In naval parlance, watches are a timekeeping convention. The term in general use can mean any period of duty or responsibility, such as a hurricane watch.
Pocket watch
Pocket watch

A watch is a small portable clock that displays the current time and sometimes the current day, date, month and year. In modern times they are usually worn on the wrist with a watch-strap (made of e.g. leather, metal, or nylon), although before the 20th century most were pocket watches, which had covers and were carried separately, often in a pocket, and hooked to a watch chain.

Current watches are often digital watches, using a piezoelectric crystal, usually quartz, as an oscillator (see quartz clock).

In earlier times mechanical timepieces were used, powered by a spring wound regularly by the user. The invention of "Automatic" or "Self-Winding" watches allowed for a constant winding without special action from the wearer: it works by an eccentric weight, called a winding rotor, that rotates to the movement of the wearer's body. The back-and-forth motion of the winding rotor couples to a rachet to automatically wind the watch.

Watches may be collectible; they are often made of precious metals, and can be considered an article of jewelry.


Types of watch

Pocket Clock

The first necessity for portability in time keeping was navigation and mapping in the 15th century. The latitude could be measured by looking at the stars, but the only way a ship could measure its longitude was by comparing timezones; by comparing the midday time of the local longitude to a European meridian (usually Paris or Greenwich), a sailor could know how far he was from home. However, the process was notoriously unreliable until the introduction of John Harrison's chronometer. For that reason, most maps from the 15th century to c.1800 have precise latitudes but distorted longitudes.

The first reasonably accurate mechanical clocks measured time with weighted pendulums, which are useless at sea or in watches. The invention of a spring mechanism was crucial for portable clocks. In Tudor England, the development of "pocket-clockes" was enabled through the development of reliable springs and escapement mechanisms, which allowed clockmakers to compress a timekeeping device into a small, portable compartment. In 1524, Peter Henlein created the first pocket watch[1] ([2] ( It is rumoured that Henry VIII (the portrait of Henry VIII at this link shows the medallion thought to be the back of his watch) had a pocket clock which he kept on a chain around his neck. However, these watches only had an hour hand - a minute hand would have been useless considering the inaccuracy of the watch mechanism. Eventually, miniaturization of these spring-based designs allowed for accurate portable timepieces which worked well even at sea. Aaron Lufkin Dennison founded Waltham Watch Company in 1850, which was the pioneer of the industrial manufacturing by interchangeable parts, the American System of Watch Manufacturing.

Wrist Watch

Missing image
Breitling Navitimer Montbrillant, a typical pilot watch. Quantum on hand, day of the week, month, sliding rule, chronograph certified.

The wristwatch was invented by Patek Philippe at the end of the 19th century. It was however considered a woman's accessory. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that the Brazilian inventor Alberto Santos-Dumont, who had difficulty checking the time while in his first aircraft (Dumont was working on the invention of the aeroplane), asked his friend Louis Cartier for a watch he could use more easily. Cartier gave him a leather-band wristwatch from which Dumont never separated. Being a popular figure in Paris, Cartier was soon able to sell these watches to other men. During the First World War, officers in all armies soon discovered that in battlefield situations, quickly glancing at a watch on their wrist was far more convenient than fumbling in their jacket pockets for an old-fashioned pocket watch. In addition, as increasing numbers of officers were killed in the early stages of the war, NCOs promoted to replace them often did not have pocket watches (traditionally a middle-class item out of the reach of ordinary working-class soldiers), and so relied on the army to provide them with timekeepers. As the scale of battles increased, artillery and infantry officers were required to synchronise watches in order to conduct attacks at precise moments, whilst artillery officers were in need of a large number of accurate timekeepers for rangefinding and gunnery. Army contractors began to issue reliable, cheap, mass-produced wristwatches which were ideal for these purposes. When the war ended, demobilised European and American officers were allowed to keep their wristwatches, helping to popularise the items amongst middle-class Western civilian culture. Today, nearly every Westerner wears a watch on his wrist, a direct result of the First World War.

Complicated Watch

A complicated watch has one or more functionalities beyond basic time-keeping capabilities; such a functionality is called a complication. Two popular complications are the chronograph complication, which is the ability of the watch movement to function as a stopwatch, and the moonphase complication, which is a display of the lunar phase. Among watch enthusiasts, complicated watches are especially collectible.

