A watch can be defined as “a spring driven timekeeper, small enough to carry on a person.” The early watches were worn on a chain around the neck, then came the pocket watches and finally, the wrist watches were developed. The concept of keeping time can be traced way back to the beginning of civilization. There were clocks before watches and there were simple mechanisms before clocks. Time was measured by the shadows formed from the sundials. Also, there were hourglasses that measured time by predictable rates of sand moving through a narrow channel. Early watches were incredibly big. Today, they have not only become smaller, but also much more trendy. Read on further to explore interesting and amazing information on the history of watches.
Interesting & Amazing Information On Origin & Background Of Watches
Before 1600, driving power was the main problem in portable timekeeping. The timepieces were driven by weights and therefore were impractical to transport on one person. In 1524, the first pocket watch was created by Peter Henlein in Germany. Other watches appeared in 1548 that were of either French or German origin. After 1575, more products were produced in Switzerland and England. This period came to known as one of great advancement and innovation in the horological industry. Initially, the first movements were made of steel and later on, of brass. They did not have balance springs and were notoriously inaccurate. These watches had only an hour hand and had to be wound twice daily.
Subsequently, spiral leaf mainspring appeared which came as the greatest innovation as it allowed long-term power without weights. The accuracy of the timepieces could be improved by using a limited portion of the mainspring since there was a difference in timing between the long arcs and the short arcs. Although Germany produced a watch with a cam at the end of the barrel arbor, it was England and France who used the fusee. The fusees stopped the watch during winding to prevent over-oscillation of the balance wheel. Stops were also included as regulators.
In 1600s, form watches having cases shaped like animals and objects became popular. They were also available in religious themes. Watches were considered more like pieces of jewelry even though very few technical improvements took place. Rubies were first used in 1704 in watch movements to create more accurate time pieces. To make the watch dials more visible in low light, enamel was used in 1750. In 1780, Abraham Perrelet invented the first self-winding movement while, in 1820, Thomas Prest registered a patent for a self-winding watch.
In America, the first watch was manufactured by Luther Goddard of Shrewsbuy, Massachussetts in 1809. The well-known Omega Watch Company was first opened by Louis Brandt as a workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1848. Around 1850, the Americans finally went into mass production of watches with mixed results. The main companies for the same were Waltham, Elgin and Hamilton. In 1884, Greenwich, also named as the zero meridian, in England was accepted worldwide as the starting point for global time zones. Finally, after 1900, different advancements were made in metallurgy to improve the mechanism since the balance spring was sensitive to temperature and position. Self-compensating balances were introduced having bi-metallic properties to compensate for high and low temperatures. Eventually, a balance that could compensate for middle temperature errors was created.
In 1905, Hans Wildorf , started the Rolex Watch Company. In 1914, the first wrist watch with an alarm was created. The Seiko was started in Tokyo by Kinttaro Hattori in 1924. By 1930, the ratio of wrist watches to pocket watches was 50:1. The production of pocket watches was minimized after the end of Second World War in 1945. The Swiss watches captured a large percentage of the world’s consumption. In 1952, battery-powered watches were available as an alternative to the automatic ones. These electronic watches became so popular that the mechanical ones were lost forever by 1970s. Gradually, the mechanical watches flourished again in the upper sections of the marketplace. Today manufacturers like Blancpain, Rolex, Patek Phillipe, Audemars Piguet, Jaegar LeCoultre, Lange & Sohne and Vacheron Constantin make high quality mechanical watches.