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History of Watches

A Brief History on Watches: From Early Timepieces to the Modern Day Masterpiece

Timekeeping devices have been around since the beginning of recorded history. The human need to keep track of time is universal, and so are the methods we use to measure it. Timekeeping devices are commonly known as “watches” and have come a long way from the early versions created over 2,000 years ago. A watch is a device that is worn on the wrist and measures time with hands or numbers. It also indicates daylight saving time when appropriate. Watches are also called timepieces, chronometers, and wristwatches. Each word has a specific meaning, but they all refer to the same thing. We look at how watches evolved through different stages: From early crude timepieces made out of gears, springs, and pendulums to today’s modern masterpieces of Swiss craftsmanship that combine traditional techniques with 21st-century technology.

Lets take a look at the History of Watches

The Early Timepieces

Early timepieces were designed to track the progress of astronomical events. They consisted of a celestial globe, an orrery, or an armillary sphere. The armillary sphere is a model of the celestial hemisphere used for mapping the stars and their positions. The orrery is a mechanical device that shows the relative positions and motions of the Solar System’s planets. Mechanical clocks were invented in the 13th century and were the first device to measure continuous time. They were made up of gears, springs, and pendulums. However, they were inaccurate as there was no standardized measurement system. Galileo Galilei invented the first accurate pendulum clock in 1602. It used a pendulum that swung back and forth inside a wooden box. Galileo’s invention improved devices like the sundial and the water clock.

Pendulum Watches

Dutch scientist and inventor Christian Huygens built the first pendulum clock in 1656. The pendulum mechanism was later applied to pocket watches. The pocket watch evolved into a common timekeeping device after the invention and wide adoption of the railway system in the 19th century. The railroad system required precise timekeeping to schedule trains and manage different stations. The pocket watches were designed to be compact to fit inside a coat pocket. They were encased in steel to protect the delicate parts, and a chain was used to fasten the watch to the owner’s clothing so it wouldn’t get lost. The first accurate pendulum-based clocks were built in the 17th century by English scientist Robert Hooke and Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens. These clocks helped to expand the scientific knowledge about time and its relationship with motion, gravity, and nature.

Mechanical Watches

Mechanical watches are watches that keep time with a mechanical movement (as opposed to quartz or digital movements). The first mechanical watch was made in 1609 by German clockmaker Peter Henlein and was a vast improvement over the early pendulum clocks. The first pocket watch was made in 1675 by British watchmaker William Potts. A famous pocket watch from this period is the Waltham watch made by the Massachusetts Watch Company. These watches were popular as luxury items. Only a few people could afford them because they were costly. At that time, a mechanical watch could take up to a year to make.

Quartz Watches

Quartz watches were invented in the 1960s. They were a significant breakthrough in timekeeping technology. These watches are powered by a tiny piece of quartz crystal that vibrates at a precise frequency. Quartz watches are much more accurate than mechanical watches. A quartz watch loses or gains only a second or two per year. A massive breakthrough in quartz watch technology happened in 1984 when Seiko released the first commercial quartz watch that kept time accurate under all conditions.

Digital Watches

The first LCD digital watch was made in the 1960s. The first digital watch that was commercially successful was the Pulsar, made by the Hamilton Watch Company in the 1970s. Digital watches are now the most common type of watch. The digital watch is also an electronic device that keeps time with a quartz movement. Digital watches have become very useful as everyday gadgets, as they are used to tell the time and date, measure heart rate, and perform many other functions like controlling electronic equipment, receiving notifications, and storing data. Digital watches are more accurate than mechanical watches and are less expensive than quartz watches. They are easy to use, have long battery life, and are also very durable, yet digital watches are less trendy than analog watches and less customizable.

Smart Watches

The first smartwatch was made in the 1990s. In the 2000s, there was a rise in smartwatches with features like touchscreens, apps, and fitness tracking. They were able to connect to phones, receive notifications, and reply to them via voice commands. These watches have evolved from simple timepieces with added features to full-fledged computers. These watches have a lot of potentials and can be used to promote health and fitness. They can measure your heart rate, calories burned, and other biometric data. They can also be used to make payments, track your sleep, and receive notifications from your phone and social media accounts.


This article explored the history of watches, and how watches evolved through different stages: From early crude timepieces made out of gears, springs, and pendulums to today’s modern masterpieces of Swiss craftsmanship that combine traditional techniques with 21st-century technology. Hopefully, this article has convinced you that watches are more than just a way to keep track of time. They are a piece of fashion history and an intricate work of art.


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