A watch is a timepiece intended to be carried or worn by a person. It
is designed to keep working despite the motions caused by the person's
activities. A wristwatch is designed to be worn around the wrist,
attached by a watch strap or other type of bracelet. A pocket watch is
designed for a person to carry in a pocket.
Watches progressed in the 17th century from spring-powered
clocks, which appeared as early as the 14th century. During most
of its history the watch was a mechanical device, driven by clockwork,
powered by winding a mainspring, and keeping time with an oscillating
balance wheel. In the 1960s the electronic quartz watch was invented,
which was powered by a battery and kept time with a vibrating quartz
crystal. By the 1980s the quartz watch had taken over most of the
market from the mechanical watch.
Today most watches that are inexpensive and medium-priced, used mainly
for timekeeping, have quartz movements. Expensive collectible watches,
valued more for their elaborate craftsmanship, aesthetic appeal and
glamorous design than for simple timekeeping, often have traditional
mechanical movements, even though they are less accurate and more
expensive than electronic ones. Various extra features, called
"complications", such as moon-phase displays and the different types
of tourbillon, are sometimes included. Modern watches often display
the day, date, month and year, and electronic watches may have many
other functions. Time-related features such as timers, chronographs
and alarm functions are common. Some modern designs incorporate
calculators, GPS and
Bluetooth technology or have heart-rate
monitoring capabilities. Some watches use radio clock technology to
regularly correct the time.
Developments in the 2010s include smartwatches, which are elaborate
computer-like electronic devices designed to be worn on a wrist. They
generally incorporate timekeeping functions, but these are only a
small subset of the smartwatch's facilities.
The study of timekeeping is known as horology.
2.1.1 Automatic watches
4 Speech synthesis
6.3 Scuba diving
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
Main article: History of watches
See also: History of timekeeping devices
Early wrist watch by Waltham, worn by soldiers in World War I (German
The earliest dated watch known, from 1530
Watches evolved from portable spring-driven clocks, which first
appeared in 15th century Europe. Watches were not widely worn in
pockets until the 17th century. One account says that the word "watch"
came from the
Old English word woecce which meant "watchman", because
it was used by town watchmen to keep track of their shifts at work.
Another says that the term came from 17th century sailors, who used
the new mechanisms to time the length of their shipboard watches (duty
Drawing of one of his first balance springs, attached to a balance
wheel, by Christiaan Huygens, published in his letter in the Journal
des Sçavants of 25 February 1675. The application of the spiral
balance spring (spiral hairspring) for watches ushered in a new era of
accuracy for portable timekeepers, similar to that which the pendulum
had introduced for clocks.
A great leap forward in accuracy occurred in 1657 with the addition of
the balance spring to the balance wheel, an invention disputed both at
the time and ever since between
Robert Hooke and Christiaan Huygens.
This innovation increased watches' accuracy enormously, reducing error
from perhaps several hours per day to perhaps 10 minutes per
day, resulting in the addition of the minute hand to the face from
around 1680 in Britain and 1700 in France.
The increased accuracy of the balance wheel focused attention on
errors caused by other parts of the movement, igniting a two-century
wave of watchmaking innovation. The first thing to be improved was the
escapement. The verge escapement was replaced in quality watches by
the cylinder escapement, invented by
Thomas Tompion in 1695 and
further developed by George Graham in the 1720s. Improvements in
manufacturing such as the tooth-cutting machine devised by Robert
Hooke allowed some increase in the volume of watch production,
although finishing and assembling was still done by hand until well
into the 19th century.
A major cause of error in balance wheel timepieces, caused by changes
in elasticity of the balance spring from temperature changes, was
solved by the bimetallic temperature compensated balance wheel
invented in 1765 by
Pierre Le Roy
Pierre Le Roy and improved by Thomas Earnshaw. The
lever escapement was the single most important technological
breakthrough, and was invented by Thomas Mudge in 1759 and improved by
Josiah Emery in 1785, although it only gradually came into use from
about 1800 onwards, chiefly in Britain.
The British had predominated in watch manufacture for much of the 17th
and 18th centuries, but maintained a system of production that was
geared towards high quality products for the elite. Although there
was an attempt to modernise clock manufacture with mass production
techniques and the application of duplicating tools and machinery by
Watch Company in 1843, it was in the
United States that
this system took off.
Aaron Lufkin Dennison
Aaron Lufkin Dennison started a factory in 1851
Massachusetts that used interchangeable parts, and by 1861 it was
running a successful enterprise incorporated as the Waltham Watch
Mappin & Webb's wristwatch, advertised as having been in
production since 1898.
The concept of the wristwatch goes back to the production of the very
earliest watches in the 16th century.
Elizabeth I of England received
a wristwatch from Robert Dudley in 1571, described as an arm watch.
The oldest surviving wristwatch (then described as a bracelet watch)
is one made in 1806 and given to Joséphine de Beauharnais. From
the beginning, wristwatches were almost exclusively worn by women,
while men used pocket watches up until the early 20th century.
Wristwatches were first worn by military men towards the end of the
19th century, when the importance of synchronizing manoeuvres during
war, without potentially revealing the plan to the enemy through
signaling, was increasingly recognized. The Garstin Company of London
patented a "
Watch Wristlet" design in 1893, but they were probably
producing similar designs from the 1880s. Officers in the British Army
began using wristwatches during colonial military campaigns in the
1880s, such as during the Anglo-Burma War of 1885. During the
First Boer War, the importance of coordinating troop movements and
synchronizing attacks against the highly mobile Boer insurgents became
paramount, and the use of wristwatches subsequently became widespread
among the officer class. The company Mappin & Webb began
production of their successful "campaign watch" for soldiers during
the campaign at the Sudan in 1898 and accelerated production for the
Second Boer War
Second Boer War a few years later. In continental Europe
Girard-Perregaux and other Swiss watch makers began supplying German
naval officers with wristwatches in about 1880.
