"It will take you precisely three minutes and seventeen seconds to read through this article; 2.63 seconds longer
than it will take for me to rob you blind."
"Always a slave to the schedule, that's me."
The Clock King is the consummate planner. He doesn't just know when the guard change happens, but what routes they take, how long they spend in the lavatory, how long the cops will take to respond to a burglary alarm with
5:12 PM traffic on a rainy day, and
that the 5:20 train will take two minutes and fifteen seconds longer than normal to leave the station, allowing them enough time to get on at 5:22:10.
He has such millimetric precision and obsessive attention to detail that he will frequently boast
of being "23 seconds ahead of schedule", or berate lackeys with "You're 17 seconds late". Expect the Clock King to always carry a pocketwatch and chain, or a very expensive looking wristwatch with more hands than Shiva. For some reason, they dislike digital clocks. Maybe they feel those lack (villainous) personality?
Also, it's worth noting most Clock Kings and Queens are Villains
. It's not that heroes can't be this obsessive
at planning...they just tend to go with Indy Ploy
instead. There's also the larger idea that the villains plan and scheme in secret ahead of time, and the heroes have to react to what villains initiate
Maybe an explanation for the reason why most Clock Kings and Queens are Villains
resides in the conflict Harmony Versus Discipline
: they subscribe to the latter, the belief that mankind can and should master themselves and their environment for the betterment of all. This can lead to attitudes like Insufferable Genius
at best to Lack of Empathy
at worst, and all the range of The Jerk Index
. Maybe the Universe just wants to be accepted and it favors those who follow harmony. Notice that the polar opposite of a Clock King would be an Idiot Hero
, who excels at the Indy Ploy
He's almost the mirror of The Chessmaster
. He can't manipulate people
, but he can rely on their strict adherence to patterns and schedules
. When they don't
, he goes off the rails
(of course, a real
planner will know the exact probabilities of each failure, and plan accordingly to win either case
). These guys aren't that hot at Xanatos Speed Chess
. He is, however, Awesome By Analysis
. He's an example of what happens when a Schedule Fanatic
starts to learn other people's schedules as well as his own. Common accessories and plots include the Magic Countdown
and Time Bomb
. Fond of Ludicrous Precision
, sometimes to the extent that he suffers from Super OCD
Oh, and you had better pray
they don't get their hands on Time Travel
See also Creature of Habit
, who also likes punctuality, although rarely for nefarious plans.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Hakuba Saguru, a guest star in Detective Conan and a main character in the sister anime Magic Kaito, a detective in pursuit of the elusive Phantom Thief Kaitou Kid. Hakuba carries around a gold pocket watch with which he notes the precise times of crimes down to a hundredth of a second. And apparently KID picked this up to a certain extent while fighting Conan.
- There's a rare hero example of this trope in Death Note, with L being able to calculate Kira's thought process almost down to the second. That's because the usual hero and villain roles are swapped. Kira is a Villain Protagonist matching wits with L as his Hero Antagonist.
- L-Elf from Valvrave the Liberator is a semi-heroic example. The precision of his predictions borders on supernatural, at times.
- Both versions of Clock King in The DCU; one is William Tockman, Insufferable Genius with a peerless ability to judge time to the second and use this to his advantage; the other is the current Clock King, with actual time-based powers.
- There was also a character mentioned in 52 called Clock Queen, but she was seemingly killed off-panel.
- The main shtick of the Fantastic Four's Mad Thinker, predictive genius included.
- Who's pretty good at it though. He once set a timebomb based on how quickly the Fantastic Four would fly into space (where he's never been), attack an alien base (that he's never seen), rescue a hostage (who he's never personally met), spend time arguing over personal matters (none of which the FF have made public), and return to Earth's atmosphere (just in time for the bomb to go off). His Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Another part of his shtick though, is that there is almost always one little thing he doesn't take into account that derails his carefully thought out plans. In one of his schemes he failed to account for the Fantastic Four's mailman.
- In early stories his disadvantages were his over-reliance on robot henchmen like the Awesome Android, which could follow his plans to the letter but couldn't think creatively enough to handle the plan failing, and his inability to account for "the human element". One early Avengers story has him trying to overcome this weakness by employing human henchmen.
- Depending on the writer, Spider-Man's Black Cat is one of these, planning events so it looked like anyone going after her was having terrible luck. Later on she develops powers that let her do this for real with just probability alteration.
- Herr Kleiser and Loki from The Ultimates; both pull off complex plans and deceive the heroes into moving according to their wishes without a hitch (and in Loki's case, warping reality to accomodate his plans)...until the hitch comes, at which time they're both caught completely flat-footed.
