A brief history of timepieces

From Sundials to Smart Watches – you have thousands of years of innovation on your wrist.

Since the beginning of timekeeping, there has been a need for innovation – whether for accuracy, functionality or style, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon. (See what I did there?)

A very long time ago, approximately 2000BC according to the ever-reputable Wikipedia, some smart cookies figured out how to divide the day into two 12-hour periods. They tracked the movement of the sun by watching the shadow cast by an obelisk or stick. Clocks that use shadows are called sundials.

Once people got used to the idea of measuring time, there became a need to be able to know the time on-the-go, when they were away from their sundials. Thus, portable sundials were invented. These were made from stone (and, later, metal), and were a far cry from a modern watch, but the beginning of the concept nonetheless.

The first mechanical clock was invented in Europe around the beginning of the 14th century and was the standard timekeeping device until 1656, when the pendulum clock was invented. Mechanical and pendulum clocks were big and heavy, so weren’t suitable for carting around the shops with you – it wasn’t really until the 15th century, when the wind-up mainspring was invented, that portable clocks became a thing. By the 17th century, portable clocks evolved into the first pocketwatches.

Early pocketwatches and portable clocks weren’t super reliable, and, although advances were made, pendulum clocks were the most accurate until the 1930s, when quartz oscillators were invented. You probably recognise ‘quartz’ as it’s quite likely printed on your watch. By the 1960s, the technology behind the quartz mechanism advanced to allow them to be made small enough for a wrist watch, and by the 1980s they became the dominant non-laboratory timekeeping mechanism.

Digital clocks began their days as Plato clocks. These were glass cylindrical-shaped devices with small numbered cards that were strung onto a spring-wound mechanism and would flip over after a set amount of time – one set for minutes, one for hours. A later digital clock used dials like a car speedometer. The first truly digital watch, as we use the term today, was invented in 1972. Features have been added along the way, like the date, a stopwatch, and alarms – innovations at the time, although now they seem standard – to get to the marvellous innovative digital and smart watches we have today.

We are putting a spotlight on our G-Shock watch range here at Showcase Jewellers Te Awamutu, which have a range of innovative features and technology that are comparable to none. Perfect for the active user, G-Shock have options in both digital and analogue, or a combination of the two!

Come and see us in store and we’ll be able to match you with the watch you need.