"The automated figures stand
Adorning every public street
And seem to breath in stone,
Or move their marble feet."
—Pindar, Seventh Olympic Ode
A Setting Trope similar to and perhaps derivative of Steampunk
, involving lots of artsy clockwork mechanica.
This style of Speculative Fiction
seems to have arisen in the wake of of Steampunk
(as a recognized phenomenon, at least; one can find a fair number of older clockpunk-like fictions). If that genre could be built on a lot of steam-powered technology and Victorian fashions and images, why not look a little further back, to the era that invented more basic technologies and had its own style? Hence, in Clockpunk stories, gears and simple machines predominate, and feature in both heavy machinery and portable devices. The visual style draws on the Renaissance
eras, so mechanisms and casings will typically be adorned with intricate decorations and carvings, making some very beautiful-looking machinery if it's done right.
As the basic technology predates steam, clockpunk devices need another source of power. Wind or water mills can fit, but clockpunk machines may literally have to be wound with a key. Science-savvy audiences may note that the amount of energy stored in a clockpunk device often seems far greater than the amount of energy it takes to rewind them.
Given such practical problems, writers who don't want to just Hand Wave
things may resort to more fantastical power sources, such as gunpowder — or, very often, Functional Magic
. This fits the Renaissance
style of the genre very well; this was the last era of European history when serious scientists could be study such things without losing all credibility. Clockpunk settings may mix of their Renaissance/Baroque feel with lighthearted fantasy; due to Fantasy Gun Control
, mixing Clockpunk tech with Functional Magic
is less of a strain on Willing Suspension of Disbelief
than more advanced technologies.
Clockpunk settings are often populated by Clockwork Creatures
. Expect invocations of Leonardo da Vinci
and Sir Isaac Newton
. This may connect to other Punk Punk
styles, especially Steam Punk
and Cattle Punk
— and also Dungeon Punk
open/close all folders
- While the setting in general isn't Clockpunk, Gut's left arm in Berserk definitely counts. It has a magnet in the palm so he can hold his sword, a repeating crossbow which can be attached to the top, and a cannon. It may have been inspired by the similar right arm of Götz (listed in Real Life)
- Clockwork Fighters uses this sort of imagery.
- Clockwork Planet, an entire planet including its orbit made of clockwork parts.
- In King of Bandits Jing — the third chapter of the manga/third episode of the anime — Jing visits a town entirely based around clocks for its design and society. Besides this town, there is a lot of Clockpunk in Jing in general.
- In Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai, the inhabitants of Alamos Town use mostly Clockpunk tech.
- The Hellboy films are full of Clockpunk:
- The first movie has a Russian mausoleum with clockwork deathtraps. One of the villains, Karl Ruprecht Kroenen, is a clockwork zombie cyborg Nazi assassin.
- In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, there's Wink, an ogre with a chained clockwork Rocket Fist. And the eponymous army is made up of clockwork robots; even the crown that controls them fits together like clockwork. And at the end, Hellboy and Prince Nuada fight on giant, moving cogs.
- From the same director as Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth dabbles in this a bit, with the camerawork paying careful attention to the enormous cog-like millwheels of the house, or Cpt. Vidal's thematically-important pocketwatch. Also, the same director's first feature movie La Invención de Cronos tells a tale of biomechanical clockwork artifact prolonging the life of its user.
- The film Return to Oz features a wind-up, clockwork mechanical man, Tik Tok. Though seemingly from the Steampunk era, he is entirely cog-and-spring-powered.
- Hugo's aesthetic is based heavily on clockwork. Justified in that it's set in a railroad station built in the late 19th century; and uncheckable since the original Gare Montparnasse is long gone and the midcentury-modern replacement no doubt was planned to use the same electric-pulse synchronized analog clocks you'd find in a large public High School (and may have been upgraded to all-digital).
- The Three Musketeers (2011) features some Clockpunk gadgetry.
