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Clocks of Control

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He'll crush his foes in a timely manner.
Gilbert Huph: You know, Bob, a company...
Bob Parr: Is like an enormous clock.
Gilbert Huph: like an enormous cl- yes, precisely! It only works if all the little cogs mesh together! Now, a clock needs to be cleaned, well lubricated, and wound tight. The best clocks have jewel movements, cogs that fit, that cooperate by design. Heh, I'm being metaphorical, Bob. You know what I mean by cooperative cogs? ...Bob? Bob? LOOK AT ME WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU, PARR!

In fiction, clock motifs are often used to represent characters who are fanatics about order and control. These characters tend to be, more often than not, sinister Control Freaks, due to the view that Order Is Not Good. Just note that this trope isn't inherently evil, and it can occasionally be used for more harmlessly uptight characters, such as those that are Obsessively Organized. It may also symbolize a Time Master.

There are a few reasons for this symbolism. For one thing, clocks are known for having a rhythmic, consistent tick-tock sound. Alternatively, it may have to do with the passage of time itself, which is also unfailingly consistent. Clocks are often seen as the best objects to symbolize the concept of time. Also, clockworks are usually made of complex mechanism of gears and cogs that give them a sense of order.

May overlap with Clock King, a character who expertly uses clocks and timing to plan and control things. With this trope, it need not necessarily be time that the characters are obsessed with, just anything that involves keeping some sort of order. See also The Watchmaker, another trope about the complexity of clocks used to represent a characterizing trait. May overlap with Clock of Power if the clocks they use actually have superpower rather than just for motif or theming

Clockwork Creature may not necessarily feature this motif, but overlaps are definitely possible.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Princess Tutu has Drosselmeyer, who controls his story with a clockwork gear machine and doesn't take well to it going off-rails.

    Comic Books 
  • In Watchmen, clocks are a recurring motif, especially pertaining to Dr. Manhattan. Though he is for all intents and purposes a Physical God, it's played with: he's powerless to stop fate's unwinding, even as he sees all the moving parts of it in action. The reference is simultaneously to Einstein's comments about becoming watchmaker, and the Doomsday Clock, among several other layers of metaphor.

    Film - Animated 
  • Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast is more of a downplayed, benevolent example than most. He is the Beast's butler, who was turned into a clock as part of the Forced Transformation curse on the castle. While by no means a bad person, he tends to be pompous and uptight, although as the movie goes on, he shows more of a Not So Above It All side.
  • The Incredibles: Gilbert Huph, Bob Parr's boss at Insuricare, is as heartless as he is fastidious (even stopping to readjust one of the pencils on his desk to keep them all arranged in a perfect row). While chewing Bob out (for caring more about helping clients than helping the company profit), he goes on a long tirade about how a good company is like a clock, and the employees are like cogs that all work together for one purpose. To sell it even further, one wall of his office is actually lined with clocks, all the same rounded-square shape and arranged in a perfect row.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Clockwise: The main character Brian Stimpson embodies this trope, being obsessed with punctuality, running his school (named Thomas Tompion, after a famous clockmaker) to a precise schedule.
  • Labyrinth: Played Straight. Jareth manipulates a clock that rules the game of Sarah's quest.
  • Mary Poppins Returns: Downplayed. Wilkins fits the personality of this trope to the letter, being the ruthless, stern, and manipulative president of a bank, and he seems to be very fond of his pocket watch, but his association with it mostly boils down to twirling the watch as a Character Tic.
  • The fascist villain of Pan's Labyrinth is obsessed with his watch. According the director's commentary, his room is supposed to look like the inside of a watch.



    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The plane of pure Law is known as the Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus, an Eternal Engine of continent-sized interlocked wheels and gears, whose native beings are literal automata strictly following their role in the mechanism. The inevitables are one such race, tasked with enforcing the rule of law across the multiverse, and their quarats who regulate the flow of time indeed have hourglasses for heads.
    • Time dragons go with the "Time Master symbolism" part of this trope — their wings and eye markings resemble sideways hourglasses (or the infinity symbol), they have horns on their heads that look like sundials, and their twin-bladed tailtips evoke the hour and minute hands of a clock.

    Video Games 
  • Dr Nefarious Tropy of the Crash Bandicoot video games is a Time Master villain. His attire is completely time themed, consisting of armour covered in clocks and watches and gears and even his method of time hopping, the Time Twister, utilises a giant clock with his mug on it. Tropy is regularly depicted as even more of a Smug Snake than Dr Neo Cortex, acting like a complacent and snooty Evil Brit by default but quickly reverting to temper tantrums whenever he starts losing to the bandicoots.
  • Sergey Taboritsky from The New Order Last Days Of Europe is represented with clock motifs - his unification theme has clocks playing in the background, and he has a decision screen called "The Clockworks" and warns that "the clock must never reach Midnight". It suits him well, being a fascist dictator obsessed with making every aspect of society bend to his will, envisioning his country as a machine guided by God. Eventually, it's revealed that "The Clockworks" is a Sanity Meter and "Midnight" is his eventual mental breakdown.
  • Staya from TinkerQuarry is a mechanical toy whose body is covered with clocks. He is also the merciless dictator of the Dollhouse, who forces everyone to stay in their rooms under the threat of being violently attacked. Even his Essence (a toy's soul, which takes a specific form and name based on the toy's personality), looks like a clock, and it's called Loyalty, reinforcing the idea that clocks stand for adherence and conformity.
  • Timekeeper Cookie from Cookie Run is an omnipotent Time Master and the president of the Time Balance Department, very much associated with all kinds of clockwork.

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    Western Animation 
  • Mechanikles from Aladdin: The Series is a Mad Scientist who specializes in building clockwork machines, and he is Obsessively Organized.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: "The Clock King" features the titular clock-themed villain. Formerly a businessman named Temple Fugate who was obsessed with punctuality. Hamilton Hill convinces Fugate to break off of his strict schedule on the day that Fugate has an important court hearing. Fugate decides to take Hill's advice and goes out to the park instead of staying in his office, leading to a horrible string of events that ends with Fugate losing the case, driving him insane. He plots to get revenge on Hill, becoming the Clock King and using a variety of clock-themed weapons.
  • One episode of Johnny Bravo has Johnny enter the cave of a bear named Chronos, who is obsessed with clocks and calls himself the "master of all time", and does seem to have the extreme punctuality to back it up. Chronos is infuriated when Johnny stumbles into his cave, accidentally breaks most of his clocks, and wakes him up from hibernation.