Early models were essentially standard pocket-watches fitted to a
leather strap but, by the early 20th century, manufacturers began
producing purpose-built wristwatches. The Swiss company Dimier Frères
& Cie patented a wristwatch design with the now standard wire lugs
Hans Wilsdorf moved to
London in 1905 and set up his own
business, Wilsdorf & Davis, with his brother-in-law Alfred Davis,
providing quality timepieces at affordable prices; the company later
became Rolex. Wilsdorf was an early convert to the wristwatch, and
contracted the Swiss firm Aegler to produce a line of
The impact of the
First World War
First World War dramatically shifted public
perceptions on the propriety of the man's wristwatch, and opened up a
mass market in the postwar era. The creeping barrage artillery tactic,
developed during the war, required precise synchronization between the
artillery gunners and the infantry advancing behind the barrage.
Service watches produced during the War were specially designed for
the rigours of trench warfare, with luminous dials and unbreakable
glass. The British War Department began issuing wristwatches to
combatants from 1917. By the end of the war, almost all enlisted
men wore a wristwatch, and after they were demobilized, the fashion
soon caught on: the British Horological Journal wrote in 1917 that
"the wristlet watch was little used by the sterner sex before the war,
but now is seen on the wrist of nearly every man in uniform and of
many men in civilian attire." By 1930, the ratio of wrist- to pocket
watches was 50 to 1. The first successful self-winding system was
invented by John Harwood in 1923.
The introduction of the quartz watch was a revolutionary improvement
in watch technology. In place of a balance wheel which oscillated at
perhaps 5 or 6 beats per second, it used a quartz crystal resonator
which vibrated at 8,192 Hz, driven by a battery-powered
oscillator circuit. Since the 1980s, more quartz watches than
mechanical ones have been marketed.
Different kinds of movements move the hands differently as shown in
this 2 second exposure. The left watch has a
24-hour analog dial
24-hour analog dial with
a mechanical 1/6 s movement, the right one has a more common 12-hour
dial and a "1 s" quartz movement
A Russian mechanical watch movement
A so-called "mystery watch" with a transparent dial, c. 1890. The
movement is fitted with a cylinder escapement.
A movement of a watch is the mechanism that measures the passage of
time and displays the current time (and possibly other information
including date, month and day). Movements may be entirely mechanical,
entirely electronic (potentially with no moving parts), or they might
be a blend of both. Most watches intended mainly for timekeeping today
have electronic movements, with mechanical hands on the watch face
indicating the time.
Main article: Mechanical watch
Compared to electronic movements, mechanical watches are less
accurate, often with errors of seconds per day, and they are sensitive
to position, temperature and magnetism. They are also costly
to produce, require regular maintenance and adjustments, and are more
prone to failures. Nevertheless, the craftsmanship of mechanical
watches still attracts interest from part of the watch-buying public,
especially among the watch collectors. Skeleton watches are designed
to leave the mechanism visible for aesthetic purposes.
A mechanical movement uses an escapement mechanism to control and
limit the unwinding and winding parts of a spring, converting what
would otherwise be a simple unwinding into a controlled and periodic
energy release. A mechanical movement also uses a balance wheel
together with the balance spring (also known as a hairspring) to
control motion of the gear system of the watch in a manner analogous
to the pendulum of a pendulum clock. The tourbillon, an optional part
for mechanical movements, is a rotating frame for the escapement,
which is used to cancel out or reduce the effects of gravitational
bias to the timekeeping. Due to the complexity of designing a
tourbillon, they are very expensive, and only found in prestigious
The pin-lever escapement (called the Roskopf movement after its
inventor, Georges Frederic Roskopf), which is a cheaper version of the
fully levered movement, was manufactured in huge quantities by many
Swiss manufacturers as well as by Timex, until it was replaced by
Tuning-fork watches use a type of electromechanical movement.
Bulova in 1960, they use a tuning fork with a precise
frequency (most often 360 hertz) to drive a mechanical watch. The task
of converting electronically pulsed fork vibration into rotary
movements is done via two tiny jeweled fingers, called pawls.
Tuning-fork watches were rendered obsolete when electronic quartz
watches were developed.
Quartz watches were cheaper to produce besides
being more accurate.
Main article: Mainspring
Traditional mechanical watch movements use a spiral spring called a
mainspring as a power source. In manual watches the spring must be
rewound periodically by the user by turning the watch crown. Antique
pocketwatches were wound by inserting a separate key into a hole in
the back of the watch and turning it. Most modern watches are designed
to run 40 hours on a winding and thus must be wound daily, but
some run for several days and a few have 192-hour mainsprings and are
Main article: Automatic watch
Automatic watch: An eccentric weight, called a rotor, swings with the
movement of the wearer's body and winds the spring
Seiko 5 Automatic
Watch 21 Jewels
A self-winding or automatic watch is one that rewinds the mainspring
of a mechanical movement by the natural motions of the wearer's body.
The first self-winding mechanism was invented for pocket watches in
1770 by Abraham-Louis Perrelet, but the first "self-winding", or
"automatic", wristwatch was the invention of a British watch repairer
named John Harwood in 1923. This type of watch winds itself without
requiring any special action by the wearer. It uses an eccentric
weight, called a winding rotor, which rotates with the movement of the
wearer's wrist. The back-and-forth motion of the winding rotor couples
to a ratchet to wind the mainspring automatically. Self-winding
watches usually can also be wound manually to keep them running when
not worn or if the wearer's wrist motions are inadequate to keep the
In April 2014 the
Swatch Group launched the sistem51 wristwatch. It
has a purely mechanical movement consisting of only 51 parts,
including a novel self-winding mechanism with a transparent
oscillating weight. So far, it is the only mechanical movement
manufactured entirely on a fully automated assembly line. The low
parts count and the automated assembly make it an inexpensive
mechanical Swiss watch, which can be considered a successor to Roskopf
movements, although of higher quality.
Electric watch and
First quartz wristwatch BETA 1 developed by CEH, Switzerland, 1967
Electronic movements, also known as quartz movements, have few or no
moving parts, except a quartz crystal which is made to vibrate by the
piezoelectric effect. A varying electric voltage is applied to the
crystal, which responds by changing its shape so, in combination with
some electronic components, it functions as an oscillator. It
resonates at a specific highly stable frequency, which is used to
accurately pace a timekeeping mechanism. Most quartz movements are
primarily electronic but are geared to drive mechanical hands on the
face of the watch to provide a traditional analog display of the time,
a feature most consumers still prefer.
Seiko placed an order with Epson (a daughter company of Seiko
and the 'brain' behind the quartz revolution) to start developing a
quartz wristwatch. The project was codenamed 59A. By the 1964 Tokyo
Seiko had a working prototype of a portable quartz
watch which was used as the time measurements throughout the event.
The first prototypes of an electronic quartz wristwatch (not just
portable quartz watches as the
Seiko timekeeping devices at the Tokyo
Olympics in 1964) were made by the CEH research laboratory in
Neuchâtel, Switzerland. From 1965 through 1967 pioneering development
work was done on a miniaturized 8192 Hz quartz oscillator, a
thermo-compensation module and an inhouse-made, dedicated integrated
circuit (unlike the hybrid circuits used in the later
wristwatch). As a result, the BETA 1 prototype set new timekeeping
performance records at the International Chronometric Competition held
at the Observatory of Neuchâtel in 1967. In 1970, 18
manufacturers exhibited production versions of the beta 21 wristwatch,
Omega Electroquartz as well as Patek Philippe, Rolex
Oysterquartz and Piaget.
Quartz Movement of the
Seiko Astron, 1969 (Deutsches Uhrenmuseum, Inv.
The first quartz watch to enter production was the
Seiko 35 SQ Astron,
which hit the shelves on 25 December 1969, swiftly followed by the
Swiss Beta 21, and then a year later the prototype of one of the
world's most accurate wristwatches to date: the Omega Marine
Chronometer. Since the technology having been developed by
contributions from Japanese, American and Swiss, nobody could
patent the whole movement of the quartz wristwatch, thus allowing
other manufacturers to participate in the rapid growth and development
of the quartz watch market. This ended—in less than a
decade—almost 100 years of dominance by the mechanical wristwatch
legacy. Modern quartz movements are produced in very large quantities,
and even the cheapest wristwatches typically have quartz movements.
Whereas mechanical movements can typically be off by several seconds a
day, an inexpensive quartz movement in a child's wristwatch may still
be accurate to within half a second per day—ten times more accurate
than a mechanical movement.
After a consolidation of the mechanical watch industry in Switzerland
during the 1970s, mass production of quartz wristwatches took off
under the leadership of the
Swatch Group of companies, a Swiss
conglomerate with vertical control of the production of Swiss watches
and related products. For quartz wristwatches, subsidiaries of Swatch
manufacture watch batteries (Renata), oscillators (Oscilloquartz, now
Crystal AG) and integrated circuits (Ebauches Electronic SA,
renamed EM Microelectronic-Marin). The launch of the new SWATCH brand
in 1983 was marked by bold new styling, design and marketing. Today,
Swatch Group maintains its position as the world's largest watch
Seiko's efforts to combine the quartz and mechanical movements bore
fruit after 20 years of research, leading to the introduction of the
Seiko Spring Drive, first in a limited domestic market production in
1999 and to the world in September 2005. The
Spring Drive keeps time
within quartz standards without the use of a battery, using a
traditional mechanical gear train powered by a spring, without the
need for a balance wheel either.
In 2010, Miyota (Citizen Watch) of
Japan introduced a newly developed
movement that uses a 3 pronged quartz crystal that was exclusively
Bulova to be used in the Precisionist or Accutron II
line, a new type of quartz watch with ultra-high frequency
(262.144 kHz) which is claimed to be accurate to +/- 10 seconds a
year and has a smooth sweeping second hand rather than one that jumps
Radio time signal watches are a type of electronic quartz watch which
synchronizes (time transfers) its time with an external time source
such as in atomic clocks, time signals from
GPS navigation satellites,
DCF77 signal in Europe,
WWVB in the US, and others.
Movements of this type may—among others—synchronize the time of
day and the date, the leap-year status, and the state of daylight
saving time (on or off). However, other than the radio receiver, these
watches are normal quartz watches in all other aspects.
Electronic watches require electricity as a power source, and some
mechanical movements and hybrid electronic-mechanical movements also
require electricity. Usually the electricity is provided by a
replaceable battery. The first use of electrical power in watches was
as a substitute for the mainspring, to remove the need for winding.
The first electrically powered watch, the Hamilton Electric 500, was
released in 1957 by the
Hamilton Watch Company
Hamilton Watch Company of Lancaster,
Watch batteries (strictly speaking cells, as a battery is composed of
multiple cells) are specially designed for their purpose. They are
very small and provide tiny amounts of power continuously for very
long periods (several years or more). In most cases, replacing the
battery requires a trip to a watch-repair shop or watch dealer; this
is especially true for watches that are water-resistant, as special
tools and procedures are required for the watch to remain
water-resistant after battery replacement. Silver-oxide and lithium
batteries are popular today; mercury batteries, formerly quite common,
are no longer used, for environmental reasons. Cheap batteries may be
alkaline, of the same size as silver-oxide cells but providing shorter
life. Rechargeable batteries are used in some solar-powered watches.
Some electronic watches are powered by the movement of the wearer. For
instance, Seiko's kinetic-powered quartz watches use the motion of the
wearer's arm: turning a rotating weight which causes a tiny generator
to supply power to charge a rechargeable battery that runs the watch.
