Rolex SA (/ˈroʊlɛks/) is a Swiss luxury watchmaker. The company and its subsidiary Montres Tudor SA design, manufacture, distribute and service wristwatches sold under the Rolex and Tudor brands. Founded by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in London, England in 1905 as Wilsdorf and Davis, Rolex moved its base of operations to Geneva, Switzerland in 1919.
Forbes ranked Rolex 64th on its 2016 list of the world's most powerful global brands. Rolex is the largest single high end watch brand.
The company is owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, a private family trust.
Alfred Davis and his brother-in-law Hans Wilsdorf founded Wilsdorf and Davis, the company that would eventually become Rolex SA, in London, England in 1905. Wilsdorf and Davis' main commercial activity at the time involved importing Hermann Aegler's Swiss movements to England and placing them in high-quality watch cases made by Dennison and others. These early wristwatches were sold to jewellers, who then put their own names on the dial. The earliest watches from Wilsdorf and Davis were usually hallmarked "W&D" inside the caseback.
In 1908 Wilsdorf registered the trademark "Rolex" and opened an office in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The company name "Rolex" was registered on 15 November 1915. The book The Best of Time: Rolex Wristwatches: An Unauthorized History by Jeffrey P. Hess and James Dowling says that the name was just made up. One story, never confirmed by Wilsdorf, recounts that the name came from the French phrase horlogerie exquise, meaning "exquisite clockwork" or as a contraction of "horological excellence". Wilsdorf was said[by whom?] to want his watch brand's name to be easily pronounceable in any language. He also thought that the name "Rolex" was onomatopoeic, sounding like a watch being wound. It is easily pronounceable in many languages and, as all its upper-case letters have the same size, can be written symmetrically. It was also short enough to fit on the face of a watch.
In 1914 Kew Observatory awarded a Rolex watch a Class A precision certificate, a distinction normally granted exclusively to marine chronometers.
In 1919 Wilsdorf left England due to wartime taxes levied on luxury imports as well as to export duties on the silver and gold used for the watch cases driving costs too high and moved the company to Geneva, Switzerland, where it was established as the Rolex Watch Company. Its name was later changed to Montres Rolex, SA and finally Rolex, SA. Upon the death of his wife in 1944, Wilsdorf established the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, a private trust, in which he left all of his Rolex shares, making sure that some of the company's income would go to charity. Wilsdorf died in 1960; since then, the trust has owned and run the company.
In December 2008, following the abrupt departure of Chief Executive Patrick Heiniger for "personal reasons", the company denied that it had lost 1 billion Swiss francs (approx £574 million, $900 million) invested with Bernard Madoff, the American asset manager who pleaded guilty to an approximately £30 billion worldwide Ponzi scheme fraud. Rolex SA announced Heiniger's death on 5 March 2013.
As of 2017 Rolex watches continue to have a reputation as status symbols. According to the 2017 Brand Z report, the brand value is estimated $8.053 billion.
Among the company's innovations are:
The first waterproof wristwatch, Rolex Oyster, 1926. 
The first wristwatch with an automatically changing date on the dial (Rolex Datejust ref.4467, 1945)
The first wristwatch case waterproof to 100 m (330 ft) (Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner ref.6204, 1953)
The first wristwatch to show two time zones at once (Rolex GMT Master ref.6542, 1954)
The first wristwatch with an automatically changing day and date on the dial (Rolex Day-Date, 1956)
The first watchmaker to earn chronometer certification for a wristwatch (1910)
The first self-winding Rolex wristwatch was offered to the public in 1931 (so-called the "bubbleback" due to the large caseback), preceded to the market by Harwood which patented the design in 1923 and produced the first self-winding watch in 1928, powered by an internal mechanism that used the movement of the wearer's arm. This not only made watch-winding unnecessary, but kept the power from the mainspring more consistent resulting in more reliable timekeeping.
Rolex participated in the development of the original quartz watch movements. Although Rolex has made very few quartz models for its Oyster line, the company's engineers were instrumental in design and implementation of the technology during the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1968, Rolex collaborated with a consortium of 16 Swiss watch manufacturers to develop the Beta 21quartz movement used in their Rolex Quartz Date 5100. alongside other manufactures including the Omega Electroquartz watches. Within about five years of research, design, and development, Rolex created the "clean-slate" 5035/5055 movement that would eventually power the Rolex Oysterquartz.
Rolex was the second watch company to create a water resistant wristwatch that could withstand pressure to a depth of 330 feet (100 m). Wilsdorf even had a specially made Rolex watch (the watch was called the "DeepSea") attached to the side of Trieste, which went to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. The watch survived and tested as having kept perfect time during its descent and ascent. This was confirmed by a telegram sent to Rolex the following day saying "Am happy to confirm that even at 11,000 metres your watch is as precise as on the surface. Best regards, Jacques Piccard".
Rolex GMT Master II gold and stainless steel (ref. 116713LN)
Rolex produced specific models suitable for the extremes of deep-sea diving, caving, mountain climbing, polar exploration, and aviation. Early sports models included the Rolex Submariner (1953) and the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date Sea Dweller. The latter watch has a helium release valve, co-invented with Swiss watchmaker Doxa, to release helium gas build-up during decompression. The Explorer (1953) and Explorer II (1971) were developed specifically for explorers who would navigate rough terrain, such as the world-famous Mount Everest expeditions. Another iconic model is the Rolex GMT Master (1954), originally developed at the request of Pan Am Airways to provide its crews with a dual time watch that could be used to display GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), which was the international time standard for aviation at that time (and still is) and was needed for Astronavigationduring longer flights.
Rolex is the largest manufacturer of Swiss made certified chronometers. In 2005, more than half the annual production of COSC certified watches were Rolexes. To date, Rolex still holds the record for the most certified chronometer movements in the category of wristwatches.
Rolex first used its "Cerachrom" ceramic bezel on the GMT-Master II in 2005, and has since then implemented ceramic bezel inserts across the range of professional sports watches. They are available on the Submariner, Sea Dweller, Deepsea, GMT Master II and Daytona models. In contrast to the aluminum bezel which it replaced, the ceramic bezel color does not wear out from explosure to UV-light and is very scratch resistant.
Wristwatch Tudor Prince Date Day, Ref.: 76200
Rolex SA offers products under the Rolex and Tudor brands.
Montres Tudor (SA) has designed, manufactured and marketed Tudor watches since 6 March 1946. Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf conceived of the Tudor Watch Company to create a product for authorized Rolex dealers to sell that offered the reliability and dependability of a Rolex, but at a lower price.The number of Rolex watches was limited by the rate that they could produce in-house Rolex movements, thus Tudor watches were originally equipped with off-the-shelf movements while using similar quality cases and bracelets.
Historically, Tudor watches have been manufactured by Montres Tudor SA using movements supplied by ETA SA. Since 2015 however, Tudor has begun to manufacture watches with in-house movements. The first model introduced with a in-house movement was the Tudor North Flag. Following this, updated versions of the Tudor Pelagos and Tudor Heritage Black Bay have also been fitted with an in-house caliber.
Tudor watches are marketed and sold in most countries around the world including the United States, Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, South Africa, some countries in Europe including the UK, South Asia, the Middle East and countries in South America, particularly Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela. Montres Tudor SA discontinued sales of Tudor-branded watches in the United States in 2004, but Tudor returned to the United States market in the summer of 2013 and to the UK in 2014.
Rolex watch modelsRolex Daytona stainless steel (ref. 116520)
Rolex Sea Dweller Deepsea with 3,900 m depth rating (ref. 116660)
Rolex Daytona chronographstainless steel, white dial (ref. 6263)
Rolex has three watch lines: Oyster Perpetual, Professional and Cellini (the Cellini line is Rolex's line of "dress" watches). The primary bracelets for the Oyster line are named Jubilee, Oyster, President, and Pearlmaster. The watch bands on the models are usually either stainless steel, yellow gold, white gold, or rose gold.
The name of the watch line in catalogs is often "Rolex Oyster Perpetual ______" or "Rolex ______"; Rolex Oyster and Oyster Perpetual are generic names and not specific product lines, except for the Oyster Perpetual 26/31/34/36/39 and Oyster Perpetual Date 34.
Within the Oyster Perpetual 26/31/34/36/39 lineup, there are three different movements; the 39 features the Caliber 3132 movement with the Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers (the Oyster Perpetual 39 is a less sporty variant of the Rolex Explorer 39mm as they share the same case, same bracelet and buckle, same bezel and same movement, with a different dial and different hands), while the 34 and 36 models have the Caliber 3130 featuring the Parachrom hairspring, and the smallest 28 and 31 models have Calibre 2231. The Oyster Perpetual Date 34 (or simply Date 34) adds a date display and date movement, plus the options of a white gold fluted bezel and diamonds on the dial.
