History of the Punch Clock

Published September 15, 2015

In an earlier blog, we identified the inventor of the first punch clock as Willard Le Grand Bundy. Will it surprise you to learn that he was a jeweller by trade? Back in those days, jewellers were typically skilled watchmakers who spent their days repairing and rebuilding all types of watches and clocks.

After his incredible invention in 1888, Willard filed for a patent for the machine in 1890 and his brother Harlow established the Bundy Manufacturing Company to make the punch clocks for mass distribution. A series of mergers with other time equipment companies ultimately led to the formation of IBM. And who hasn’t heard of IBM?

The original “Bundy clock” made use of individual keys for each worker to keep track of their hours. For the true history geeks, you can check out the actual patent and the drawings.

The patent is a bit difficult to decipher but the language and description are charming. Mr. Bundy actually called his clock “The Workman’s Time Recorder”. The patent says that the “time recording mechanism” is “actuated directly by a clock or hour and minute wheels”. With each “workman having his own key”, “when a key is turned”, “a feed mechanism” will make “an impression” and “record the time of his arrival” “or departure” on paper “thereby preventing all disputes”.

The punch clock remained a “mechanical” machine for a very long time and it wasn’t until the 1970’s when the punch card system began to be computerized. In future blogs, we’ll talk about some of the other punch clock advancements that have occurred over the years.

Punchtime has re-invented the Punch Clock with an easy to use, cloud based mobile app.  Check it out!