History of Watches

History of Watches

Horology has been at the forefront of scientific discovery since the time of the Ancient Greeks. Below is a list of the most notable discoveries and achievements.

DateInventionInventorNationality
possibly 3rd C. BCToothed Wheelpossibly Archimedes (c.287 BC–c.212 BC) Ancient Greek
14th C.Verge EscapementUnknownUnknown (possibly Britain)
c.1430MainspringUnknownUnknown (possibly Germany)
 15th C.Pocket WatchUnknownUnknown (possibly Germany)
1602PendulumGalileo Galilei (1564–1642)Italian
1657Anchor Escapement Robert Hooke (1635–1703)British
1657Balance Spring Robert Hooke (1635–1703)British
1687Repeating MechanismDaniel Quare (1649-1724)British
1690Minute HandDaniel Quare (1649-1724)British
1695Cylinder EscapementThomas Tompion (1639–1713)British
1700Duplex EscapementRobert Hooke (1635–1703)British
1704Jewelled BearingsNicolas Fatio de Duillier (1664-1753) Swiss
1715Dead beat EscapementGeorge Graham (1673–1751) British
1730 Marine ChronometerJohn Harrison (1693–1776) British
1753Temperature CompensationJohn Harrison (1693–1776)British
1755Lever EscapementThomas Mudge (1715–1794) British
1760Gravity EscapementThomas Mudge (1715–1794)British
1760Going BarrelJean-Antoine Lepine (1720-1814) French
1765Centre SecondsJohn Whitehurst (1713 –1788)British
1782Spring Detent EscapementJohn Arnold (1736 –1799) British
1790Anti-shock Device Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747–1823)French
1795Breguet Overcoil Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747–1823)French
1801TourbillonAbraham-Louis Breguet (1747–1823) French
1807ChronographThomas Young (1773–1829)British
 1843Keyless WorkJean Adrien Philippe (1815–1894) French
 1868Pin Pallet EscapementGeorges F. Roskopf (1813–1889) German
1921Quartz OscillatorWalter Guyton Cady (1874–1974) American
1923Self Winding MechanismJohn Harwood (1893–1964)British
 1974Co-axial EscapementGeorge Daniels (1926-2011) British

3 Comments

  1. Alexis Delon

    Nicely organised table. Interesting to see that British time keepers invented a lot of things we currently use in watchmaking. Why is it that Switzerland has the monopoly of the watchmaking world?

    1. Colin

      Hi Alexis, that’s a question with a long answer! The short answer is that the Swiss were far better at adopting mass-production in watch manufacture. They also had invested so heavily in the industry that when the watch industry collapsed elsewhere in the world after the emergence of the electronic watch, they were stubbourn and persisted on. Most watch companies went bust and were bought up cheapily by conglomorates like Swatch or the Richemont Group. Then the mechanical watch came back into fashion and the industry started to grow again. By this stage is was only the Swiss left, so they were the monopoly by default.

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