Watchmaking’s Greatest Milestones

Watchmaking’s Greatest Milestones

Compared to our whole history of measuring the passage of time, the wristwatch is still a relatively new wonder.

The main wearable watches arose in the 16 th century, when Nuremberg clockmaker Peter Henlein designed supposed clock-watches, ornamental items worn either attached to clothing or on a pendant around the neck.

Peter Henlein is a famous and talented watchmaker

About 100 years later, need brought the pocket watch, as wearing a watch presented to the elements caused the internal mechanisms to fail. Keeping it tucked safely in a vest pocket offered both a level of security as well as offering ascend to the traditional flat adjusted shape, with no sharp edges to snag on garments.

The arrival of the absolute first wristwatch has long involved debate, however the piece created for the Queen of Naples in 1810 by French watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet (of overcoil fame) is agreed to be the most probable candidate by many specialists.

Abraham-Louis Breguet is another important watch figure

However, until the early 20 th century, and all the more specifically its wars, the wristwatch was the sole safeguard of aristocratic ladies. No man outside of the military wore anything however a pocket watch.

The usefulness of a watch that necessary only one hand to operate it had to substantiate itself in the abhorrences of battle. From that point forward, the development of the wristwatch has advanced exponentially, leading to a vast range of various styles and uses, with abilities those early pioneers could never have even dreamed of.

Along the way there have been several vital crossroads, innovations that have changed the bearing of the wristwatch’s evolution and opened up new avenues to explore.

Below, we take a look at the absolute most important milestones in the historical backdrop of watchmaking.

The Cartier Santos is perhaps the main watches in horology

1904—the Cartier Santos

Although it arrived in an era before the principal great war, the Cartier Santos can arguably stake a claim to being the primary present day wristwatch for men. It was created by jeweler Louis Cartier for his spearheading pilot companion Alberto Santos-Dumont—a man held in similar acclaim by aviation historians as the Wright Brothers.

Dumont found that checking a pocket watch while flying was near impossible, having to take the two his hands off the controls. Cartier’s solution was to develop a watch he could wear on his wrist, and it demonstrated so popular in Europe that it was placed into creation in 1911. That run has lasted until today. Regardless of whether it was the first is open for conversation, yet the Cartier Santos was definitely the primary pilot’s wristwatch.

The Rolex Oyster and its automatic movement

1926—the Oyster and the automatic movement

Following the First World War, wristwatches had started to become acceptable accessories for men, however their greatest downfall was still their susceptibility to residue and dampness saturating the case and damaging the developments.

Enter Rolex. Hans Wilsdorf’s development of the water resistant Oyster case involved an arrangement of screwing the bezel, case back and twisting crown against a central area, shaping a sealed whole.

It was the innovation that changed everything. Wristwatches were presently intense, durable tools rather than simple decorations.

The same year, British watchmaker John Harwood showcased his self-twisting development at the Basel Watch Fair. It had been in commercial creation for three years at the time, yet the mechanism demonstrated difficult to manufacture and fairly fragile to utilize. In 1931, the Harwood Self-Winding Watch Company fell casualty with the impacts of the Great Depression and went into liquidation, leaving the patent for the primary workable automatic caliber available to anyone.

A Rolex Bubbleback 3131

1933—the Perpetual

Emile Borer, head of research at long-time Rolex partner Aegler, developed on Harwood’s plan, replacing his semi-circular load with a unidirectional rotor that spun a full 360°. It delivered constant pressure to the mainspring and vastly improved timekeeping accuracy, and meant wristwatches could be continued running with simply the movement of the wearer’s arm. It was the innovation that sealed final triumph over the pocket watch, as pieces worn against the body would never encounter sufficient development to drive the mechanism.

The primary Rolex Perpetuals launched in 1933, the size of the internal calibers requiring domed case backs to accommodate them, leading to them being initiated Bubblebacks.

Vintage Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Watch

1953—the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms

If the argument over which was the principal wristwatch is hotly debated, it’s nothing compared to which is the main plunge watch.

Rolex had been collaborating with Panerai during the 1930s to deliver the Radiomir, watches resilient enough for use by the Italian Navy’s special powers jumpers, the Regia Marina. And Omega had launched their Marine in 1932, the principal watch specifically tried for use at a significant profundity.

However, the element that today most characterizes what makes a plunge watch, the rotating bezel, didn’t make its introduction until 1953 on the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. Developed related to the elite combat swimmers of the French Navy, and their commander Bob Maloubier, the Fifty Fathoms is generally accepted as being the first current jump watch, beating the Rolex Submariner to the accolade by only months.

