Clock Tattoos: Meanings, Pictures, Designs, and Ideas

Updated on December 13, 2016
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Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings, and history.

Clock Tattoos: History, Design, & Meaning
Clock Tattoos: History, Design, & Meaning | Source

The Timeless Clock Tattoo

Clocks are fascinating things, 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.

Clock tattoos are not really a mainstream 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
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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 the clock 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

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.

A clock 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.

Clock 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.


Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.

— William Shakespeare
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Clock Tattoo Design Options

mantel clock
broken or melting watch (like Salvador Dali)
grandfather clock
cuckoo clock
the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland ("I'm late!")
analog or digital display
clock tower
Big Ben (in London)
pendulum clock
alarm clock
pocket watch
tempus fugit ("time flies" in Latin)
When it comes to clock tattoos, there are many different variations and designs to choose from. Here's a table to help you brainstorm options.

Other Ways to Represent Time: Hourglass, Infinity, Etc.

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Infinity Symbol: Another Way to Represent Time
Infinity Symbol: Another Way to Represent Time
Infinity Symbol: Another Way to Represent Time | Source

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

— Bil Keane
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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 clock tattoo (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.

If you're still in the researching phase, or if you're just looking, you may be interested in the links below.

Lost time is never found again.

— Benjamin Franklin

Forever is composed of nows.

— Emily Dickinson

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        Frankie first tattoo 2 years ago

        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.

      • profile image

        Olivia 3 years ago

        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?

      • profile image

        Olivia 3 years ago

        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?

      • profile image

        Angel 3 years ago

        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!

      • Seeker7 profile image

        Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

        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!

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

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

      • thelyricwriter profile image

        Richard Ricky Hale 5 years ago from West Virginia









        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.

      • unknown spy profile image

        IAmForbidden 5 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

        that was cool lyricwriter!

      • snowdrops profile image

        snowdrops 5 years ago from The Second Star to the Right

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

      • alocsin profile image

        alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

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

      • MzChaos profile image

        MzChaos 5 years ago from Indianapolis

        Very anything with signs and symbols.

      • Frank Atanacio profile image

        Frank Atanacio 5 years ago from Shelton

        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 profile image

        BeyondMax 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

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

      • snowdrops profile image

        snowdrops 5 years ago from The Second Star to the Right

        Wow creative designs and interesting tattoos.

      • Ruchira profile image

        Ruchira 5 years ago from United States

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

      • tammyswallow profile image

        Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

        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!