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The History of Watches – A Brief History Time

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The fascinating history of watches spans nearly four centuries. The wristwatch originated in the mid 19th century but timekeeping devices can be tracked back to nearly 4,000 years ago.

The earliest recorded timekeeping device was the sexagesimal system used by the Ancient Egyptians, who used large obelisks to track the movements of the sun.

The earliest “shadow clock” obelisks were constructed around 3500BC and, since they relied on the sun, they were useless during nights and cloudy weather.

After several new improved shadow clocks were created, the Egyptians followed up in the 16th century BC by inventing other timekeeping instruments including the water clock and hourglasses.

In Ancient Greece, water clocks were known as “Clepsydrae” and they were widely used and gradually improved by the Greeks and Romans, though they still continued to use shadow clocks.

Muslim engineers created some of the most sophisticated water clocks, and by the 11th century, Arab engineer Ibn Khalaf al-Muradi invented the first geared clock. Furthermore, Muslim astronomers are credited with the development of modern sundials.

The History of Watches   A Brief History Time

Chinese monk and mathematician Yi Xing and government official Liang Lingzan, were known to have built the first clock to use the escapement mechanism. This was an astronomical tool that served as a clock. They are also known to have invented mechanical clockwork.

In the far east, around the 6th century, candle and incense clocks were widely used. China is known to have used them first followed by Japan.

Mechanical clocks were not widely used in the Western world until the 14th century. What followed was many variations of the clock by the Europeans, most notably the first mechanical alarm clock invented in the 16th century by Ottoman scientist Taqi al-Din and the first pendulum clock designed and built in the 17th century by Dutch scientist Christian Huygens.

The Background of the Wristwatch

In 1851, Patek Philippe & Co. was formed by pocket watch maker Antoni Patek and keyless winding mechanism inventor, Frenchmen Adrien Philippe.

The company created the first wristwatch in 1868, but only as a ladys bracelet watch intended as jewellery. The first men’s wristwatch that was designed for practical use was made by Louis Cartier.

Patek Philippe watches are associated with high social status and wealth, so it is no surprise that their “Sky Moon Tourbillon” wristwatch is the most expensive in the world, sold at Hong Kong Sotheby’s for $11.75 million HKD.

Wristwatches came into prominence during World War I, because officers found that they were more convenient than pocket watches. What was produced in years to follow were various new wristwatch features such as chronograph and marine chronometers.

Concluding our history of watches, in the recent past, watches have been designed for specific purposes such as space travel and deep sea diving. As time progresses, it isn’t a question of what new time inventions will be made, but a matter of when.