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A History of Watches

History

A History of Rolex Watches

Hans Wilsdorf founded the company we now know as Rolex in 1905. Born in Kulmbach, Germany in 1881, the company, Wilsdorf & Davies, was based in London. By 1908 it had become one of the leading watch companies in the UK. It was in this year that he coined the name Rolex.

Official Chronometer Certification was awarded to Rolex in 1910 from the “Bureau Officiel” in Switzerland, the first time this had ever been given to a wristwatch. This was to be the first of many accolades awarded to the watch, including the Class A Precision from the Kew Observatory in 1914.

In 1926 the Rolex Oyster was released. It was the first wristwatch to be considered waterproof, proven a year later when the watch was worn by the swimmer Mercedes Gleitze in his successful bid to cross the English Channel. This was beneficial to Wilsdorf whom had sponsored the event and gained considerable exposure for his new Oyster Watch. Wilsdorf recognised the importance of advertising and marketing his creation in order to gain publicity and prestige.

1931 saw the creation of the Perpetual Rotor, a mechanism now seen as the basis for self-winding movements. In the following years Rolex released the first Oyster Perpetual Ladydate (1954) the GMT Master with dual time zone function (1955) and the first Day-Date (1956).

Andre Heiniger took over the company following the death of Hans Wildorf on 06 July 1960. Rolex continued to invent and innovate in terms of technical skill and style throughout the 2nd half of the century. The Sea-dweller (1967) was certified as reaching depths of up to 1,220 metres making it the choice for Professional Divers – a point that was quickly adopted in advertising the model. The Explorer II (1978) and Cosmograph Daytona (1988) were also released to international waiting lists securing Rolex as one of the worlds most prestigious watch brands.

A History of Tag Heuer Watches

Edouard Heuer founded his workshop in 1860. His aim was to take time measurement more precise. The company has always been known for as the “avant-garde of watchmaking”, in terms of technology, the choice of materials or design. Heuer’s watches have been patented for a chronograph mechanism first in 1882 onto the 1998 launch of the Kirium Ti5 in grade 5 titanium and carbon fiber; from the first chronograph measuring 100ths of a second (1916) to the first analog display quartz chronograph (1983), not forgetting the first automatic chronograph with a microrotor (1969).

Heuer’s continuing presence within the watchmaking world secured his place in history. This mastery is reflected in the impressive number of patents making TAG Heuer one of the key references in Swiss Made watch-making know-how. For 142 years, the company has confirmed its initial vocation: producing watches that constantly push back the frontiers of precision, reliability and aesthetics. That is why the TAG Heuer philosophy is symbolized by the slogan “Swiss Avant-Garde since 1860”.

A History of Audemars Piguet Watches

In 1875, Jules-Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet joined forces to produce watches with complex mechanisms. Based in La Brassus in the heart of Vallée de Joux in the Swiss Jura region, Audemars Piguet has been creating and marketing under its own name a range of Haute Horlogerie watches.

In 1972 Audemars Piguet launched the worlds first high end sports watch in stainless steel – The Royal Oak. The watch launched at the Basel watch fair was a radical departure from the current watch trends. The unique octagonal bezel was a revolutionary shape in watchmaking.

Arguably among the finest luxury watch manufacturers in the world, Audemars Piguet boasts a history that is rich with tradition. One of only a handful of watch companies that produces and assembles its own movements and complete timepieces.

A History of Cartier Watches

Cartier was founded in 1847 by Louis-Francois Cartier and was the “Master jeweller” to Europe’s Crowned Heads of State. The first Cartier wristwatch, The Santos, was released in 1904 followed by Jewelled watches in 1906.

Although known for jewellery, Cartier created the Deployment Folding Clasp in 1910, which is now used by numerous watch houses across the Globe. In 1917 the Cartier Tank Francaise was introduced, a model which is today considered a classic example of style and design.

Most contemporary Cartier watches (and jewellery) are based upon the distinctive designs of founder Louis-Francois Cartier.

A History of Breitling Watches

1884 – In St. Imier, in the Jura mountains of Switzerland, Leon Breitling opens a workshop specialising in making chronographs and precision counters for scientific and industrial purposes. In 1914 Leon Breitling dies and the company is passed over to his son Gaston, a year later Gaston creates the first wristwatch chronograph and subsequently provides pilots with the first wrist instruments. By 1923 Breitling had developed the first ever independent chronograph pushpiece.

Gastons son, Willy Breitling takes over control of the company in 1932 and in 1936 Breitling becomes the official supplier to the Royal Air Force. The Chronomat is introduced in 1942 – the first chronograph to be fitted with a circular slide rule. The company also widens its professional clientele to include the American armed forces. 1954 saw the creation of the Navitimer, a wrist instrument equipped with the famous navigation computer. This super chronograph becomes a firm favourite among the pilots across the globe. By this stage, Breitling is already supplying the major international airlines with cockpit clocks. In 1962, Astronaut Scott Carpenter wears the Cosmonaught chronograph during his orbital fligh aboard the Aurora 7 space capsule.