Chronographs and chronometers

The similar-sounding terms chronograph and chronometer are often confused, although they mean altogether different things. A chronograph is a type of complication, as explained under the heading "Complicated Watch." A chronometer is a watch or clock whose movement has been tested and certified to operate within a certain standard of accuracy. The concepts are different but not mutually exclusive; a watch can be a chronograph, a chronometer, both, or neither.

Electromechanical watches

The first use of electrical power in watches was as a source of energy to replace the mainspring, and therefore to remove the need for winding. The first battery-powered watch, the Hamilton Electric 500, was released in 1957 by the Hamilton Watch Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Quartz analogue watch

The quartz analogue watch is an electronic watch that uses a piezoelectric quartz crystal as its timing element, coupled to a mechanical movement that drives the hands. The first prototypes were made by the CEH research laboratory in Switzerland in 1962. The first quartz watch to enter production was the Seiko 35 SQ Astron, which appeared in 1969. There are also several variations of the quartz watch as to what actually powers the movement. There are solar powered, kinetically powered, and battery powered. Solar powered quartz watches are powered by available light. Kinetic powered quartz watches are powered by the motion of the wearer's arm turning a rotating weight, which in turn, turns a generator to supply power. The third and most common power source is the battery. Watch batteries come in many forms, the most common of which are silver oxide and lithium.

Digital Watches

Cheaper electronics permitted the popularisation of the digital watch (an electronic watch with a numerical, rather than analogue, display) in the second half of the 20th century. They were seen as the great new thing. Douglas Adams, in the introduction of his novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, would say that humans were 'so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea'.

The first digital watch, a Pulsar prototype in 1970, was developed jointly by Hamilton Watch Company and Electro-Data. A retail version of the Pulsar was put on sale in 1972 It had a red light-emitting diode (LED) display. LED displays were soon superseded by liquid crystal displays (LCDs), which used less battery power. The first LCD watch with a six-digit LCD was the 1973 Seiko 06LC, although various forms of early LCD watches with a four-digit display were marketed as early as 1972 including the 1972 Gruen Teletime LCD Watch [3] (, [4] (

In addition to the function of a timepiece, digital watches can have additional functions like a chronograph, calculator, video game etc.

Digital watches have not replaced analog watches, despite their greater reliability and lower cost. In fact, because digital watches are so cheap, analog watches are often worn as status symbols. For others, analog watches are just easier to read.

Fashionable Watches

At the end of the 20th century, Swiss watch makers were seeing their sales go down as analog clocks were considered obsolete. They joined forces with designers from many countries to reinvent the Swiss watch.

The result was that they could considerably reduce the pieces and production time of an analog watch. In fact it was so cheap that if a watch broke it would be cheaper to throw it away and buy a new one than to repair it. They founded the Swiss Watch company (Swatch) and called graphic designers to redesign a new annual collection.

This is often used as a case study in design schools to demonstrate the commercial potential of industrial and graphic design.

Advanced watches

As miniaturized electronics become cheaper, more and more functionalities have been inserted into watches. Watches have been developed containing calculators, video games, digital cameras, keydrives, and cellular phones. In the early 1980s Seiko marketed a watch with a television receiver in it, although at the time television receivers were too bulky to fit in a wristwatch, and the actual receiver and its power source were in a book-sized box with a cable that ran to the wristwatch. In the early 2000's, a self-contained wristwatch television receiver came on the market, with a strong enough power source to provide one hour of viewing.

Several companies have attempted to develop a computer contained in a WristWatch, including an IBM product that ran Linux and a Fossil product that ran PalmOS (see also wearable computer). As of 2004, the only programmable computer watch to have made it to market is the Seiko Ruputer, although many digital watches come with extremely sophisticated data management software built in.

A recent development is the radio controlled wristwatch or as they are sometimes called "atomic watches". These wristwatches receive a radio signal from the National Institute of Standards and Technology located in Colorado in the United States. This radio signal tells the radio wristwatch exactly what time it is, precise to a fraction of a nanosecond. About 4 times per day a radio wristwatch will check this radio signal and reset itself to the exact time. It will also reset itself when daylight savings time changes. These watches always know what time it is.


See also

External links

da:Ur (kronometer) de:Taschenuhr fr:Montre io:Horlojo it:Orologio ja:腕時計 pt:Relgio de pulso zh-cn:手表


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools