• Jun 13, 2019
  • by Magic Toolbox

We constantly keep, chase, and manage time. But how many of us know its history?

The most predominant contraption that we use to measure time are Clocks, Wristwatches and in the modern days, Mobile phones and Smart Watches.

Watches were first designed as a fashion accessory: Pocket watches for men and Wrist watches for women. 

The tale of timekeeping began in the early 15th century with the invention of mainspring: a little spiral metal ribbon that allowed portable clocks such as pocket watches to be built. As time unfolded, a new wave of scientific developments replaced the flattened and curved pocket watches with its mechanical (16th-20thc.) and electronic counterparts (1960).

What more does this little ticking apparatus on our wrists have to say?

What is the time? Oh! Let me look at the ‘Piece of the stone’!

The first-ever watch was a piece of a stone- or sort of. Early pieces of evidence suggest that Sumerians were the first to record time (2000B.C.) and the ancient Egyptians used to carve a large stone obelisk that would be placed in a specific location and as the sun moved so did the stone’s shadow, estimating the time from the length and direction of this shadow.

How the word ‘Watch’ become a synonym for timekeeping!

No one knows for sure; but, there are numerous hypotheses that go back to the moth-eaten pages of Old English history. In bygone days of England, town watchmen were called ‘Woecce’ and they would use crude apparatus to keep track of their shifts or ‘watches’. Another conjecture is that 17th-century sailors depended on new mechanisms to time the length of their shipboard ‘watches’ or duty shifts.


Story of Pocket watches! 

Nuremberg Clockmaker, Peter Helein (1484-1542) was credited as the inventor of an ornamental timepiece that was worn as a pendant. Charles II of England introduced waistcoats and found these pendant clocks inconvenient. Thus Pocket watches were made. The first pocket watch is seen in King Henry VIII’s portrait. However there were only single hour markers and minute hand did not become a part of it, until the 17th Century.


Wristwatches aka women’s watches!

Before the 20th Century only women wore wristwatches as a fashion accessory. The first wristwatch was made in 1868 for the Countess Koscowicz of Hungary. Modern-day direct descendant of wristwatches were crafted and gifted by Abraham-Louis Breguet to the Queen of Naples –Caroline Bonaparte. However, during the early 1900s wristwatches were mocked as a passing fad and it was infamously called ‘The Wristlets’.  

From battlefield to fashion accessory!

During World War1 wristwatches became popular among men. Rather than wearing the watch around their neck, they started to strap them around their wrist which helped their freedom of movement, accessibility and to effortlessly synchronize their attack. Since the 1880s German Troops were seen wearing watches; nevertheless, the US troops started sporting them by the 1910s. Even after the war, the men prefer to wear them as it portrays them as war heroes and more masculine. During these times the manufacturing of wristwatches featuring alarm showed a steady hike.

Ten minutes to Happy Times!

In catalogs and in-store displays, the watches are set to show the time as 10 minutes past 10 o’clock or 10 minutes to 2 o’clock. This is a marketing technique- called ‘Happy Times’-used among watch sellers to make the clock appears to be smiling, making the buyers feel good.

When in doubt you go Black!

The most gifted watches are Black watches for its versatility. Whether for a formal or casual event, suits or button-downs, gowns, or summer dresses; a black watch on your wrist will make you the hot topic of the town.

From humming to ticking!

Bulova in 1960 used a vibrating tuning fork instead of a balance wheel in the first Electronic Watch. Thus instead of making the classic ‘Ticking’ sound the watch emitted a fainting ‘Humming’ sound.

I am here to stay!

The first Casio-G shock watch was tested by simply throwing it out of the window: a 10m drop. And the renowned Rolex has been to the bottom of the ocean. Their deep-sea special edition was taken nearly 11,000m to the Mariana Trench and as promised it performed flawlessly even under immense pressure.

Fancy and faulty!

Expensive watches do not mean they are more efficient. These handcrafted, beautiful, complex contraptions in most cases are less accurate comparing to the cheaper and earthly quartz. 

Cuckoo about Cuckoo Clocks!

The fabled clocks of clocks – The artful Cuckoo Clocks- are a treasure trove of traditions, intriguing facts and intricate details. A rich history of hundreds of years to the 1600s or even earlier is chiseled into their lineage. Authentic cuckoo clocks are still hand-produced using the heavy woods of Black Forest. Though there are multifarious Cuckoo clocks to choose from, the ‘Traditional Style’- classic hand-carved clocks with Black Forrest wildlife or nature themes- and ‘Chalet Style’ – finely carved hand-painted clocks that animate and play music with some figurines moving to the tunes-are the customer’s favorites. Located in Tabley, Cheshire, England, ‘The Cuckooland Museum or Cuckoo Clock Museum” exhibits more than 700 Cuckoo clocks on the display of various styles, sizes, manufacturers, and ages and is regarded as the most important of its kind in the whole world. On your next visit, to England, Do not forget to make a pit-stop in Cheshire!

Million Dollars auctioned for research!

In an Only Watch auction held in Geneva, to benefit the research on Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a watch was sold smashing the records. In 2019, an unknown buyer fetched “The steel Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref.6300A-010” for $31 million. The watch has 20 complications such as a minute repeater, petite sonnerie, etc and its most unique feature is the front and back dials –one salmon-colored, the other black- that can be flipped or reversed. 

For the last few thousand years, we have relied upon complicated machinery to estimate the time. Today, putting a world of engineering mastery and technical prowess we are creating tiny devices that measure the pulse of our changing world one second at a time.