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A Brief History of Watches

The history of watches began in 16th century Europe, where watches evolved from portable spring-driven clocks, which first appeared in the 15th century. The watch which developed from the 16th century to the mid 20th century was a mechanical device, powered by winding a mainspring which turned gears and then moved the hands, and kept time with a rotating balance wheel.

Here are some interesting facts about the history of watches:

• The first wristwatch was made for a woman, Countess Koscowicz of Hungary, by Swiss watch manufacturer Patek Philippe in 1868.

• Early watches were terribly imprecise; a good one could vary as much as 15 minutes in a day. Modern precision (a few seconds per day) was not attained by any watch until 1760, when John Harrison created his marine chronometers.

Precision was attained as from 1854 first by the Waltham Watch Company, through the industrialization of the manufacturing process of the movement part, in order to attain the necessary precision.

• The invention of the quartz watch in the 1960s, which ran on electricity and kept time with a vibrating quartz crystal, proved a radical departure for the industry. During the 1980s, with the introduction of the Seiko Astron, quartz watches took over the market from mechanical watches, an event referred to as the "quartz crisis", plunging the Swiss watch industry into crisis while at the same time strengthening both the Japanese and American watch industries.

• Mechanical watches are now mostly a high-end product, purchased for aesthetic reasons, for appreciation of their fine craftsmanship, or as a status symbol. Combining the best in craftsmanship, history, and design, mechanical watch prices can soar into the millions.


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