The 10 Best Hourglasses
This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in June of 2016. For anyone who appreciates the simplicity of an older age, these hourglasses will free you from checking your watch or smartphone constantly, as they act as timers for everything from boiling an egg to doing an exercise routine. Coming in a wide range of designs and filled with different colors of sand and other materials, they make great decorations, too. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best hourglass on Amazon.
The Benefits Of Owning An Hourglass
You may not realize it, but this is actually your body’s way of trying to keep you healthy and sane.
The goal here is to make you feel less tied to your desk and the rudiments of the workday.
At first glance, it may seem like an hourglass is not much more than a decoration. We have so many nuanced ways to tell time these days — from the timers on our stoves to the supercomputers in our pockets — that there doesn’t seem to be much need for an ancient device like an hourglass. When deployed properly, however, these simple timers can actually be good for you.
The problem that arises in too many work environments is a kind of non-stop effort that actually causes productivity and worker health to decline. If you work at a desk, it’s particularly important that you don’t spend your whole workday seated, as this can lead to everything from increased risk of heart disease and blood clots to obesity and even depression.
You probably already know this to some extent, even unconsciously. There’s a point or two in your workday where you probably can’t stand sitting at your terminal any longer, and you have to get up to get some coffee, bother a coworker, or just tactfully avoid your boss for a little while. You may not realize it, but this is actually your body’s way of trying to keep you healthy and sane.
A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that taking short, five-minute walks every hour or so significantly lifted the mood of its test subjects. In addition to feeling happier, the participants reported increased levels of energy and focus throughout the day.
Now, you could easily set a timer on your phone for 60 minutes and get up for a five-minute walk every time it goes off, but I would argue that there’s something too clinical in that approach. The goal here is to make you feel less tied to your desk and the rudiments of the workday. Even though the walks might be good for you physically, constraining yourself to such an exacting break schedule might eventually have an adverse effect, as you begin to see your walks as just another task.
With an hourglass, you can time your work segments in a way that is less precise, which will add subtle variety to your break schedule. When those breaks do arrive, you won’t have to respond to any alarm sound, either, which will keep the peace with your coworkers while also preventing you from feeling jarred out of work if you’re in a good flow. Additionally, the decorative aspect of whichever hourglass you choose will serve to brighten up and personalize your workspace, potentially lifting your mood even further.
How To Choose The Right Hourglass For You
We’ve talked a lot about the potential health benefits of an hourglass, especially when deployed at work. There are additional reasons to own one of these cool little trinkets, though, and knowing exactly what you want to do with your hourglass will significantly narrow down the list we’ve laid out for you.
I find that using an hourglass to time a workout is much less stressful, as the devices make it harder to gauge exactly how much time you have left in your task.
If you like the sound of what you read above, and you want an hourglass than can help you stay alert and happy at work, then a simple model that times an hour with relative accuracy is all you really need. There are options out there that time closer to 30 minutes, and these you can simply flip back over to get to an hour. Some are also designed around the desire to improve your workday, and might even come with a smaller glass to time your breaks.
It’s entirely possible that the work scenarios we’ve painted don’t apply to you, however, and that you just want an hourglass for decorative purposes, or to time another activity. If that activity is relatively inert, you can put your focus on the look of a given glass. There are all kinds of hourglasses on the market that can appeal to a wide variety of tastes. Start by finding a few that would match your style and décor, and worry about additional features and functionality after that.
If you’re anything like me, you probably spend too much energy staring at the timers on your treadmill or exercise bike. I find that using an hourglass to time a workout is much less stressful, as the devices make it harder to gauge exactly how much time you have left in your task. This is also a great way to time certain children’s activities, like watching television or playing with a tablet or smartphone.
For deployments like these, it’s wise to look for an hourglass that’s not actually made from glass. There are options made from durable plastics that are much more capable in exercise environments or in the presence of children. The only thing more agonizing than having to replace a broken hourglass is having to clean up all that sand.
A Brief History Of The Hourglass
Humans have employed a number of methods to decipher their experience of time throughout history. Early techniques involved slow currents of water in which chimes floated. These early water clocks — likely invented in India or China — were also the first alarms of any kind.
Evidence of hourglass use in the West wouldn’t arise until much later.
The hourglass first appeared to historians on a sarcophagus dated to roughly 350 C.E. This finding supports the theory that hourglasses were first used in ancient Egypt, particularly in the area of Alexandria. Evidence of hourglass use in the West wouldn’t arise until much later.
A 14th century fresco by Ambrogio Lorenzetti depicts an hourglass, and while this is the earliest hard evidence of the item's use in the Western world, there is some indication that they existed among ancient Greeks as early as the 8th century C.E. Compared to water clocks, hourglasses were very popular aboard ships, where the motion of the ship would disturb the accuracy of the former, but not the latter.
By the 1500s, however, use of hourglasses waned significantly, as mechanical clocks became more ubiquitous. Today, hourglasses are rarely seen outside of certain board games or anywhere but the desks of discerning individuals.
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