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Watch History & Movements

Watches have existed for literally hundreds of years. For most of this time, watches were purely mechanical devices—representing tiny marvels of engineering. Then, around about 1970, the Seiko Watch Corporation developed the first quartz watch movement—a battery powered (electronic) watch that was much cheaper to produce than any mechanical watch, and many, many times more accurate (to within roughly 15 seconds per month, whereas the finest mechanical watches aim to fall within a 10 second per day range, from about -4 to +6 seconds). Today these 2 types of watch movements (quartz & mechanical) are the broad categories under which all other watches fall (with tuning fork watches having briefly offered a third, also electronic, classification throughout most of the ’60s & ’70s).

Popular Watch Brands

Among the most popular watch brands today are Swiss made watches like Rolex & Omega. These are considered luxury brands, and each has its own classic timepieces, like Rolex and Omega. Entry and mid-level Swiss brands include Tissot, Hamilton, and Tag Heuer, though increasingly today, Japanese brands like Seiko, Citizen, and Casio are earning considerable respect within the watch collecting community. Each of these brands has its own hit timepieces, such as the tough-as-nails Cassio G-Shock line and the popular Seiko SKX Dive Watch. Finally, historic brands such as Bulova continue to innovate with offerings like their Precisionist line of high frequency quartz movement watches. These watches offer unbeatable accuracy and a sweeping second hand, which is typically only found on mechanical timepieces.

Fashion and Sports

Some watches are made to be seen; other were made for specific functions. Fashion watches offer beautifully designed faces, and exquisite craftsmanship so you look your best day or night. Look for brands like Caravelle New York, and STORM LONDON. Sport watches feature split-second accuracy for registering lap-times, and unparalleled durability so you don’t have to worry about the intensity of your workout affecting your ability to track your progress or tell the time. Choose brands like G-Shock and Bulova for your next sports watch.

Mechanical vs. Quartz

Today’s mechanical watches are either hand-wound or automatic, offering anywhere from 30 to 70 hours of continuous running time, depending on the watch’s mainspring. When shopping for a watch, if you see the term “Automatic” in the description, you are getting a mechanical watch. The only difference is that the automatic watch has a swinging counterweight built into the movement that automatically winds the watch as you move your arm, meaning you’ll never have to wind it if you wear it every day. Quartz watches, alternatively, are always electronic, and may have either a battery or a rechargeable capacitor inside (such as the Citizen Eco-Drive solar powered watches or Seiko Kinetic watches that recharge their capacitor via your arm movements—just like the automatic mechanicals). Moreover, all digital watches are quartz, but not all quartz watches are digital.

Features & Complications

Modern watches offer a variety of useful features. For instance, many watches have a chronograph (stopwatch) feature, and most offer either a day or date window, or both. In the world of horology (the study and measurement of time), these features are known as complications. In mechanical watches, more complications mean more intricate movements, and thus a higher cost—but also more charm and sophistication. In digital watches, extra complications (like tide tracking, compasses, & moon phases) are easier and less costly to incorporate. Many tool watches (particularly dive watches) offer excellent water resistance & bright luminosity. Pilots’ watches frequently offer a rotating slide rule, and military watches usually feature a 24 hour chapter ring. The alternative to the tool watch is the dress watch, which may sacrifice some features, but takes a less-is-more approach to convey superior class and elegance.

A brief history of timepieces

Fashionable and Timeless Pieces By Bulova