Watches have an important place in our lives – not just as timekeeping devices but also as fashion statements. But how much do you really know about your beloved wristwatch?
In order to shine a light on the centuries-long history and complex mechanics behind wristwatches, the experts at ROX – Diamonds & Thrills have put together a fascinating list of the top 100 Things to Know About Luxury Watches.
Whether you have a different watch for every day of the week or only bring one out for special occasions, there are years of innovation and cultural influence behind these glamorous accessories.
The early days of watches
- Nurembergian locksmith and clockmaker Peter Henlein is often regarded as the father of the modern mechanical clock. The precision of his egg-shaped “watches” was around 30 minutes a day, so they needed to be reset per a sundial.
- It wasn’t until the 16th century that the pocket gained popularity and became fashionable. A hand measuring minutes was introduced in the 17th century.
- The first wristwatch from modern conception was designed by Patek Philippe & Co. for Countess Koscowicz of Hungary in 1868. Adorned with diamonds and intricate ornamental carvings. It was originally intended to be worn as a piece of highly intricate, decorative jewellery.
- Goldsmith Daniel Jeanrichard first introduced the ‘établissage’ method of watch manufacturing in the 18th century in the Swiss Jura Mountains. This system saw workers fabricating singular components and selling these on to workshops in Geneva. Thus, the whole watches assembled.
- Geneva was exporting more than 60,000 watches by 1790. Établissage remained the leading watch assembling method until the end of the 19th century in Switzerland.
- In 1926, Rolex released the Oyster – the first watch with a water-resistant case. To prove its water resistance, English swimmer Mercedes Gleitze wore it when she attempted to swim across the Channel. The swim took over 10 hours and the watch remained in perfect working order.
- The affordability and rise in popularity of battery-powered, quartz-regulated watches in the late Seventies almost destroyed the Swiss watch industry, often referred to as the “Quartz Crisis” by watch aficionados.
10.Bond’s timepieces have always played a significant role in the agent’s outlandish exploits – despite the famous story of producer Cubby Broccoli being forced to lend his own Rolex Submariner to Sean Connery in Dr. No after Rolex refused to loan a single for the production.
11. For her coronation, Queen Elizabeth II wore a Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 101, renowned for having the smallest mechanical movement in the world.
12.Rolex doesn’t give watches away to anyone. Thus, if you see a celebrity wearing one then they actually paid for it themselves.
Technology and engineering
14. Mechanical movements include “rubies” that minimise friction and wear at pivot points. Thus, synthetic sapphires replaced the real rubies that were originally contained within movements.
16.By Abraham-Louis Breguet over two centuries ago, the tourbillon (meaning “whirlwind” in French) was used to rotate the escapement and balance wheel of the watch by 360º per minute. This also helps with correct gravity’s detrimental effect over the spring. Tourbillons are no longer necessary. However, they remain in some luxury watches as a demonstration of the craftsmanship of the brand.
Most expensive and sought-after watches
18. The most expensive wristwatch ever sold was the Steel Perpetual Calendar Chronograph made by Patek Philippe in 1943. Thus, this is by Phillips for a jaw-dropping $11 million in 2016.
20. Sold for a premium-inclusive £4m (CHF5.06m) at Phillips in May 2017. And the most expensive Rolex watch sold at auction is a ref. 6062 triple calendar in gold, once owned by the last Emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai.
Buying a luxury watch
22. Consider how much it’s going to cost you to get the service of a watch. There should be at least a service for every five years for a basic, time-only automatic watch from a big Swiss brand. And it usually costs around £200. Both the cost and turnaround time escalate quickly with complications like chronographs and perpetual calendars.
Whether you regard your favourite wristwatch as a method of keeping time or a fashion accessory you can’t go without, there’s more to these intricate devices than meets the eye. If you’re considering buying a watch, have a read of ROX’s watch buying guide which helps you to tick the right boxes when finding your perfect timepiece.