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Evolution of Watch Technology

January 22nd, 2024

Evolution of Watch Technology

Timepieces are truly marvelous. Their intricate, always-reliable machinery is the end result of centuries of research, craftsmanship, and passion. From their humble beginnings as ornamental necklaces to their current status as high-tech practical accessories, the tale of watches is fascinating. Watchmakers have always had a tradition of innovation that continues to thrive to this day. Our team at Swiss Watch Gallery are proud to be participants in this incredible tradition, as shown through the diverse technology that powers our many timepieces.

Clock Watches

The first timepieces – that is to say, portable time-telling devices – were clock watches. These primarily brass timepieces were invented in the 16th century, likely by German inventor Peter Henlein. They were, in essence, spherical pendants that could open up to reveal a clock. It was very rudimentary, albeit impressive for the time. They were inaccurate to the point of being useless (being several hours off) and lacked a minute hand. Despite their inaccuracy, their clever and unique design made them a favorite of nobles and aristocrats.

Pocket Watches

Waistcoats were all the rage in the 17th century, as were pocket watches. As their name suggests, they are designed to be worn in a coat pocket. They were nearly exclusively worn by men, while women still wore their timepieces around the neck. The first pocket watches were far from practical and were nearly as inaccurate as clock watches. It was not until the invention of the balance spring in 1657 that a pocketwatch became more useful. The balance spring lets a timepiece better account for gravity, shortening its inaccuracy from hours to minutes.

Mechanical Wristwatches

The transition from pocket watches to wristwatches was not instantaneous. Abraham-Louis Breguet is often credited as the inventor in 1810, but this is disputed. Robert Dudley presented an “arm watch” to Queen Elizabeth I in 1571, which may have been the precursor to modern wristwatches. Regardless, these timepieces did not become popular until the late 19th century. Mechanical watches can be either powered via manual winding or by the body’s movement. The latter is often referred to as “automatic” and is used in the most luxurious, high-end watches.

Quartz Wristwatches

In 1964, the Japanese brand Seiko changed everything with the introduction of a quartz watch. It was introduced in coordination with the Tokyo Summer Olympics to showcase Japan’s technological innovation and ingenuity. These battery-powered pieces last longer than mechanical watches, are more reliable, and require less maintenance. Quartz watches are better at time-keeping, as they are more precise and are seldom prone to error. They do require occasional battery changing or recharging. While quartz movement has made mechanical seem obsolete, there is an artistry in mechanical timepieces that many find more desirable.

Shop for Timepieces with Swiss Watch Gallery

Visit Swiss Watch Gallery to discover a wide variety of exquisite timepieces. Our magnificent selection showcases the best in horology with several examples of automatic and quartz watches. Each is carefully selected for its quality, style, and beauty. From sleek stainless steel cases to rich alligator leather straps, skeletal dials to diamond indices, you will find it all here at our Mission Viejo and Brea jewelry stores. Contact our Brea store at (714) 617-2700 and our Mission Viejo showroom at (949) 364-2500 to learn more about everything we offer.