Unless you have a serious passion for watches, a lesson in the history of watchmaking may not be high on your priorities list. But here at Luxiani, we firmly believe that everything has a story worth telling! The Luxiani brand itself was built upon a story and in fact, history itself is simply one giant story. We’re excited to share with you today the history of watchmaking.
Welcome to the History of Watchmaking
Since time began, humans have used various methods to tell the time. Sundials, moon dials, obelisks, water clocks, incense clocks, time balls, church bells and hourglasses are all technologies invented to help us keep track of the time. The issue was, they weren’t portable. People began wanting something they could carry with them and that regardless of where they went, they knew what the time was.
Around the 1540’s, the Swiss making watch industry began. Traditional jewellers had been banned from making jewellery by Protestant reformer John Calvin. So instead, they turned their skills to making watches. 1574 saw the first pocket watch created and marks the beginning of the history of watchmaking.
From the 17th Century onwards, pocket watches became more widely accepted amongst society. This was indirectly assisted by the reigning English monarch at the time, Charles II. He required all men to wear waistcoats, which led to watch designers crafting their watches in such a way they fitted snuggly into a waistcoat and not cause any harm to clothing or to the wearer.
The 17th Century also saw the addition of new features to watches. This included glass being used to cover the face of the pocket watch to prevent the hands becoming damaged, the addition of the minute hand in 1680 and the appearance of the second hand 1690. However, it took many years before these features were standard on all watches.
Abraham-Louis Perrelet invented the first self winding mechanism in 1770, and a thinner movement was created by Jean-Antoine Lepire in 1770, allowing watchmakers the ability to create smaller, thinner watches.
Mass production in the 19th Century changed everything. Cheaper materials meant that pocket watches could be produced on a scale never seen before and were no longer only for the elite. It was also around this time, that the way the watch was wound was changed, moving from key winding to keyless.
The first official wristwatch was created for the Queen of Naples in 1812. Wristwatches were normally worn by women at this stage as they were prone to wear and tear, while men used hardier pocket watches. Wristwatches did become more popular in the military though, especially among the officer classes.
During World War One, soldiers could no longer use a pocket watch as they had to keep their hands free. Soldiers instead used wristwatches called trench watches. They had many of the same components as a pocket watch, but with a leather strap to go around the wrist.
The 1950’s saw the creation of the first electric watches, which saw the hands of the watch being moved mechanically. The balance wheel though was instead powered by a solenoid, and and was the forerunner of the quartz watch.
In 1969 the watch industry was changed forever thanks to the introduction of the quartz watch. Not having the moving parts of a mechanical watch, it didn’t need to be wound up, ran on a battery, was more shock resistant, significantly cheaper than mechanical watches, and kept very accurate time. Non quartz watches did not disappear though, instead becoming the preferred movement type of luxury watchmakers.
The history of watchmaking continues to evolve, even today. However, there will always be a place for a classic watch, one which you’re proud to wear and tells a story. Come and read about the Luxiani story, plus the individual stories of our Weekend, Virtues and Stone Collections too.