- The Abominable Dr. Phibes and its sequel give Vincent Price a clockwork orchestra. Many of his deathtraps also make use of impractical clockworks, giant screws, and other analogue technologies.
- The Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Nightingale has a clockwork device in a central role.
- In Elfstruck there is a character with wings made of silver, crystal, and visible gearwork that moves as she moves her wings.
- Later Discworld novels combine clockwork with some Dungeon Punk tropes and increasing amounts of outright fantasy Steampunk. Also, one of Pratchett's earlier works is Strata, a sci-fi work set on a disc-shaped planet run by clockwork.
- Pasquale's Angel by Paul J. McAuley is set in a Clockpunk-Rennaisance Florence (with some steam power) where Leonardo Di Vinci is an engineer instead of an artist. The protagonist teams up with investigative reporter Niccolň Machiavelli to solve a Locked Room murder and uncover a wider conspiracy.
- The Robert E. Howard Conan the Barbarian story "Rogues in the House" mixes clockwork with Dungeon Punk. Instead of being the typical Evil Sorcerer, the villain of the story, Nabonidus, is basically the evil offspring of Leonardo da Vinci and Machiavelli and uses various clock-tech devices to secure his home.
- Goblin Moon and The Gnome's Engine have an 18th-century fantasy-of-manners feel.
- Although Jay Lake's Clockwork Earth series is mostly Steam Punk, the series title points to one massive example of this. In fact the entire Solar System is a massive clockwork device.
- Deathscent by Robin Jarvis features robots powered by a mixture of intricate clockwork and advanced liquid-based alien technology — in the Elizabethan era. This was all made possible by a (supposedly) Benevolent Alien Invasion, which lifted all of humankind into a network of "islands" in space, linked by pathways the humans only vaguely understand.
- Tik-Tok is a clockwork soldier in the Oz book Ozma of Oz.
- S. M. Stirling's Emberverse involves a certain amount of quite Clockpunk-ish technology, especially in the third trilogy where he introduces bicycle powered trains.
- The Medici Trilogy by Martin Woodhouse and Robert Ross portrays Leonardo da Vinci using several interesting techniques and devices, apparently later lost to history. In the first book, he invents small, readily transportable cannon and the ballistic math to fire them accurately at targets he can't even see. Instead of trying to smash down walls, Leonardo and the cannoneers he turns into a strike team blast open doors — or wipe out troops with grapeshot. He's also shown to have developed a mini-telescope. In the third book, he develops a clockwork mini-ornithopter as a toy, and later builds hang gliders to slip his team into an enemy-held city.
- Adrian Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt series mostly runs on Steam Punk but there are also some clockwork devices like crank driven ornithopters and automobiles. This is particularly so in the Wasp Empire, which is slightly behind the Lowlands that it is invading technologically.
- Robert Rankin's Hollow Chocolate Bunnies Of The Apocalypse and its sequel The Toyminator take place in a Clockpunk/fantasy hybrid world. Lead character Jack can't bring himself to believe he's stumbled on a city populated by Living Toys and real-life Nursery Rhyme characters, but clockwork automobiles that never need fuel or, it seems, winding are apparently perfectly normal.
- The Dwarves in E.E. Knight's Age of Fire use clockwork a lot.
- Used in The Phantom of the Opera to an extent; a large proportion of the Phantom's death traps and other devices involve sophisticated clockwork. It's also mentioned that when he was younger he built realistic-looking humanoid automatons to the Shah of Persia. Given that when the book was written, clockwork was about as fancy as most technology got, this makes sense.
- In the Cyber Punk novel The Windup Girl, advanced metallurgy is used to create hand-wound 'kink-springs' which are the only available portable power source in a future where all the oil has been used up.
- The main setting of Hannu Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief, the Oubliette Colony on Mars, follows the aesthetics of Clockpunk very closely, most notably with the Watches that measure each citizen's time as a Noble before they are turned into robotic Quiet. They combine mechanical clock parts with quantum entanglement, but in terms of technological advancement they are a hyperadvanced transhuman civilization (and still the technological backwater from the perspective of the inner planets).
