Watch (watchmaking)

A watch is a time-measuring instrument that focuses on oneself. A watch differs from a clock , a pendulum or any other time-measuring instrument in that it can be carried away during travel without its operation being altered.

The term watch comes from the combination of two definitions 1 :

  • “Glass box in which goldsmiths and jewelers put their goods, so that they can be seen without being able to touch them. “
  • “A turntable that indicates hours in a clock. The clocks in the churches had watches in and out. Today, the object designated by this second definition is the dial.

The first watches are worn in a vest pocket , jacket or jacket (pocket bearing the name of pocket , hence the name of pocket watch), or else attached to the end of a ribbon or chain Attached at the top of the pants or trousers.

In the xxi th century, the watch mainly door wrist , usually the left arm, and is called “wristwatch”. A watch must have certain qualities. Among the most common:

  • Accuracy (see Stopwatch ),
  • Stability, or reliability ,
  • the seal to protect the movement of moisture and other harmful influences its good work,
  • The impact resistance , for example the G-Shock system or the ” incabloc ” system,
  • Scratch-resistant glass: synthetic sapphire ,
  • the antimagnetics.


First watches

The first portable watches appear xvi th century . Their invention is traditionally attributed to the German watchmaker Peter Henlein who designs very small clocks to which he welds a ring on the side. They can be worn in the neck or at the end of a chain around the neck. This conception takes place around 1510, the approximate date, justified by archival texts, but mention is made of portable clocks manufactured earlier in Italy 2 .

The box of the first watches has long an oval shape which makes them take the nickname of Nuremberg egg  (de) . They flatten out gradually to give the gusset watches.

Watch gusset

Related article: Pocket watch .

Until the beginning of xx th century, the most popular watch model is the pocket watch (or pocket ), the pocket is the name of the little vest pocket provided for this purpose. Watches are usually attached to the vest by a chain or ribbon. They are often provided with a lid. The crown and the time adjustment wheel are located at twelve hours in the ring. Wristwatches are then primarily intended for female customers.

Wrist Watch

In 1571 , the Earl of Leicester offered a bracelet with a small watch to Queen Elizabeth I re 3 . In 1722, a Parisian craftsman would have made wristwatches or watch bracelets. In 1790 , Jaquet-Droz offers wristwatches in Geneva. In 1806 , the Empress Joséphine received a wristwatch [ref. Required] .

In 1811 , Abraham-Louis Breguet presented a complicated wristwatch – which he had ordered in June 1810 – to the Queen Consort of Naples , Caroline Bonaparte .
The watchmakers of the time also offered, for the female clientele, pendent watches, of smaller size, which were suspended on the neck by means of a chain or a ribbon. In some cases, it was more a jewel than a functional object: it is indeed inconvenient for the person who wears it to read the time if the XII (12 hours) is on the side of the ring bail 4 , But this difficulty was solved by some watchmakers who placed the VI (6 hours) of the dial on the side of the ring: By raising the watch in front of you with the ring at the bottom, you read the dial normally.
Some watchmakers have succeeded in xix th century to miniaturize the movement and the housing and thereby create a show ring.

The first series production seems to date back to 1880 : the firm Girard-Perregaux in La Chaux-de-Fonds book an order for 2,000 wristwatches (fitted with a protective grid) to the Imperial German Army 3 .

“It was probably during the Boer War (1899-1902) that the wristwatch proved itself in practice as an object of military equipment. These experiences are echoed later in the civilian market in England 5 . […] ” .

A makeshift wristwatch is obtained by fixing the gusset watches on the wrist by handles welded at twelve hours and at six o’clock, or by fixing the case on a specially made metal “cradle”, a leather bracelet or Fabric with a buckle or buckle. This transformation allowed the user to consult his / her timepiece in a faster and more convenient way, while making it less vulnerable to shocks or falls. The crown (and therefore the winding crown) began to be placed laterally at 3 o’clock .

However, there are a large number of watches (often pocket watches changed, “half-soaps”, etc.) well before the end of the xix th century. Initially, they are more prestigious items. Thus the Swiss firm Omega produced the first wristwatch with repeater-minutes in 1892 6 (the watch is equipped with an Audemars Piguet 3 movement ). The first wristwatch series from the same firm dates back to 1900 7 . At first, it is quite common to wear the watch on the right wrist so we fixed out the crown at 9 am (not 3:00 like today) 8 .

The first wristwatches for men are considered wacky or even very effeminate 3 .

In 1914, the wristwatch is still novelty, but is widespread 9 :

“The Swiss National Exhibition of Bern ( 1914 ) is the consecration of the wristwatch in all its variety, in all its richness and with the modest and tasteful decoration afforded by the little material used. None of the exhibitors evaded the fashionable bracelet. Touchante unanimité! “

– Adrien Brandt (Vice-President of Omega ) 10 .

During the First World War , Omega produces military wristwatches (equipped with a perforated metal grille in front of the dial): 13 caliber “team some troops of the American Expeditionary Force 11 The Great War ends also popularize the watch. Bracelet, which keeps miniaturizing and perfecting itself afterwards.


This article contains one or more lists .  (Specify the date of installation using the date parameter ) .The text would benefit from being written in the form of synthetic paragraphs, more agreeable to reading.

Related article: History of the measurement of time .

This section presents the evolution of the mechanisms that have allowed the watch to become what it is today.

  • In the Middle Ages , the clock of belfries , bell towers and public buildings used the foliot mechanism (regulator which gives the basis of time) and the weight to be traced
  • The watch appears when the bulky weight is replaced by the motor spring . It results from the miniaturization of the table clocks which, thanks to this spring, can be moved and take over the weight wall clocks 12 .
  • In preaching against the making of crosses and chalices, Jean Calvin (1509-1564) incited the Geneva goldsmiths to turn to watchmaking. Half a century later, the first elements of the Geneva Factory appeared .
  • 1650 : the pendulum is used as a regulator
    • In 1657 , the first pendulum clock was built by watchmaker Salomon Coster in The Hague, according to the instructions of the Dutch scientist Christian Huygens ( 1629 – 1695 ).
  • In 1675
    • The balance spring is used as a regulator
    • Spiral watch by Isaac Thuret , master watchmaker.
    • Invention of the dial with 2 hands (hour and minute)
    • The London watchmaker Daniel Quare (1649-1724) creates the current dial, which will be modified later by the addition of the seconds hand
  • 1680 : birth of English watchmaking
    • Thomas Tompion
    • Georges Graham
    • John Harrison
  • 1685 :
    • The revocation of the Edict of Nantes pushes the Huguenots (often artisans) out of France. They take refuge in Geneva and in the mountains of the Swiss Jura .
  • 1735 : John Harrison presents H1, the first marine chronometer with the precision necessary to establish longitude , and then responds to successive criticisms, H2, H3.
  • 1773 :
    • John Harrison is assigned a portion of the price Longitude Act to discount H4, his 4 th cardan marine chronometer on personal intervention of the king.
    • Establishment of the ” establishment ” system, the divided organization of work in the Jura, by the goldsmith Daniel Jeanrichard ( 1665 – 1741 )
  • 1777 : the Swiss watchmaker Abraham Louis Perrelet creates the so-called perpetual “shaking watch”, often considered the first automatic watch 13 .
  • 1778 : the watchmaker from Liege Hubert Sarton presents a document describing an “automatic rotor watch” at the Paris Academy of Sciences .
  • 1810 : creation by Abraham-Louis Breguet of a wristwatch with complications for the queen consort of Naples , Caroline Bonaparte .
  • 1842 : Adrien Philippe invents the watch with crown
  • 1850 : 1 st industrial manufacturer in the world Waltham Watch Company , founded by Aaron Lufkin Dennison :
  • 1867 : Georges-Frédéric Roskopf creates the watch for the poor: Proletarian : 57 pieces instead of 200 and more for other watches
  • 1876 : Universal Exhibition of 1876 , Philadelphia , Pennsylvania , United States .
    • 1 re fully automatic manufacturing machine screws exposed by Waltham Watch Company
    • 1 st watchmaking assembly line exhibited by Waltham Watch Company
    • 1 st gold medal of a world watchmaking precision of competition attributed to Waltham Watch Company for 4 Watches taken at random from production.
  • 1876 – 1877 : Report by Jacques David , Longines , on his trip to Philadelphia and his visits to Waltham Watch Company and Elgin Watch Company : “MM. Swiss Watchmakers: Wake up! ! “
  • 1888 : Cartier develops the first wristwatches specially designed for women 14 , followed one year later by Vacheron Constantin 15 (unless the Swiss manufacturer has produced it since 1875 16 ).
  • 1900 : Omega manufactures the first wristwatch series of the brand.
  • 1904 : Invented in the last third of the xix th century, the wristwatch became popular and spread well before the end of the century. Louis Cartier manufactures for his friend, the aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont , a wristwatch of the brand designed to be worn on the wrist with a leather bracelet 14 .
  • 1926 : 1 st automatic wristwatch actually industrialized. It was a work by John Harwood . (In 1922, Léon Leroy had already produced a prototype of a watch of this kind.)
  • 1927: Rolex introduces the Oyster first waterproof watch
  • 1932: Omega tests its Omega Marine at a depth of 135m
  • 1952 : first electric wrist watches ( Lip )
  • 1953: Blancpain in collaboration with the combat swimmers created the Fifty Fathoms, the first dive watch
  • 1967 : 1 st wristwatch quartz of the world, the Beta 21 (e watchmaker Center of Neuchâtel).
  • 1969 :
    • 1 re shows marketed quartz (Seiko 35sq) and
    • 1 st shows “DEL” (Hamilton), big success of this type of display, despite the fact that one must press a button to see the time.
    • 1 re LCD watch ( Longines )
    • 1 st shows on the Moon , carried by Buzz Aldrin : an Omega Speedmaster
    • After almost ten years of research Zenith manufactures El Primero, the first self-winding chronograph and first movement to be clocked at 36,000 vibrations per hour (5hz)
  • 1971 : 1 re watch with plastic movement (the Astrolon of Tissot )
  • 1972: Omega launches the Marine Chronometer, the first and only wristwatch in history to be certified as a “marine chronometer” by the Swiss Official Chronometry Committee
  • 1975 : 1 re Wrist quartz LCD (liquid crystal display analog) (Suncrux).
  • 1978 : the world’s thinnest watch, Delirium , developed and manufactured by ETA Manufacture Horlogère for 4 watch brands exclusively: the bottom serves as a platinum , supporting all parts of the mechanical movement. Luxury watch, it was only made in gold . It has been marketed since 1979 .
  • 1981 : 1 re quartz watch without electric cell : a generator thermoelectric converts the thermal flux passing through the watch into electrical energy which is stored in an electricity storage device (Bulova, CEH).
  • 1983 : Launch of the Swatch by Ernst Thomke and his team at ETA SA . It was originally a plastic watch where, like the Delirium , the wheels are installed directly in the bottom of the case. It becomes a watch brand that revives the Swiss watch industry, and continuously develops new products. The latest (2009), a watch chronograph with automatic winding .
  • 1990 : 1 re wristwatch radio shows radio controlled ( Junghans ) receives radio signals from a radio transmitter which continuously transmits the time.
  • 1996 : 1 re quartz watch without electric cell using an electrodynamic converter: a rotor drives a current generator stored in a capacitor ( Seiko ).
  • 1999 : Omega introduces the coaxial exhaust , invented by the British watchmaker George Daniels .

