Regardless of whether or not you have been collecting watches for years and years now or are just looking to get started, we’ve put together 15 fun facts about these incredible timepieces and that you likely didn’t know anything about.
Prepare yourself to be surprised, and to learn a couple of things you likely didn’t know about one of life’s everyday essentials.
Shall we jump right in?
- 1 Modern watches simply couldn’t have existed without the invention of the “mainspring”
- 2 Watches have been an important part of men’s fashion dating back to the early 17th century
- 3 The very first wristwatch to be produced with an alarm function was created in nearly 1900s
- 4 Men’s wristwatches really became popular in the lead up to World War I
- 5 …And World War II helped to kill off the pocket watch
- 6 Automatic watches self-wind through the movement of the wearer’s wrist and arm
- 7 Two different watches are known for reaching the furthest boundaries of modern exploration
- 8 Seiko watches pushed quartz movements into the mainstream at the 1964 Summer Olympics
- 9 Digital watches are relatively new and futuristic piece of technology
- 10 The Patek Philippe Caliber 89 is the world’s most complicated mechanical pocket watch
- 11 George Daniels invented the coaxial escapement in 1980 and transformed time keeping technology
- 12 The Cesium 133 wristwatch prototype is maybe the world’s most accurate watch
- 13 A self-educated carpenter invented the maritime chronometer to help seamen more easily navigate
- 14 Casio G-Shock watches are close to indestructible
- 15 Watches displayed in shops are almost always preset to these two times
Modern watches simply couldn’t have existed without the invention of the “mainspring”
There wouldn’t be any Rolex watches if Peter Heinlein and invented the “mainspring” all the way back in 1511.
A German clock maker, Heinlein decided to start experimenting with spring powered clocks in the early 16th century, and after reducing the size of these springs dramatically he was able to create the very first modern watch. The mainspring has been critically important in wristwatches (mechanical wristwatches, anyway) ever since!
Watches have been an important part of men’s fashion dating back to the early 17th century
Though specific watch styles come into and go out of fashion just like everything else, wearing a watch – or keeping a pocket watch in your waistcoat – has always been a big part of men’s fashion since the early 1600s. King Charles II popularized of the wearing of pocket watches, and that trend has trickled down throughout history.
Today few men wear pocket watches, but almost all influential men wear luxury timepieces on their wrists.
The very first wristwatch to be produced with an alarm function was created in nearly 1900s
A Swiss watchmaker named Eterna was the first company to produce a wristwatch that included an alarm function in 1908, but it wasn’t until 1914 that they started full-scale production with this amazing little invention.
Men’s wristwatches really became popular in the lead up to World War I
Louis Cartier (yes, that Cartier) accompanied his pilot friend Alberto Santos-Dumont on a number of flights to experiment with the utilization of aircraft in the time leading up to World War I. And when he saw that his friend struggled to measure time while keeping both hands on the controls of his plane he endeavored to create the first “aviator” wristwatch – complete with leather band and small clasp that both became mainstay elements of the modern day “aviator”.
…And World War II helped to kill off the pocket watch
Pocket watch was incredibly popular throughout nearly 1800s all the way up until the 1930s, and was really only killed off during World War II where military men were forbade to use anything but a wristwatch – all in an effort to keep them safe, keep them focused, and keep both hands on their weapon.
This was the ultimate nail in the pocket watch’s coffin, and it’s never recovered.
Automatic watches self-wind through the movement of the wearer’s wrist and arm
Mechanical watches still dominate the landscape of luxury timepieces, but automatic watches are true engineering marvels. They essentially wind themselves through the use of in a central weight, a winding rotor, and the rotation and movement of the wearer’s wrist.
This means that when you walk, the natural swinging motion of your arm is going to self-wind the watch so that you never have to!
Two different watches are known for reaching the furthest boundaries of modern exploration
When it comes to diving beneath the surface of the ocean, no name is quite as famous as a Jacques Cousteau. It was he had popularized the wearing of the Rolex Submariner, during his 1954 documentary “The Silent World”. All dive watches since then have stolen at least a little bit of design inspiration from the Submariner.
When it comes to outer space, however, NASA astronauts have always turned to the Omega Speedmaster. Worn by Buzz Aldrin (and the first watch on the moon), Neil Armstrong was also supposed to be wearing a Speedmaster, but had left his watch inside the lunar lander when he made those famous first steps. All astronauts ever since have worn Omega watches scrapped on their wrists.
Seiko watches pushed quartz movements into the mainstream at the 1964 Summer Olympics
Though they certainly weren’t the first to produce watches that ran off of electricity and quartz crystal, it was Seiko that really helped to popularize this particular method of tracking time. They debuted their watches at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and these watches have been popular ever since.
Digital watches are relatively new and futuristic piece of technology
Stanley Kubrick helped to usher in the digital watch area when he commissioned the Hamilton Watch Company to design a futuristic looking (but at the time non-functioning) digital timepiece for his 1968 movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”.
It will be until almost 4 years later that the first digital watch was produced by Hamilton themselves – costing close to $2100 (even back then).
The Patek Philippe Caliber 89 is the world’s most complicated mechanical pocket watch
This particular timepiece was created in 1989, and took five years of research and development, four years to manufacture, and is made up of close to 1800 individual components. The cheapest option available would set you back $5.1 million – all the way back in 1989. You’d have to pay for five times as much today to get your hands on one of these!
George Daniels invented the coaxial escapement in 1980 and transformed time keeping technology
Though not exactly a name well recognized by individuals outside of the watch collecting community, George Daniels is responsible for completely revolutionizing watch technology with a brand-new escapement. One of the most significant or logical advancements in watch movement history (since the invention of the lever escapement in the late 18th century), it eliminates a lot of unnecessary movements, increases accuracy and reliability, and has been the movement of choice by Omega ever since it was introduced.
The Cesium 133 wristwatch prototype is maybe the world’s most accurate watch
Though there are so-called “atomic watches” that rely on radio signals produced by the US government to stay accurate, the Cesium of 133 leverages a self-contained source of Cesium that generates its own time signal completely independent of any other source.
It’s billed as the most accurate watch on the planet and it lives up to all expectations.
An English carpenter (self-taught) named John Harrison invented the maritime chronometer, a portable device that allowed all sailors and captains the ability to more effortlessly navigate the oceans by self-calculating longitude. It’s seen as one of the most important discoveries in all of human history, and led to the exploration of the globe.
Casio G-Shock watches are close to indestructible
Casio is best known for producing some of the world’s toughest digital watches, and their G-Shock line definitely earns that reputation. Made to be as close to indestructible as you’re going to get in a wristwatch, these amazing little devices can withstand incredible forces, blunt trauma, as well as water and pressure up to 300m deep.
Watches displayed in shops are almost always preset to these two times
Watches that are displayed for sale are almost universally set to either ten minutes past ten o’clock or ten minutes to two o’clock – two times that resemble a smiley face with the hands aligned to that time. This subconsciously helps watchmakers and jewelers sell more watches, and is one of the most well studied and deployed forms of subconscious marketing.