Mechanical Watches

segmented automatic movement Hand wound wrist watches are direct descendants from the pocket watch, more recently these were wound by a top button, but previously to this and pre 20th century these would have been wound by a key. Modern wrist watches are wound by button, called the ‘crown’ attached to a stem that connects to the mainspring winding cog. These are hand wound, but there are also automatic watches.  The pre-runner to the quartz movement, but in actual fact automatic watches actually date back to 1770-80, called the ‘pedometer’.


The modern automatic watch is wound by a weight attached to a rotor pivot at the top of the movement, and this allows the weight to wind the watch as the wearer moves his wrist. It was an Englishman, John Harwood who invented the modern automatic movement, in 1917. In 1923 he applied for a Swiss patent. However, his invention was quite odd in that one had to turn the bezel (the metal frame holding the glass) and the watch had to be shaken to be wound. He continued to sell his Swiss watches until the 1930s, when he eventually went out of business as better automatics were being invented.




Electromechanical Watches


Miniature batteries for hearing aids were invented in the 50s, and this helped to inspire the American watch company Hamilton to develop a watch powered by a battery and were available in 1957. However, it was not a pretty watch! It was Bulova who developed the Accutron watch that really cracked the market, and their watch was said to be accurate to just shy of 100%, 99.9977% to be accurate. However, it was not taken up by other companies and its popularity waned, but coming up fast was the first quartz watches.



Quartz watchesmechanicalwatch


Quartz clocks had been around for quite some time, but thanks to the Japanese in particular miniaturisation was key to the first quartz wrist watch, and in 1968 both Japan and Switzerland simultaneously launched the quartz wrist watch. These were remarkable in their accuracy, just 2 seconds a day was claimed. However, these watches were still far from attractive. Both LED (light emitting diodes) and LCD (liquid crystal displays) were used, but although they did sell, being a new gimmick, they still had that quite ugly look. The Timex watch for example, was just a blank red dial, when pressed the LCD would light up to show the time. Also, the Swiss watch industry found it difficult to compete, and it was the Far East that made very cheap LCD watches to captured what market there was.

However, the Swiss did continue to develop the technology and in time produced a quartz analogue watch, which was slim and attractive to wear.

Expose John Harwood first automatic watch