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http://watchpart.co.uk/blog/2007/10/08/12-major-technological-innovations-in-modern-horology/

Horology is the formal term for the science of timekeeping. Both clock and watchmaking have seen many significant technological advancements in modern times as they progressed from the early days of the spring powered clock up to IBM’s Linux Wrist Watch project. Most advancements in horology in the modern era have focused on three areas: 1) accuracy 2) miniaturization and 3) source of power.

However, as is the case in the evolution of all technologies, many of the changes were predicated on fashion tastes. The earliest wristwatches were primarily baubles for fine ladies. Real men still used pocket watches, and continued to do so until the Great War came, when the manly, practical wristwatch arrived on the battlefields of Europe. From there, technological innovations in horology came along rapidly as the wristwatch gained in popularity, with the wristwatches of today sporting features that, in the 1940’s, were just the stuff of comic strips.

Here are 12 of the major technological innovations in modern horology to date:
  1. The spring-powered clock. In terms of watches, meaning portable time keeping, it was Henlein who was able to move beyond the heavy drive weights that powered the clocks of that era, with his technological innovation — the spring-powered clock. Taking place in Nuremberg, Germany, during the early 1500’s, this major innovation allowed the size of clocks to be reduced to a point where they could fall into the category of watch, with Henlein’s Nuremberg Eggs serving as a prototype of the true pocket watch to come.
  2. The tourbillon. Louis Breguet took it to the next level with his numerous innovations, which included decreasing the size of a watch, perfecting the self-winding watch (invented by Abraham Louis Perrelet in 1770), and devising the first perpetual watch calendar, Breguet quickly took watch making to the next level. The major technological innovation he is best known for, however, may be the tourbillon, which is still in use today in some types of watches. This innovation served to increase the accuracy of his watches, by enabling them to better keep time, despite changes in position.
  3. The lever escapement arrives. In about 1760, Thomas Mudge is said to have invented the lever escapement, an innovative type of mechanical watch movement that not only increased accuracy, but was also mass production-friendly and used well into the twentieth century.
  4. Mass production. Mass production brought the price of watches down, making them affordable for the average person. In 1913, radium was first used to create luminous watch dials and hands, one of the details – along with trench grills, compasses, 24-hour military time indicators, and stop-watch function – that brought the wristwatch onto the battlefields of World War I, and then onto the wrists of men throughout the world, as the wristwatch surpassed the pocket watch in popularity.
  5. Rolex introduces accuracy. 1908 was the year that one of the best known mechanical wristwatch brand names came into being – Rolex. By 1910, a Rolex made history as the first wristwatch to receive an official designation as a highly accurate timekeeper, a chronometer. Rolex developed an innovative way of manufacture that allowed that company to create the first waterproof and dust-proof watch, the Oyster, patenting it in 1926.
  6. Automatic winding. Having already elegantly overcome the tendency of the wristwatch inaccuracy, as well as the potential for water and dust damage, Rolex continued to move forward with their innovative approach to watchmaking. In 1932, Rolex introduced the Perpetual, a shockproof, silent automatic winding watch.
  7. The first electronic wristwatch. From the 1930’s and into the 1950’s wristwatches experienced many stylistic innovations, similar to the way in which automobiles became stylized, incorporating flourishes and futuristic looks. But, there was more than just style going on. In 1957, Hamilton manufactured the first electronic wristwatch, with a battery replacing the mainspring.
  8. Quartz timekeeping reaches the wrist. By 1969, the new quartz piezoelectricity-driven timekeeping technology became small enough to power a wristwatch, with Seiko manufacturing the first, called the Astron. Accurate to within 10 seconds per year, these watches launched a whole new concept of timekeeping - one that proved to be a significant competitive challenge to makers of the purely mechanical watch.
  9. The first digital display watch. Hamilton struck again with an innovative concept in 1972, offering the world the first digital display wristwatch, and 18-carat gold Pulsar. It was pricey, but it wasn’t long until this type of watch was common and cheap, much to the satisfaction of the mechanical purists of the watch world, who continued making magnificent mechanicals for the high-end market.
  10. The GPS wristwatch. With the world of technology growing in leaps and bounds, it should come as no surprise that watchmakers are producing models that use the best of what other modern technology has to offer, to create innovative new products. In 1999, Casio manufactured the first wristwatch with a global positioning system (GPS).
  11. The Bluetooth-enabled wristwatch. Yet another amazing new product hits the market. The competition to be first was hot and heavy, but Citizen slid over the finish line just before Seiko to provide the first Bluetooth-enabled wristwatch in 2006, enabling Bluetooth addiction to reach new heights. Since then, other watchmakers have joined the marketplace with their versions, including Mainnav and the innovative Exmocare. The Exmocare is marketed as a product that can dramatically improve eldercare, as it transmits vital signs and other important information.
  12. Fad gadgets. Dick Tracy would be proud. And, he certainly would own this innovative, gadget-heavy new wristwatch. Not only is it a cell phone, but it also takes pictures, via a two megapixel camera, serves as a media player, and comes Bluetooth-enabled. Imagine what that ol’ detective could do with such a hot item.
Some say the time of the wristwatch is past, with all the gadgetry that has become such a huge part of everyday life, such as the cell phone and the iPod, that also tell time. However, the story of the horology is one of innovation after innovation, making it highly unlikely that the wristwatch is just going to fade quietly into history. More likely, it will adapt and incorporate new technologies. In fact, there are new and exciting horological technologies and innovations just over the horizon, incorporate.

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Congrats, Marc on 1500 posts!


That's quite the list of Innovations.

I would add two more "specific" creations by Rolex. . . the introduction of the "Oyster" case in 1926. And the introduction of the auto date on the dial in 1945. How many times has WR or a date complication factor into your watch purchases? :)
 
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