history of watches

The History Of Watches: The History Of Chronograph Watches And More

The history of watches is long and complicated, but if you’re a true watch aficionado, we expect you’ll be keen to learn all about the development of the watchmaking industry over time. This guide will go into detail about the history of clocks and watches, so you don’t want to miss it!

A Brief History Of Clocks

We aren’t certain who invented the first clock as civilisations have been using clock-like mechanisms all over the world for many years. We believe that the first type of clock was a sundial, and that it probably first appeared in Babylon around 6000 years ago. However, some people would argue that a sundial is not  a real clock, so the inventor of the first ‘real’ clock remains a mystery.

We do know that the first mechanical clock was invented in 1275. It featured a simple mechanism that resembles the mechanisms of today, but the exterior of the watch was completely different. There were no hands, hour markers, or bezels – in fact, there were no dials!

The History Of Pocket Watches

pocket watch in jeans pocket

In 1510, German watchmaker, Peter Henlein, invented the first pocket watch. It didn’t actually fit inside a pocket so people wore it as a chain around the neck. However, many people label it a pocket watch as it was later redesigned to fit inside men’s pockets. Originally, only the elite wore pocket watches, but they were eventually popularised in society.

Again, the first pocket watch looked very different to the ones we see today. There were no minute hands on pocket watches until 1680. Eventually, watchmakers started to add modern features to this type of timepiece. The history of chronograph watches is actually closely tied to this story. The first chronograph pocket watch came out in 1816. It was invented by Louis Moinet, and it was the most accurate timekeeping device of the period.

The History Of Mechanical Watches

wooden mechanical watch on forest floor

The first timepiece to be officially deemed a ‘wristwatch’ was invented in 1812 for the Queen off Naples. Wristwatches were originally marketed to women as men needed more robust watches for manual labour.

Eventually, the mechanical watch begun to be associated with the military due to the practicality of wearing a watch on the wrist while fighting. In 1880, an impressive 2000 wristwatches were made for German Naval Officers. Later on, wristwatches became an important part of World War I soldiers’ uniform. Each soldier had to purchase their own mechanical wristwatch.

As time went on, more people started to purchase a wristwatch for themselves. By the end of the war, people no longer associated them with soldiers, as they were widespread in society.

The History Of Automatic Watches

apple watch on black background

In 1776, Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Perrelet invented the first self-winding mechanism for pocket watches. People recognised the practicality of this, but automatic watches did not yet become popularised as they were expensive and difficult to make.

Over 100 years later, John Hardwood, a watchmaker from the Isle of Man, released the first self-winding wristwatch. He also invented the trusty watch winder that many of us still use to this day. In 1969, Hamilton, Breitling and Heuer invented the first automatic chronograph named the Chronomatic, and it was hugely successful.

The History Of Quartz Watches

mechanical watches

The year 1969 marked the beginning of the quartz revolution. After years of mass-producing mechanical and automatic watches, it was time for electronic mechanisms to shine. Seiko took credit for the first quartz watch, the Astron, that boasted high accuracy and affordability.

Today, quartz watches are the most popular type of watch in the industry.

The History Of Watch Brands

We would love to delve into the history of every luxury watch brand, but it would simply take too long. Instead, we have selected two impressive brands to focus on today.

Rolex Watches

Black Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer with black background

Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis founded Rolex, a London-based company, in 1902. Some of their most significant timepieces include:

1926: Oyster (first waterproof watch)

1953: Rolex Submariner (a world-renowned diver watch)

1950s: Rolex GMT-Master (an aviator watch that you can see in Goldfinger)

Felca Watches

1950s Felca watch for men

Felca has had some name changes since it was first founded in 1919 as Felco Watch Co. From 1943, we knew it as Felca, and then in 1981 the brand changed its name to Titoni.

Fitz Schluep started this small business in Grenchen, Switzerland, and it soon grew into a large luxury brand. Some of their best-known timepieces include:

1956: Moonphase watch

1971: First Felca men’s watch with speedometer and stopwatch

1979: Seascoper (diver watch)

Now You Know About The History Of Watches

different types of vintage watches

After reading this guide, you can call yourself an expert on the history of watches. From pocket watches to Rolex tool watches, you’re an expert on the key milestones in the watchmaking industry.

It’s important to learn about the history of watches, but you also need to keep track of the current trends. What better way to do this than to purchase a Uniform Wares watch and observe how we have integrated tradition with modernity? Browse our watches for sale today.

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