Created By: MCE on April 12, 2011 Last Edited By: MCE on April 17, 2011
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Stopped Clock

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I wonder when that happened?

A useful method of telling when a certain disaster/event happened is that all of the clocks have stopped at the same time. This can also happen to individual time pieces that have been damaged.

Power cuts can be neatly illustrated with a digital clock flashing '12:00' or 0:00

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Examples:

Film
  • Pan's Labyrinth: the dying father breaks a pocket watch so his son can know his time of death.
  • In the adventure game Gray Matter, strange and seemingly supernatural events happen around the Oxford University campus, and each time the clock stops at the time of the event.
  • The clock tower in Back to the Future stopped after being stuck by lightning, giving Marty and Doc a precise time to use the lighting to time travel.
  • The War of the Worlds (1953). After the Martians use their heat ray for the first time, all the watches of the people in the nearest time stop. When this happens, the people notice that all of the watches stopped at the same time.

Literature
  • The Quiet Earth. When John Hobson wakes up he finds that his watch has stopped at 6:12. As he explores the deserted world he finds that all watches and clocks have also stopped at 6:12.
  • Agatha Christie used it, of course. In "At the Crossroads", it's one of the stock detective-story elements faked by the Genre Savvy murderer to make himself look innocent.

Live action TV
  • A stopped watch used to be a common method of discerning time of death when the cause of death was a fall from a great height. This was abused in at least one episode of Midsomer Murders to make a murder look like a suicide.
  • A minor plot point in Ashes to Ashes. Whenever Drake asks Keats for the time, he gives her the same time: the minute Drake died.
  • In Chinatown, Jack places a watch under the car of the person he's tailing. That way he could know at what time he left by the time the watch was run over.
  • One episode of Columbo involved the time of death being established by a broken watch. Columbo figured the watch must have been planted on the victim's body with the time pre-set, because he was a tough sportsman who wouldn't have wanted to be seen dead wearing such a wimpy, fragile timepiece.

Western animation
  • Johnny Bravo: Subverted. A jet cutting a power line stops Johnny's clock at 12:00, and after seeing similar events, he's convinced that time has stopped for everyone but him.

Video Games
  • In FEAR 2 all clocks have stopped after the events in FEAR.(Bonus points if you can tell me the time)
  • In Dead Space 2 all the clocks have stopped (permanently) at 12:00, odd, considering they are powered L.E.D clocks that would normally keep going, or at least flash.
  • Fallout 3 has every single clock you see stopped at the exact time the Chinese attack occurred. Seems like some of them would have been wind-up or something...
  • The Ace Attorney series use this idea many times - twice in the first game alone.
  • In Silent Hill: Homecoming, all the clocks in town are stopped at (I think) 2:06.
  • In the Agatha Christie pastiche Interactive Fiction game Death Off the Cuff, the victim's watch stopped at the time that he was stabbed. Except that, much like in the actual Christie example, it was faked to draw suspicion away from the perpetrator of said stabbing.

Other
  • There's a The Far Side cartoon where police are investigating a shooting at a clock store. The place has been shot to pieces, all clocks are reading the same time as each other, and the detective is wondering "Now if only we could determine the time of death...." It would make a great page image.

Real Life
  • The Hiroshima Peace Memorial features a clock whose hands have stopped at the time the A-bomb was dropped, 8:15.

