The circadian clock provides a temporal structure that modulates biological functions from the level of gene expression to performance and behaviour. Pioneering work on the fruitfly Drosophila has provided a basis for understanding how the temporal sequence of daily events is controlled in mammals. New insights have come from work on mammals, specifically from studying the daily activity profiles of clock mutant mice; from more detailed recordings of clock gene expression under different experimental conditions and in different tissues; and from the discovery and analysis of a growing number of additional clock genes. These new results are moving the model paradigm away from a simple negative feedback loop to a molecular network. Understanding the coupling and interactions of this network will help us to understand the evolution of the circadian system, advance medical diagnosis and treatment, improve the health of shift workers and frequent travellers, and will generally enable the treatment of clock-related pathologies.