The luxury timepiece has become a universally sought after collectable by people who love fashion and a great investment alike. Throughout history there have been several key moments in the world of watches that have stood out and truly pushed the industry forward.
Great Moments in Watch History
In the late 1500’s timepieces were largely controlled by a system of weights and pulleys. This advance in technology suited large stationary clocks just fine, but were not well-suited for portable timepieces. Late in that century, rudimentary springs and movements were developed – giving birth to the first watches.
Although they became gifts bestowed to kings and queens, the first generation of watches were not accurate timekeepers by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, most only had an hour hand and had to be wound several times throughout the course of the day in order to function properly.
The 1600’s became known in watch history as the “Age of Decoration”. That is largely because watches were used almost exclusively by the wealthy as a glowing accessory – and not to tell time. During the period some of the most beautiful (or some would say garish) watches were created in Germany – decked out with jewels and gold befitting the elite members of society who wore them.
In the 1700’s watch designers working in England developed the spiral spring. This innovation took luxury watches to the next level as they allowed (for the first time) individuals to measure time in minutes in addition to hours. With King George II firmly behind the technology, watches became a more regular sight on the streets of London and across Europe.
In the year 1761, engineer John Harrison developed what would become the world’s first chronometer – a development that would help ships keep time and their bearings at sea. In the years to follow, the chronometer would be reduced in size and incorporated into modern watch design. This would greatly increase the accuracy of fine timepieces moving into the 19th century.
The mid 1800’s saw the development of the external winding device. This tiny little knob that sat outside the watch’s circular face may not have seemed like much at the time, but it was a huge advancement in that allowed the user to wind their watch without having to open it repeatedly.
The early part of the 20th century was a brilliant time for exclusive mechanical watches. All of the design elements and technological advances that had been developing over the last century were refined and incorporated into beautiful timepieces from Germany, Switzerland and England.
It was during the latter half of the 20th century that electronics (and digital watches) pushed the classic mechanical watches out of our consciousness. Digital watches were inexpensive to produce, easy to read and even easier to maintain. But just when things appeared darkest for the handcrafted luxury watch, the late 1970’s saw resurgence on the high-end market. Suddenly, watches had become a status symbol again – and the demand for Italian, German and Swiss watches around the world has remained to this day.
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