Tinder pistol alarm clock, 18th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The combination of alarm clock and tinder pistol seems to have originated in Europe during the late 17th or early 18th centuries. The clock has a repeating mechanism to sound the quarter hours when required, but when the pre-set alarm went off it released the trigger-held flint on to the hinged steel striker. The resulting sparks flew down on to a priming of gunpowder which in turn ignited a candle. The clock was carried in a travelling case and its military engines suggest that its original owner was a military campaigner.