- Amadeus Cho in The Incredible Hercules is a heroic version of the trope. He actually sees equations floating in the air around people as he calculates the exact result of any given action.
- Non-villainous: the order of chronomasters of Chronomistress Out Of Time, who practically treat every millisecond as a sacred treasure in its own right. They are, in fact, responsible for making sure that time in Equestria adds up perfectly—-something necessary in a land where the passage of nights and days must be regulated by hand.
- Phileas Fogg from Around the World in 80 Days. He knows exactly how many steps it is from his favorite haunt to his home. He follows the same daily routine meticulously, expecting the hired help to do the same; he even fires a servant for giving him shaving water that was two degrees too cold. After betting his fortune on being able to carry out the titular feat, he plans out a route that will take him exactly 80 days to complete. He doesn't fit this trope perfectly since he isn't a villain, but he does have a total breakdown when it looks like his plan has collapsed...only to learn that he forgot to take into account the date change crossing the Pacific Ocean.
- Phileas Fogg is the Unbuilt Trope for the Clock King: published at 1872, his case is the Trope Maker but also explores all the ramifications about that trope: Being a Mysterious Stranger, the readers never know any of his Back Story, and only in the very last chapters the reader realizes that Fogg’s extreme reserve was not an Evil Brit case, but only a severe case of British Stuffiness. Unlike all his imitators, Fogg is very good at Xanatos Speed Chess and the Indy Ploy, because that’s the only way he can win The Bet. Fogg’s plan didn’t work, but it didn’t work in his favor: the Universe rewards him granting him almost an extra day. And the one obsessed with his clock was not him, but his employee, Jean Passepartout.
- To drive this home further, his servant later points out to him that he could have done it with time to spare if had they not gone through India; Fogg admits that he's right, but if they had done that, Fogg would have not rescued Aouda, fallen in love and married her; his point is, some things are more important than being punctual.
- There was a short-short story revolving around a publishing company secretary with this kind of mind. She murders her boss merely by paying attention to his unconsciously inflexible schedule, and delaying him from leaving the office for a specific amount of time, less than a minute. He is run down by a bus. Fridge Logic comes into play here when you realise that just because the boss has an inflexible schedule, it doesn't mean the bus service does.
- In a Norwegian short story, the victim was so obsessed with punctuality and performing every mundane task at the precise same second each day, that his killer was able to kill him by slowing his clock down by 30 seconds, thereby making him miss his bus, throwing him into a completely fuddled state and inducing a fatal heart attack.
- The Master Timekeeper (called the Ticktockman, but not to his face) in Harlan Ellison's short story "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman not only is a Clock King but he runs the entire world on time and on schedule.
- Malvolio Bent of the Discworld novel Making Money, who resets the bank's clock every day when it falls two seconds behind. The novel's protagonist, Moist von Lipwig, demonstrates the capacity to memorize and exploit others' schedules when he breaks Owlswick Jenkins out of the Tanty, although he dislike adhering to one himself.
- The earlier novel Thief of Time features Jeremy Clockson, a clockmaker who produces the world's most accurate timepieces and is implied to have assaulted or possibly even killed another member of the guild for deliberately setting his clock fast. He turns out to be the son of the anthropomorphic personification of Time itself.
- The Daemon, of Danial Suarez's eponymous novel, is this. All the way. To the power of n.
- Grand Admiral Thrawn is quite adept at Xanatos Speed Chess, but his initial plans often involve very precise timing. He acquires an ally (sort of) who has the ability to coordinate his forces to an even higher degree, but only rarely used him for that, since his fleets could execute simultaneous attacks just fine. Notably in Heir To The Empire, he observed◊ that two ships had connected for four minutes, fifty-three seconds, and knew not only that three people had transferred, but which people went to which ship and where they were going. Thrawn's scary like that.
- The comic page linked above can give the impression that Thrawn's deduction is an Ass Pull, but he shows his work in the novel by extrapolating out loud from what he knows of the heroes. It's quite impressive, and cements Thrawn's claim to Awesomeness by Analysis.
- Subverted in Kathryn Hulme's The Nun's Story. Gabrielle/Sister Luke frequently resists the strict schedules that govern the convents she lives in. To make matters worse, the one time she deliberately makes a show of arriving perfectly on time, she actually arrives too late to prevent another nun from being murdered.
- To nuns, the bell must be respected as the voice of God calling them to prayers, meals, etc. Sister Luke points out the conflict between being a good nun and being a healer, as the bell often stops a nursing sister from caring for or counseling patients.
