This question pertains to the videogame The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. In this game, the bell from the Clock Town clock tower can be heard from pretty much anywhere in the world at certain times, when it rings at regular intervals to announce the fall of night or the break of dawn. However, each 'time cycle' in the game ends with the dawning of the Carnival of Time, a festival of cultural and religious significance in-universe, wherein the bell rings much more frequently. On this day, from the hours between midnight and 5 AM, the bell rings once every 10 in-game minutes (10 IRL seconds). From 5:00 to 5:30, it starts ringing more frequently, at intervals of once every 5 in-game minutes/5 IRL seconds. Once 5:30 hits, it starts ringing at intervals of once every 3 in-game minutes/IRL seconds.

This is obviously done mostly for atmospheric reasons as if you allow the game clock to reach 6:00 AM on this day it'll mark a game over from an apocalyptic scenario, but my question is: how viable would it be to automate a bell in a clock tower system with purely mechanical (i.e. non-electronic) components to do this on a specific night?

Cursory research has taught me that fully mechanical clocks have been a thing since at least the 14th Century and chiming clocks date back to the 1600s, but so far nothing that has left me satisfied with trying to figure out if a mechanism such as I've described here could be viable assuming it was fully automated and mechanical for one specific night (as opposed to being forced to assume a human bell ringer). This assumes being limited to real-world physics, as this is a universe where magic exists.

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    $\begingroup$ This is 100% possible using a purely mechanical system. It would just be super complex. $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 1:02
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    – Gryphon
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 1:25
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    $\begingroup$ It's possible, but to be practical, a bit of human intervention might be the way to go. Ringing a loud bell again and again costs quite a bit of energy, so likely someone will have to be on hand to wind the watch if the weights drop to low. That person could easily flip the switch from "ring twice a day" to "ring every ten minutes" and so on. $\endgroup$
    – mlk
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ For a practical example of mechanical clocks with variable cycles, look into the orrery. Some fairly complex ones were actually built. It solve part of the problem you pose. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ Just create a white hole within the clock tower to speed up time there. Simple, no need for any electronics or magic! $\endgroup$
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 1:24

4 Answers 4


In clock-making such a feature is called a complication.

Movements with complications are quite common, from simple-minded calendars (which need to be reset at the end of every month shorter than 31 days) to true perpetual calendars and indications of the phases of the moon. The specific complication described in the question seems to be perfecly possible based on the existing perpetual calendar mechanism.

Wikipedia writes that the record holder is a pocket watch by Vacheron Constantin; the Reference 57260 movement features 57 distinct complications, including a Gregorian perpetual calendar, with day and month name (which could constitute the basis for the requested functionality). There is a nice video of this watch on YouTube (thanks to @SztupY for the pointer).

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    $\begingroup$ First, you turn the time circuits on. This one tells you where you're going. This one tells you where you are. This one tells you where you were. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 6:47
  • $\begingroup$ For a pretty neat example and some cool history (IMO), it might be worth looking at the Antikythera mechanism. ~2200 year old mechanical clock that was quite complex. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ @JMac: The Anticythera mechanism is a calculator, not a clock. It was used for calculating eclipses and astronomical positions, not for measuring time. It is a fine example of ancient clockwork, but a clock it isn't. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 13:08
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    $\begingroup$ It's worth noting that in towers specifically, from at least the 17th century, they had mechanisms that could play a unique short melody for each quarter- or eighth-hour and, on each hour, ring the lowest bell a number of times to tell the hour. Here's a page detailing a very old surviving system: kenneththeunissen.be/carillon-gent/the-drum.html . It pretty much does every kind of thing the OP wants - just add a new set of gears for counting the year. (These towers also have people regularly resetting a counterweight to power it - so giving them a lever would work just as well) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 16:02

Easy if it's made for it

There is a clock set to play different tunes over a 10,000 year period

See 10,000 Year Clock

All you need is a mechanism that cycles long enough to repeat the cycle.

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    $\begingroup$ "There is a clock set to play different tunes over a 10,000 year period" : actually, no there isn't, I don't know who produced & posted the article you link to but I assume it's a piece of promotional fluff of the "this is what it will be like" variety because as far as I can find the 10,000-year clock is still only a proposal that isn't actually built yet. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 1:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore the fact that a clock is being constructed and has a somewhat finalized design is still evidence enough that it is possible to build a clock with a 1 year cycle. In comparison with a 10,000 year clock a 1 year clock is child's play to build and design. $\endgroup$
    – user64742
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 5:33
  • $\begingroup$ This answer does not provide any details to answer OP's question $\endgroup$
    – qwr
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 9:38

Trivially, you could simply rig up multiple clocks, one per timing adjustment needed. Then any mechanism to switch clocks at the right time will do.

  • $\begingroup$ That was going to be my answer. Referring to AlexP's excellent answer the mechanism doesn't really be very complicated in terms of mechanics, the biggest problem is accuracy of triggering mechanism. Increased accuracy will probably add on complexity, but still it's absolutely viable. $\endgroup$
    – Ister
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 17:38

A music box produces musical notes with a revolving cylinder or disc that encodes information on which note to play. This same concept can be applied to a striking mechanism which has pins or protrusions that gradually get spaced closer together for more frequent ringing.

Similarly, punched card systems were developed in the 1700s and were used in purely mechanical looms. It is not unreasonable to imagine a punched card (or several that could be swapped out) encoding information about gradually faster bell striking.


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