Are you ready to take the plunge and finally buy a chess clock? Good! Today I’m going to go over my top four picks for the best chess clocks for your money. I will do my best to rate them from 1 to 10 on price, ease of use, durability, and overall value. This list is not in any particular order because different people may place a higher value on a feature than I do.
1: ZMF-II Chess Clock
Ease of use: 8
Overall value: 8
We might as well start with the clock I use for tournaments. This is an excellent digital clock following the Chronos model. It avoids giving you too many setting options that you will never use in a chess tournament. It provides what the average chess player and clock user need to be able to quickly and easily set the gross time and any increment/time delay.
Setting this clock is very easy, and the touch sensor buttons have worked flawlessly for me. I really like them over physical buttons. The display uses LEDs. I like the LEDs over LCDs in other digital chess clocks because they require less power and appear brighter to me.
The weight of the clock is not bad. Once you add the 4 C batteries the chess clock sits firmly on the table and doesn’t slide around. It’s not too heavy either for lugging around all day at a tournament.
An area for improvement would be some extra storage capacity for personalized settings. It would be nice to be able to store a couple of standard time controls that I frequently use instead of having to reset the clock if I need to change the time control. The delay function takes some getting used to – if a delay is used, for example, the display switches between the delay time remaining and the total time remaining until the delay is done.
I don’t like the fact it uses C batteries. I am always worried about my batteries running out during a tournament and C batteries aren’t as popular as they use to be. This means they are a little harder to find. That also means I have to carry around 4 more of these heavy guys just in case because this clock doesn’t have a low battery indicator.
The case is plastic. It’s hard strong plastic, but I wouldn’t want to knock it off the table. I’ve never dropped it so I can’t speak to how well it can take a fall.
2: Chronos GX
Ease of use: 4
Overall value: 6
If you’re the type of person that has to have the very best then this is what you are looking for. This chess clock is regarded as simply the best chess clock available today. All-metal housing, compact and nearly indestructible for either tournament or blitz play.
It’s manufactured in the United States, and features 4 preset blitz times, 8 preset tournament controls and supports both delay and increment modes, making it ideal for tournament players. For longer multi-stage time controls there is a move counter that shows in smaller digits. The Chronos GX is the newest addition to the Chronos family. Requires three AA batteries, which are included.
The display is large and has better contrast than other clocks like the DGT NA or 3000, and is easy to see from a distance. LEDs on each side show who has the move. It is more compact than its predecessor (the discontinued Chronos I and II) which makes it easy to fit in a standard chess bag.
This sucker is pricey! At over $100 it will really ruin your day if someone accidentally knocks it off your table during a tournament. I personally don’t like having expensive equipment at a tournament. Someone always has a last-minute crisis and asks to borrow your clock if you aren’t using it. Either you are going to be preoccupied with worrying about getting it back, or you’re going to be that jerk who has a clock they aren’t using, saying “sorry but I don’t lend out my clock”.
This clock is also notorious for being difficult to set. It is borderline comical to watch the rush of players searching for anyone with the knowledge to properly set one of these at the beginning of a tournament. There are countless YouTube videos dedicated to setting this clock.
It’s heavy. You know when you’ve lugged this thing around all day.
3: DGT North American
Ease of use: 7
Overall value: 7
I’ve used this chess clock many times, but I don’t own it. Therefore I researched the clock and I’m providing what I found below.
The DGT North American digital chess clock comes with two AA batteries included, as well as a low battery warning feature that will let you know when it’s time to change them. It has a sound alert option that you can turn on to signal when someone’s in time trouble, and an impressive 16 different contrast settings so that you can adjust to any lighting conditions. The display on this digital chess clock can be made clear and visible in any setting from the full outdoor sun to low basement lighting.
It did take a little work to figure out the programming of the clock, so if you are looking for an easy-to-set clock for a youngster, I would probably go with something else.
Here is a great example from an Amazon review. This actually almost cost me a game in an real tournament.
An example might be making the first 40 moves in 100 minutes and then all of the remaining moves in 30 minutes. My previous clock would, at reaching the completion of the 40th move, add the additional 30 minutes onto whatever time I had left. If I had 60 minutes left, after move 40, my clock would then show that I had 90 minutes left. The DGT clock behaves differently. Upon reaching the completion of said move, the clock does not change the displayed time at all. Only once you have exhausted your original cache of time does the clock add the remaining time on. At this point it also shows a flag icon, indicating that you have run out of time and have lost. This is not a huge concern as long as you are annotating your game correctly since you can show the arbiter that you have passed the 40th move, but it can have a psychological effect on a player, particularly one who gets into time trouble often (read: Me).
4: DGT 960 Chess Clock
Ease of use: 6
Durability : 3
Overall value: 5
It’s small. When I first saw this clock I was surprised at just how small it is when compared to other chess clocks.
The DGT 960 chess clock is the only clock I’ve seen that can generate one of the 960 starting positions for Fischer Random Chess. The display shows symbols indicating in which position the pieces have to be placed on the board.
DGT 960 gives you everything you need to time tournament, speed chess, and many other board games.
DGT 960 is a folding chess clock. It’s packed with technology. It can slip into your shirt pocket, but can still provide a big, clear display when opened.
The biggest issue with this clock is that it feels flimsy and the buttons are flaky. At times if you are in the midst of a heated battle in blitz and you don’t press the clocks button just right it won’t register.
Longtime users report that :
- Easily broken. This is based on a number of these clocks.
- Doesn’t respond if the button is not pressed exactly right, so it is useless for blitz.
- After a time other buttons randomly become unresponsive.
Honorable Mention: Garde Chess Clock
Ease of use: 8
Overall value: 5
With the rise of the digital clock taking over the chess scene, I debated on whether I should include any mechanical clocks. I decided to give one of them my honorable mention slot for the simple fact that they can still work just fine if you’re playing casual chess and they just look awesome!
This comes from the German manufacturer GARDE. The leader in analog chess clocks. This chess clock is a fully mechanical device, and according to GARDE, this clock is the same type as the one that had been used in the Short vs. Kasparov match during the 1993 world championship.
When it comes to analog chess clocks, you’ll rarely meet a more beautiful, simple and elegant piece than this one.
No bells and whistles.
Thank you for reading to the end. I hope your day is blessed and your chess games sharp!
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