“Like shopping for a Swiss watch. Hard to make a mistake”. That was the advertisement for a Swiss airline. The Swiss are known for watches. All over the World, they are considered industry leaders in the manufacture and production of high-quality watches. No wonder why wristwatches account for the country’s third-largest export product. To shock you, the first timepieces that were worn by men came from Germany. Who were the men that contributed to the advancement of watches?
THE EARLIEST WATCHES
Even though some believe that first mechanical watch made in England in 1275, the first portable timepieces were made by a Nuremberg clockmaker named Peter Henlein who lived between 1485-1542 and regarded as the inventor of the watch. The earliest watches were more of pendants as they were attached to chains and worn around the neck. This was why women-owned most timepieces in the earliest times. Never forget that women are passionate about looking good.
When Jean Calvin (the great reformer) stopped men from wearing jewelry, that was what led to the birth of the Swiss watch industry in 1540. Dwindling revenue for jewelry makers as a result of the ban forced them to learn the art of watchmaking. Then in 1574, the first pocket watch was made from bronze. This watch had religious words scribbled on either side.
ADVANCEMENT THROUGH TIMES
The earliest watches were worn around the neck as pendants and that women-owned most watches. But in the 17th century, men started to wear watches inside pockets instead of wearing them as pendants. Pocket watches were due to the introduction of waistcoats in 1675 by Charles II of England. To make watches fit into the pocket, the shape was modified to become rounded and flattened as it is today.
The great controversy of Robert Hooke and Christian Huygens occurred in 1657 when both men claimed to have been responsible for the forward leap experienced in the accuracy of the watch. Before this, errors in the accuracy of the watch could be as high as several hours per day, but the discovery claimed by the two men reduced it to 10minutes per day. This advancement led to the addition of the minute hand to the clock. It’s incredible how people who lived in those times could be checking only hours on their watches.
THE TRANSITION FROM POCKET WATCH TO WRISTWATCH
It was the introduction of the waistcoat by Charles II of England that turned the old pendant worn around the neck into pocket watches. Military men first recognized the need for wristwatches. It helped them carry out synchronization of maneuvers during the war without letting the enemy know the plan (signaling could be easily found out by the enemy). Pocket watches couldn’t be used in the heat of battles or while on horseback. It was a Swiss company that patented a wristwatch design in 1903 in partnership with another company.
After World War 1, public opinion about men’s watches shifted; a mass-market was thus opened up in this regard.
EVOLUTION OF SWISS WATCH INDUSTRY AND MODERN WRISTWATCH
The Swiss watch industry began in Geneva in 1541 after the great reformer Jean Calvin prohibited the wearing of jewelry. By 1601, Geneva had a reputation of excellence when it comes to wristwatch production so much that the Guild of Geneva had to be established. After about a century, Geneva had too many watchmakers. Some had to move to the Jura mountains to maintain business.
The evolution of the Swiss watch and clock industry continued when Daniel Jearichard (1665-1724) introduced division of labor called ‘establissage’ (independent workshops). By 1790, more than 600,000 watches were being exported out of Geneva.
Some of the most important innovations that continued over the century are written in the next paragraph.
Abraham-Louis Perrelet in 1770 created what was known then as the perpetual watch. This watch was considered by most people to be the forerunner of the modern-day self-winding watch. By 1826, Louis Moinet had invented the first chronograph, and in 1842, Adrien Philippe produced the first pendant winding watch. During this time, complicated timepieces (chronograph) witnessed the addition of functions like the flyback, perpetual calendar, etc. to the clock.
It was not until the 20th century that mass production of watches started. Mass production of watches was made possible because of the research carried out by Frederic Ingold and George Leschot. The two were renowned watchmakers. The Swiss watch industry was able to dominate global markets because of increased productivity, standardization, and interchangeable components.
At the end of World War 1, the round-shape was adopted for the watch in the 1960s. In 1952, the first electronic watch was produced. After this significant innovation like the LCD, LED, quartz watches with battery were built.
NEW GENERATION WATCHES
The word new generation is a little bit subjective, but for this writing, the new generation means contemporary. For this purpose of this article, modern watches that I will talk about include radio-controlled watches, atomic wristwatch, and smartwatches.