Certain models from the Date and Datejust are almost identical, however the Datejust have 36 mm and 41 mm cases paired with a 20 mm bracelet, compared to the Date's 34 mm case and 19 mm bracelet. Modern versions of the Oyster Perpetual Date and Datejust models share Rolex's 3135 movement, with the most recent change to the 3135 movement being the introduction of Rolex's "parachrom bleu" hairspring, which provides increased accuracy. As the Date and Datejust share a movement, both have the ability to adjust the date forward one day at a time without adjusting the time; this feature is not confined to the Datejust. Compared to the Date, the Datejust has a much wider range of customization options, including other metals beyond stainless steel, various materials for the dial, and optional diamonds on the dial and bezel. The Datejust II, which was released in 2009, has a bigger case (41mm diameter) than the standard Datejust and it also features an updated movement, being only available in steel with white, yellow or rose gold on an Oyster bracelet. In 2016, Rolex released the Datejust 41, which has the same 41mm diameter case as the Datejust II, however the Datejust 41 has smaller indexes and a thinner bezel compared to the Datejust II.
Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf created the Air-King line to honor RAF pilots of the Battle of Britain. By 2007, the 1142XX iteration of the Air-King featured a COSC-certified movement in a 34mm case, considered by some a miniaturized variant of the 39mm Rolex Explorer as both watches featured very similar styling cues; the 34mm Air-King lineup was the least expensive series of Oyster Perpetual. In 2014 the Air-King was dropped, making the Oyster Perpetual 26/31/34/36/39 the entry-level Rolex line. In 2016 Rolex reintroduced the Air-King, available as a single model (number 116900), largely similar to its predecessors but with a larger 40mm case, and a magnetic shield found on the Rolex Milgauss; indeed the new 40mm Air-King is slightly cheaper than the 39mm Explorer (the Explorer lacks the magnetic shield but its movement has Paraflex shock absorbers that are not found in the Air-King's movement).
The 39 mm Rolex Explorer was designed as a "tool watch" for rugged use, hence its movement has Paraflex shock absorbers which gives the them higher shock resistance than other Rolex watches. The 41mm Rolex Explorer II has some significant differences from the 39mm Explorer; the Explorer II adds a date function, and an orange 24-hour hand which is paired with the fixed bezel's black 24-hour markers.
Notable models include:
In the UK, the retail price for the stainless steel 'Pilots' range (such as the GMT Master II) starts from GBP5,600. Diamond inlay watches are more expensive. The book "Vintage Wristwatches" by Antiques Roadshow's Reyne Haines listed a price estimate of vintage Rolex watches that ranged between US$650 and US$75,000, while listing vintage Tudors between US$250 and US$9,000. The most expensive Rolex ever produced by the Rolex factory was the GMT Ice reference 116769TBR with a retail price of US$485,350. A Forbes magazine article on the Swiss watch industry compared the retail value of Rolexes to that of competing brands Corum, Universal Genève and IWC.
Highest auction price
On 26 October 2017, a Rolex Daytona (model 6239) watch formerly owned by the actor Paul Newman was sold for US$17.75 million.
The auction set a record at $15.5-million, plus buyer's premium of 12.5%, for a final price of $17,752,500 for the "Paul Newman" Daytona Ref. 6239 was sold by Phillips Bacs & Russo Auction in New York City, as part of the "WINNING ICONS: Milestone Watches of the 20th Century" auction. The price of US$17.75 million makes it the most expensive wristwatch ever sold. "At the time that Newman gave the watch to James Cox, the watch was selling for about $200."
In tennis, Rolex is the official timekeeper of Wimbledon, the Australian Open, and US Open, three of the four Grand Slams. In golf, it is the official time keeper for two of the four majors, The Open Championship and the U.S. Open, as well as the PGA Tour and European Tour; the presenting sponsor for one of the five senior majors, The Senior Open Championship; and the official sponsor of the Women's World Golf Rankings.
Rolex is the title sponsor to the 24 Hours of Daytona, from which the Daytona model takes its name, along with the Rolex Sports Car Series. In 2013, Rolex became the official timekeeper to the FIA Formula 1 motor racing championship. Rolex has also been the official timekeeper to the Le Mans 24 Hours motor race since 2001.
Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh had a specially designed experimental Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deep-Sea Special strapped to the outside of their bathyscaphe during the 1960 Challenger Deep/ Mariana Trench dive to a world-record depth of 10,916 metres (35,814 ft). When James Cameron conducted a similar dive in 2012, a specially designed and manufactured Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller Deep Sea Challenge watch was being "worn" by his submarine's robotic arm.
Ex-Formula 1 driver Sir Jackie Stewart has advertised Rolex since 1968. Others who have done so for some years include Arnold Palmer, Roger Penske, Jean Claude Killy, and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa
Tenzing Norgay and other members of the Hillary expedition wore Rolex Oysters in 1953 at altitude 8,848 m on Mount Everest while there are attestations and speculation that Sir Edmund Hillary either carried a Smiths Deluxe or a Rolex to the summit, or both.
Mercedes Gleitze was the first British woman to swim the English Channel on 7 October 1927. However, as John E. Brozek (author of The Rolex Report: An Unauthorized Reference Book for the Rolex Enthusiast) points out in his article "The Vindication Swim, Mercedes Gleitze and Rolex take the plunge", some doubts were cast on her achievement when a hoaxer claimed to have made a faster swim only four days later. Hence Gleitze attempted a repeat swim with extensive publicity on 21 October, dubbed the "Vindication Swim". For promotional purposes, Hans Wilsdorf offered her one of the earliest Rolex Oysters if she would wear it during the attempt. After more than 10 hours, in water that was much colder than during her first swim, she was pulled from the sea semi-conscious seven miles short of her goal. Although she did not complete the second crossing, a journalist for The Times wrote "Having regard to the general conditions, the endurance of Miss Gleitze surprised the doctors, journalists and experts who were present, for it seemed unlikely that she would be able to withstand the cold for so long. It was a good performance". As she sat in the boat, the same journalist made a discovery and reported it as follows: "Hanging round her neck by a ribbon on this swim, Miss Gleitze carried a small gold watch, which was found this evening to have kept good time throughout". When examined closely, the watch was found to be dry inside and in perfect condition. One month later, on 24 November 1927, Wilsdorf launched the Rolex Oyster watch in the United Kingdom with a full front page Rolex advert in the Daily Mail. The Vienna Herald described the 1969 Apollo moon landing as: 'an event almost as significant as the time a woman swam most of the English Channel with a waterproof watch on.'
Watches for POWs and help in the Great Escape
By the start of World War II Royal Air Force pilots were buying Rolex watches to replace their inferior standard-issue watches. However, when captured and sent to POW camps, their watches were confiscated. When Hans Wilsdorf heard of this, he offered to replace all watches that had been confiscated and not require payment until the end of the war, if the officers would write to Rolex and explain the circumstances of their loss and where they were being held. Wilsdorf was in personal charge of the scheme. As a result of this, an estimated 3,000 Rolex watches were ordered by British officers in the Oflag (prison camp for officers) VII B POW camp in Bavaria alone. This had the effect of raising the morale among the allied POWs because it indicated that Wilsdorf did not believe that the Axis powers would win the war. American servicemen heard about this when stationed in Europe during WWII and this helped open up the American market to Rolex after the war.
On 10 March 1943, while still a prisoner of war, Corporal Clive James Nutting, one of the organizers of the Great Escape, ordered a stainless steel Rolex Oyster 3525 Chronograph (valued at a current equivalent of £1,200) by mail directly from Hans Wilsdorf in Geneva, intending to pay for it with money he saved working as a shoemaker at the camp. The watch (Rolex watch no. 185983) was delivered to Stalag Luft III on 10 July that year along with a note from Wilsdorf apologising for any delay in processing the order and explaining that an English gentleman such as Corporal Nutting "should not even think" about paying for the watch before the end of the war. Wilsdorf is reported to have been impressed with Nutting because, although not an officer, he had ordered the expensive Rolex 3525 Oyster chronograph while most other prisoners ordered the much cheaper Rolex Speed King model which was popular because of its small size. The watch is believed to have been ordered specifically to be used in the Great Escape when, as a chronograph, it could have been used to time patrols of prison guards or time the 76 ill-fated escapees through tunnel 'Harry' on 24 March 1944. Eventually, after the war, Nutting was sent an invoice of only £15 for the watch, because of currency export controls in England at the time. The watch and associated correspondence between Wilsdorf and Nutting were sold at auction for £66,000 in May 2007, while at an earlier auction in September 2006 the same watch fetched A$54,000. Nutting served as a consultant for both the 1950 film The Wooden Horse and the 1963 film The Great Escape. Both films were based on actual escapes which took place at Stalag Luft III. It was also reported that in November 2013 the Rolex Speed King owned by Flight Lieutenant Gerald Imeson during the Great Escape was sold for £60,000.