- Mack Bolan is always this way with the initial hit that starts off a 'Bolan Blitz', whether it's ambushing a Mafia convoy or sniping a group at incredible distances. As things get unpredictable beyond that point due to how his enemy reacts (and the inevitable unexpected arrival of the Girl of the Week) Bolan tends to improvise from then on.
- Jillie Djinn in Septimus Heap. She's always punctual to the seconds, and expects everyone else to be.
- Bone, The Mad Hatter Expy in Patrick Senecal's Aliss, believes himself to be involved in some kind of furious war against time, so much so that at one point he demands a new watch with extra hours. He has an unpleasant habit of leaving broken pocket watches in the corpses of his mutilated victims—after timing their deaths to the second.
- The eponymous Boxed Crook protagonist of The Stainless Steel Rat series plans all of his heists this way.
- In Sword of Truth, Kahlan causes her captors a great deal of frustration by observing her guards' schedules and picking them off one by one.
Live Action TV
- Spock, as part of his Ludicrous Precision.
- Data is equally precise as Spock, though it comes from being an android with an internal clock to go by and thus he has no choice but to be so precise. When he actually turns off his internal clock, Data is implied to perceive time as irrationally as humans do.
- Fringe had one in "The Plateau". Though strictly speaking, he only saw all the possible outcomes and predicted which one was most likely, but he still had to know when and how long it would take someone to get hit by a bus. Later, Peter Bishop, after having implanted Observer tech into his head, behaved rather much the same way, albeit with the assistance of a Wall of Crazy; this was calling "running futures" by the Observers
- Inverted with Reggie Perrin, who was consistently "11 minutes late/17 minutes late/22 minutes late" to work.
- Superhoodie on Misfits knows the time of all the events where he needs to intervene, and has digital clocks in his apartment/lair counting down to the exact second for each instance. He knows this information because he's from the future, but it's still insanely precise.
- The villain in the first episode of Alphas.
- Tales of the Gold Monkey. In "God Save the Queen" the time-obsessed villain plants a Time Bomb on board the Queen Victoria. Our hero causes him to have a Villainous Breakdown by resetting his watch.
- Doctor Who: The Doctor is prone to this on occasion, when he's particular annoyed/in the mood to show off.
"Three minutes, forty seconds... Sorry, Colonel Manton, I lied - three minutes, forty-two seconds." (On how long it would take/ended up taking the Eleventh Doctor to completely take over the base at Demon's Run and disband the army.)
- It's born of a Time Lord's visceral relationship with time; in "The End of the World" the 9th Doctor timed his steps so as to walk between the blades of a spinning turbine.
- But it's not perfect. The 11th Doctor knew he was more than five minutes late to pick up Amelia because the sun had risen in the meantime, but he didn't realise that he was more than six months late until he tasted the garden shed.
- Arrow features the Trope Namer as a minor villain in one episode. In addition to his obsession with detail, he's also a skilled hacker and reasonably good at improvising, to the point that when the heroes interrupt his plans for the first time he still gets his men out with some of the score by setting up a Sadistic Choice to buy himself time. He also kills a disobedient henchman with a large minute hand.
- The Flash has Leonard Snart a.k.a. Captain Cold who plans his crimes down to the second, having grown up near the Central Police Station and memorized their response times.
- It's hard to think of any Shadowrun group which hasn't done this at one point. Everything, from the layout of the building to how many insects invade the facility on a regular basis, is carefully and overwhelmingly mapped out and planned, to the point where you'd expect your average 'runner to time herself on the composition of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made to exact specification. Not that it's likely to help; the actual run will, in a best case scenario, turn into Xanatos Speed Chess. More often, it'll devolve straight into an Indy Ploy. That is, if you even had a plan in the first place.
- Mr. Hines from The Pajama Game is a comical version. He even gets a song about his obsession, titled "Think of the Time I Save."
- Manfred von Karma in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney — he throws a fit when a trial takes more than exactly three minutes, and the protagonist is clued to use Xanatos Speed Chess to beat him. Which is actually pretty close to Phoenix's usual method.
- Lampshaded by the nefarious Skate Club leader in Tony Hawk's American Wasteland; The second thing you have to do to join the Skate Club is "trick on all these objects before my stopwatch runs out." This is probably the only time the time limits you're given for missions are justified.
- Let's be honest: You. Anyone who's played enough games without an adaptive AI has had That One Boss (or level or entire game) where the only way to win was to memorize the pattern of all the moving objects on screen until you could play it without even looking at the screen. For example, the final boss of the NES port of Trojan; most of the boxers in Punch-Out!! but especially King Hippo; any Dragon's Lair style game that always played its segments in the same order.