Radio-controlled watches: Junghans in 1990, produced the first radio-controlled watches. Alongside atomic wristwatches, they are the most accurate watches. Citizen (one of the companies that provide radio-controlled watches) claim that radio-controlled watches have a margin of error of 1 second in 100,000 years. So, if accuracy is one of the things that inform your decision when shopping for watches, you could either go for an atomic watch or a radio-controlled watch.
Radio-controlled watches achieve accuracy by connection to the local atomic transmitter nearest to you. You need to be within a range of 500km- 1500km of a local wire for your watch to get connected. Electronics for atomic clocks are all over the world; hence, it is not difficult for your watch to find one to connect to. Many of these radio-controlled watches connect to the tiny transmitter at night. This ensures that they do not interfere with appliances in your household that function on the same frequency as them. But you can be sure that when you wake up in the morning, your watch is as correct as possible.
Some of the companies that produce this type of watches include Seiko, Casio, and Citizen.
Atomic wristwatches are radio-controlled watches and the most accurate timepiece you can find in a wristwatch store. Calibrated by an atomic clock, they also maintain their calibration by continually receiving signals from the atomic clock.
To explain why atomic watches are so accurate would take a scientific mind to understand, the atomic clock measures the length of a second by counting the number of oscillations of a cesium-133 atom. More than 9billion oscillations occur in a cesium-133 atom per second. (I know you are amazed. Atomic physicist won’t marvel anyway)
What the atomic clock measures are the oscillation (transition) of electrons in different energy levels. By observing microwave signals that electrons emit during the transition between energy levels. During this transition, it is easier to measure targets that are moving slowly. Thus, the most accurate atomic clocks will cool down the atoms to what is called the absolute temperature before measuring the atoms.
Smartwatches: put, a smartwatch functions like a computer worn on the wrist. It is a digital device that can function as a cellphone, a portable music player, or even as a personal assistant. By 2010, a smartwatch with a mobile operating system was made. This makes it function more like a smartphone.
Smartwatches run apps, play any form of digital media, and can even radio stream media to Bluetooth headphones. Smartwatches are designed to link with other devices that have internet connectivity, and this is because they do not have an internet connection. They connect, namely to a smartphone to be able to perform these digital functions.
A smartwatch connected to a smartphone can perform functions such as GPS navigation, calendar synchronization, message notifications, etc. With a Bluetooth connection on, a smartwatch can make calls, receive calls, send messages, and receive messages — what an excellent piece of digital device.
Smartwatches can be built to perform specific functions like tracking lap time, distance, and route. Smartwatches that can perform these functions are also designed to work with devices like heart rate monitor. This type of smartwatch intended for athletes. Some smartwatches measure speed, wind speed, and wind direction. This is custom-built for anyone involved in one form of sailing activity or the other.
Linux watch was the first smart watch to be developed, and it was released in 2000. Seiko, Samsung, IBM, Microsoft are other companies that produce smart watches. Even though smart watches have not resonated with consumers, business analysts are looking at selling more than 373million smart watches by 2020 from the 14million that was sold in 2014.
SOME TOP LUXURY WRIST WATCH BRANDS
In this present day, some of the luxury wrists watch brands that can be found around include:
(1) PATEK PHILLIPE: Patek Phillipe is a company that produces some of the most highly sought after timepieces in the World. Some of their rarer models sell for millions of dollars. Their innovative design is favored by royalty. The price range of their watches is between $15,000-$1million. The most expensive Patek Philippe sold was Henry Graves Jr’s Supercomplication watch sold for $24milion in 2014.
(2) AUDEMARS PIGUET: They are one of the oldest watch manufacturers in the World. The price range of their watches is between $7,000- $850,000. The most expensive AUDEMARS PIGUET was sold for $545,000 in 2015
(3) VACHERON CONSTANTIN: This classic Swiss watch dates back to 1755. Their watches sell between $18,000- $6million. King Fouad bought the most expensive VACHERON CONSTANTIN for $2.77 million in 2005.
(4) TAG HEUER: Established in Switzerland (like many high-end watch companies). Its price ranges between $1,500-$10,000. Most expensive Tag Heuer sold for $799,500 in 2012
(5) A.LANGE & SOHNE: It was found in 1845; however, it shut down in 1948 when communist USSR municipalized their property. They reopened back in 1990, and since then, they have been a force to reckon with in the watch industry. A. Lange & Sohne sell watches between $15,000-$1million.