1969 saw Breitling introduce the first ever self winding chronograph. This technical feat represents a major breakthrough for the entire swiss watch industry. 1979 saw the takeover of Breitling from the founders grandson Willy. Ernest Schneider takes the helm. in 1984 The Chronomat is launched and marks the return of the chronograph. It becomes the best selling line in the Breitling collection, a position it has held ever since. Soon afterwards in 1985, the Breitling Aerospace is launched.

Today, Breitling is still established in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the town where Leon Breitling opened his first chronograph factory 110 years earlier.

A History of Omega Watches

Today, seven out of ten people throughout the world are familiar with the OMEGA watch brand – a truly amazing rate of awareness to which few other watch brands can lay claim. The reason behind this success is said to be the reliably fine quality of every OMEGA watch. From its modest beginnings in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1848 the assembly workshop created by 23-year-old Louis Brandt gradually gained renown. Louis Brandt assembled key-wound precision pocket watches from parts supplied by local craftsmen. After Louis Brandt’s death in 1879, his two sons Louis-Paul and Cesar took over control of the business.

Louis-Paul and César Brandt both died in 1903, leaving one of Switzerland’s largest watch companies – with 240,000 watches produced annually and employing 800 people – in the hands of four young people, the oldest of whom was Paul-Emile Brandt. The economic difficulties brought on by the First World War would lead him to work actively from 1925 toward the union of OMEGA and Tissot then to their merger in 1930 within the group SSIH. By the seventies, SSIH had become Switzerland’s no 1 producer of finished watches and no 3 in the world. The severe monetary crisis and recession of 1975 to 1980, SSIH was bailed out by the banks in 1981. In 1985 the holding company was taken over by a group of private investors. Immediately renamed SMH, Societe suisse de microelectronique et d’horlogerie, the new group achieved rapid growth and success to become today’s top watch producer in the world. Named Swatch Group in 1998, it now includes Blancpain and Breguet. Dynamic and flourishing, OMEGA remains one of its most prestigious flagship brands.

1st March 1965 – OMEGA’s Speedmaster chronograph was “flight-qualified by NASA for all manned space missions” as the only wristwatch to have withstood all of the U.S. space agency’s severe tests. On 21 July 1969 – 02:56 GMT, the Speedmaster records man’s first steps on the Moon’s surface. The Speedmaster became the first watch (and the only watch since) to be worn on the Moon. With this unique accomplishment came a unique nickname: the Moon Watch. April 1970 – the OMEGA Speedmaster rescued the Apollo 13 mission from a potential disaster, earning OMEGA the “Snoopy Award”.

1948 saw the advent of the Seamaster, Seamaster 300 in 1957, In 1981, the newly launched Seamaster 120 set a new world free dive record at a depth of 101 metres. The Seamaster is also famous for being the choice watch for James Bond.

A History of Patek Philippe Watches

During the Polish uprising in 1830, Norbert de Patek, a Polish refugee settled in Geneva preferring exile rather than facing prison. Geneva at that time was the capital of watchmaking and fine jewellery. Nine years later together with his friend and fellow-countryman, the gifted watchmaker François Czapek, they set about using their combined talents and founded the watch manufactory of Patek, Czapek & C°, with their headquarters in Geneva.

As the fashion of wearing a watch around the wrist was catching on, watchmakers began challenging the integration of various complications into their new timepieces. Patek Philippe’s first perpetual calendar wristwatch was produced in 1925. In addition to indicating the day, date and month, taking into account the number of days of each month (29, 30, 31) as well as the 29th of February in leap years, it displays the ages and phases of the moon. Patek Philippe’s general production launched the first bracelet chronographs either with or without a split-second mechanism and wristwatches with minute repeating.

More information can be found by clicking on the link.

A History of Franck Muller Watches

Born in La Chaux-de-Fronds in July 1958 to a Swiss father and Italian mother, Muller’s acumen for things mechanical was soon evident. As a young boy he regularly took apart anything mechanical. At the age of 15 he enrolled in the famous Ecole d’Horlogerie de Geneve.

Three years later Franck Muller graduated first in his class. During the 1970’s when the mechanical watch marker was dead due to the popularity of the quartz watch, Franck Muller spent his time restoring mechanical timepieces for collectors, museums and auction houses. He soon gained a reputation as a master restorer of antique timepieces.

More information can be found by clicking on the link.

A History of IWC Watches

In 1868, the American engineer and watchmaker, Florentine Ariosto Jones was director of F.Howard & Cie. In Boston, the America leading watchmaking company. He travelled across the Atlantic to Switzerland, where his plan was to found the International Watch Company with the aim to manufacture movements and watch parts for the American market. However he had failed to take into account that the workers in the Geneva region and the remote valleys of the Jura mountains feared for their jobs and were against Jones’ intrusion.