- William Gibson's The Difference Engine is primarily Steam Punk, but there's still some elegant clockwork stuff mixed in; prominent examples include the Japanese drink-serving automaton and the fearsome wind-up submachine guns.
- In Perdido Street Station, khepri technology is primarily based on "metaclockwork" designs, alongside a bit of Organic Technology.
- There's a bit of Clockpunk in The Baroque Cycle, most notably Daniel's mechanical computer. Interestingly, the series ends with him, towards the end of his life, looking approvingly at Newcomen's engine; the saga ends as the Age of Steam begins.
- The title Doomsday Device in Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway.
- It's not exactly Clockpunk, but this genre descriptor is the one which seems the best fit for Wynne Whiteford's semi-hard sci-fi story Lake of the Sun, where the Martians have retreated far underground due to the loss of Mars' atmosphere and now use spring powered cars and boats which are wound from waterfalls along an underground river. The rewinding seems to take an improbably short time even though the master springs at the waterfalls are supposed to be immensely powerful.
- In William Alexander's Goblin Secrets, clockwork is heavily used. Graba has clockwork legs, as do some soldiers; some have clockwork arms; the captain has a clockwork eye.
- Since the series revolves so much around time, it's fitting that Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series features a lot of clockpunk-esque technology when inside the House.
- Titan clocks in The Doctrine of Labyrinths have some connection to magic, are made partly out of bone, have been around since millenia, and have the bonus feature of driving some of their listeners to suicide. Oh, and the biggest one that our heroes find is an out-and-out Doomsday Device.
- The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson is set in a very different America where guns and trains are powered by wind-up mechanisms and even churches include clockwork-powered automaton statues of saints and cogwheel imagery in the stained glass windows. Justified, as it turns out that the early settlers found that clockwork repels the 'chalklings' they were fighting, so ended up using it for everything.
- The Productions Of Time by Paul Witcover.
- The Age of Unreason series by J. Gregory Keyes is set in an alternate history where alchemy has become a practical technology. Some of the devices it empowers also involve clockwork, and the period feel is very Clockpunk.
- Certainly Greg Egans Orthogonal trilogy must count: The first book is not called The Clockwork Rocket for nothing!
- Doctor Who:
- There are clockwork maintenance droids in the episode "The Girl in the Fireplace". Unlike most such things, these are from the 51st century, appearing to be meant to repair a spaceship without the need for conventional power sources.
- More generally, the Time Lords seem fond of clock motifs, from the gear-shaped hats to their writing system, which is full of circles and looks like some sort of seasonal chart.
- The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Concerning Flight" features a hologram of Leonardo da Vinci equipped with the space-age technology to realize his designs. A few other Voyager episodes feature his creations as well.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In "Explorers" Sisko and his son build a Bajoran light-sail craft with a distinctive clockpunk appearance.
- The award-winning opening to Game of Thrones is filled to the brim with stunning Clock Punk.
- The CBBC series Leonardo has Leo (of course) creating Clockpunk devices for the sake of it, and a sinister conspiracy who want to use clockwork as a weapon.
- Alias has the "Rambaldi Artifacts."
- A strip in The Economist had a strip captioned "The car that has Big Oil shaking in it's boots," and pictured a terrified business man looking at a wind-up car big enough to ride in.
- Emilie Autumn's stage shows involve Clockpunk and Steampunk props and costumes.
- Vernian Process, to a degree. Especially songs like "Her Clockwork Heart".
- Given the name of the band, it should be no surprise that Clockwork Quartet make heavy use of Clockpunk themes. The Watchmaker's Apprentice is a Villain Song about a disgruntled ex-employee framing his boss for murder using a weaponized pocket watch. note
- Rush's 2012 album, Clockwork Angels, has a lot of Clockpunk elements. The same could be said of both their 2010 Time Machine tour and the tour they held to promote Clockwork Angels.
