Skip to main content

Time is an extremely popular theme in tattooing. Artists represent time in a multitude of ways in their designs and one of the most popular images used is an hourglass. An hourglass is a device used to measure time. It's comprised of two symmetrical glass bulbs connected by a narrow neck that regulates the amount of sand that passes through. There's no definitive record of when the hourglass was created, however, it was frequently depicted in art during the Middle Ages. Today, they're widely obsolete, aside from their inclusion in many popular board games such as Pictionary or Boggle.

In art they're used to represent time in three parts: past, present and future. They're occasionally depicted with wings, in order to represent the phrase "time flies." In tattooing, we frequently see hourglasses depicted with skulls, to represent to dichotomy of life and death. Many tattoo artists prefer illustrating hourglasses to other time measuring devices, such as pocket watches, which tend to be artistically limiting.

In honor of the rich history of pocket watches, take a look at 75 incredible tattoos from talented tattoo artists around the world. Then let us know your favorite tattoo from this list in the comments section on social media.