The concept is similar to that of self-winding spring movements,
except that electrical power is generated instead of mechanical spring
Solar powered watches are powered by light. A photovoltaic cell on the
face (dial) of the watch converts light to electricity, which is used
to charge a rechargeable battery or capacitor. The movement of the
watch draws its power from the rechargeable battery or capacitor. As
long as the watch is regularly exposed to fairly strong light (such as
sunlight), it never needs battery replacement. Some models need only a
few minutes of sunlight to provide weeks of energy (as in the Citizen
Eco-Drive). Some of the early solar watches of the 1970s had
innovative and unique designs to accommodate the array of solar cells
needed to power them (Synchronar, Nepro, Sicura and some models by
Seiko and Citizen). As the decades progressed and
the efficiency of the solar cells increased while the power
requirements of the movement and display decreased, solar watches
began to be designed to look like other conventional watches.
A rarely used power source is the temperature difference between the
wearer's arm and the surrounding environment (as applied in the
Casio AE12 LCA (liquid-crystal-analog) watch
Traditionally, watches have displayed the time in analog form, with a
numbered dial upon which are mounted at least a rotating hour hand and
a longer, rotating minute hand. Many watches also incorporate a third
hand that shows the current second of the current minute. Watches
powered by quartz usually have a second hand that snaps every second
to the next marker. Watches powered by a mechanical movement appears
to have a gliding second hand, although it is actually not gliding;
the hand merely moves in smaller steps, typically 1/5 of a second,
corresponding to the beat (half period) of the balance wheel. In some
escapements (for example the duplex escapement), the hand advances
every two beats (full period) of the balance wheel, typically 1/2
second in those watches, or even every four beats (two periods, 1
second), in the double duplex escapement. A truly gliding second hand
is achieved with the tri-synchro regulator of
Spring Drive watches.
All of the hands are normally mechanical, physically rotating on the
dial, although a few watches have been produced with "hands" that are
simulated by a liquid-crystal display.
Analog display of the time is nearly universal in watches sold as
jewelry or collectibles, and in these watches, the range of different
styles of hands, numbers, and other aspects of the analog dial is very
broad. In watches sold for timekeeping, analog display remains very
popular, as many people find it easier to read than digital display;
but in timekeeping watches the emphasis is on clarity and accurate
reading of the time under all conditions (clearly marked digits,
easily visible hands, large watch faces, etc.). They are specifically
designed for the left wrist with the stem (the knob used for changing
the time) on the right side of the watch; this makes it easy to change
the time without removing the watch from the wrist. This is the case
if one is right-handed and the watch is worn on the left wrist (as is
traditionally done). If one is left-handed and wears the watch on the
right wrist, one has to remove the watch from the wrist to reset the
time or to wind the watch.
Analog watches as well as clocks are often marketed showing a display
time of approximately 1:50 or 10:10. This creates a visually pleasing
smile-like face on upper half of the watch, in addition to enclosing
the manufacturer's name. Digital displays often show a time of 12:08,
where the increase in the number of active segments or pixels gives a
Tissot, a Swiss luxury watchmaker, makes the Silen-T wristwatch with a
touch-sensitive face that vibrates to help the user to tell time
eyes-free. The bezel of the watch features raised bumps at each hour
mark; after briefly touching the face of the watch, the wearer runs a
finger around the bezel clockwise. When the finger reaches the bump
indicating the hour, the watch vibrates continuously, and when the
finger reaches the bump indicating the minute, the watch vibrates
Eone Timepieces, Washington D.C.-based company, launched its first
tactile analog wristwatch, the "Bradley", on 11 July 2013 on the
Kickstarter website. The device is primarily designed for
sight-impaired users, who can use the watch's two ball bearings to
determine the time, but it is also suitable for general use. The watch
features raised marks at each hour and two moving, magnetically
attached ball bearings. One ball bearing, on the edge of the watch,
indicates the hour, while the other, on the face, indicates the
A digital display shows the time as a number, e.g., 12:08 instead of a
short hand pointing towards the number 12 and a long hand 8/60 of the
way round the dial. The digits are usually shown as a seven-segment
The first digital mechanical pocket watches appeared in the late 19th
century. In the 1920s, the first digital mechanical wristwatches
The first digital electronic watch, a Pulsar
LED prototype in 1970,
was developed jointly by
Hamilton Watch Company
Hamilton Watch Company and Electro-Data,
founded by George H. Thiess. John Bergey, the head of Hamilton's
Pulsar division, said that he was inspired to make a digital timepiece
by the then-futuristic digital clock that Hamilton themselves made for
the 1968 science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey. On 4 April 1972,
the Pulsar was finally ready, made in 18-carat gold and sold for
$2,100. It had a red light-emitting diode (LED) display.
LED watches were very expensive and out of reach to the common
consumer until 1975, when
Texas Instruments started to mass-produce
LED watches inside a plastic case. These watches, which first retailed
for only $20, reduced to $10 in 1976, saw Pulsar lose
$6 million and the Pulsar brand sold to Seiko.
LED watch that was rather problematic was The Black Watch
made and sold by British company
Sinclair Radionics in 1975. This was
only sold for a few years, as production problems and returned
(faulty) product forced the company to cease production.
Most watches with
LED displays required that the user press a button
to see the time displayed for a few seconds, because LEDs used so much
power that they could not be kept operating continuously. Usually the
LED display color would be red. Watches with
LED displays were popular
for a few years, but soon the
LED displays were superseded by liquid
crystal displays (LCDs), which used less battery power and were much
more convenient in use, with the display always visible and no need to
push a button before seeing the time. Only in darkness you had to
press a button to light the display with a tiny light bulb, later
The first LCD watch with a six-digit LCD was the 1973
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, and the Cox Electronic Systems Quarza. In Switzerland,
Ebauches Electronic SA presented a prototype eight-digit LCD
wristwatch showing time and date at the MUBA Fair, Basle, in March
1973, using a Twisted Nematic LCD manufactured by Brown, Boveri &
Cie, Switzerland, which became the supplier of LCDs to
Casio for the
CASIOTRON watch in 1974.
A problem with Liquid
Crystal Displays is that they use polarized
light. If, for example, the user is wearing polarized sunglasses, the
watch may be difficult to read because the plane of polarization of
the display is roughly perpendicular to that of the glasses.
