Watches through the ages

You’ve picked up one of our fabulous antique watches and are gazing at it adoringly, then the thought pops in to your head ‘how did watches evolve to where they are today?’

Whilst a beautiful wristwatch is now considered a must-have essential for any stylish and distinguished gentleman, it hasn’t always been this way. And interestingly, way back in 1916 the NY Times labelled wristwatches a ‘silly ass fad’… how wrong they were!

Today, the wristwatch is available in many styles, functions, materials and prices, ranging from £10 to an incredible £21million for the ‘Chopard 210 Karat’, compromising of 201 karats of diamonds. Nowadays, more focus is put on the digital age, with many people opting for smart watches to organise their lives as well as glancing at their phones for a quick time check, but how did we get to here? Read on to find out…

The Pocket Watch

Pocket watches started to be produced accurately back in the 18th century with their shape being thought up so they could easily slide into the wearer’s pocket.


By the mid 19th century, many watchmakers were producing wristwatches, with them being made for women and labelled as bracelets. By the end of the 19th century many military men were opting for wristwatches when the importance of synchronising manoeuvres during war without potentially revealing the plan to the enemy through signalling was increasingly recognised. It was clear that using pocket watches, while in the heat of battle or while mounted on a horse was impractical, so officers began to strap the watches to their wrist.

Electric Watches

The 1950s saw the first generation of electric watches come to fruition, which kept the time with a balance wheel powered by a solenoid with the hands still moving mechanically by a wheel train. In mechanical watches the self-winding mechanism, shockproof balance pivots, and break resistant ‘white metal’ mainsprings became standard.

Digital Watches

Digital watches became in vogue in the 1970s and 1980s with additions such as being water-resistant with added multi-functional settings helping to boost their growing popularity even more.

Quartz Watches

The Seiko 35 SQ Astron was the first quartz watch to go into production, on Christmas Day in 1969. It is the world’s most accurate wristwatch to date and was the combined effort of Swiss, Japanese and American watchmakers and engineers as no one could patent the whole movements of the quartz wristwatch. In under 10 years the quartz watch market ended the dominance of the mechanical wristwatch which had lasted for over a century.

Radio Controlled Watches

1990 saw the arrival of the first radio-controlled wristwatch, created by Junghans and named the ‘MEGA 1’, the watch’s quartz oscillator was set to the correct time each day by coded radio signals broadcasted by government run time stations allowing the watch to display the same times as said time stations.


Whilst basic versions of smartwatches can be traced back to the early 1980s, it wasn’t until recently that these timepieces took off. 2013 saw smartwatches burst onto the scene from the minds of Acer, Apple, BlackBerry, Foxconn/Hon Hai, Google, LG, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony, VESAG and Toshiba. These new smartwatches not only act as a timepiece but ‘a new intimate way to communicate from your wrist, and a comprehensive health and fitness device.’



Other articles you may also want to read:

Nine items every man should have in their wardrobe

Five things you should avoid when caring for your pocket watch