It was probably around this point that Jones met watch manufacturer and industrialist Johann Heinrich Moser who manufactured pocket watches for the Russian tsars. Moser was an industrial pioneer and had recently finished building a hydrostation in Schaffhausen powered by water from the Rhine. Moser showed a great interest in Jones’ plans and so the foundations were set for the first and only watch manufacturers in north-eastern Switzerland: the IWC INTERNATIONAL WATCH CO. in Schaffhausen.

More information can be found by clicking on the link.

A History of Jaeger LeCoultre Watches

In 1833, Antoine LeCoultre founded the little workshop which was to become the Manufacture Jaeger LeCoultre. Antoine was a self taught watchmaker and a brilliant inventor. He devoted his whole life to achieve total precision and reliability. His work made a lasting impression on the history of watchmaking.

In 1844 Antoine LeCoultre was the first person to measure a micron. Such was the perfection of his watchmaking components no tool could determine their level of inaccuracy. To push the boundaries even further he created the worlds most precise measuring instrument. The Millionometer served as the standard for more than half a century. It measured components to the nearest thousandth of a millimetre.

More information can be found by clicking on the link.

A History of Bell & Ross Watches

In 1992 a team of designers and specialists of aircraft and space controls joined with a set project to create watches perfectly suiting a professional use, to be part of the great Swiss watchmaking tradition while meeting the demands of men facing extreme situations. Nowadays astronauts, pilots, divers or bomb disposal experts use Bell & Ross watches as tools on their missions.

More information can be found by clicking on the link.

A History of the Timepiece

…coming soon

Please check back soon for updates.

For more information on the History of Watches and Watch Making take a look at the following books that we recommend:

The above links will direct you to amazon.co.uk. We take no responsibility for content of external sites.

If you have questions that you would like answered on any watch related subject then why not post a message on our Talk Time Forum. Talk Time is free to all visitors to www.watches.co.uk

Here are a few of the Watches we deal in:

  • Audemars Piguet Watches
    • Millenary,
    • Royal Oak Offshore,
    • T3 (The Terminator).
  • Breguet
    • Type XX Aeronavale.
  • Breitling Watches
    • Breitling Navitimer,
    • Breitling Superocean,
    • Breitling Chronomat,
    • Breitling Crosswind,
    • Breitling Longtitude,
    • Breitling Antares,
    • Breitling B1,
    • Breitling Spatiographe,
    • Breitling Top Time,
    • Breitling Bentley,
    • Breitling Red Arrow,
    • Breitling Callistino.
  • Bvlgari Watches
    • Scuba Chrono,
    • Bvlgari GMT
  • Cartier Watches
    • Cartier Tank Francaise,
    • Santos de Cartier,
    • Panthere de Cartier,
    • Cartier Roadster.
  • Chopard Watches
    • J12
  • Corum Watches
    • Corum Joker Bubble.
  • Franck Muller Watches
    • Franck Muller Long Island.
  • Girard Perregaux Watches
    • Split Second Chrono.
  • IWC Watches
    • IWC Mark 10,
    • IWC Mark 15,
    • IWC Grand Complication,
    • IWC Mark X,
    • IWC Mark XV,
    • IWC Da Vinci,
    • IWC Tourbillon,
    • IWC Portuguesse,
    • IWC Pilots Watch,
    • IWC Rattrapante,
    • IWC Portofino.
  • Jaeger Le Coultre Watches
    • Memovox Master Control,
    • Reverso Gran’ Sport,
    • Vintage Mid Size.
  • Omega Watches
    • Omega Seamaster,
    • Omega James Bond,
    • Omega Speedmaster,
    • Omega De ville,
    • Omega Constellation,
    • Omega X33,
    • Omega Moonwatch.
  • Oris
    • Complication,
    • Moon Phase Complication,
    • Automatic.
  • Panerai Watches
    • Panerai Luminor,
    • Panerai Marina,
    • Panerai GMT,
    • Panerai Luminor Base,
    • Panerai Submersible.
  • Patek Philippe
    • Ladies Twenty-4.
  • Tag Heuer Watches
    • Tag Heuer F1,
    • Tag Heuer Searacer,
    • Tag Heuer 2000,
    • Tag Heuer Monaco,
    • Tag Heuer Link,
    • Tag Heuer Kirium,
    • Tag Heuer Alter Ego,
    • Tag Heuer Carrera,
    • Tag Heuer Targa Floria,
    • Tag Heuer Monza.
  • Tudor Watches
    • Tudor Submariner.
  • Rolex Watches
    • Submariner, Rolex
    • Comex,
    • Military,
    • Rolex Air King
    • Rolex Date, Comex
    • Rolex Datejust,
    • Rolex Yachtmaster,
    • Rolex Day Date,
    • Rolex Daytona,
    • Rolex Oyster Datejust,
    • Rolex Explorer,
    • Rolex GMT and more…
  • Zenith Watches
    • Zenith Elite.

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