Types of Watches and Features

Beyond giving time, a watch can have advanced functions and indicate the date, stopwatch or even so-called “intelligent” watches to act as a mini-computer, have Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity .

Diving watchMany watches are waterproof to varying degrees, ranging from splashing to underwater diving. There is a standard of water resistance ranges based on depth, but the figures are only arbitrary. A recent model has even proved its tightness at 3,900 meters below sea level 17 .

Guide to waterproofing watches 18

It is important to note that dive watches specifically designed for underwater activities meet a precise ISO 6425 standard and are guaranteed by the perfectly waterproof manufacturers at the depths indicated on the dial (some manufactures such as Omega or Rolex do not hesitate Test their watches individually beyond the maximum depth indicated on the dial).

However, watches that are not specially designed for scuba diving are also often indicated as being waterproof but do not meet the same standard. In order to qualify for the designation “water resistant” they must comply with the ISO 2281 standard, while dive watches meet the ISO 6425 standard. It is therefore important to consider the figures put forward by the manufacturers as indications More than as guarantees (unlike the dive watches or depth indicated is guaranteed)

Indication descriptive Note
3 atm 30m Watch that only supports accidental splashing.
5atm 50m Watch suitable for immersion and swimming on the surface.
10ATM 100m Watch suitable for surface and shallow snorkeling, as well as shallow dive in pool.
20ATM 200m Watch adapted to the practice of snorkeling ( snorkeling ) as well as occasional hyperbaric diving .
30atm 300m Watch adapted to the practice of diving hyperbaric but not to deep diving requiring a gas mixture other than the air .

Watch «smart»

Watch for the blind

Alexandravision vibrating watch.

There are analog watches for people with blindness, whose glass is raised to allow them to touch the hands in order to know the time. There are now other systems which, for example, state the time vocally or give the time by inaudible and discrete vibrations.

Watch «parlante»

A “talking” watch is a watch giving indications on the time in an audible way. She appeared only xxi th century.


Watch showing the map of the sky, example complication.
Main article: Complication (watchmaking) .

On mechanical watches, the additional functions, that is to say, other than the simple indication of the passage of time, are called complications . Experts are divided as to whether the chronographic functions, the recording of the passage of time for a limited period, are or are not complications [ ref.  Desired] .

