The History of Watches

The History of Watches

Time. It is both a bane of our existence and part of the advantages of modern society — the precision by which we can tell time allows us to have much of the modern technology we enjoy today. Having the means to tell time thanks to a device truly has transformed our society. Today, on the La Jolla Gems blog, we are going to briefly dive into the world of watches and how they have evolved throughout time.

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The Evolution of the Watch

It’s easy to underappreciate the watch as being able to tell time is a modern convenience alloted to people of all ages and cultures today; it is hard to imagine life without being able to tell time. Today, we are going to examine how the watch as it is known today came to be.

The Invention of the Clock

We would be remiss if we did not mention the invention of the clock itself which gave way to the inception of the watch. Time-telling devices have been around for thousands of years and were used by the ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, and in ancient Asia. However, the first mechanical clocks like those that we have today were not developed till the 14th century.

The First Portable Watches

The first watches appeared in the 1400s in Europe, specifically in Nuremberg and Augsburg, German. These first watches were operated by a spring — a mainspring — and Peter Henlein is credited with the invention of them. However, it is unclear if he really was the first to create the device that gave way to our modern watches; many German watchmakers were creating miniature timepieces that could be worn. Many of these were highly ornamented and were in the shape of books, animals, fruit, stars, insects, crosses, and skulls. Unlike their modern counterparts, these watches were not worn for practicality, but as jewelry and novelty.

The Pocket Watch

As fashion evolved so did the watch. Many of the ornamental watches were worn as pendants and, as a result of exposure to the elements, often corroded. However, because these were more for decoration than anything else, the issue of an inaccurate timepiece wasn’t alarming. In 1675, Charles II introduced waistcoats into English society; this piece of clothing has pockets, unlike previous popular clothing styles. With the introduction of the waistcoat came the evolution of the miniature clock to become the pocket watch. To fit within the waistcoat pocket, the clocks became uniformly shaped — round with a flat face — and glass was laid over the face.

These first pocket watches were called “watch fobs” as they were placed into a man’s pocket and secured there with a clip. Prince Albert introduced the chain — dubbed the Albert chain — and so the quintessential pocket watch came to be.

Stay tuned for part two of our blog series to learn more about the history of the watch and sell your unwanted Rolex watches to your jewelry buyers in La Jolla.

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