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When Were Watches Invented?

It's hard to imagine a world where watches don't exist.

These little units have been an important accessory for centuries, and they are still popular with consumers today. The advancements of timepieces over the last 100 years have seen the introduction of timepieces that can be used underwater and in space.

Yes, the wristwatch has been here for more than a hundred years now, which leaves us with the question of when the first wristwatch came to be.

The first wristwatch was invented in 1868 by Patek Phillipe, designed for Countess Koscowicz. At the time, Patek Phillipe was a watchmaker based in Switzerland, which explains the rich watch history in the country.

In this piece, we dive deeper into the history of timepieces to see how far these pieces of accessories have come.


What is the oldest watch in the world?

When talking about the oldest watch in the world, there are a series of concerns to have in mind.

For one, not all timepieces are wristwatches. The first sets of mechanical watches were designed as pocket watches, for example.

That said, the oldest watch is believed to be the Pomader watch which was designed sometime in the 16th century. With that timeframe, it looks like this watch came before the one Patek Phillipe designed for the Countess of Hungary.

However, the Pomader, which was made in the early 16th century (1505) by Peter Henlein, is a small clock that mimics the idea behind the first wristwatch. After all, these watches are meant to be carried around to tell the time portably instead of having to look for a wall clock everywhere.

When it comes to watches, though, we will defer to the first wristwatch that made its way to the Countess Koscowicz of Hungary.


Who invented the first hand watch?

As you would have seen in this piece alone, there are many firsts in the world of watches.

We have the quartz watch that is making waves these days, mechanical wristwatches with their extensive components, the clock-style watch, digital timepieces, and more.

In the world of hand watches alone, we could also debate that the wristwatch and portable clock fall into this category, leaving out the pocket watch (since it goes into the pocket, as the name suggests).

So, with that in mind, who invented the first hand watch?

The battle of who invented the first hand watch should be between Patek Phillipe (who made the royal watch in 1868) and Peter Heinlein (who invented the hand clock in 1505).

However, Patek might not be in contention at all when you realize that Abraham-Louis Breguet set up a watchmaking practice in 1775 and was credited with making a watch that went to the Queen of Naples in 1810.

This surely predates Patek, who is officially credited as making the first watch but comes after Heinlein's creation.

With many experts claiming that they are not sure if Heinlein truly made the watch or just signed off on it, the prize might just be Abraham-Louis' to claim.

We will leave this piece of history up here for you to decide who your first hand watchmaker is.


When were men's wristwatches invented?

Although it seems that men have taken on the wristwatch niche these days, it was not always so. In fact, production was mostly for women till necessity made it reasonable for men to have one also.

What necessity would make the men switch their fashion tastes so much that they have these accurate pieces of machinery telling the time on their wrists these days?

Men were used to carrying pocket watch with them, evolving from the small clock that Heinlein signed in the early 16th century. This also made a good part of the gentleman's dressing and spoke of a class without ever uttering a word.

When the first World War kicked in, though, things changed.

Some British and American soldiers found it convenient to keep track of the time with watches on their wrists rather than those that they had to reach into their coats to get. Since timepieces became a significant part of the war also (as they helped to sync and plan attacks better), the move to wristwatches was made.

Thus, men did not start wearing wristwatches till the 20th century – and it was surely not a fashion-backed decision as it was for women.

After the war, most of the men kept their wristwatches on, and we started getting more of these modern designs for men. In little time, watchmakers moved in, and entire lines of wristwatches were developed for men, run by anything from mechanical energy to battery-powered mechanisms.

It is interesting to note that men created the first wristwatches, even if they were for women. Yet, they didn't have any of their own for well over a century.

Some interesting aspects of history to think about if you ask us.


The Switch from Mechanical to Quartz

One of the most notable changes in the world of traditional watches is the switch between movements.

Of course, you will still find mechanical timepieces around today, but not as much as you would in the past.

These mechanical timepieces came with a lot of moving parts, internal oil, precise engines, a balance wheel (works like a clock's pendulum), and other complex mechanisms. These parts help the wristwatch stay reliable to the user while it tells accurate time, but it was also a hassle in some ways.

For the older mechanical timepieces, they needed to be wound at intervals lest they stop working. When they did stop working, they lost time and needed to be wound and reset.

Not using a mechanical watch for a long time will cause some damages, which is also a huge concern. Due to a large number of moving parts, the need for winding, and more, the cost of purchase, usage, and maintenance of these watches were high.

The mechanical mechanism was also popular with pocket watches, although it got to the first set of timepieces also. However, all of the concerns above persisted.

Thus, industry advances in technology were needed to solve these problems, bringing about the quartz mechanism.

These watches were almost electric, running on battery power and featuring a simple mechanism. When Seiko created the movement, it became the world's new craze, and many watchmaking outfits jumped on the wagon also.

Now, you don't need to worry about winding your wristwatch all the time; users have lesser moving parts to deal with, setting up the watch works just fine, and you can get quality service for the new mechanism.

That, and we have not talked about how less costly they are.

These are some of the many reasons why we have chosen to go with the award-wining Japanese Miyota quartz movement for our watches at Nordgreen. They don't only allow us to offer you luxury at reasonable prices, but these modern watches make all the difference when it comes to maintenance, handling, and everyday usage.


The Advancements of The Wristwatch

In the latter half of the 20th century, watches went through a series of developments, many of which have affected the watches we use today.

For example, the Japanese watchmaking company, Seiko, invented the world's first quartz machine. This revolutionized the watch industry, and watchmakers around the world began to experiment with new technology and designs.

This movement has been replicated and redesigned in different forms, including the Japanese Miyota quartz movement that we use in our watches here at Nordgreen. Besides the fact that these battery-powered watches cost less to maintain, they also manage a better accuracy than most mechanical watches and do not set you back too much when buying.

In 1961, the first watch was worn in space by a Russian Astronaut. This led to many companies racing to create the next watch that would be worn in outer space.

Today, we have watches developed with technology that allows them to withstand extreme conditions such as can be found in the depth of water or outer space.

As if that's not enough, more features are being slapped on traditional watches. One of such is the GMT bezel, which can be used for navigation, works wonders for tracking time in two time zones, and can even be used to measure time differences/ time elapsed.

With our men's Pioneer models, for example, you get a dual chronograph dial that can function as a stopwatch or counter, depending on what you need. Such inventions and features make the portable watches into unique elements of style that still step up to do much more.

The most radical developments of the wristwatch have occurred in the last decade or so. Now, many brands are creating smartwatches that can be charged like a phone. These new watches can do so much more than just tell the time and give an insight into what the future of timepieces will be like.


Get a wristwatch today

Whether we are going with Patek Phillipe, trusting the words of Louis Perrelet, taking the decision to support Abraham-Louis Breguet or anyone else who lays claims to creating the first wristwatch, one thing is sure:

Watches have come to redefine how we adorn our wrist and the entire fashion accessory market, and we love to see them.

Tap into this rich watch heritage and history by choosing Scandinavia-design-inspired watches that demonstrate a high level of class, luxury, and minimalist appeal.

Browse through our collection of men's watches and the nature-inspired women's watches that we have for you today to stand out from the bunch in every room that you enter.

Whether you are looking for something with a second hand, one to tell the hours, a wristwatch to pair with dinner gowns and suits, a timepiece that goes to the office with you, or a daily driver that handles outdoor operations smoothly, we've got something for you.

September 14, 2020 by Christopher Day

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