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A Brief History Of Pocket Watches

Jun 2, 2008
The history of pocket watch probably started in late 1400s when an Italian clock maker offered a pocket clock to the Marchese di Manta. However, pocket watches first appeared in the market in the 15th century when locksmiths from Nuremberg, Germany started manufacturing portable timepieces.

In those times, pocket watches were bulkier. They were designed similar to a small jewelry box with a chain. Some were egg-shaped and rounded. That's why early pocket watches were commonly worn around the neck. The early pocket watches were also unreliable because they only had an hour hand. Needless to say, ancient pocket watches were used more as decorative items.

The first appearance of commercial pocket watches was recorded in the 15th century. The most famous pocket watch manufacturers then were the locksmiths of Nuremberg, Germany. The clock makers of Italy, London, and other European cities followed suit. They also started to produce pocket watches in volumes to be sold in markets worldwide.

Pocket watches in those times were designed elaborately. They were usually emblazoned in gold threads while others were custom made. Some royalties even requested that their pocket watches be designed with emblems and special symbols. They were too expensive also so only the elites were able to carry pocket watches as symbols of affluence, grandeur, and culture.

By the 17th century, spring technology became more advanced and clock makers were able to manufacture slimmer and smaller pocket time-pieces. This development signaled the start of modern designs for pocket watches. Precision was also achieved with the introduction of the minute hand. High end pocket watches during those times even had smaller bearings to tell the seconds.

Pocket watches then became real pocket time-pieces. They were not worn as a necklace or medallion and the egg-shaped body was replaced by round clocks that can be put inside waist coats or breast pockets. They were still expensive and those who wore them belonged to high society. Women also carried pocket watches as decorative items to complement their wardrobe.

As technology advanced, clock manufacturers began to use diamonds or gems as clock bearings and oil to lubricate the clock hands. Pocket watches became more accurate and precise and they were used extensively in the United States to help railroad personnel coordinate train movements. More advanced designs were manufactured and authorities began to set standards for pocket watch designs.

Until the First World War, pocket watches were used by officers in the field. However, during those times also, wristwatches begun its appearance in the market and started to replace the utility of pocket watches. With the rapid development of wristwatches which can tell time more accurately and provide much convenience for its user, the popularity of pocket watches began to wane.

Today, pocket watches are still in use but more as decorative and antique items. Wristwatches became the norm for portable time pieces. But the legacy of pocket watches and the grandeur associated with them are still fresh in everyone's mind. Pocket watches now signify refinement and elegance.
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