See also: Albert Johnson Walker
In a famous murder case, the Rolex on Ronald Platt's wrist eventually led to the arrest of his murderer, Albert Johnson Walker—a financial planner who had fled from Canada when he was charged with 18 counts of fraud, theft, and money laundering. When the body was found in the English Channel in 1996 by a fisherman named John Coprik, a Rolex wristwatch was the only identifiable object on the body. Since the Rolex movement had a serial number and was engraved with special markings every time it was serviced, British police traced the service records from Rolex and identified the owner of the watch as Ronald Platt. In addition, British police were able to determine the date of death by examining the date on the watch calendar. Since the Rolex movement was fully waterproof and had a reserve of two to three days of operation when inactive, they were able to determine the time of death within a small margin of error.
Counterfeit Rolex watches displayed at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center in Arlington, Virginia, USA (2008)
Rolex watches are frequently counterfeited, and these are often illegally sold on the street and online. Counterfeit Rolex watches vary in quality: some use the cheapest of movements, while others use automatic movements, and some use an ETA movement. However, the majority of these counterfeit watches are easily identifiable by jewellers and other experts. O. J. Simpson wore a counterfeit Rolex during his 1994 murder trial.
Hans Wilsdorf Foundation
Rolex SA is owned by the private Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, which is registered as a charity and does not pay corporate income taxes. In 2011, a spokesman for Rolex declined to provide evidence regarding the amount of charitable donations made by the Wilsdorf Foundation. In Geneva, where it is based, it has gifted, among many things, two housing buildings to social institutions of Geneva.
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In 1881 Kintaro Hattori founded a trading company for Swiss watches in Tokyo. In 1892 he founded the company Seikosha Co., where initially only wall clocks were produced, before from 1895 also pocket watches and from 1899 watches with alarm function were made. From 1913 there was also a manufacturing of wristwatches.
The brand name "Seiko" (Japanese: precision) was first used on watch dials in 1924 and is officially used since the founding of the Daini Seikosha Co. in 1937. In 1959 Seiko founded the company Daiwa Kogyo Ltd., which was later renamed to Suwa Seikosha Co. These two companies, Daini Seikosha and Suwa Seikosha, continued to produce Seiko-branded watches in an internally-competitive basis. Eventually, Daini became Seiko Instruments, Inc. (SII) and Suwa became Seiko Epson Corporation.
The company launched the Grand Seiko brand in 1960, with Suwa in charge of production since it specialized in men's watches. Grand Seiko would become a halo brand specializing with understated, elegant, and precise watches, including a "Hi Beat" 36,000 A/h chronometer, Spring Drive, and high-accuracy quartz.
Seiko introduced in 1955 its first automatic wristwatch to the market and began already in 1958 with the development of quartz watches. In 1962 the first quartz clocks were sold, and in 1963 in collaboration with Timex and Elgin a portable quartz chronometer (Seiko 951) was produced . In 1968 Seiko brought a electro mechanical wristwatch to market, and in 1969 came the first commercially available quartz watch with the Calibre 35 (Calibre 3500). From 1972 quartz wristwatches were produced in high volumes.
Also in 1969, Seiko introduced their automatic chronograph calibre 6139, coming at the same time as the famous Zenith El Primero and Chronomatic.
In 1975 Seiko introduces the wolrld's first titanium dive watch (waterproof up to 600 m, Calibre 6159).
In 1977 the brands Pulsar and Alba were launched. In 1980 Seiko bought the Geneva Company Jean Lassalle SA, to establish themselves in the market segment of quartz luxury watches.
At the world's largest jewelery and watch fair, Baselworld, in 1986 the first prototype of the Seiko AGM was presented. It converts the kinetic energy of the arm movement of the wearer into electrical energy to power the quartz movement (kinetic system, also called Autoquartz). In 1988 the launch took place under the new name AGS (Automatic Generator System), which until today was followed by another 20 calibres. In the same year Seiko bought the watch manufacturer Yema.
