"Powerful images for the passage of time:A relative of the Exploding Calendar, the passage of time is shown by speeding up the hands of a clock while showing the montage of a character performing a task. Can also be seen as a gag where after the hands of the clock start spinning, one character says "Stupid clock's broken again!" and fixes it. Since showing the hands actually spinning has become a bit of a Dead Horse Trope outside comedy, a more common variation is to focus in on the clock and gradually fade or cut from it reading one time to it reading another. In video games they often accompany the Fast-Forward Mechanic. Might soon become a Forgotten Trope, or at least evolve into a similar thing involving a digital clock due to their prevalence. (Younger children, having grown up with only digital clocks, may not even know how to tell time on an analog clock, or might have never even seen one.) Compare Spinning Newspaper.
A clock's hands, sweeping past 12!"
A clock's hands, sweeping past 12!"
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Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- At the end of Beetlejuice, during the "Jump in the Line" musical number a cuckoo clock's hands are seen spinning quickly forward (clockwise).
- In The Time Machine (2002), the first sign Professor Hartdegen is travelling into the past is when the hands on his collection of pocket watches slow down, then reverse, speeding up as he travels further back.
- Used briefly in Mindhunters, to show time's passage when everyone is knocked out by the drugged coffee. As the camera is watching the clock, we don't get to see the killer's activities during this interlude.
- At the end of John Dies at the End, David and John find themselves in an alternate world suffering from the Korrok's invasion. A couple of futuristic soldiers show up and ask them to help. David takes a look at his watch and notes the hands madly spinning in reverse. The first clue that time flows differently there is shown when David follows John into the portal a second later only for John to tell him that several hours have passed.
- In Fury (1936), during the court room scenes, we see a shot of a clock with the clock hands spinning, indicating hours of hearing taking place.
- In The Ring during a video of Samara Morgan while she was in psychiatric care. It starts with a time-lapse recording of Samara in her bedroom with the clock spinning quickly in the background; while she moves around the room over time, she never sleeps.
- A different take on this trope (involving speed/distance/fuel consumption) is shown in the early space exploration movies such as Frau im Mond and Destination Moon, with close-ups of spinning fuel gauges and accelerometers (along with narmish contorted facial expressions) as the Retro Rocket hurls into orbit.
- Used for the Time-Compression Montage in Jumpin' Jack Flash, when Terri is playing the tape of Mick Jagger's song so she can get the lyrics (with some difficulty). The clock hands are moving at normal speed, just cutting to a later time, and are combined with the spinning tape and tape counter.
Live Action TV
- Used in Kamen Rider Decade's Den-O arc when time becoming disjointed during Decade and Den-O's fight is represented by a clock (sitting inexplicably in the middle of the BBC Quarry in which they're fighting) doing this.
- Even Stevens plays with the gag version where a cuckoo clock's hands start spinning rapidly.
- Occurs in The Basil Brush Show while Basil, Dave and Stephen are spending time worrying about the safety of a millionaire whom they hope to get some cash off. Near the end of the montage, Basil looks at the Spinning Clock Hands and comments "We really should fix that clock".
- Done similarly in an episode of Home Improvement.
- An episode of Adventures in Wonderland also uses the gag version.
- In a Mr. Bean episode, first a bunch of mechanisms to wake up Mr. Bean are seen. He effectively ignores them. Then the clock is shown spinning to show that Mr. Bean ended up waking up late.
- Subverted in The Young Ones episode 'Interesting'. Vyvyan comments that the clock is broken and no time has passed.
- Played straight in several episodes of Ellery Queen.
- Not used to show passage of time, but the intro to the Muppet Labs segments on The Muppet Show from season 3 onward has a clock above the set's window whose hands spin around.
- Early episodes of Good Eats used the variant where they focused on the clock in Alton's kitchen, then looked back at it again to see that the 10 minutes (or whatever time was needed for this step in the recipe) had passed. Later ones occasionally use the same trope, but with a timer.
