When I first got married I bought an antique, ships clock and barometer. At the time my wife thought that it was too expensive but these days she lovingly and dutifully winds it each Sunday and takes it to the watchmaker when it runs awry. The clock features the eight bell system in homage to days of yore when a ships crew would take turns manning the ship 24/7. The term ‘watch’ refers to these shifts and is perhaps a little overused these days by our dullard politician’s who like to bandy the ‘not on my watch’ cliché.
There were many variations of this set up but essentially if a large crew were divided into three then each crew would work on a four hours on and eight hours off rotation. That is an attractive proposition to someone like myself who has been working night shift until my skin has turned a glowing alabaster.
When the bell tolled eight bells it marked the end of one crews watch and the beginning of another’s. The bell tolled every half hour with an odd number of bells and tolled on the hour an even number of bells. Note the table above only shows twelve hours and is repeated to make up the twenty four hours.