In 1968 Seiko reaches the highest score ever attained at the Geneva Observatory Competition and receives the award "best mechanical wristwatch chronometer".
In 1987 Seiko is official timekeeper at the IAAF Athletics World Championship in Rome. The same in 1991 at the IAAF Athletics World Championship in Tokyo, 1993 in Stuttgart, 1995 in Gothenburg (Sweden), 1997 in Stuttgart, 1999 in Sevilla, 2001 in Edmonton (Canada), 2003 in Paris, 2005 in Helsinki and 2007 in Osaka. In 1964 is official timekeeper at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and 1992 in Barcelona.
In 2004 Seiko receives the "IEEE Milestone Award" for the development of the first quartz wristwatch of the world, the Seiko Quartz Astron. This watch, which was presented at Christmas 1969, was at that time as expensive as a a middle-class car, and only 100 copies were produced.
Today, the Seiko Watch Corporation belongs to the Seiko Corporation as a subsidiary of the electronics giant Seiko Epson. In addition to the brand Seiko, the brands Pulsar and Lorus (cheap and fashionable quartz watches) as well as the brand Grand Seiko (quality and mostly mechanical watches) belong to the Seiko Watch Corporation.
Some watch movements of the brand Erhard Junghans are also produced by Seiko.
Seiko's current family of movements include the low-end automatic 4R1x and 4R3x (replacing the 7S), midrange 6R, high-end 4S, ultra-thin 68, premium 8L/9S, and column wheelchronographs 6S and 8R.
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Raymond Weil is a Swiss watch manufacturer, one of the few remaining independent brands..
Nabucco Rivoluzione, modern chronograph
© Raymond Weil
FoundationThe watch company Raymond Weil is based in Geneva and is one of the last independent Swiss watch brands that are still owned by the family.
The founder, Raymond Weil, begins watchmaking in 1976 under his own name. 1982 his son-in-law Olivier Bernheim joins the company. He modernizes the company structure and is responsible for the areas of communcation and marketing. 1996 Olivier Bernheim becomes CEO and president. In the meantime his two sons Elie and Pierre also collaborate: the first as Head of Marketing, while the second is involved in the sale.
With an estimated annual production of 330,000 watches and a turnover of well over 200 million francs (as of about 2007) Raymond Weil proves that even independent family companies can be successfully maintained in the watch industry in the difficult segment of the mid to upper price range.
1990, the men's and women's collection "Parsifal" are launched, which contributes to the growing success. 1995, the classic collection "Tango" appears. 2002 appears the collection "Don Giovanni Cosi Grande", 2007 the collection "Nabucco". 2010, 20 years after the launch of the hitherto best known model of the brand, Parsifal, a new edition of the series is presented (see: Parsifal Chronograph 7260).
AddressRaymond Weil S.A.
Avenue Eugène-Lance 36-38
Case postale 1569
The history of watches began in 16th century Europe, where watches evolved from portable springdriven clocks, which first appeared in the 15th century. The watch which developed from the 16th century to the mid 20th century was a mechanical device, powered by winding a mainspring which turned gears and then moved the hands, and kept time with a rotating balance wheel. The invention of the quartz watch in the 1960s, which ran on electricity and kept time with a vibrating quartz crystal, proved a radical departure for the industry. During the 1980s quartz watches took over the market from mechanical watches, an event referred to as the "quartz crisis". Although mechanical watches still sell at the high end of the market, the vast majority of watches now have quartz movements.
One account of the origin of the word "watch" is that it came from the Old English word woecce which meant "watchman", because it was used by town watchmen to keep track of their shifts. Another says that the term came from 17th century sailors, who used the new mechanisms to time the length of their shipboard watches (duty shifts).
The earliest dated (1530) watch known once belonged to Philip Melanchthon and is now in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
The first timepieces to be worn, made in the 16th century beginning in the German cities of Nuremberg and Augsburg, were transitional in size between clocks and watches. Portable timepieces were made possible by the invention of the mainspring in the early 15th century. Nuremberg clockmaker Peter Henlein (or Henle or Hele) (1485-1542) is often credited as the inventor of the watch. He was one of the first German craftsman who made "clock-watches" (taschenuhr), ornamental timepieces worn as pendants, which were the first timepieces to be worn on the body. His fame is based on a passage by Johann Cochläus in 1511,
Peter Hele, still a young man, fashions works which even the most learned mathematicians admire. He shapes many-wheeled clocks out of small bits of iron, which run and chime the hours without weights for forty hours, whether carried at the breast or in a handbag
However, other German clockmakers were creating miniature timepieces during this period, and there is no evidence Henlein was the first.