- Among RPGs, Deadlands: The Weird West seems able to slide between Cattle Punk, Steampunk, and Clockpunk as players may demand. However, it's predominantly Steampunk, as mechanical gizmos are usually powered by ghostrock, an extremely efficient coal imbued with spiritual energy.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, The Lawful Neutral heaven is Mechanus, a place where continents, cities, and even many of the local lifeforms are actually made out of gears.
- Some of the domains of Ravenloft make use of clockpunk-style mechanisms. These may be either genuine clockwork technology, or golems that only look like clockwork, depending on the domain and the sanity (or lack thereof) of their makers.
- DragonMech has a of complicated clockwork machines, both alone and in combination with Steampunk.
- Being a generic system, GURPS can of course handle clockpunk settings, and the genre is covered in several supplements:
- GURPS Steampunk, a genre book, and its follow-up, GURPS Steam-Tech, cast their net wide enough to take in Clockpunk, with discussion of the cinematically efficient spring technology needed to power a Clockpunk setting and so on.
- Among the countless alternate timelines encompassed by the "Infinite Worlds" setting, several are described as more or less Clockpunk, with functional alchemical science, clockwork mecha stomping over Europe in the Thirty Years War, or whatever.
- The Alchemical Baroque setting book combines a dash of clockwork tech with a lot of 18th century Fairy Tale style.
- Mage: The Ascension features a certain amount of miraculous Clockpunk tech, mostly in the hands of especially eccentric members of the Sons of the Ether. Even more substantially, the Renaissance-era spin-off game, Mage: The Sorcerers' Crusade can not surprisingly get very Clockpunk; one supplement, The Artisan's Handbook, is basically all about that.
- Unknown Armies' "Mechanomancers" are Clockpunk magicians in the modern day, who build sentient constructs powered by fragments of their own memories.
- The wheel of death act in Cirque du Soleil's Zarkana has clock gears as its (computer-generated) backdrop. As the acrobats make the wheel spin, the gears turn and generate electric sparks!
- The first act of The Tales of Hoffmann, recounts the story of Hoffmann's first love, Olympia, a wind-up automaton. In her most famous aria ("Les oiseaux dans la charmille"), her gears would run down periodically and so has to be cranked back up before she can finish each line.
- Clockpunk-style mechanisms appear at times in BIONICLE, although they have never really dominated the universe. Toy-wise, most of the earlier sets had gear-based action features, which the designers gradually abandoned. Story-wise, Turaga Dume's secret chamber in the second movie had a sundial-mirror-thing built into its floor, that used a clockwork mechanism to rotate. And though we didn't see it, the Vahki robots also made use of these according to Word of God.
- The Syberia Adventure Game duology revels in all kinds of clockwork mechanisms: from a Cool Train that has to be rewound at each station, to quasi-sentient clockwork automatons.
- And you better call them "automata", never "robots".
- The Castlevania reboot Lords of Shadow features a truly beautiful series of levels blending this with elements of Dungeon Punk and Lightning Can Do Anything, even culminating in a series of boss battles against a electrified clockwork scorpion... thing. Makes a sort of sense, considering you're meant to be exploring Dr. Frankenstein's (that one, but not) laboratory.
- Deadly Rooms of Death has no form of power generation and no large beasts of burden, so the weights that power the clockworks of various machinery have to be rewound by human work.
- The devices summoned by Squishy Wizard Amadeus in Trine all have a gear motif to them.
- Dwarf Fortress lets you build pumps, traps, doomsday devices and even computers (painfully slow but Turing complete) with stone gears, wooden axles, metal pumps, and water/magma, powered by water wheels or windmills.
- The clock tower in Prince of Persia: Warrior Within.
- Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends has the Vinci faction, which has a clockwork Soldier armed with a Lightning Gun, a clockwork Spider, armed with a flak cannon and an "electrical web generator", and an experimental computer device than allows you to manipulate your economy.
