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The Evolution of Watch Technology

August 5th, 2022

Since the 16th century, people have worn watches. With their complex machinery and breathtaking designs, there is an immense variety of pieces available. These marvels have long reflected the tastes and limitations of the times in which they are made. At Hing Wa Lee Jewelers, we are proud to participate in the rich history of timepieces.

Clock Watches: Pretty But Useless

The first portable timepiece was not meant to be worn on the wrist. In 1505, Peter Henlein invented the “clock watch.” These mechanical spheres were worn on a pendant. Clock watches were largely ornamental, having lacked a minute hand and any notion of accuracy.

They had to be wound twice a day, but, again, were so inaccurate that they had no business being used in professional settings. Still, in spite of being novelties for nobles, they were a sign of things to come.

Pocket Watches: More or Less Accurate

In the 17th century, London was a rainy, polluted place. As such, men protected their timepieces by stuffing them in their jacket pockets. Until the invention of the balance spring in 1657, they were only marginally more accurate than clock watches. This is due to the challenges caused by the non-constant force of the mainspring.

The balance spring changed everything. It made timepieces more accurate by hours. While it is impossible to guarantee that any pocket watch would be perfectly on time, they then were able to tell the time within about ten minutes. Advancements in manufacturing allowed watchmakers to produce more pocket watches than ever, although they still had to be made by hand.

Wristwatches: Origins

It is said that Abraham-Louis Breguet, founder of the legendary Breguet brand, created the first watch for the Queen of Naples in 1810. Due to advances in centuries prior, it was fairly accurate. Militaries from all across Europe were quickly aware of their usefulness and equipped their troops with watches.

Note that the wristwatches were not instantly beloved by everyone. In fact, wristwatches were initially worn exclusively by women. It was not until World War I that they became an essential luxury accessory for men as well.

Quartz Watches: Electricity

In 1969, the first quartz watch was released to the public. Created by the Japanese brand Seiko, these watches relied on battery power rather than a mechanical movement. They are more precise, longer-lasting, and affordable. Best of all, they do not need to be wound. Most watches made today have a quartz movement for these reasons.

Still, collectors are fond of mechanical watches. They are characterized by complex sophistication and marvelous elegance. Watchmakers still craft mechanical timepieces and pocket watches for collectors and fanatics alike.

Smartwatches: Computerized Accessories

The most recent development in watchmaking is the advent of smartwatches. These high-tech accessories act as fitness aids, cell phone extensions, and more. While they may be scoffed at by collectors, they nonetheless represent a new trend in how we think of watches.

The future is bright when it comes to watches. Whatever the world has in store for us, it will be stylish.

Find New and Old-Style Watches at Hing Wa Lee Jewelers

At Hing Wa Lee Jewelers, we offer a diverse selection of watches to cater to everyone’s tastes. Whether you prefer quartz or mechanical, we have all of today’s top designer brands. Both our San Gabriel and Walnut showrooms are staffed with the most knowledgeable horology enthusiasts in California.

Send us an email at to learn more about everything we offer, and visit one of our locations for a personalized meeting with one of our professionals when you request an appointment.