These 'clock-watches' were fastened to clothing or worn on a chain around the neck. They were heavy drum-shaped cylindrical brass boxes several inches in diameter, engraved and ornamented. They had only an hour hand. The face was not covered with glass, but usually had a hinged brass cover, often decoratively pierced with grillwork so the time could be read without opening. The movement was made of iron or steel and held together with tapered pins and wedges, until screws began to be used after 1550. Many of the movements included striking or alarm mechanisms. They usually had to be wound twice a day. The shape later evolved into a rounded form; these were later called Nuremberg eggs. Still later in the century there was a trend for unusually-shaped watches, and clock-watches shaped like books, animals, fruit, stars, flowers, insects, crosses, and even skulls (Death's head watches) were made.
These early clock-watches were not worn to tell the time. The accuracy of their verge and foliot movements was so poor, with errors of perhaps several hours per day, that they were practically useless. They were made as jewelry and novelties for the nobility, valued for their fine ornamentation, unusual shape, or intriguing mechanism, and accurate timekeeping was of very minor importance.
Styles changed in the 17th century and men began to wear watches in pockets instead of as pendants (the woman's watch remained a pendant into the 20th century). This is said to have occurred in 1675 when Charles II of England introduced waistcoats. This was not just a matter of fashion or prejudice; watches of the time were notoriously prone to fouling from exposure to the elements, and could only reliably be kept safe from harm if carried securely in the pocket. To fit in pockets, their shape evolved into the typical pocketwatch shape, rounded and flattened with no sharp edges. Glass was used to cover the face beginning around 1610. Watch fobs began to be used, the name originating from the German word fuppe, a small pocket. Later in the 1800s Prince Albert, the consort to Queen Victoria, introduced the 'Albert chain' accessory, designed to secure the pocket watch to the man's outergarment by way of a clip. The watch was wound and also set by opening the back and fitting a key to a square arbor, and turning it.
The timekeeping mechanism in these early pocketwatches was the same one used in clocks, invented in the 13th century; the verge escapement which drove a foliot, a dumbbell shaped bar with weights on the ends, to oscillate back and forth. However, the mainspring introduced a source of error not present in weight-powered clocks. The force provided by a spring is not constant, but decreases as the spring unwinds. The rate of all timekeeping mechanisms is affected by changes in their drive force, but the primitive verge and foliot mechanism was especially sensitive to these changes, so early watches slowed down during their running period as the mainspring ran down. This problem, called lack of isochronism, plagued mechanical watches throughout their history.
Efforts to improve the accuracy of watches prior to 1657 focused on evening out the steep torque curve of the mainspring. Two devices to do this had appeared in the first clock-watches: the stackfreed and the fusee. The stackfreed, a spring-loaded cam on the mainspring shaft, added a lot of friction and was abandoned after about a century. The fusee was a much more lasting idea. A curving conical pulley with a chain wrapped around it attached to the mainspring barrel, it changed the leverage as the spring unwound, equalizing the drive force. Fusees became standard in all watches, and were used until the early 19th century. The foliot was also gradually replaced with the balance wheel, which had a higher moment of inertia for its size, allowing better timekeeping.
Balance springSee also: Balance spring
Drawing of one of his first balance springs, attached to a balance wheel, by Christiaan Huygens, published in his letter in the Journal des Sçavants of 25 February 1675
A great leap forward in accuracy occurred in 1657 with the addition of the balance spring to the balance wheel, an invention disputed both at the time and ever since between Robert Hooke and Christiaan Huygens. Prior to this, the only force limiting the back and forth motion of the balance wheel under the force of the escapement was the wheel's inertia. This caused the wheel's period to be very sensitive to the force of the mainspring. The balance spring made the balance wheel a harmonic oscillator, with a natural 'beat' resistant to disturbances. This increased watches' accuracy enormously, reducing error from perhaps several hours per day to perhaps 10 minutes per day, resulting in the addition of the minute hand to the face from around 1680 in Britain and 1700 in France. The increased accuracy of the balance wheel focused attention on errors caused by other parts of the movement, igniting a two century wave of watchmaking innovation.