If the light that illuminates the display is polarized, for example if
it comes from a blue sky, the display may be difficult or impossible
From the 1980s onward, digital watch technology vastly improved. In
Seiko produced the
Watch  that had a television
screen built in, and
Casio produced a digital watch with a
thermometer as well as another that could translate 1,500 Japanese
words into English. In 1985,
Casio produced the CFX-400 scientific
calculator watch. In 1987
Casio produced a watch that could dial your
telephone number and Citizen revealed one that would react to your
voice. In 1995 Timex released a watch which allowed the wearer to
download and store data from a computer to their wrist. Some watches,
such as the
Timex Datalink USB, feature dot matrix displays. Since
their apex during the late 1980s to mid-1990s high technology fad,
digital watches have mostly become simpler, less expensive time pieces
with little variety between models.
Cortébert digital mechanical pocket watch (1890s)
Cortébert digital mechanical wristwatch (1920s)
A silver Pulsar
LED watch from 1976.
A Timex digital watch with an always-on display of the time and date
This subsection needs additional citations for verification. Please
help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.
Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (June 2014) (Learn
how and when to remove this template message)
An illuminated watch face, using tritium
Many watches have displays that are illuminated, so they can be used
in darkness. Various methods have been used to achieve this.
Mechanical watches often have luminous paint on their hands and hour
marks. In the mid-20th century, radioactive material was often
incorporated in the paint, so it would continue to glow without any
exposure to light.
Radium was often used but produced small amounts of
radiation outside the watch that might have been hazardous.
Tritium was used as a replacement, since the radiation it produces has
such low energy that it cannot penetrate a watch glass. However,
tritium is expensive—it has to be made in a nuclear reactor—and it
has a half-life of only about 12 years so the paint remains luminous
for only a few years. Nowadays, tritium is used in specialized
watches, e.g., for military purposes (See
Tritium illumination). For
other purposes, luminous paint is sometimes used on analog displays,
but no radioactive material is contained in it. This means that the
display glows soon after being exposed to light and quickly fades.
Watches that incorporate batteries often have electric illumination of
their displays. However, lights consume far more power than electronic
watch movements. To conserve the battery, the light is activated only
when the user presses a button. Usually, the light remains lit for a
few seconds after the button is released, which allows the user to
move the hand out of the way.
Animation of LCD, both unlit and with electroluminescent backlight
Digital LCD wristwatch
Casio type F-E10 with electroluminescent
In some early digital watches,
LED displays were used, which could be
read as easily in darkness as in daylight. The user had to press a
button to light up the LEDs, which meant that the watch could not be
read without the button being pressed, even in full daylight.
In some types of watches, small incandescent lamps or LEDs illuminate
the display, which is not intrinsically luminous. These tend to
produce very non-uniform illumination.
Incandescent lamps are very
wasteful of electricity.
Other watches use electroluminescent material to produce uniform
illumination of the background of the display, against which the hands
or digits can be seen.
Talking watches are available, intended for the blind or visually
impaired. They speak the time out loud at the press of a button. This
has the disadvantage of disturbing others nearby, or at least alerting
the non-deaf that the wearer is checking the time. Tactile watches are
preferred to avoid this awkwardness, but talking watches are preferred
for those who are not confident in their ability to read a tactile
Wristwatches with analog displays generally have a small knob, called
the crown, that can be used to adjust the time and, in mechanical
watches, wind the spring. Almost always, the crown is located on the
right-hand side of the watch so it can be worn of the left wrist for a
right handed individual. This makes it inconvenient to use if the
watch is being worn on the right wrist. Some manufactures offer "left
hand drive", aka "destro", configured watches which move the crown to
the left side making wearing the watch easier for left handed
A rarer configuration is the bullhead watch. Bullhead watches are
generally, but not exclusively, chronographs. The configuration moves
the crown and chronograph pushers to the top of the watch. Bullheads
are commonly wristwatch chronographs that are intended to be used as
stop watches off the wrist. Examples are the Citizen Bullhead Change
Timer and the Omega Seamaster Bullhead.
Digital watches generally have push-buttons that can be used to make
adjustments. These are usually equally easy to use on either wrist.
Rolex Submariner, an officially certified chronometer
A Breguet squelette watch 2933 with tourbillon
Perpetual calendar and moonphase wristwatch by Patek Philippe
All watches provide the time of day, giving at least the hour and
minute, and usually the second. Most also provide the current date,
and often the day of the week as well. However, many watches also
provide a great deal of information beyond the basics of time and
date. Some watches include alarms. Other elaborate and more expensive
watches, both pocket and wrist models, also incorporate striking
mechanisms or repeater functions, so that the wearer could learn the
time by the sound emanating from the watch. This announcement or
striking feature is an essential characteristic of true clocks and
distinguishes such watches from ordinary timepieces. This feature is
available on most digital watches.
A complicated watch has one or more functions beyond the basic
function of displaying the time and the date; 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. Other more expensive complications include
Tourbillon, Perpetual calendar,
Minute repeater, and Equation of time.
A truly complicated watch has many of these complications at once (see
Calibre 89 from
Patek Philippe for instance). Some watches can both
indicate the direction of Mecca and have alarms that can be set
for all daily prayer requirements. Among watch enthusiasts,
complicated watches are especially collectible. Some watches include a
second 12-hour or 24-hour display for
UTC or GMT.
The similar-sounding terms chronograph and chronometer are often
confused, although they mean altogether different things. A
chronograph is a watch with an added duration timer, often a stopwatch
complication (as explained above), while a chronometer watch is a
timepiece that has met an industry standard test for performance under
pre-defined conditions: a chronometer is a high quality mechanical or
a thermo-compensated movement that has been tested and certified to
operate within a certain standard of accuracy by the
Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres). The concepts are different but not
mutually exclusive; so a watch can be a chronograph, a chronometer,
both, or neither.
