Home Digital Marketing Watchmaking Trade: Evolution of Watches Throughout the Years

Watchmaking Trade: Evolution of Watches Throughout the Years


It is incredible how far the watchmaking industry has gone through. There were hurdles – ups and downs, yet this trade is still alive and kicking. It would be exhilarating to reminisce about the times the watch industry started, the challenges it faced throughout the years, and how it is striving again in the 21st century.

The historical account of watchmaking trade is not just about its revolution, but also about the lives that were inspired and relied on it. Who would imagine that from the sundial, now we are using the smartwatch as a timepiece? This post will further discuss essential historical facts about the watchmaking industry until it faced innovation through technology.


A pomander watch, a type of clock-watch.

Clock-watches are the first timepieces that were made in the 16th century from Nuremberg and Augsburg of Germany. These portable timepieces became feasible due to the invention of the mainspring in the early 15th century. Peter Henlein, in his prime years, is often credited as the maker of the first ornamental piece worn as pendants. However, no evidence was proven about him being the first German craftsman who invented clock-watches.

These clock-watches were worn on a chain around the neck or by fastening to clothing. They are engraved and ornamented even though only an hour hand is available. The shape later evolved into a round form, named as Nuremberg eggs. Nevertheless, there was a trend in this century about unusually-shaped watches like animals, insects, crosses, flowers, and even skulls.

Pocket Watch

An example of a 17th-century silver skull watch.

There was a change in style in the 17th century when men began to wear watches in pockets. The shifting of fashion is to keep the watch away from harm, like exposure to elements. Only then, it was thought to be kept safe if carried securely inside the pocket. Hence, it was called a pocket watch.

A typical pocket watch that can be purchased online.

Pocket watches’ shape evolved to standard pocket watch shape that we know today. It was sometime in 1610 when the glass is used as a pocket watch part to cover its face. Their timekeeping tool was the same one with clocks. Yet, the mainspring caused an error that doesn’t happen in weight-powered clocks. The force from the spring is inconsistent, though it reduces as the spring unwinds.

The changes in timekeeping tools’ drive force affect the entire pace of the components. Especially the verge and foliot instruments, which were sensitive to these alterations. Therefore, early watches reduce speed in their running period as the mainspring ran down. The challenge is a lack of isochronism, which afflicted mechanical watches throughout their history.

Innovation of Tools

The watchmaking industry is ready to leap forward by developing accuracy and innovating such important timekeeping mechanisms. 

Balance Spring

The addition of balance spring in the late 17th century remarkably increased the watches’ accuracy. This part diminished the error from several hours per day to ten minutes per day, which lead to adding the minute-hand to the face. 

Temperature Compensation and Chronometers

The improvement in this period of accurate marine chronometers, which was necessary for celestial navigation, was later used in watches. This leads to the discovery of the temperature-compensated balance wheel, invented by Pierre Le Roy. Then it was improved by Thomas Earnshaw.

Lever Escapement

It was invented by Thomas Mudge in the late 17th century and was developed by Josiah Emery. But it was only around the 18th century that it came around in Britain. The lever was widely used at the start of the 19th century. Using this mechanism made the watch very precise. 


Some claim that Abraham-Louis Breguet created the world’s first wristwatch. This was to honor Caroline Murat, the queen of Naples, in 1810. It was in the middle of the 19th century when most watchmakers produced a wide range of wristwatches that were sold as bracelets for women. 

However, when the early 20th century came, manufacturers began generating purpose-built wristwatches. 

  • In 1903, Dimier Frères & Cie of the Swiss company patented a wristwatch design with the now-standard wire lugs. 
  • Louis Cartier, a French watchmaker, designed a watch for an aviator in 1904. 
  • In 1905, WIsdorf & Davis set up their business, providing quality timepieces at affordable prices. The company is now known as Rolex. 

Variety of Watches

The impact of the world war dramatically changed the public view on the man’s wristwatch, which opened up a mass market after the war period. By 1930, the ratio of wristwatch to pocket watch was 50:1. Here are the other types of watches that were invented with the help of technology.

Electric Watch

This came out during the 1950s. The hands of the type were still moved mechanically by a wheel train.

Quartz Watch

In 1969, the beginning of the quartz watch was a revolutionary development in watch technology. The balance wheel was replaced with a quartz crystal resonator, which vibrated at 8,192 Hz.

Radio-controlled Wristwatch

It was in 1990 when Junghans proposed the Mega 1, the first radio-controlled wristwatch. This invention is for government operation purposes.

Atomic Wristwatch

These atomic wristwatches are the most precise time and frequency standards known. They are utilized as primary standards for international time distribution services.


The latest invention of all time, a smartwatch, is a wireless digital tool that is capable of being your PDA, cellphone, portable music player.

The first Linux Smartwatch invented and designed by Steve Mann.

It is designed to link with other devices that have an Internet connection, such as smartphones. That is why you can use it for running apps, play sorts of digital media, or streaming radion to Bluetooth headphones. The smartwatch is paving the way again to watch industries as it plays an essential role in getting the Millenials to think about wearing watches. 


In summary, it is a rollercoaster ride knowing the history of watchmaking. It is evident that through developments, changes, and application of scientific-practical purposes, we are now enjoying the perks of using stylish and useful watches today.



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