The Zenith El-Primero (Photo: Monochrome watches)

1969—automatic chronographs, the quartz emergency and the moon landing

The final year of the 60s was a banner year for horology. A battle that had been raging for a decade finished in almost a draw when three automatic chronograph developments all arose inside the same a year. Seiko’s 6139 launched first, followed by the Caliber 11, a joint undertaking developed by a consortium made up of Heuer-Leonidas, Breitling, Dubois-Dépras, Büren and Hamilton.

But the last to appear demonstrated the most persevering. Apex’s El Primero was unveiled in the September of 1969 and, apart from a decade-long hiatus from the early 70s to the early 80s, is still being created today.

That hiatus was caused by another revolutionary development, yet one that came inside a hair of obliterating the Swiss watchmaking industry altogether.

Seiko Astron was the watch that almost finished the mechanical watch industry

Japanese company Seiko scored their second watchmaking breakthrough of the year when they launched the Astron, the main large-scale creation quartz watch. Exact to a degree traditional springs and gears could never would like to emulate, the new technology captured the imagination of the time and there followed an avalanche of cheap, low-maintenance quartz watches from the Far East and the U.S. which cleared out 66% of Switzerland’s best, Zenith amongst them.

The Omega Speedmaster went to the moon

But ironically, this was also the year mechanical watches took a giant leap. The Omega Speedmaster had been accompanying space missions since Walter Schirra wore his during the Mercury program in 1962, yet seven years later on July 20 th   1969, the example donned by Buzz Aldrin became the main watch on the moon. Although Neil Armstrong also wore a Speedy , he had left his in the command module as a backup for a failing clock.

The Pulsar Time Computer by Hamilton was a game-changer for the watchmaking industry

1970—the Pulsar

As if traditional watches needed more problems at the time, Hamilton released the principal ever digital watch in 1970. The Pulsar Time Computer was unlike anything that had come previously, without any hands and no dial, simply a blank screen that lit up with red LED digits once the wearer squeezed the catch on its pad shaped case.

Although a colossal accomplishment at the time, in any event, gracing James Bond’s wrist in his 1973 trip Live and Let Die , the technology was before long supplanted by Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) watches, still the standard for digital watches today.

The Swatch bunch removed a page from Seiko’s watchmaking playbook and stayed in the game


By 1983, mechanical watchmaking was in real trouble from the onslaught of cheap quartz watches, and the business could only be saved by… cheap quartz watches.

Two of the greatest Swiss conglomerates, ASUAG and SSIH, were near the very edge of bankruptcy when millionaire architect Dr. Nicolas Hayek was asked to step in, consolidating the corporations to shape the SMH (Societé Suisse de Microélectronique et d’Horlogerie). Renamed not long after as the Swatch Group, it was able to beat the competition unexpectedly, delivering inexhaustible quantities of low-cost, fun and cheerful watches which became a sensation worldwide.

The income they got was rechanneled into the more very good quality traditional brands, the likes of Omega and Breguet, and in 1985, the Plaza Accord fortified the U.S. Dollar and Swiss Franc while weakening the Japanese Yen, essentially finishing the quartz emergency.

Within five years, the Swatch Group usurped Seiko’s situation as the most valuable watchmaker in the world.

The watchmaking industry changed with the first smartwatch

1994—the ascent of the Smartwatch

Pinning down which was the absolute first Smartwatch is, like the principal jump watch, another arena that moves great debate—distinctive class, same argument.

1994 saw the presentation of the Timex/Microsoft collaboration, the Datalink. Able to download information from a computer, it could also give notifications and store dates.

It was the trailblazer to an increasingly sophisticated number of replacements from probably the greatest names in bleeding edge tech, like Seiko, Sony and Garmin, who all drew out their own interpretations of the wearable idea.

The Apple Watch was another massive leap in the watchmaking industry

2015—the iWatch

Apple, fairly late to the game for once, drew out the iWatch (later the Apple Watch ) and quickly became the market leader, introducing the latest headache for traditional manufacturers.

After a relatively slow start, the release of the third generation in 2017 marked the first run through fares of the Apple Watch overwhelmed those of Swiss watches.

Those are our most important milestones throughout the entire existence of the wristwatch, and it remains to be seen the reaction the traditional side will come up with to hold its own against the wave of cutting edge newcomers.

But an industry that has been innovating for quite a long time makes certain to have a few stunts at its disposal.