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Spinning Clock Hands

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"Powerful images for the passage of time:
A clock's hands, sweeping past 12!"

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.

Played straight

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Haruhi-chan, while Haruhi and the other girls prepare chocolate sculptures, the clock's time passes by faster.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean, upon Pucci awakening Made In Heaven and accelerating the flow of time, clocks all over the planet begin rapidly spinning faster. As time acceleration goes further, the movement of the clock hands are sped up so immensely, they can no longer be seen by anyone.
  • In Kirby: Right Back at Ya! episode "Cartoon Buffoon", time passes as everyone is rushing to finish the animated special before the deadline.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Used in Bloody Reunion to show time passing as Mi-Ga and Detective Ma wait for Mrs Park to wake up at the hospital.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Quantum Leap: In the pilot, the first leaping effect goes from Gushie watching Sam standing in the accelerator and Al speeding back to PQL, to an Astronomic Zoom in on Tom Stratton's house as Tom's clock spins backwards, to Sam waking up as Stratton.

  • The background for Ebenezer is a projection of a clock tower. As Jacob Marley dies, the clock hands spin wildly, lit in red.

    Video Games 
  • Variation for Chrono Trigger. The game's original title screen already played with time imagery, with the logo overlapping half of a clock face and preceded by a swinging pendulum. But when the PS1 port added anime cutscenes to the game, it included an opening Title Montage which begins with a dial with hands rapidly rotating to show the party's Time Machine traveling through the different eras chronologically from prehistory onwards. (So each time period is denoted through in-story years rapidly passing, not the hours of a clock face.)
  • This is a common sight in Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective 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, specifically 10 years prior to tonight's events.
  • Mario Party:
    • Mario Party 3: In the Tick Tock Hop minigame, the clock's minute hand spins around while the players remain on the hour hand, avoiding the moving hand as it spins faster.
    • Mario Party 5: Clock Stoppers has the main clock spinning until stopping at the time the players have to match.
    • Mario Party 8: In the Nick of Time minigame, players have to manually spin the clocks to match the time shown in the center clock.

    Western Animation 
  • In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Miles' first day at Visions Academy is captured in a couple of key shots, including a spinning clock on the wall.
  • Looney Tunes: In "Porky's Badtime Story" (and its remake with Daffy, "Tick Tock Tuckered"), we see an alarm clock sounding off at 8 AM which Porky and Gabby/Daffy sleep through. Close-up of the clock moving ahead two hours, which is when Porky realizes they overslept.


  • Parodied in this Toon Blast ad where Ryan Reynolds plays the app while the clock on the wall above him is spinning in circles, making it appear as if he was immersed in gaming for hours. Then there is The Reveal when we see the clock is actually broken, spinning fast in real-time.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Smurfs story "The Smurflings" (and its Animated Adaptation), the hands on Father Time's magical grandfather clock spin rapidly backwards as three adult Smurfs de-age into Smurflings.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Beatles' Yellow Submarine movie uses a variant of this by showing rapidly clockwise-spinning hands when time actually is going forward rapidly, and then rapidly counterclockwise-spinning hands when time is going backward rapidly.

    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.
  • Parodied in How to Sleep, a 1935 satire of Instructional Films. What is supposedly a Time Lapse film of the subject tossing and turning in bed is obviously them just rolling around as a sped-up fake clock twirls.

    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 example of this trope and comments "We really should fix that clock".
  • An episode of Adventures in Wonderland uses the gag version. Hare and the Hatter spend a lot of time reading comic books, with a clock with spinning hands seemingly showing how much time has passed. The Hare sees it and says the clock needs fixing, and the Hatter gives it Percussive Maintenance to make it stop.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • SaGa:
    • 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: Arsia in Daydream 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.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Parodied in King of the Hill, episode: "Hank's Dirty Laundry". Hank must watch several pornographic films in order to find evidence that could clear his name. Hank watches these films on a VCR which has not had the time set, so "12:00" continually flashes. As Hank watches the porn in horror, the shot cuts to show the VCR's clock. A significant amount of time apparently passes, but "12:00" continues to flash on the clock.
  • Sonic Boom: In "Battle of the Boy Bands", when Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles form their own boy band, they have to come up with a name, and a montage is shown. This includes the usual montage tropes, such as the Wastebasket Ball and Spinning Clock Hands. Then pages are coming off the calendar, only for Sonic to reveal it was Knuckles:
    Sonic: Knuckles, stop tearing pages off that calendar!


Video Example(s):


Spinning Clocks

Clocks are sped up as time passes while everyone rushes to finish before the deadline.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / SpinningClockHands

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