History of Watches: Time is a concept that is hard to grasp and almost impossible to keep track of. However, for centuries human had tried to measure and keep trace of the TIME.

And, for that purpose a large variety of timekeeping devices has been invented. These range from earlier hourglasses to present-day smart wrist watches.

However, the history of watches is a relatively short one. Below is the timeline of the evolution of watches and clocks.

The Wristwatch History: Timeline of the Evolution of Watches

A) 1200-1300

1291. Prince Asulid of Yemen invented a remarkable astrolabe, an astronomical instrument used to predict the positions of the sun, moon, planets and stars.

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B) 1300-1400

1348 – 1364. Clock-maker Giovanni Dondi dell’Orologio of Padova, Italy built his Astrarium: a complex astronomical clock.

C) 1400-1500

Around 1410. Development of the Mainspring helped make clocks and watches portable. This paved the way for the production of domestic watches.

Around 1492. First mechanical watch developed in Europe.


D) 1500-1600

1517. Production of smaller watches begun.

1554. French watchmaker and goldsmith Thomas Bayard set up shop in Geneva to become the first “Orologier” (watchmaker) in Geneva.

1556. The Calvinist elders of Geneva banned citizens of the city from wearing jewelry. The ban forced the local jewelers/ goldsmiths to find a new craft such as watchmaking.

1558. Elizabeth I, reputed to have worn a ring-watch with an ‘alarm’, acceded to the throne.

E) 1600-1700

1601. The Genevan Corporation of Watchmakers (The Swiss guild of watch and clockmakers) was founded.

1632. Jean Toutin, a renowned watchmaker from France, invented the technique of painting on enamel for cases and dials.

1656. Christian Huygens, a Dutch mathematician and scientist, invented and adapted the pendulum as a regulator of clocks, which improved their accuracy significantly.

1675. Christian Huygens again invented the spiral balance spring for watches, thereby considerably increasing their accuracy.

1685. Switzerland (Geneva) emerged as the watchmaking capital of Europe after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV.

1695. For the first time in the history of watches, a half-quarter repeater watch produced in England.

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F) 1700-1800


1704. French watchmaker de Beaufré produced the first watch with jewels.

1710. George Graham built a watch with pendulum and weights. It also had a hand that indicated the quarter-second.

1731. John Hadley, an English mathematician, made the first sextant. It soon became an essential navigational tool.

1741. In his treatise on watchmaking, Antoine Thiout the Elder described the principle of the minute-repeater watch. Such watch was first made by the English watchmaker Thomas Mudge.

1747. Birth of the Swiss watchmaker Abraham Louis Breguet. Breguet’s inventions include: the lever escapement with divided impulse faces, the pare-chute shock-absorber, the flat balance-spring known as the Breguet overcoil, the Tourbillon, and a compensation device for watches. He died in Paris in 1823.

1755. The Parisian watchmaker Caron created a ring-watch that was wound by rotating the bezel and set using a key. He created it for Madame de Pompadour.

1757. Thomas Mudge invented the lever escapement. This English watchmaker also devised mechanisms for the equation of time, perpetual calendar, minute-repeater etc.

1760. Opening of the first Swiss watch shop, Beyer, in Zurich. In the same year, Voltaire set up a watchmaking workshop in Ferney.

1775. Frenchman Jean-Antoine Lépine invented a simplified flat calibre with bridges called ‘the Lépine calibre’. The principle is still used in mechanical watches.

1776. Jean-Moïse Pouzait, a Genevan watchmaker, invented the watch with the independent ‘Second Hands’. It was the precursor of the chronograph.

1784. English watchmaker Thomas Earnshaw invented a new spring detent escapement for chronometers.

1790. Genevan watchmakers Jacquet-Droz and Leschot developed a watch attached to a strap.

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G) 1800-1900

1822. A patent was granted to inventor Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec for ‘Seconds Chronograph’. It was for the ‘timepiece or measurer of distance covered’.

1828. A patent for a ‘physics and astronomy counter’ with split-seconds was granted to inventor Louis-Frédéric Perrelet and his son.

1830. Watchmaker Antoine Louis Breguet developed ‘keyless winding mechanism’.

1831. Joseph Thaddeus created the split-seconds chronograph.

1839. Vacheron & Constantin developed a full set of machines and tools to manufacture watches, precursor of the mass production of watches. Vacheron & Constantin also started using interchangeable parts such as ‘the first pantograph’ developed by Georges-Auguste Leschot.

1844. Swiss watchmaker Adolphe Nicole filed a patent for a system that returned the chronograph hand to zero.

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1845. Adrien Philippe patented ‘keyless winding mechanism’.

1846. By this time the Swiss watch industry was producing over half of the world watch production.