- Supernatural. A flip clock does this during Bobby's Hard-Work Montage in "Weekend At Bobby's", when he's up all night doing research on the Monster of the Week.
- Doctor Who. At the end of "The Eleventh Hour", the new TARDIS control console has been outfitted with a hodgepodge of anachronistic hardware, including a flip clock that starts flipping wildly as the TARDIS starts to travel in time.
- In Romancing SaGa 3 when the spell Quick Time is cast, a clock face appears and clock hands spin rapidly until the hands reach 12 and the clock face disappears along with the hands. Quick Time allows the character to always get the first hit in regardless of the enemies speed.
- In SaGa Frontier the spell Chaos Stream has the enemies spun around on clock hands, while the spell Overdrive has your characters standing on a clock face while fighting.
- In the Flash game MARDEK RPG, the effect for the Status Buff Haste is an orange clock face whose hands start out still but then spin up into a blur.
- In Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, Saint Germain is able to speed up time, though only for the purposes of status effects. When he does this, a silhouette of spinning clock hands appears. He generally only does this after poisoning Hector, who normally takes poison damage every few seconds. The spinning clock hands will cause him to take poison damage twice a second, rendering him stunlocked until the poison wears off or he uses an antidote.
- Napple Tale has a recurring image of a large floral clock of the sort found in public parks. It's even incorporated into the Amazing Technicolor Battlefield for the final boss battle. Naturally, the hands spin wildly.
- Once the player solves the Celestial puzzle in Obsidian, four clocks start spinning incredibly fast. Justified since you're in a simulated dream world.
- Machinarium has a clock that never stops spinning, but there's a glow-in-the-dark marking on its face for a certain time that the clock doesn't seem to land on. This is actually a clue for another puzzle.
- Myst V has a strange D'ni clock that normally goes so slow you hardly see its single hand move, but when you command the Bahro to speed up time, it starts rapidly moving along until the effect wears off.
- In Silence of the Sleep, these appear on the walls in certain areas. It's there to show that the world you are in isn't real.
- This was used to let the Global Guardians that the villainous Chronos had sent them on a (supposedly) one-way trip into the future against their wills.
- Parodied in a Kim Possible episode, where Kim is in detention. The clock hands start to indicate passing time and begin accelerating rapidly, whereupon Barkin hits the clock face, muttering, "Stupid clock's busted again..." and resets it, indicating a grand total of... five minutes have passed.
- The Simpsons episode "Two Dozen And One Greyhounds" has a spinning clock hand when the last puppies are born.
- Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Op. A.W.A.R.D.S.". It turns out to be just Numbuh Four playing with his watch.
- In the last episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Bloo is waiting for a friend to finish painting Mac and Coco. After a clock face spins by quickly, the friend mentions that just spinning the clock hands won't make him paint any faster.
- Used in The Real Ghostbusters, particularly "Play Them Ragtime Boos", where the ghost of a Jazz musician named Malachi actually got the clock hands to spin backwards using his music. The Ghostbusters play Rock & Roll to make them spin forward again.
- Who Killed Who?: Parodied — when the victim receives a message that he is going to die at midnight, he looks terrified at the cuckoo clock; there's still a few hours left, but then the hands suddenly spin all the way to midnight, much to the victim's terror, and done to the tune of Fryderyk Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2. (Funeral March).
- ''In an episode of Family Guy, a hospital clock speeds up and Dr. Hartman asks a nurse to have someone fix the clock.
- The background for Ebenezer is a projection of a clock tower. As Jacob Marley dies, the clock hands spin wildly, lit in red.
- This is a common sight in Ghost Trick when you Time Travel to the past or the future: a red clock will go 12 to 8 or 12 to 4, respectively, after which it will fade to white. The scene is notably lengthened in your final Time Travel to the past when the hour hand reaches 6 instead of 8 before the fade to white, which by the way takes a longer time to arrive. This is justified because you're going much further back in time than usual, especifically 10 years prior to tonight's events.