How Many Numbers are on a Clock Face?

A clock surrounded by numbers and a notepad to answer "How many numbers are on a clock?" (from: Pexels, Black ice, )

How many numbers are on a clock? It depends on the style! Plus, we answer the annoying schoolyard riddle once and for all!

Typically, it is pretty easy to calculate how many numbers are on a clock. You just need to count.

However, there are multiple styles of clock, including clocks with no numbers on them at all. Here we investigate the most common types of number patterns on clocks.

Finally, there’s that annoying riddle: “How many numbers are on a clock face?” that has a really gotcha answer. We reveal the standard answer, plus give our take, below.



Four Styles Show How Many Numbers Are on a Clock

Before we look at schoolyard riddles, it is important to understand how many numbers are on the average clock. In reality, it isn’t always 12. There are quite a few standard numbering systems for clocks.

The 12 Number Clock

This is your standard 12 number clock, similar to the one you had at school. (from: Pexels, Shawn Stutzman, )

This is the clock you stared at during physics class. It’s also probably the clock you learned how to tell time on.

Overall, the 12 number clock is a logical choice for manufacturers as the numbers 1 thru 12 represent the hours. Plus, the 60 minutes of an hour are conveniently divisible by 12, making each number show 5 minute intervals. For example, when the minute hand points at the 9, that means 45 minutes have passed this hour.

As people get older and more familiar with reading an analog clock, using all 12 numbers becomes less and less important. When making smaller clocks, the numbers often become crowded and tiny. They can be very hard to see.

12 number clocks are best for children and large clocks.

The 4 Number Clock

How many numbers are on this alarm clock? Just four, the 3, 6, 9, and 12. (from: Pexels, Pixabay, )

The 4 number clock uses the numbers 12, 3, 6, and 9 to break up the clock into quarters. It is a great design for people that are already comfortable telling time on an analog clock.

These clocks do not show the 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, or 11, but instead show their position with a dot. What is clever about the 4 number clock design is that each of these numbers neighbor a shown number, so it is still easy to read. For example, the 8 dot is just below the 9 number.

A distinct advantage of the 4 number clock is its ability to be scaled down while retaining readability. A very small clock, such as the one in the picture above, remains highly readable due to the four larger numbers. 4 number clocks are best for older children, adults, and small clocks.

The 0 Number Clock

How many numbers are on a clock that you can actually read? Sometimes it's zero. (from: Pexels, Pixabay, )

Don’t use a 0 number clock if you aren’t already comfortable reading analog time! These clocks have no numbers at all, but can be read by looking at the dashes around the clock face, known as graduations.

One issue 0 number clocks have is that they can be easily misread if they become tilted. Don’t put 0 number clocks in places that are knocked. Imagine if the clock above were in an earthquake zone!

Here's an artsy clock with no numbers or graduation lines at all. (from: Pexels, cottonbro studio, )

Some 0 number clocks don’t have graduations, and are read purely on intuition. They work well for people with artistic flairs and those with sleep anxiety, that might obsess about time at night.


The 24 Number Clock

How many numbers can be on a clock before it becomes too many? The Prague Astronomical Clock has 24! (from: Pexels, Damir., )

You don’t see this type of clock as often, but there are 24 number clocks as well. Each of the numbers represents one of the hours in a 24-hour day. Unlike other clocks on this list, the hour hand on 24 number clocks only rotate around the face one time per day.

24 number clocks are obviously great for telling military time, but it is often difficult for beginners to determine the exact time the minute hand is pointing to. This is difficult even in bigger clocks, such as Prague’s Astronomical Clock (pictured above), because 24 does not divide evenly into 60.



The Annoying ‘How Many Numbers are on a Clock’ Riddle Finally Solved

The riddle is a classic. Your friend asks you how many numbers are on a clock.

You confidently reply with 12, thinking of the 12 number clock.

Your friend’s answer to the how many numbers on a clock riddle, however, is 15.

The thinking is that 10, 11, and 12 are each two numbers. So, a standard 12 number clock would have 12 numbers, plus the 3 extra from the ones with two numbers.

This line of thinking has a major problem, though. Digits. (No, not repdigits!) Each individual character is actually a digit, with many digits making a number. For example, 987 is one number and three digits.

Digit: any of the Arabic numerals 1 to 9 and usually the symbol 0’ — Merriam-Webster

So, the next time your friend tries to trick you with this riddle, tell them about digits. OR, link this article to them to prove that there are many ways to arrange numbers on a clock. With knowledge, none of their stupid riddles can defeat you!


The answer also complete forgets about digital clock faces. Since all of the digital clock numbers can be made in a single spot, there are only three numbers on a digital clock!




There are many styles of clock face and the way numbers are displayed on them can vary.

We typically don’t think too heavily into the design choices of clocks, assuming the basic parts are always the same. The reality is that how many numbers are on a clock — or even how many hands are on a clock — differs from one design to another. Expect innovations in clock faces to reflect both the aesthetic tastes of the artist and the practicalities of usage.

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