Over time, clock tattoos have come to be known as prison or gang pieces, and often symbolize the amount of time that a person has spent in jail; however, they also occasionally symbolize the passing of time, and may sometimes represent a pertinent moment in the wearer’s life – such as the time of birth of a child, or the passing of a close relative. Though many people get these tattoos for their symbolism, others like them purely for their strange, undefinable beauty.
Occasionally, clock tattoos may appear in a mildly realistic fashion. These pieces tend to show older images, such as Victorian grandfather clocks, sundials, and cuckoo clocks. Others may be more modern, and can include digital faces, wrist watches, and pocket watches. Many people like their clock tattoos to have a bit of a twist, for example, the face may appear to melt against the skin, while others may depict the inner workings of the clock.
Although clock tattoos in and of themselves are lovely, many people prefer to add other symbols to their pieces. One of the most common is the image of death. This style may show a dark-robbed, skeletal figure holding the timepiece in his talons; a pocket watch might swing from the hip of the swathed, skeletal figure; or the clock itself may be made up of bones and skulls. Clock pieces may also be used to represent endless love. One such example would be of a heart-shaped piece with no hands, or hands that run out beyond the face of the clock. Some people like to incorporate clocks into tribute pieces. For instance, the face of a person may serve as a backdrop the hands of a clock; or each hand may point to a different name of importance – for example, the name of a spouse, and that of a child. Some people might also like to create a sort of astrological clock, with each hour representing a different sign – the hands may also point towards signs that are of importance to the wearer.
Though clock pieces may have gotten something of a bad rap over the years, these designs are most commonly used to represent the cyclical nature of existence. They express both life and death, and the possibility of starting anew with each passing hour.