wanted.
  • Don't rush to get inked! People who get inked on an impulse usually have regrets about their choice later on down the road.

Lost time is never found again.

— Benjamin Franklin

Forever is composed of nows.

— Emily Dickinson

Comments

Frankie first tattoo on June 21, 2015:

I always wanted a clock tattoo on my side so " time is always on my side " and it means a lot because time isnt real but it controls everything and sometimes it goes slow and other times it races by. So the permanant clock just says to me that I have the right compassion.

Olivia on December 22, 2014:

I want to get a tattoo with the setrniey prayer in it. However, I want something creative that isn't just the words or a scroll with words on it. Any ideas as to how I can incorporate that prayer into a more artistic design?

Olivia on December 22, 2014:

I want to get a tattoo with the setrniey prayer in it. However, I want something creative that isn't just the words or a scroll with words on it. Any ideas as to how I can incorporate that prayer into a more artistic design?

Angel on December 18, 2014:

You do an amazing job! I saw The Mayo flieamis photos, because they are a friend of my friends and I just met her this past year and they are great people. I LOVE all those photos and everything on your website. I hope to get in contact with you and get my flieamis done with you. Great work!

Helen Murphy Howell from Fife, Scotland on August 13, 2012:

This is stunning! I don't know what it is about time pieces, clocks and so on but I find them fascinating - especially the old clocks and watches and being able to see all the bits inside still working. But I think my fascination does go deeper than just admiring the workmanship but I couldn't really explain why I like them. So needless to say when I spotted this hub of yours I was - as always - intrigued and fascinated by the information you've given.

The meanings are very interesting as well and especially the 'incarcertation' meaning, I wonder where that came from? But thinking about time, yes I could imagine there will be a profound connection.

Once more a thoroughly fascinating and awesome hub with stunningly beautiful photos of the tatoos! Voted up + shared!

Dianna Mendez on August 12, 2012:

Interesting read once again. We have a clock that looks similar to the last large photo post. Very realistic!

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on August 12, 2012:

Tammy

Ruchira

Snowdrops

Max

Frank

MzChaos

Alocsin

Snowdrops

Unknown spy

Thank you all for your time and comments always! Frank, perfectly said. These are very unique design, also like the gears as well Alocsin. Tammy, your right. Interesting symbolism, but true. We abide more my time then time us. Max, some do actually represent time travel. Appreciate the interesting comments all. Take care.

Life Under Construction from Neverland on August 10, 2012:

that was cool lyricwriter!

snowdrops from The Second Star to the Right on August 10, 2012:

wow.that was awesome! clock tattoos..never thought about that!

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on August 09, 2012:

I love the ones that show the intricate gears and clockworks. Voting this Up and Beautiful.

MzChaos from Indianapolis on August 09, 2012:

Very cool...love anything with signs and symbols.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on August 08, 2012:

You know I'd like to get a clock tattoo.. so my body would tell the correct time twice a day..yeah? LOL great share buddy as always

BeyondMax from Sydney, Australia on August 08, 2012:

Interesting approach =) Kind of makes me think of traveling in time.

snowdrops from The Second Star to the Right on August 08, 2012:

Wow creative designs and interesting tattoos.

Ruchira from United States on August 07, 2012:

gosh..they sure are magnificent but can't imagine the pain to undergo them :)

Tammy from North Carolina on August 07, 2012:

I have never seen a tattoo like this in person, but this is a beautiful and unique idea. It kind of signifies that we are slaves to time and the clock is always ticking. Intriguing and very interesting. Sharing!