When man found that time is the only thing that he cannot control, he devised ways in which he can measure time. From the earliest recorded history, calculating time has been the concern and passion for man. The earliest sundials and weight machines were an endeavor in this respect. Man’s rise to modernity has a great deal to do with the quest and development of watches. Like the story of man, the story of watches is also remarkable. Through a long journey of evolution, the watches nowadays, are as much an instrument of showing time, as they are a work of art. They also complement one’s style, taste, and individuality.
Interesting & Amazing Information On Origin & Background Of Watches
The period from 1500’s to 1575 is considered to be the great age of advancement and innovation in watches. The timepieces in those days were huge structures as they were driven by weights. The size also made the timepieces impossible to carry about. However, in the year 1524, the first portable watch was produced. This is also considered to be the earliest documented date of the watch. Subsequently other watches appeared around 1548, which were mostly of German or French origin. It was not until 1575 that English and Swiss origin watches were introduced.
During the 1600s, till 1675, the watches were low on technical innovation, but they were used more as an ornament. Precious metal and stones were enameled or engraved on the cases and the watches. Since the watches during those times were highly inaccurate they were mostly used as a decorative item. The watches were worn in a pendant style from the neck but with the introduction of waistcoats, they were worn in pockets.
After 1675, the watches, for the first time, used spiral balance spring. This made the watches more accurate, from fractions of an hour to fractions of a minute. The increase in accuracy resulted in the addition of a new feature like a minute hand and the dial subdivided into minutes. The hours were marked in roman numerals while the minutes in Arabic numbers. While earlier the watches had to be wound every 12 hours, the addition of a fourth wheel required that the watches be wound every 24 hours.
The watches continued their steady progress throughout the 18th century. In the year 1704, two English watchmakers, Facio de Duillier and J. Debaufre, introduced the methods of using jewels as bearings. Thereafter, for nearly a century the art of using jewels in watches were confined to the English.
The first watch to measure the longitude came in the year 1761. It was invented by John Harrison, but since it was very complicated it enjoyed very little success. Later various horologists produced the practical chronometer. By the 19th century the practical chronometer achieved a great deal of perfection. It was also during this period that the seconds hand was added to the watches. By 1850s the lever watch was the most common mechanism and gradually its design changed from a straight-sided to a curved one.
The advancement in metallurgy had a huge impact on the further development of the watches. After the 1900 the errors due to temperature and balance were eliminated due to the use of bimetallic alloys. This period also saw the birth of wristwatches and by the end of the Second World War, it completely took over the pocket watches. After 1945 the watches were produced with complicated mechanisms like automotive winding, date-work, alarm-work etc. And by the 1950s the battery operated watches were available. The concept of the electronic watch with 2.5 million beats per second was also born. By the 1970s the electronic watches pushed out the mechanical watch for ever.