Idents

On this page we look at clocks that have been used in BBC television presentation over the years.

We also have pages looking at idents from BBC1, BBC2, BBC3/Choice, BBC4/Knowledge, CBBC and UKTV, and regional ITV idents. See the panel to the right for further menu options. See the bottom of the page for further menu options. If you want to explore the subject of television presentation in greater depth, see our links page for related sites.


Clocks

Up until the early 2000s, clocks were a common sight in television presentation. They were most frequently seen before national news bulletins and at closedowns (both in daytime and at night), but were sometimes used to introduce other live programming, such as Grandstand, and in the 1960s and 70s were even used for the likes for Blue Peter.


We start, perhaps unexpectedly, with a digital clock. This was introduced at 6.30pm on 8th October 1960, and may have been used exclusively for a while instead of a channel symbol.

By 1962, however, the BBC had reverted to using a more traditional analogue device. The second version of this clock, from 1963, was closer to a true circle and now featured the sloping BBC boxes.


A new version of the clock was introduced when the BBC's sole channel was renamed BBC1 in 1964, which matched the design of the new globe. The same is true of the next clock, introduced in 1966, which used the watchstraps that also appeared on the globe symbol.

A new style of clock face was introduced in 1968, which would remain until 1981. This third image is a reconstruction - in reality, the hour markings were slightly thinner than shown.


The BBC1 clock went into colour at the end of 1969, shown here along with an updated version introduced after Christmas 1974. Around December 1981, the mechanical clock was replaced by an electronically-generated timepiece. This new-look face was also used on the 1985 version of the clock, which unfortunately we don't have an image of.


The last two BBC1 clocks. The first seen here was used from around late 1991; the original version that accompanied the launch of the 'virtual globe' earlier that year had a larger face and different background. It was presumably changed to match the size of the globe.

The same style of face was used on the final clock, which accompanied the balloon idents, and was used from October 1997.

The BBC1 clock disappeared upon the introduction of the 'Rhythm and Movement' idents in March 2002. Although a clock was produced for this package, which apparently used the same clock face introduced in 1991 over a blurred still of the Capoeira ident, this was never used on air. Some claim the clock's demise is related to the delay inherent in the reception of digital broadcasts, making the timepiece inaccurate (so why hasn't that stopped the broadcast of the Greenwich Time Signal on BBC radio?). In reality, a silently ticking clock was simply viewed as outdated in the context of modern television presentation.


Moving onto BBC2, and the channel used a clock with roman numerals in its early days, presumably in an attempt to be 'different'. However by the end of the 1960s and the arrival of colour, this had given way to the same design of clock used on BBC1.


The same style of clock remained in use throughout the 1970s, before an electronic timepiece was introduced in September 1980, more than a year before BBC1 received the same.

A different style of clock face on a white background was introduced in 1986, which unfortunately we have no image of.


The final BBC2 clock was introduced in February 1991 alongside the new '2' idents, and would remain in use for ten years. In October 1997 the logotype at the bottom of the screen was updated in line with the rest of the BBC's on-screen presentation - however, by this time sightings of the clock were becoming increasingly rare, sometimes appearing just one or two per year! Shown here is one of its few appearances in widescreen - and indeed its penultimate ever showing on network BBC2 - on 6th July 2001 when the Six O'Clock News was moved from BBC1 at the last minute due to Wimbledon coverage.

As with BBC1, the BBC2 clock disappeared from our screens altogether with the next revamp of the channel's presentation, in November 2001.


Three BBC1 clocks made it onto a quiz show on 18th August 2004. I kid you not. The contestants' challenge on BBC3's HeadJam was to put the above clocks into chronological order. And guess what - they got it right!


From our YouTube channel, a compilation of BBC clocks from over the decades.