A review of the history of the pocket watch Watches 09/12/2020

Origin of watchmaking for personal use

At the beginning of the 16th century the foundations of the watches of use personal wristwatches as well as pocket watches. Peter Henlein in Nuremberg replaced the weighing motor with the invention of the real spring as the driving force of the machinery. This allowed perform smaller clocks . In this way, in addition to sundials, hourglasses or bell tower used until then, the first clocks appeared notebooks. They were used in pendants or to keep in the bag-skirt.

The accuracy and punctuality of the pieces left much to be desired. During throughout the sixteenth century there was enormous development in Europe and many workshops of great importance. Three were the main areas: the German zone, with the workshops of Nuremberg and Augsburg, the Italian-Franco-Flemish zone and the English territory .

The clergymen were the first to have these semi-watches notebooks. Soon the nobility and royalty joined his search, even reaching subsidize new patents and ingenuity by master watchmakers . In the case in Spain of Emperor Charles V and his son the king Felipe II placed their trust in the master watchmaker Hans de Evalo. They commissioned him to acquire and maintain the important pieces of his collection.

The various European courts had long competed between yes for perform the most advanced and amazing mechanisms . It was about creating a mechanical object that could carry out the long-awaited task: measure the time . The bridge that protects the steering wheel was an essential piece that was invented in the sixteenth century. So was the regulator exhaust (to regulate the motive force), another essential piece that was born in this period. The oldest coq is known as ‘foliote’.

Pocket watch considered a luxury item

The first copies of the 'portable' watch (more than pocket) usually present richly crafted boxes in chiseled gilt brass with decoration late Mannerist taste based on female nudes and plant motifs etc. The spheres, provided with caps also made of brass or rock crystal, they have a single needle that marks the hours. The mechanism is of a fairly rudimentary vane escapement, albeit beautifully trim, and includes ingenuities much appreciated at the time such as the chime system, a compass, or a sundial. Germany was one of the main workshops of the moment and there is evidence that Mattheus Greillach's workshop was active during the 17th century.

The first specimens that have a minute hand are located in England. Late 16th century to be more precise.

In this sense, around 1700 England passed to occupy a hegemonic role. The mathematician Nicolas Fatio discovers the way of work the precious stones to adapt them to the use of watchmaking . Precious stones such as rubies are much more abrasion and wear resistant than metals. It was for this reason that Fatio moved to London to patent his technique in 1704. They appeared therefore the machineries provided ruby in the history of the watchmaking. Other master watchmakers such as George Graham, Thomas Mudge They brought great inventions to the world of watchmaking. Specimens from this period have been auctioned at Balclis pocket watch auctions reaching market heights at the level of internationally renowned auctions.

Aesthetic value of watches

Another peculiarity that we also owe to the British court, is the quarter repeating mechanism. This allows you to read the time in the dark thanks to a delicate smile that mark the hours and quarters . The pieces are usually in a refined design in chiseled silver and puff that facilitates the propagation of sound.

To this English supremacy the French responded by extolling the aesthetic value of your watches. In this way, the refinement of pocket watches de France was unparalleled at the time. Kings were the main customers of watches. In the case of Louis XV, his most famous watchmaker was Julien Le Roy, of whom Balclis has been able to auction some specimen. And also the most famous of his sons, Pierre Le Roy.

In 1730 another fundamental element appeared: the châtelaine or Castilian. It was about one plate of various formats, in gold, silver or other metals, richly adorned with diamonds and other precious stones , from which the pocket watch could be hung from the waist. These châtelaines are in high demand in today's collecting and in Balclis several very rich specimens have been auctioned.

Consolidation of pocket watch use

At the end of the 18th century, in the midst of political chaos in Europe, they began to be held pocket watch models increasingly sumptuous . The technical advances went hand in hand with the decorative advances, and the beauty of the pieces charged greater importance. We find engraved, chiseled, enameled, gemstone and other models so many noble materials. Many of them deserving to dedicate a post on our watch blog for your specific review.

Switzerland acquired an increasingly prominent role in this sense with respect to the other great watchmaking centers as they were Paris and London. The industry gradually shifted to Geneva since then and to the present day. At this time demand for watches was increasingly high and many were the Swiss watchmakers who combined the work of the workshop in winter with agricultural work in summer. They were created like this domestic workshops of great tradition in which the trade It was passed down from generation to generation.

Parallel to this, the diffusion of engravings of designs and enamelling was crucial for the propagation of the new aesthetic prevailing at the time. The finishes have nothing to envy of those that were made in the workshops of Paris. We found a combination of opaque, translucent glazing techniques and also in cloisonné, which also include inlaid pieces of silver and precious stones.

Less heavy watch models

Parallel to this profusion in decoration, there was a tendency to make models less heavy and more practical, therefore and as we have seen in many clocks , the thickness of the decoration is relegated to the covers, being the spheres a smooth white disc on which they can be perfectly read the hour, and that present hands of the finest execution.

The genius who marked the pattern from this moment on was the Swiss Abraham Louis Breguet (1747-1823), for among his other ingenuities that laid the foundation of today's watchmaking, highlights the invention of tourbillon, with which it was tried to prevent the deviations of the march of the clock when its center of gravity shifts. Important moment of inflection was when in the Great Exhibition held in London in 1851, Queen Victoria was able to admire in the first models of 'remontoir' without a key to the world.

The industrial revolution was a radical change: artisan watchmaking is transformed and industrialized . In the United States, the Waltham Society will develop some systems chain production with standardization processes. The copies manufactured for the first time consist of interchangeable parts. In parallel, it will be invented large electrical machinery precision you will avoid to the maximum errors and inaccuracies from the manufacturer's hand. The Swiss watch industry will adapt and will incorporate these changes to make them your own. The twentieth century will suppose the end of the use of pocket watches in pursuit of a new watch: the wristwatch.