Fixing Time – A history of watches

Around 1530, portable spring-powered clocks were a luxury no aristocrat could do without. Sized between a desk clock and a pocketwatch, they could be fastened to clothing or worn around the neck. Mechanical movements required winding twice daily. With engravings and ornaments, gentlemen would wear them as a sign of wealth. Once their practicality was realised, they were used by nightwatchmen keeping track of shifts.

The use by nightwatchmen is where many believe the word “watch” stems from. Centuries passed, and watches appeared more commonly in the seventeenth century. Before 1920’s, almost all watches were mechanical pocketwatches, and often referred to as railroad watches since they were used by the railroads.

During the First World War soldiers realised that pocket watches were not practical in battle, and the trench watch, or ‘wristwatch’, was developed by the Waltham Watch Company.   Thereafter, new techniques and complications were invented, and watchmakers strove to outdo competition. Considered an art form by many, there are various types and styles of watch available today, costing from a few Euros to upwards of millions to obtain a one-off grand complications hand made in Switzerland by Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, and others.

Wristwatches are the most common style of watch today. However, recently pocketwatches have re-emerged and are revered by horologists and collectors worldwide. With specialty watches becoming a standard, some manufacturers have turned to developing watches that can be worn in multiple environments, space, underwater, and by pilots.

Movements are mechanical, Automatic or Quartz (Electronic)

Mechanical /Automatic

Used in luxury or collector timepieces, a mechanical movement is less accurate than a quartz, often losing several seconds a day. They must be manually wound daily. As well as losing time, they can be sensitive to environmental factors, eg position, temperature, elevation, and magnetism. They are costly to produce and require maintenance and adjustments. Nevertheless, they are a work of craftsmanship, highly regarded by watch enthusiasts. A well-made mechanical timepiece will last several generations, often becoming a family heirloom. Even the most simplistic movements have 130 parts, increasing the more the functions and features (complications) included. Automatic movements run almost identically to Mechanical, but they do not require manual winding.

Quartz

Unlike mechanical and automatic, quartz watches have few moving parts. Prototypes were made in Switzerland in1959 and first used in the 1964 Olympics. The Seiko 35 SQ Astron, hit high streets on Christmas Day 1969. This initiated a wave of quartz movements to soon became the most popular watch for price and accuracy. With a replaceable battery for power, the quartz movement is used in less expensive timepieces. Even the cheapest children’s quartz is usually more accurate than a mechanical watch.

FIXINGTIME is a family of horologists near Muchamiel.  Jeff Odowd (FBHI) is also Chief Examiner for the British Horological Institute, and we are listed in its directory of accredited repairers. We repair/service mechanical, automatic and quartz watches -all makes, including high end brands, and antique and modern clocks.

You can bring your item to us, or we’ll come to you across all Costa Blanca. All quotes are free/no obligation.  Contact us on 608 013 157 or info@fixingtime.eu, www.fixingtime.eu.

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