- Skytown in Metroid Prime 3 is a floating city with equal parts Steam Punk and Clock Punk technology... and damn is it pretty.
- Thief has a fair share of this, along with a Darker and Edgier medieval take on typical Steam Punk.
- Final Fantasy IX has strong elements of Clockpunk, mixed with a magical fantasy setting. Lindblum is probably the best example of the gear and clockwork machinery. Steam power has been developed, but due to the prototypes being stolen or faulty, it isn't harnessed by the heroes until the third disc.
- Kingdom of Loathing has clockwork Power Armor and weapons, and several types of clockwork robots .
- Fable II veers closer to this than Steampunk. The only fantastic technology in the game appears to be clockwork, including clockwork repeating flintlock weapons.
- The Clockwork Beast from The Neverhood.
- The Charr civilization in Guild Wars 2 are described as this in an interview.
- The gnomes of Ak'Anon in EverQuest build their city and society around tinkered up Clockwork contraptions. 500 years later in EverQuest 2, the clockwork robots took over Ak'Anon and renamed it to Klak'anon. Kicked out by the very contraptions they built.
- The Mad Hatter's realm in American McGee's Alice and Alice: Madness Returns is mostly made out of clockwork and giant tea sets.
- Okage: Shadow King has Madril, a town devoted to Clock Punk.
- Many of the platforming puzzles in the Renaissance-era Assassin's Creed games make use of this.
- Wizard 101 has clockwork golems as enemies throughout the spiral. They often fight along side the usually stronger Iron Golems.
- Pirate 101 has the same technology of Wizard101 used in Valencia only they are much more beautifully crafted.
- The entire setting of the game Resonance of Fate / End of Eternity back in Japan. The game world takes place in Basel, a clock-punk gigantic tower that houses whole continents. The entire thing, everything, including atmosphere generation, rock-grinding in lower levels, the architecture of the buildings, even what passes as the in-universe version of God is made of gears. It has been working for centuries as humanity's last refuge from an unspecified disaster, but of course, come the course of the plot, glitches in the system has started to manifest. It's also very, very massive. Look at◊ the thing◊!
- ClockWerx is a clockwork-themed Puzzle Game, with an Excuse Plot that varies between regions. In the Western version, you're trying to fix the Master Clock of the Universe; in the Japanese version, an altercation with a cursed alarm clock sucks you into another dimension where you yourself become a clock hand.
- Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood leans on this slightly by having Leonardo da Vinci actually construct some of the machines he designed in real life, including a flyer, a tank, and an ironclad gunboat, all of which you get to use.
- The Automatons in Endless Space are incredibly complex clockwork robots that are the only traces of a long-dead race. The Automatons, who previously merely tended the vibrant world they were abandoned on, achieved sentience when exposed to Dust. Their ships prominently feature a hybrid of sleek curves and huge gyroscopes and gears.
- Machinarium is a fascinating blend of Clock Punk, Steam Punk, and Diesel Punk.
- Agatha Clay, the female protagonist in Girl Genius, creates little thinking, self-replicating clock-work robots that follow her around and help out in various ways. Although the comic perhaps belongs more in the Steam Punk genre, this particular feature is clearly Clockpunk.
- The clockwork robots created by the Spark Rembrandt van Rijn are considered the pinnacle of the Clock Punk art. Phil and Kaja prefer to describe the setting as "Victorian Gaslamp Fantasy". One might suppose it the result of society following the path of further refinements in Clock Punk, instead of dirtier coal-driven steam engines... at least in the Europa ruled by Baron Klaus Wulfenbach.
- Homestuck brings us the Land Of Heat And Clockwork, which mixes this with Lethal Lava Land.
- Things related to the Aspect of Time in general have a gear/clock motif.
- SCP-217, a virus which turns the organisms it infects into clockwork creatures, in the SCP Foundation.
- Also SCP-882, a gearbox that mind-controls people into feeding it spare parts, and SCP-914, "The Clockworks".