At the level of the display, one can have as complication:

  • Day of the month (or date )
  • Day of the week
  • Month of the year
  • Phases of the Moon
  • Perpetual calendar : automatically corrects the duration of the month (28, 29, 30, 31 days)
  • Time zones ( dual time in English)
  • Power reserve
  • Night sky map ( constellations )
  • Tidal coefficients
  • Sunrise and sunset time
  • tachometer
  • alarm clock
  • Chronograph 19
  • Repeat (sound indication of hours, quarter-hours and minutes by pressing a rocker)
  • Equation of time
  • Tourbillon (rotation of the watch regulating member)
  • Double tourbillon ( Cartier )
  • Swirl on gyroscope ( Zenith )

In addition, very specialized models sometimes include:

  • Continuous time setting by radio signal (radio-controlled)
  • Compass
  • GPS
  • Measurement of cardiac pulsations
  • Measurement of altitude, depth, temperature


Pocket watch from the 1920s.
Main article: Composition of a mechanical watch .

Watches, like clocks, are all made according to the same scheme 20 :

  1. Power source (manual, electric, etc.)
  2. Energy accumulator (spring etc.)
  3. Transmission components (series of wheels)
  4. Distribution member (exhaust and anchor)
  5. Regulating device (balance-balance)
  6. Display body (dial, hands, date etc.)

A mechanical clock can only operate in the vertical position, unlike the watch that operates in all positions. As a result, two technical elements are indispensable:

  • The motor spring , while a clock can operate with weights whose descent actuates the gear train;
  • The sprung balance while the clock can operate with a pendulum .

The watch with an analogue display is composed of seven parts: movement , dial , hands , case , crown (with optional pushers ), bracelet and clasp .

A particular watch identifies itself by combining its characteristics, for example: analog needle display, quartz control , mechanical or battery power , wrist or gusset support.


Mechanism of regulation

There are various types of regulator .

  • Mechanical oscillator ( spiral spring ): in this case, a balance, equipped with a spiral spring, is animated by a regular oscillatory movement. To adjust the movement of the movement, it is sufficient to act on the balance-spring: if the watch advances, because of too rapid oscillations, it increases its length if the watch is delayed due to too slow oscillations. Another way of acting on the step: one modifies the inertia of the balance (for example: screws radially disposed).
  • Mechanical sonic frequency oscillator (for example, the tuning fork of the Accutron process, used by the Bulova brand ).
  • A quartz oscillator associated with an electronic circuit displaying time in digital form, or operating a stepping motor rotating hands. The most common frequency for the oscillator is 32 768 Hz , which corresponds to 2 15 : an easy-to-divide number for an electronic circuit .

Source of Energy

Lithium button batteries.

A watch can draw its energy from a spring, which is either raised by the user, or raised by the movements of the body which it transmits to a circular mass called ” rotor ” (this is then an automatic winding ).

A battery can also supply energy, but it must be replaced by a new one when it is exhausted (after a period of 12 to 30 months in general for silver oxide batteries, seven To ten years for lithium batteries ) [ ref.  Desired] .

The electric power source can also be recharged, without replacement, by body movements (automatic electronic watch, Kinetic ™ or Mecaquartz ™ processes). These movements of the body, as in the case of the self-winding mechanical watch, actuate a rotor, which recharges, by a device comparable to a dynamo, a capacitor which stores the energy thus generated. The recharging of the electricity reserve can finally take place via a photovoltaic or “solar” cell, which generates a current, more or less important, when the watch face is exposed to a light Artificial or natural.



The display consists of a fixed dial on which move hands whose position indicates the time. An hour hand and a minute hand are usually found . The watch can also have a second hand .

The dial does not necessarily have numbers but only indexes or sometimes nothing at all. Classically the dial comprises twelve hours numbered from one to twelve, each hour corresponding to five minutes. The hands are turned around an axis, so the hour hand is twice round the dial in one day when the minute hand makes a dial in one hour, or twenty-four turns a day. According to the sexagesimal system, the reading of the position of the hour hand and that of the minute hand indicates the time.

There are also watches with 24-hour dial , the hour hand makes in this case the full turn of the dial in one day.

Analog display in 24 hours


Hours, minutes and seconds are displayed with numbers on a liquid crystal display , which may be a 7-segment display . There are no needles, this can be in the form of discs or scrolling rollers behind counters (this type of display can be found on watches with analogue display for the date date, for example). This type of display on all LCD watches mass produced by Japan [ref. Required] .

There are displays using LCD technology but in the form of needles [ref. Required] . The display can also be in binary form .


