Last updated on December 27, 2022
Time has always been a human obsession which took many shapes over the centuries. People based their lives and customs on time and have always been fascinated with horology, the study of time and the making of timekeeping devices. But how did the first primitive timekeeping devices give us the stunning timepieces we know today, and what is behind the history of luxury watches?
History of Clocks
The pioneers of time are widely considered the ancient Egyptians who divided daylight into 12 intervals and measured time with a sundial over 5000 years ago.
A few centuries later, the ancient Greeks and Romans refined the sundial; however, as the device was only practical when the sun was shining, at night, the Romans used a water clock called clepsydra, which was worked by a flow of water. With time, sundials and water clocks came to Northern Europe but proved impractical. The sundials did not work under overcast skies while clepsydra froze solid in winter.
According to historians, the first weight-driven mechanical clocks were made in the late 1200s in northern Italy. In 1283, the first weight-driven mechanical clock was installed in Dunstable Priory, England, and by the 1300s, artisans were building clocks for churches and cathedrals around France and Italy, making them the focal point of every town.
By the 1400s, weight-driven clocks became outdated as they were too heavy, and there was a new luxury demand, portable domestic clocks. Horologists replaced the weight with a tightly wound spring. However, this mechanism was unreliable as spring clocks ran at the wrong speed when the tension of the spring wound down. This made the fusee component come to life which balanced the spring tension and improved precision.
History of Luxury Watches
Around 1510, Peter Henlein, a locksmith and clockmaker of Nuremberg, Germany, invented small portable ornamental spring-powered brass clocks, which were rare and expensive accessories and were fashionable among the nobility of the time. These clocks were worn as pendants or attached to clothing and could be considered the first luxury watches. Henlein was also known as the first horologist to build clockworks into pomanders, small pendant containers made from precious metals for fragrances and disinfectants.
In 1675, another innovation in horology was introduced, this time by a Dutch mathematician, physicist, engineer, astronomer, and inventor, Christiaan Huygens. He came up with the spiral balance spring, which allowed for watches to be miniaturised, and a slim pocket watch was created. Pocket watches were the most desirable accessory a gentleman could have, and owning a bespoke pocket watch spoke about his high standing in society.
During the Industrial Revolution (1760 – 1840), the precision of timepieces hit new levels of obsession as in the new society, arriving on time meant wealth and education to know exactly what time it was. It was during this period that it became fashionable to be busy, and by wearing a pocket watch, you commanded respect.
During the American Civil War (Apr 12, 1861 – Apr 9, 1865), watchmakers realized the demand for inexpensive watches. American watch companies reduced the production cost through mechanization and started to make low-cost watches accessible to all. However, Swiss watchmakers had no desire to follow these rules and kept on focusing on quality and precision. Thus, by 1900 Swiss watch companies like Rolex were exporting 7 million timepieces per year.
History of Wristwatches
The wristwatch was introduced at the end of the 19th century, and it was mainly seen as a woman’s jewellery. According to some historians, the first wristwatch was made in 1868 for Countess Koscowicz of Hungary by Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe. Other sources say that the world’s first wristwatch was created by Abraham-Louis Breguet for Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples, in 1810.
During World War I (Jul 28, 1914 – Nov 11, 1918), men moved from pocket watches to wristwatches. This was influenced by military forces who needed easy access to their timepieces in the heart of the battle.
Wristwatches were more convenient for daily wear, but the early self-winding mechanical watches were fragile. In 1926, Rolex made a sensation by introducing the Oyster, the first water and dust-resistant wristwatch with a screw-down caseback, crown and bezel.
At the end of World War II (Sep 1, 1939 – Sep 2, 1945), wristwatches became so popular that for every person who owned a pocket watch, 50 had a wristwatch.
The 1950s were revolutionary years in horology and for Rolex in particular. Rene-Paul Jeanneret, a Rolex executive and a passionate diver, suggested designing a diving watch that would look elegant in daily life and could be used while diving to monitor oxygen time. In 1953, Rolex introduced the Submariner wristwatch, the first luxury diving watch.
1969 was another revolutionary year in the world of horology due to the invention of the quartz watch, which eschewed complex moving parts in a timepiece and replaced them with a battery to power the device. Today, quartz is known as one of the core movements available in luxury watches and is generally the most affordable.
Where to Buy Luxury Watches
Luxury watches thrived through wars and revolutions due to their formidable survival mechanism. Today, with thousands of models and designs on the market, wristwatches are having a renaissance as a status symbol and speak about the wearer’s taste and position in society.
However, with thousands of impressive timepieces available to buy, it might seem a challenge to find the best watch model. Luckily, there is a global online marketplace for luxury watches, Chrono24, which is the number one address for luxury timepieces for commercial watch dealers, private sellers and buyers around the world.
Chrono24 offers to watch enthusiasts a safe and secure platform for buying and selling luxury timepieces. Their watch selection includes big names such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, Cartier, Hublot, Vacheron Constantin, Breguet, Audemars Piguet and much more.
Explore the Chrono24 curated collections of luxury wristwatches, for you now have the luxury of selecting luxury at the ease of your home.
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