Community Feedback Replies: 27
  • April 13, 2011
    amazinglyenough
    In the adventure game Gray Matter, strange and seemingly supernatural events happen around the Oxford University campus, and each time the clock stops at the time of the event.
  • April 13, 2011
    Arivne
    Literature
    • The Quiet Earth. When John Hobson wakes up he finds that his watch has stopped at 6:12. As he explores the deserted world he finds that all watches and clocks have also stopped at 6:12.
  • April 13, 2011
    TooBah
    Fallout 3 has every single clock you see stopped at the exact time the Chinese attack occurred. Seems like some of them would have been wind-up or something...
  • April 13, 2011
    ElaineRose
    A stopped watch used to be a common method of discerning time of death when the cause of death was a fall from a great height. This was abused in at least one episode of Midsomer Murders to make a murder look like a suicide.
  • April 13, 2011
    TTurtle
    See also Right On The Tick. That's a much broader trope, but arguably this is a subtrope of that one.
  • April 13, 2011
    Cidolfas
    The Ace Attorney series use this idea many times - twice in the first game alone.
  • April 13, 2011
    robybang
    • Johnny Bravo: Subverted. A jet cutting a power line stops Johnny's clock at 12:00, and after seeing similar events, he's convinced that time has stopped for everyone but him.
  • April 13, 2011
    Stratadrake
    There's a The Far Side cartoon where police are investigating a shooting at a clock store. The place has been shot to pieces, all clocks are reading the same time as each other, and the detective is wondering "Now if only we could determine the time of death...." It would make a great page image.
  • April 13, 2011
    MCE
    The far side image would a good one, anyone got the image?
  • April 13, 2011
    dontcallmewave
    This trope is refferanced in Watchmen
  • April 13, 2011
    CousinApril
    Back to the Future anyone?
  • April 13, 2011
    neoYTPism
    What about it, for those of us unfamiliar with it @ Cousin April
  • April 13, 2011
    MCE
    I remember the back to the future example well enough to put some detail in.
  • April 13, 2011
    halfmillennium
    I think most digital clocks run on 24-hour time, so they reset to 00:00.

    • A minor plot point in Ashes To Ashes. Whenever Drake asks Keats for the time, he gives her the same time: the minute Drake died.
  • April 13, 2011
    TonyG
    In Chinatown, Jack places a watch under the car of the person he's tailing. That way he could know at what time he left by the time the watch was run over.
  • April 13, 2011
    LeeM
    One episode of Columbo involved the time of death being established by a broken watch. Columbo figured the watch must have been planted on the victim's body with the time pre-set, because he was a tough sportsman who wouldn't have wanted to be seen dead wearing such a wimpy, fragile timepiece.
  • April 13, 2011
    akazilliadenaro
    i think this happened in an episode of Twilight Zone
  • April 13, 2011
    PaulA
    • Agatha Christie used it, of course. In "At the Crossroads", it's one of the stock detective-story elements faked by the Genre Savvy murderer to make himself look innocent.
  • April 14, 2011
    Arivne
    Film
    • The War Of The Worlds (1953). After the Martians use their heat ray for the first time, all the watches of the people in the nearest time stop. When this happens, the people notice that all of the watches stopped at the same time.
  • April 14, 2011
    SKJAM
    • In the first The Brave And The Bold story involving the Time Commander, his powers have the side effect of stopping clocks at five minutes to twelve--even when that's not the correct time. It's apparently his Zorro Mark.

  • April 14, 2011
    MCE
    [[quoteblock]] "I think most digital clocks run on 24-hour time, so they reset to 00:00. " [[/quoteblock]]

    Digital clocks in things like microwaves, ovens and VCR's often flash '12:00' and most a good deal of clocks can be set for 12 or 24 time.
  • April 15, 2011
    randomsurfer
    ^Plus if they're broken they don't show any time at all, they go black. At least in my experience.
  • April 15, 2011
    bluepenguin
    In Silent Hill Homecoming, all the clocks in town are stopped at (I think) 2:06.

    In the Agatha Christie pastiche Interactive Fiction game Death Off the Cuff, the victim's watch stopped at the time that he was stabbed. Except that, much like in the actual Christie example, it was faked to draw suspicion away from the perpetrator of said stabbing.
  • April 15, 2011
    tete
    When a Player finishes a mission in The World Ends With You, the timer (clock) on their hand stops, showing how much longer they had ("Ten minutes to spare!"). Does that count?
  • April 16, 2011
    Stratadrake
    No. This is about a stopped clock providing indication of when whatever-event-caused-it-to-stop happened.
  • April 17, 2011
    Boston
    Real Life: The Hiroshima Peace Memorial features a clock whose hands have stopped at the time the A-bomb was dropped, 8:15. (This would also be a good page image.)
  • April 17, 2011
    Stratadrake
    If what I'm finding on GIS is any indication, no, it wouldn't. However, this would probably work even better: [1]

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