People always need to know the time. Even in ancient times, people were able to tell the time roughly from the position of the sun and after that water clocks and sun dials were invented.
During the 13th and 14th centuries, large mechanical clocks were designed and appeared outside churches and cathedrals.
During the 16th century in Switzerland, wearing jewellery was prohibited and out of work jewellers were forced to look for new employment. They asked their French and Italian neighbours to teach them how to make watches and the Swiss watchmaking industry was born.
The first watches were worn like pendants around the neck and the mechanism was made of steel. Pocket watches were introduced in the 17th century, although they were only used by men and women still wore their watches round their necks. The watches were attached to fobs, which were ribbon or chain and kept the watches attached to the gentleman’s pocket or belt.
The watches were set into cases, which were made of gold, gold plate or silver and were sometimes engraved. Watches were bought separately to the cases, so that people could pick a case befitting of their status and budget.
Typical watch cases were Hinge back and Bezel, Screw Back and Bezel, Swing Ring, Clamshell, Snapback and Hunting. Watches such as the Waltham Full Hunter, or gold Half Hunter, are worth thousands of pounds in today’s market and are greatly sought-after.
During the First World War, soldiers found pocket watches bulky and difficult to use during battle. They began to wear their watches on a wrist strap. Wristwatches were in great demand and soon companies such as Rolex, Cartier Patek Phillipe and Omega were producing wrist watches for the upper classes.
In the 40’s it became a tradition to present a gold watch to somebody retiring from work. It was said to represent the length of time spent at work and the time that the retired person would now have to do whatever they wanted without the restraints of work.
During the Second World War the Swiss company Rotary supplied watches for the British Army and today Rotary watches are still as popular as they were 60 years ago.
By 1950 cheaper watches were being mass produced and soon everyone was wearing a watch. In 1983 The Swatch Watch Company produced the first fun wristwatch. An affordable Swiss watch made of plastic with a fun design and a colourful strap. Swatch watches became the fashion and many famous artists and designers worked with Swatch to create their unique timepieces. Vintage Swatch watches are highly collectable and some are worth a lot of money.
So, whatever type of old, vintage or antique watches you collect, you can be sure that they will be a sound, as well as useful, investment.