Some watches have both types of displays, analog (hours, minutes, seconds) and alphanumeric LCD (date, chronograph, time zones, etc. ).

Some historical models

This section presents some watch models with the year they were created.

  • 1827: Marie-Antoinette of Abraham Breguet
  • 1886: The Raincoat of West End Watch Co.
  • 1894 Caliber 19 from Omega
  • 1900: Leroy 01  (pt) of L. Leroy & Cie (now watches L.Leroy ), Grand Prix of the World Exhibition in Paris , the most complicated watch in the world until 1989 with twenty-four complications 21
  • 1919: Tank de Cartier
  • 1927: Oyster of Rolex
  • 1929: Caliber 101 Reverso by Jaeger-LeCoultre 14×4, 8×3, 4 mm , 98 pieces , the smallest movement in the world still producing 22
  • 1931: Reverso of Jaeger-LeCoultre
  • 1932: Calatrava by Patek Philippe
  • 1932: Omega Marine tested waterproof at 70m at the bottom of Lake Geneva
  • 1938: Portuguese of IWC
  • 1945: Pobeda of the Petrodvorets Watch Factory
  • 1948: Omega Seamaster first watch dedicated to water sports
  • 1952: Navitimer of Breitling
  • 1952: Lip Electronic from Lip
  • 1952: Blancpain Fifhty Fathom first watch designed specifically for scuba diving
  • 1953: Submariner of Rolex
  • 1957: Omega Speedmaster
  • 1959: Museum Watch of Movado
  • 1961: Raketa of the Petrodvorets Watch Factory
  • 1961: Yema Superman first waterproof watch at 300 m (990 ft)
  • 1967: Rolex Sea Dweller designed in collaboration with the Comex and equipped with a helium valve
  • 1969: Monaco of TAG Heuer , popularized by Steve McQueen
  • 1969: El Primero de Zénith , first automatic chronograph is the first movement at 36,000 vibrations per hour
  • 1970: Seiko 5 of Seiko , automatic watches
  • 1970: Omega Seamaster “PloProf” created in collaboration with Jacques Yves Cousteau
  • 1972: Royal Oak of Audemars Piguet
  • 1978: Delirium from ETA Manufacture Horlogère , the world’s flattest watch manufactured in series [ref. necessary]
  • 1982: Swatch of Swatch Group

Notes and references

  1. ↑ Emile Biémont, The reign of the time. From sundials to atomic clocks , Bebooks,, P.  37
  2. a , b , c and d Marco Richon, Omega: Journey Through Time , p.  104 .
  3. ↑élière  [ archive ]
  4. ↑ Kahlert, Mühle, Bruner, Les Wristwatches – Hundred Years of History , p.  17 , quoted by Marco Richon, Omega: Journey Through Time , p.  104 .
  5. ↑ Marco Richon Omega Saga , Bienne 1998 ( ISBN  2-88380-010-3 ) , p.  224 and 227.
  6. ↑ Marco Richon, Omega Saga , p.  230 .
  7. ↑ Marco Richon, ibid .
  8. ↑ Omega in Marco Richon Catalog , Omega Saga , p.  233 .
  9. ↑ Marco Richon, Omega Saga , p.  234 .
  10. Ibid.
  11. ↑ Adolphe Chapiro, The French watch from the sixteenth century until 1900 , The editions of the amateur,, P.  9
  12. ↑ This fact is often cited but lacks sources see Abraham Louis Perrelet .
  13. a and b The history of the Cartier brand from 1970 to 2011  [ archive ] , Trenditude
  14. ↑ Vacheron Constantin in some key dates  [ archive ]
  15. ↑ David Haeberli, ” Hans Wilsdorf set the exact time in our wrists ,” La Tribune de Genève , n o 25, ( Read online  [ archive ] )
  16. ↑ Paul Miquel, ” Rolex Deepsea, already a legend [ archive ] , (Accessed 13 January 2010 )
  17. ↑ Watches2U, Watch Water resistance guide  [ archive ]
  18. ↑ Reymond / Monnier / Jeanneret / Pelaratti, watch Theory , technical schools Federations, 225-252 p. ( ISBN 2-940025-10-X )
  19. ↑ Reymondin, Monnier, Jeanneret Pelaratti, Theory of Horology , Manual repairers apprentice watchmakers, Federation of Technical Schools, 2010 ( ISBN  294002510X )
  20. ↑ “Leroy 01”  [ archive ] on Worldtempus.
  21. ↑ ” The Watch Quote: The Caliber 101 by Jaeger-LeCoultre celebrates the smallest movement of the world for 80 years [ archive ] , on (accessed 30 August 2016 )

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