The 6 Best Hourglasses

Updated March 17, 2018 by Vann Vicente

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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 picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best hourglass on Amazon.

6. Lily's Home SW688

With its classic wooden frame and oak finish, the Lily's Home SW688 makes for a lovely centerpiece. Also, its curved form adds an elegant touch. Unfortunately, the timing is somewhat inaccurate because the sand tends to flow in spurts.
  • strong build quality
  • hand-blown glass
  • black feet detract from the look
Brand Lilyshome
Model SW688
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

5. Kikkerland ST05

The Kikkerland ST05 may look simple at first glance, but don't be fooled. Underneath its attractive wooden base is a hidden magnet that helps the iron grains within the globes create fascinating little stalagmites as they fall into the magnetic field.
  • thick and sturdy glass
  • great conversation piece
  • particles tend to stick
Brand Kikkerland
Model ST05
Weight 9.1 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

4. Borway Clock

Ideal for the bedroom or study table of a young girl, the Borway Clock has heart-shaped bases and pillars filled with either blue or purple shiny crystals. Also, it is packaged in a gift box so that you can give it as a present right away.
  • accurate timing
  • sharp and lively hues
  • dimensions are slightly off
Brand Borway
Model pending
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

3. SZAT Crystal Timer

If you need to save space, the compact SZAT Crystal Timer stands at just under eight inches tall. The model is filled with striking bright blue sand and has a handsome carved glass frame that will look gorgeous on any desk or table.
  • beautiful packaging
  • great customer service
  • also comes in purple
Brand SZAT
Model pending
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. PTC Black Dual Dragon

The PTC Black Dual Dragon is the perfect timekeeping ornament for fans of fantasy worlds and myths because of its detailed elements, high level of craftsmanship, and eye-popping red sand. It's great for timing board games, too.
  • reasonably priced
  • smooth and even flow
  • made of firm and tough resin
Brand PTC
Model 8258
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Abergele Set

If you want to build healthy habits, the Abergele Set comes with both a thirty-minute and a five-minute unit, intended to help you budget your schedule between work and rest. Also, it includes a manual with tips on improving your time management.
  • stylish color scheme
  • flat base improves stability
  • balanced form factor
Brand Abergel
Model AB-0
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

The Benefits Of Owning An Hourglass

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.

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.

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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Last updated on March 17, 2018 by Vann Vicente

Vann Vicente is an undergraduate Economics student and writer who lives somewhere in the Eastern Hemisphere. He spends about half of his time watching films and is still smiling about Moonlight's incredible Best Picture victory.

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