The circadian system of mammals is composed of a hierarchy of oscillators that function at the cellular, tissue, and systems levels. A common molecular mechanism underlies the cell-autonomous circadian oscillator throughout the body, yet this clock system is adapted to different functional contexts. In the central suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus, a coupled population of neuronal circadian oscillators acts as a master pacemaker for the organism to drive rhythms in activity and rest, feeding, body temperature, and hormones. Coupling within the SCN network confers robustness to the SCN pacemaker, which in turn provides stability to the overall temporal architecture of the organism. Throughout the majority of the cells in the body, cell-autonomous circadian clocks are intimately enmeshed within metabolic pathways. Thus, an emerging view for the adaptive significance of circadian clocks is their fundamental role in orchestrating metabolism.