Wristwatches today are not just a functional timepiece, but to many, something to collect. Second-hand values for designer watches have increased dramatically over the years. Technology has advanced in terms of all the functions our watches are capable of, but style and quality still reign supreme. It is interesting to consider how watches have developed over time in terms of their technology.
The first ever wristwatch came about in 1812. It was made to fit the Queen of Naples’s wrist. They had been introduced as far back as the 1570s but described then as arm watches. Historically, wristwatches were worn mainly by women because they were prone to damage from the elements. This was the reason why men would wear pocket watches.
Alarms have existed in watches since 1908, when Eterna patented its alarm wristwatch. It was first manufactured and sold in 1914. Advancements in technology have allowed for different alarm sounds to be heard through the casings of watches.
As early as the 1920s, the first digital mechanical pocket watch appeared. It was made by George H. Thiess. If we are talking LEDs, then it was not until 1972, when the Hamilton Watch Company announced it Pulsar Time Computer, that the first digital watch was born. The watch retailed for $2,100. LED lights have since appeared in colours other than red. Later digital watches would be produced using LCD (liquid crystal display) technology. This is the technology primarily used for them today.
Extras added to digital watches over the years have included world time, hourly chime, melody alarms, stop watches, calculators, and databanks. Watches have been released which were marketed as being related to a particular television show or movie, in terms of their tyle, features, and packaging. For example, Zeon produced a few versions of a watch which played Monty Norman’s James Bond theme. In 1981, its packaging linked it to the Bond film For Your Eyes Only, which starred Sir Roger Moore. You might remember that this was the movie which featured the Yellow Citroen 2CV which tipped up while making its way through the narrow streets on the island of Corfu, where the car chase was really filmed. It was all part of the movie, though.
Game watches were the craze of the 1980s. You could play miniature versions of arcade games on LCD (liquid crystal display) screens. These watches are now very collectable as they are desired once again by those wanting to rekindle their youth.
The smartwatch was developed to be used in conjunction with the smartphone. To use it you need to install the accompanying app and turn on Bluetooth. The watch is then synchronised with the phone. Some of the features that smartphones have include the ability to measure heart rates, send and receive emails and photographs, perform video chat, calculate sums along with measuring heights and distances, scan barcodes, play games, control objects, see in the dark, and even hunt for treasure by using it as a metal detector. The possibilities are forever increasing. Some of the things that we could once only do on a mobile phone or computer can now be done on a watch. It makes things even more portable and miniaturised.
So, despite a watch needing only a source of power, something to regulate or moderate this energy release, and a means of display, we seek ever more exciting gadgets within our watches, and if not those, precious metals and expensive jewels encrusting them. Whether it is an Android Wear or watch from Apple you desire to keep up with technology, or a Patek Phillippe or Rolex for style, there are jewellers out there that can supply you with it. If you require an iconic design from the past, then auction houses and antiques shops can help.
As a cautionary note to end on, if you are not purchasing a watch from new, or one with all its original packaging, one should be aware of fakes, due to the values that watches are commanding these days. A watch can be made to look the same aesthetically yet have nothing like the quality of movement of the original inside it. If mechanical, the movement of its sweep second hand should be smooth. Its insides should have been made as beautifully as its outside. Just something to watch out for.