- Furthermore, this is also true of multi-player RTS games, where build order and timing are often considered to be of extreme importance, but instead of a timer, you are trying to remain competitive with your opponent's collective abilities to shave moments off the time it takes them to accomplish their objectives.
- StarCraft II multiplayer is particularly built on this. For one example, Terran players playing Zerg opponents will typically start building missile turrets around the 11-minute mark, because they know this is the earliest their Zerg opponents typically mass air units.
- There is at least one tournament Halo player who had memorized the extremely minute time difference between when he fired a particular weapon and when that round actually hit its target.
- Ever try playing Pokémon competitively? Did you know that by being a Clock King you can force your mons to have perfect stats and shiny status with the right calculations? This takes some serious dedication.
- Anyone who managed to get 100% completion on The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. You have to time things perfectly if you want to get everything, and you have only three days to complete every single task. It is entirely possible, if with enough skill at both this trope and the game itself, to beat all four temple bosses, save the Ranch Girls, reunite Anju and Kafei, save Lulu's eggs, rescue the family in Ikana and stop the moon all in the final cycle of three days. Incredibly, hair-pullingly, blood-boilingly difficult? Sure, but still entirely possible.
- Chronotron is an online game in which you must synchronize your actions with those of your past selves in order to solve puzzles.
- This is also true for players of most racing games, Speed Run players, or any kind of time trial Video Game. Everything that a player can think of to shave fractions of a second off their run will be attempted again and again until the player can do it perfectly in a satisfactory time.
- In many MMORPGs really dedicated players using damage-dealing characters will perfect their skill rotations to a second and can thus gain damage increases of 30-50% over less focused players. On fights requiring lots of mobility and non-standard attacks, many of these players can't handle the disruption to their rotations and their performance drops sharply. The top players can adjust the timing of their rotations on the fly and avoid this.
- Players of Pathologic will find that this trope applies to them. With the size of the town, the slowless of your gait, and the pressure of the ticking clock, they'll have to spend half the time analyzing their map, calculating whether to take the longer route or risk running through infected areas of town, especially when the Angels of Death show up in order to complete all the day's missions and still find time to sleep. It's even worse at night.
- Time Man from Megaman Powered Up is obseed with schedules, to the point where he says that Megaman is 0.3 seconds early for their fight.
- What makes Yuuki Terumi of BlazBlue fame fit this trope is that it is at the core of his deconstruction of gambiteering, and this trope is deconstructed, too. He does fancy himself a Chessmaster-cum-MagnificentBastard due to his ability to seemingly effortlessly troll the cast for his own benefit, but when one looks at the series at large, it quickly becomes clear that such is a result of "repeating this worthless comedy more times than [he] can count" - as an instrument of Izanami and Takamagahara's agenda, he was allowed to witness multiple instances of the same century and, through Phantom, multiple possibiities of the continuum shift. When one takes that away, it becomes clear that he really doesn't understand the cast at all; not only does he fail to predict in Chronophantasma Arcade that Taokaka's interaction with Noel moved her away from the trap he set for the latter, but he so utterly fails to understand his own lieutenant that he cannot predict her movements without aforementioned assistance, all of which is completely nulled after Continuum Shift. Combine this with Rachel and Kokonoe adapting to his tricks and developing counters of their own, as well as Kagura joining the chess club, and it's easy to see how he ends Chronophantasma: Izanami leaving him at the station for his one-way ride on the Time Killer express, destination six feet under.
- The Psionic Minmax who features heavily in the 'Maze of Many' arc in Goblins has found a way to bypass the Maze's mechanic of wiping your memory each time you attempt to finish the Maze and fail. As a result, over the course of 817 journeys through the maze he's built up a very clear mental image of the Maze and its mechanics, and can predict, down to the minute, how each of the other parties competing with him to complete the maze will behave.
- Aladdin: The Series has Mechanicles. To get into further detail, this mad scientist/master planner once began an episode overlooking an invasion of Agrabah with an army of giant mechanical scorpions, listing off items off his schedule. When Aladdin and friends showed up, he nonchalantly crossed an item off his schedule, noting "Heroes' interference, 2:14. Yep, right on schedule!"
- There's Professor Paradox from Ben 10: Alien Force, though somewhat averted/subverted in that he's a good guy (or at least, not a bad guy) and has the entire Time Space Continuum mapped out in his head, allowing him to Time Travel just as easily as one would walk down the sidewalk.