Timex Datalink USB Dress edition from 2003 with a dot matrix display;
the Invasion video game is on the screen
Many computerized wristwatches have been developed, but none have had
long-term sales success, because they have awkward user interfaces due
to the tiny screens and buttons, and a short battery life. As
miniaturized electronics became cheaper, watches have been developed
containing calculators, tonometers, barometers, altimeters, a compass
using both hands to show the N/S direction, video games, digital
GPS receivers and cellular phones. A few
astronomical watches show phase of the Moon and other celestial
phenomena. In the early 1980s
Seiko marketed a watch with a television
in it. Such watches have also had the reputation as unsightly and thus
mainly geek toys. Several companies have however attempted to develop
a computer contained in a wristwatch (see also wearable computer).
Electronic sports watches, combining timekeeping with
activity tracking, address the general fitness market and have the
potential for commercial success (Garmin forerunner, Garmin Vivofit,
Epson, announced model of
Swatch Touch series).
Braille watches have analog displays with raised bumps around the face
to allow blind users to tell the time. Their digital equivalents use
synthesised speech to speak the time on command.
Wristwatches and antique pocket watches are often appreciated as
jewelry or as collectible works of art rather than just as
timepieces. This has created several different markets for
wristwatches, ranging from very inexpensive but accurate watches
(intended for no other purpose than telling the correct time) to
extremely expensive watches that serve mainly as personal adornment or
as examples of high achievement in miniaturization and precision
Traditionally, men's dress watches appropriate for informal
(business), semi-formal, and formal attire are gold, thin, simple, and
plain, but increasingly rugged, complicated, or sports watches are
considered by some to be acceptable for such attire. Some dress
watches have a cabochon on the crown and many women's dress watches
have faceted gemstones on the face, bezel, or bracelet. Some are made
entirely of faceted sapphire (corundum).
Many fashion and department stores offer a variety of less-expensive,
trendy, "costume" watches (usually for women), many of which are
similar in quality to basic quartz timepieces but which feature bolder
designs. In the 1980s, the Swiss
Swatch company hired graphic
designers to redesign a new annual collection of non-repairable
Trade in counterfeit watches, which mimic expensive brand-name
watches, constitutes an estimated US$1 billion market per year.
The Omega Speedmaster, selected by U.S. space agencies
The zero-gravity environment and other extreme conditions encountered
by astronauts in space require the use of specially tested watches.
The first ever watch to be sent into space was a Russian "Pobeda"
watch from the Petrodvorets
Watch Factory. It was sent on a single
orbit flight on the space ship
Korabl-Sputnik 4 on 9 March 1961. The
watch had been attached without authorisation to the wrist of
Chernuchka, a dog that successfully did exactly the same trip as Yuri
Gagarin, with exactly the same rocket and equipment, just a month
before Gagarin's flight.
On 12 April 1961,
Yuri Gagarin wore a Shturmanskie (a transliteration
of Штурманские which actually means "navigator's")
wristwatch during his historic first flight into space. The
Shturmanskie was manufactured at the First Moscow Factory. Since 1964,
the watches of the First Moscow Factory have been marked by the
trademark "Полёт", transliterated as "POLJOT", which means
"flight" in Russian and is a tribute to the many space trips its
watches have accomplished. In the late 1970s,
Poljot launched a new
chrono movement, the 3133. With a 23 jewel movement and manual winding
(43 hours), it was a modified Russian version of the Swiss Valjoux
7734 of the early 1970s.
Poljot 3133 were taken into space by
astronauts from Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine. On the arm of
Valeriy Polyakov, a
Poljot 3133 chronograph movement-based watch set a
space record for the longest space flight in history.
Nancy J. Currie
Nancy J. Currie wears the Timex Ironman Triathlon Datalink
model 78401 during STS 88.
Through the 1960s, a large range of watches were tested for durability
and precision under extreme temperature changes and vibrations. The
Omega Speedmaster Professional was selected by NASA, the U.S. space
agency. Heuer became the first Swiss watch in space thanks to a Heuer
Stopwatch, worn by
John Glenn in 1962 when he piloted the Friendship 7
on the first manned U.S. orbital mission. The Breitling Navitimer
Cosmonaute was designed with a
24-hour analog dial
24-hour analog dial to avoid confusion
between AM and PM, which are meaningless in space. It was first worn
in space by U.S. astronaut
Scott Carpenter on 24 May 1962 in the
Aurora 7 mercury capsule.
Since 1994 Fortis is the exclusive supplier for manned space missions
authorized by the Russian Federal Space Agency. China National Space
Administration (CNSA) astronauts wear the Fiyta spacewatches. At
Seiko announced the creation of the first watch ever
designed specifically for a space walk,
Spring Drive Spacewalk. Timex
Datalink is flight certified by
NASA for space missions and is one of
the watches qualified by
NASA for space travel. The
DW-5600C and 5600E, DW 6900, and DW 5900 are Flight-Qualified for NASA
Timex Datalink models were used both by cosmonauts and
Seiko 7002–7020 Diver's 200 m on a 4-ring NATO style strap
Watches may be crafted to become water resistant. These watches are
sometimes called diving watches when they are suitable for scuba
diving or saturation diving. The International Organization for
Standardization issued a standard for water resistant watches which
also prohibits the term "waterproof" to be used with watches, which
many countries have adopted.
Water resistance is achieved by the gaskets which forms a watertight
seal, used in conjunction with a sealant applied on the case to help
keep water out. The material of the case must also be tested in order
to pass as water resistant.
None of the tests defined by
ISO 2281 for the Water Resistant mark are
suitable to qualify a watch for scuba diving. Such watches are
designed for everyday life and must be water resistant during
exercises such as swimming. They can be worn in different temperature
and pressure conditions but are under no circumstances designed for
The standards for diving watches are regulated by the ISO 6425
international standard. The watches are tested in static or still
water under 125% of the rated (water)pressure, thus a watch with a
200-metre rating will be water resistant if it is stationary and under
250 metres of static water. The testing of the water resistance is
fundamentally different from non-dive watches, because every watch has
to be fully tested. Besides water resistance standards to a minimum of
100 metre depth rating
ISO 6425 also provides eight minimum
requirements for mechanical diver's watches for scuba diving (quartz
and digital watches have slightly differing readability requirements).
