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Ship’s Bell Time

In the days of sailing ships, crews stood watch in accordance with the ordered chiming of bells.
By Tom Burden, Last updated 2/8/2019
By Tom Burden, Last updated 2/8/2019
Weems and Plath 8 day wind ship's bell clock

The Atlantis 8-Day Wind Ship's Bell Clock can be mounted to a bulkhead or displayed on a desk or mantel with the optional Mahogany Base.

Striking clocks use the traditional ship’s bells. The following is taken from Chapman’s standard reference book, Piloting, Seamanship and Small Boat Handling:

Ship’s bell time originated in sailing ship days, when the crew of a vessel was divided into Port and Starboard Watches, each on duty four hours, then off four hours.  One stroke of the ship’s bell indicates the first half hour of the watch. Then an additional bell is struck for each succeeding half hour. Thus eight bells indicates the end of a four-hour watch. When the time calls for two or more strokes, they are sounded in groups of two.

The first five watches are as follows:

  • First Watch, 8pm to Midnight (20:00 to 00:00 hours)
  • Middle Watch, Midnight to 4am (00:00 to 04:00 hours)
  • Morning Watch, 4am to 8am (04:00 to 08:00 hours)
  • Forenoon Watch, 8am to Noon (08:00 to 12:00 hours)
  • Afternoon Watch, Noon to 4pm (12:00 to 16:00 hours)

The next four hours are divided into two Dog Watches—the first Dog Watch, 4pm to 6pm (16:00 to 18:00 hours) and the Second Dog Watch, 6pm to 8pm (18:00 to 20:00 hours). By means of the Dog Watches, the watches can be changed every day, so that each watch gets a turn of eight hours rest at night. Otherwise each member of the crew would be on duty the same hours every day.

Number of Bells Bell Pattern Hour (am and pm)
One bell o 12:30, 4:30, 8:30
Two bells oo 1:00, 5:00, 9:00
Three bells oo o 1:30, 5:30, 9:30
Four bells oo oo 2:00, 6:00, 10:00
Five bells oo oo o 2:30, 6:30, 10:30
Six bells oo oo oo 3:00, 7:00, 11:00
Seven bells   oo oo oo o 3:30, 7:30, 11:30
Eight bells oo oo oo oo 4:00, 8:00, 12:00