- Temple Fugate, the Batman: The Animated Series version of the Clock King pictured above, was quite an example. This is the guy who stoically stepped off a bridge because he knew the train was always a little early. In fact, his extraordinary timing abilities coupled with his analysis of hours of recorded footage of Batman in combat allows him to dodge his every move, making him one of the few people Batman has never defeated in hand to hand combat. His name even sounds like the Latin phrase "tempus fugit"— meaning "time flies".
- The Batman had a variation on this with Francis Grey, a pudgy guy who can rewind time to fix his mistakes, allowing him to effortlessly dodge Batman's punches, high speed traffic, and undo his embarrassing attempts at banter. Unlike most examples of this trope, he doesn't really plan ahead of time, but he knows what's going to happen because he's been there before.
- In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Jackson Weele used precision timing both to conduct highly efficient robbery to the actual Clock King's level of precision, as well as making his devices work, especially the Big Wheel tank, which also required precise timing (presumably, because its weapons are in proper firing position for a fraction of a second at a time, but frequently enough that with proper timing you can use them.) The Big Wheel also exists in the comics, as C-List Fodder, but the timing obsession is unique to the series (as is his being an actually dangerous opponent.)
- Voltron Force: Sky Marshal Wade does everything by the clock. Including using the bathroom. Lance uses this to the Voltron Force advantage.
- Dexter's Laboratory: Dexter once bought an expensive popsicle and paid with pennies. When the ice cream man asked Dexter how long it took him to count the pennies, Dexter correctly answered the question.
- Phineas and Ferb: When Linda commented it's been a long time ever since she and Lawrence went out together, he said it was 13 days, 22 hours and 17 minutes. When asked how he knew it to such precision, he explained it was thanks to a device on his cell phone.
- The Awesomes have the Concierge, a Hypercompetent Sidekick whose "superpower" is superior time-management skills, background checks, and generally being the best secretary on the planet.
- German philosopher Immanuel Kant was famous for being one, especially in his later years. According to a famous anecdote, the inhabitants of Koenigsberg set their clocks on his daily walks, and the one day he wasn't on time, it was because he had just heard about the French Revolution breaking out. Or reading Emile by Rousseau.
- Any decent military commander in World War One was required to be something of a Clock King, since portable communication devices did not exist at the time, and if maneuvers such as the walking artillery barrage that would pound the area ahead of friendly troops as they advanced and continued to move up with them were even slightly mistimed, shells would end up falling amongst their own troops. Or, if their clocks were off in the other direction, it gave the enemy troops time to climb out of their bunkers and man the trenches, with similarly bad results.
- London bobbies in the early days had to walk a precise beat at a strictly regimented pace (including length of stride). This was because there were no telephones and few police stations in those days, so any citizen who'd witnessed a crime-in-progress would have to know where to go at a particular time of day to be certain of finding a policeman.
- Before remote signalling was invented, railroads in the UK and US forced standardization of times and time zones to allow uniform train schedules. Trains were kept apart purely by synchronized schedules on telegraphed "train orders" - the first signals actually were at stations, to indicate whether train orders needed to be picked up. Even slight mistakes caused catastrophic collisions, so every railroad dispatcher had to be a Clock King.
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is reportedly like this. According to one source, he plans his daily routine in 5-minute blocks.
- If you're in a class where every student doesn't take the exact same courses a Clock King is useful for two reasons. First of all this person will know where his or her classmates are and secondly because he or she knows where you're supposed to be at the very moment.
- Helmuth Von Moltke the Elder was famous for this. He won wars because he was good at manipulating railroads.
- While any well run public transport system follows this trope, the Japanese rail system takes it Up to Eleven with trains not only being timed down to the second, but many commuters relying on extremely close connections to get to and from work every morning. Because a delay of even 30 seconds can cause many riders to miss their connecting trains the railway companies are known to severely punish drivers for the slightest deviation from the schedules. This can result in unsafe operating practices and, occasionally, a worker being Driven to Suicide.
- The Japanese strict adherence to the timetables may have indirectly caused the April 25, 2005 derailment of a speeding train on a curve near Amagasaki station that killed 107 people. The motorman operating the train had overshot a platform and run a red signal in the half hour prior to the derailment, and he was subsequently operating the train at a much higher rate of speed than normal to make up for lost time. A Seconds from Disaster special suggested that the motorman was also thinking about the inevitable penalties he was going to face from rail company JR Westnote and wasn't thinking about how his train was going dangerously faster than was safe. Thus, the train ended up hitting a curve with a 43 mph speed limit at a speed of 72 mph and went off the tracks.