For diver's watches for mixed-gas saturation diving two additional
requirements have to be met.
Watches are classified by their degree of water resistance, which
roughly translates to the following (1 metre = 3.281 feet):
Main Article ISO 6425
Water Resistant or 30 m
Suitable for everyday use. Splash/rain resistant.
NOT suitable for diving, swimming, snorkeling, water-related work, or
Water Resistant 50 m
Suitable for swimming, white-water rafting, non-snorkeling water
related work, and fishing.
NOT suitable for diving.
Water Resistant 100 m
Suitable for recreational surfing, swimming, snorkeling, sailing, and
NOT suitable for diving.
Water Resistant 200 m
Suitable for professional marine activity and serious surface water
Suitable for diving.
Diver's 100 m
Minimum ISO standard for scuba diving at depths not requiring helium
Diver's 100 m and 150 m watches are generally old(er)
Diver's 200 m or 300 m
Suitable for scuba diving at depths not requiring helium gas.
Typical ratings for contemporary diver's watches.
Diver's 300+ m helium safe
Suitable for saturation diving (helium-enriched environment).
Watches designed for helium mixed-gas diving will have additional
markings to point this out.
Some watches use bar instead of meters, which may then be multiplied
by 10, and then subtract 10 to be approximately equal to the rating
based on metres. Therefore, a 5 bar watch is equivalent to a 40-metre
watch. Some watches are rated in atmospheres (atm), which are roughly
equivalent to bar.
Main article: Cardinal direction §
There is a traditional method by which an analog watch can be used to
locate north and south. The Sun appears to move in the sky over a
24-hour period while the hour hand of a
12-hour clock face takes
twelve hours to complete one rotation. In the northern hemisphere, if
the watch is rotated so that the hour hand points toward the Sun, the
point halfway between the hour hand and 12 o'clock will indicate
south. For this method to work in the southern hemisphere, the 12 is
pointed toward the Sun and the point halfway between the hour hand and
12 o'clock will indicate north. During daylight saving time, the same
method can be employed using 1 o'clock instead of 12. This method is
accurate enough to be useful only at fairly high latitudes.
American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute
List of watch manufacturers
National Association of
^: sections under Functions.
^ a b "Epson announces world's lightest
GPS watch". The Verge.
Retrieved 14 April 2012.
^ "Watch". The New Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th Edition. 4.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 1983. pp. 746–747.
ISBN 0-85229-400-X. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
^ Haven, Kendall F. (2006). 100 Greatest Science Inventions of All
Time. Libraries Unlimited. p. 65. ISBN 1-59158-264-4.
^ Andrewes, William J. H. (1 February 2006). "A Chronicle of
Timekeeping: Our conception of time depends on the way we measure it".
Scientific American. Retrieved 1 May 2017. As William J. H. Andrewes
(2006) notes: "In 1675 Huygens devised his next major improvement, the
spiral balance spring. (...) The spiral balance spring revolutionized
the accuracy of watches, enabling them to keep time to within a minute
a day. This advance sparked an almost immediate rise in the market for
watches, which were now no longer typically worn on a chain around the
neck but were carried in a pocket, a wholly new fashion in
^ Milham 1945, p.226
^ "A Revolution in Timekeeping, part 3". A Walk Through Time. NIST
(National Inst. of Standards and Technology). 2002. Archived from the
original on 28 May 2007. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
^ Glasmeier, Amy (2000). Manufacturing Time: Global Competition in the
Watch Industry, 1795–2000. Guilford Press. Retrieved 7 February
^ Roe, Joseph Wickham (1916), English and American Tool Builders, New
Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, LCCN 16011753 .
Reprinted by McGraw-Hill, New York and London, 1926
(LCCN 27-24075); and by Lindsay Publications, Inc., Bradley,
Illinois, (ISBN 978-0-917914-73-7).
^ a b Bruton, Eric (2000). The History of Clocks & Watches.
Little, Brown and Company. p. 183. ISBN 0316853550.
^ a b c "The Evolution of the Wristwatch".
Rolex Jubilee Vade Mecum published by the
Watch Company in
^ John E. Brozek. "The History and Evolution of the Wristwatch".
^ Hoffman, Paul (2004). Wings of Madness: Alberto Santos-Dumont and
the Invention of Flight. Hyperion Press.
^ "Temperature". Advice on Your Timepiece. Tag Heuer.
^ "Magnetism". Advice on Your Timepiece. Tag Heuer.
^ "The original pin-pallet". Retrieved 27 May 2012.
^ "The Roskopf Watch". Musketeer.ch. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
^ "Buffat The Roskopf watch". Watkinsr.id.au. Retrieved 28 October
^ "Watchmaking in Europe and China: Watches & Wonders". Richemont.
Worldtempus. Archived from the original on 11 October 2012.
^ "EXCLUSIVE: An inside view of the ETA high-tech
production in Boncourt in the Swiss Jura – Watch-Insider.com".
Watch-insider.com. 3 December 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
Swatch Sistem51 a Swiss made watchmaking revolution".
Watch-insider.com. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
^ "Milestones:Pioneering Work on the
Quartz Electronic Wristwatch,
1962–1967". Ieeeghn.org. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
^ "In the late 1960s teams of engineers working independently in
Switzerland and the
United States used newly created electronic
components to completely reinvent the wristwatch" (PDF). IEEE. 2000.
Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 October 2015. Retrieved 7 June
Quartz mechanisms usually have a resonant frequency of
32768 Hz, chosen for ease of use (being 215). Using a simple 15
stage divide-by-two circuit, this is turned into a 1 pulse per second
signal responsible for the watch's timekeeping.
Bulova introduces the most accurate watch in the world, the
Precisionist". Crunch gear. 23 March 2010. Retrieved 8 July
^ "History of the Solar Wristwatch". Soluhr.com. Retrieved 17 January
Time Stands Still for Watchmakers". New York Times. 28 November
2008. Retrieved 28 November 2008.
^ Barbara Mikkelson (13 May 2011). "The Ten Ten Tenet". Snopes.com.