- These objects, along with others, are believed by the Church of the Broken God to be the pieces of a clockwork god, and they fight the Foundation in an effort to retrieve and reunite these parts. If they succeeded it would probably result in everything on Earth being transformed into clockwork, including the Earth itself, but the Church is probably just fine with that.
- The Dominion from Dominion And Duchy is described as using clockwork technology. To clarify, this is a science-fiction series featuring a galactic government run from a clockwork planet! The gears are apparently turned by something called an "Eternity Gate".
- Adventures of the Gummi Bears, wherein most examples are Gummi-built Lost Technology.
- In Futurama, Leonardo daVinci's hidden inventions have this. So does the entire planet of Vinci, though they do also have holograms and rendering software.
- We don't see how the holograms and rendering software work. They could also run on Clockwork.
- Mechanicles from Disney's Aladdin: The Series makes heavy use of it.
- The tinker fairies in Disney Fairies use this a lot.
- The fortress of Nox from Wakfu (pictured) is composed entirely of Clock Punk. Makes sense, considering that he is a Xelor.
- As mentioned above, Leonardo da Vinci is noted for, among other things, sketches of then-futuristic devices that resemble clockpunk versions of modern devices including helicopters, gliders, parachutes, main battle tanks, and even robots. Recently testing has suggested that his designs for triangular parachutes and Gatling guns would have actually worked.
- The ancient Greeks had some pretty advanced clockwork-style devices that we know next to nothing about, because the only surviving sample is the Antikythera mechanism, and the written record about their machines is very thin. But studies of the Antikythera mechanism put its complexity and craft as comparable to 18th century Europe.
- Al-Jazari, a medieval Middle-Eastern scientist, had many inventions, including a musical band made of Automatons, centuries(2 centuries, to be precise) before Leonardo.
- Super-Flywheels is a moder mechanical accumulator of energy, which is promoted by number of scientists, like famous Soviet inventor Nurbei Gulia.
- Japanese karakuri dolls and their 18th century European counterparts: Gear driven robots that could do things such as play music, serve food or write. Pretty much the direct ancestors of those creepy fembots they always show in Japanese tech exhibitions nowadays.
- In Europe in the period directly before the Industrial Revolution kicked off, clockwork technology had become very advanced, to the point where some truly elaborate setups were constructed in the richer royal courts. One example was an entire clockwork garden where as you walked through it, pressure on the floor plates would cause various clockwork animals to react as if alive. Several natural philosophers of the time wrote of these clockwork displays as their inspiration for later machinery.
- The difference engine.
- Its successor, the analytical engine, had it ever been built, would have been the first ever general-purpose, programmable, Turing-complete, digital computing machine. How awesome is that?
- Awesome enough that someone's trying to finish the design and build it.
- The mechanical calculators. Later models (after 1930s) could have several thousand gears. See for example this page for web museum of mechanical calculators.
- The sea clocks of John Harrison. He was never trained as a clockmaker, he was just a genius and taught himself. In the process, he developed the grasshopper escapement and encased roller bearings. He eventually built four sea clocks, designed for the purpose of finding longitude at sea, something which had been disastrously impossible before. Check out Dava Sobel's book Longitude for more on the subject.
- Occasionally invoked even today, as an alternative to powered devices. An example would be spring-driven carts that automatically roll themselves across a factory floor when a predetermined weight is transferred onto them, then tip out their contents and roll back to their previous position.
- The Old London Bridge stood for over 600 years housing buildings up to seven stories high, overhanging the water and the road by seven feet, as well as a drawbridge, and two waterwheels which not only powered pumps and mills, but also interfered with the river's flow and boat transit. Truely a marvelous monstrosity of the clockwork era.
- The Iron Hand of Götz Von Berlichingen, a prosthetic that Von Berlichingen made after he lost his hand to a cannonball. It had fully articulated fingers that could be manipulated by a series of springs, levers, and buttons and could hold anything from a quill to a sword. He made this in 1504. See, Ash Williams' hand isn't so unrealistic after all.