Barbara and David P. Mikkelson. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
Tissot Silen-T User's Manual" (PDF). Support.tissot.ch. Retrieved
28 October 2017.
^ Anita Li (14 July 2013). "Innovative Tactile
Watch Helps You 'Feel
Time it Is'". Mashable. Mashable. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
^ Callum Borchers (12 July 2013). "Thanks to Kickstarter, tactile
watch debuts". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
^ "All in Good Time: HILCO EC director donates prototype of world's
first working digital watch to Smithsonian". Texas Co-op Power.
February 2012. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
^ ""TI $20 Watch", The Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the
Study of Invention and Innovation, [Smithsonian Institution]".
Invention.smithsonian.org. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
Watch - Vintage Electronics Have Soul – The Pocket
Calculator Show Website". Pocketcalculatorshow.com. Retrieved 28
^ U.S. Patent 4,096,550: W. Boller, M. Donati, J. Fingerle, P. Wild,
Illuminating Arrangement for a Field-Effect Liquid-
Crystal Display as
well as Fabrication and Application of the Illuminating Arrangement,
filed 15 October 1976.
Casio TA-1000 Electronic
Clock & Calculator". Magical Gadgets,
Sightings & Brags.
Calculator Show. Archived from the
original on 15 April 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2007.
Crystal Display Evolution – Swiss Contributions
– GHN: IEEE Global History Network". Ieeeghn.org. Retrieved 23
^ Ostdiek, Vern; Bord, Donald (2012). Inquiry into Physics. Cengage
Learning. p. 343. ISBN 1-133-71150-2. Extract of page
^ Breithaupt, Jim (2001). Physics (illustrated ed.). Nelson Thornes.
p. 151. ISBN 0-7487-6243-4. Extract of page 151
^ Ge, Zhibing; Wu, Shin-Tson (2010). Transflective Liquid Crystal
Displays. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 39–40.
ISBN 0-470-68906-4. Extract of page 39-40
Seiko TV Watch". HighTechies.com. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
^ "T001 Instruction Manual" (PDF). Retrieved 27 May 2012.
^ "Alan's Vintage Watches".
Watch Dial Pattern. Retrieved 16
^ "A Guide to "Destro": Watches from Sinn, Mühle, Citizen, and More -
Worn & Wound". Wornandwound.com. 10 May 2016. Retrieved 28 October
^ CITIZEN “BULLHEAD” CHALLENGE TIMER
^ "Hands-On: With The Omega Seamaster Bullhead (Live Pics + Pricing)".
Hodinkee.com. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
^ "Muslim watches". Watchismo. Archived from the original on 28
September 2015. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
Watch & Clock". ALFAJR. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
^ Hug, Daniel :
Swatch lanciert 2015 eine intelligente Uhr. In:
NZZ am Sonntag, 27 July 2014, page 26 (German)
^ Nazanin Lankarani (21 January 2013). "Buying Back a Forgotten
Chinese Heritage". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 January 2013. We
try to explain why it makes sense to spend $500,000 on a watch.
Watch Specs PDF" (PDF). richardmille.com. Retrieved 14
^ "Havocscope Counterfeit Watches Market Value: $1 billion".
^ Burgess, Colin; Dubbs, Chris (2007). Animals in Space: From Research
Rockets to the Space Shuttle (illustrated ed.). Springer Science &
Business Media. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-387-49678-8.
Extract of page 213
^ "Russian Space Watches History". Netgrafik.ch. Retrieved 27 May
^ "Navitimer, the aviator favourite watch". Breitling. Retrieved 17
^ "Fiyta.com.cn". Fiyta. Retrieved 17 January 2007.
^ "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". 14 November 2006. Archived from
the original on 14 November 2006. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
^ "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". 4 March 2008. Archived from the
original on 4 March 2008. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
^ [dead link]
Timex Datalink watches (Pic Intensive)".
Forums.watchuseek.com. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
Watch Industry Questions and Answers: Water-Resistance". Europa
Star. VNU eMedia Inc. Retrieved 17 January 2007.
^ "Watches". Jwnz.co.nz. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
Beckett, Edmund, A Rudimentary Treatise on Clocks, Watches and Bells,
1903, from Project Gutenberg
Berner, G.A., Illustrated Professional Dictionary of Horology,
Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH 1961–2012
Daniels, George, Watchmaking, London: Philip Wilson Publishers, 1981
(reprinted 15 June 2011)
De Carle, Donald, (Illustrations by E. A. Ayres), Practical Watch
Repairing, 3rd edition, New York : Skyhorse Pub., 2008.
ISBN 978-1-60239-357-8. Significant information on watches, their
history, and inner workings.
Denn, Mark, "The
Tourbillon and How It Works", IEEE Control Systems
Magazine, June 2010, IEEE Control Systems Society, DOI
Grafton, Edward, Horology, a popular sketch of clock and watch making,
London: Aylett and Jones, 1849
Look up watch in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Watches.
American and Swiss Watchmaking in 1876 by Jacques David
Watch Factories of America Past and Present by Henry G. Abbott
Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH
UK patent GB218487, Improvements relating to wrist watches, 1923
patent resulting from John Harwood's invention of a practical
self-winding watch mechanism.
Repoussé and chasing
Wire wrapped jewelry
Precious metal alloys
Other natural objects
Time measurement and standards
Orders of magnitude
Coordinated Universal Time
International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service
International Atomic Time
Barycentric Coordinate Time
Barycentric Dynamical Time
Daylight saving time
Geocentric Coordinate Time
International Date Line
Greenwich Mean Time
Time in physics
Absolute time and space
Discrete time and continuous time
Theory of relativity
Gravitational time dilation
Time translation symmetry
History of timekeeping devices
Equation of time
History of sundials
Sundial markup schema
Archaeology and geology
Geologic time scale
International Commission on Stratigraphy
Other units of time
Time value of money