The first thing to be improved was the escapement. The verge escapement was replaced in quality watches by the cylinder escapement, invented by Thomas Tompion in 1695 and further developed by George Graham in the 1720s. In Britain a few quality watches went to the duplex escapement, invented by Jean Baptiste Dutertre in 1724. The advantage of these escapements was that they only gave the balance wheel a short push in the middle of its swing, leaving it 'detached' from the escapement to swing back and forth undisturbed during most of its cycle.
During the same period, improvements in manufacturing such as the tooth-cutting machine devised by Robert Hooke allowed some increase in the volume of watch production, although finishing and assembling was still done by hand until well into the 19th century.
Temperature compensation and chronometers
Diagram of Earnshaw's standard chronometer detent escapement
The Enlightenment view of watches as scientific instruments brought rapid advances to their mechanisms. The development during this period of accurate marine chronometers to determine longitude during sea voyages produced many technological advances that were later used in watches. It was found that a major cause of error in balance wheel timepieces was changes in elasticity of the balance spring with temperature changes. This problem was solved by the bimetallic temperature compensated balance wheel invented in 1765 by Pierre Le Roy and improved by Thomas Earnshaw. This type of balance wheel had two semicircular arms made of a bimetallic construction. If the temperature rose, the arms bent inward slightly, causing the balance wheel to rotate faster back and forth, compensating for the slowing due to the weaker balance spring. This system, which could reduce temperature induced error to a few seconds per day, gradually began to be used in watches over the next hundred years.
A watch from an iIllustration published in Acta Eruditorum, 1737
The going barrel invented in 1760 by Jean-Antoine Lépine provided a more constant drive force over the watch's running period, and its adoption in the 19th century made the fusee obsolete. Complicated pocket chronometers and astronomical watches with many hands and functions were made during this period.
Thomas Mudge, inventor of the lever escapement
The lever escapement, invented by Thomas Mudge in 1759 and improved by Josiah Emery in 1785, gradually came into use from about 1800 onwards, chiefly in Britain; it was also adopted by Abraham-Louis Breguet, but Swiss watchmakers (who by now were the chief suppliers of watches to most of Europe) mostly adhered to the cylinder until the 1860s. By about 1900, however, the lever was used in almost every watch made. In this escapement the escape wheel pushed on a T shaped 'lever', which was unlocked as the balance wheel swung through its centre position and gave the wheel a brief push before releasing it. The advantages of the lever was that it allowed the balance wheel to swing completely free during most of its cycle; due to 'locking' and 'draw' its action was very precise; and it was self-starting, so if the balance wheel was stopped by a jar it would start again.
Jewel bearings, introduced in England in 1702 by the Swiss mathematician Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, also came into use for quality watches during this period. Watches of this period are characterised by their thinness. New innovations, such as the cylinder and lever escapements, allowed watches to become much thinner than they had previously been. This caused a change in style. The thick pocketwatches based on the verge movement went out of fashion and were only worn by the poor, and were derisively referred to as "onions" and "turnips".
A mechanical watch movement
At Vacheron Constantin, Geneva, Georges-Auguste Leschot (1800–1884), pioneered the field of interchangeability in clockmaking by the invention of various machine tools. In 1830 he designed an anchor escapement, which his student, Antoine Léchaud, later mass-produced. He also invented a pantograph, allowing some degree of standardisation and interchangeability of parts on watches fitted with the same calibre.
The British had predominated in watch manufacture for much of the 17th and 18th centuries, but maintained a system of production that was geared towards high quality products for the elite. Although there was an attempt to modernise clock manufacture with mass production techniques and the application of duplicating tools and machinery by the British Watch Company in 1843, it was in the United States that this system took off. Aaron Lufkin Dennison started a factory in 1851 in Massachusetts that used interchangeable parts, and by 1861 was running a successful enterprise incorporated as the Waltham Watch Company.
The railroads' stringent requirements for accurate watches to safely schedule trains drove improvements in accuracy. The engineer Webb C. Ball, established around 1891 the first precision standards and a reliable timepiece inspection system for Railroad chronometers. Temperature-compensated balance wheels began to be widely used in watches during this period, and jewel bearings became almost universal. Techniques for adjusting the balance spring for isochronism and positional errors discovered by Abraham-Louis Breguet, M. Phillips, and L. Lossier were adopted. The first international watch precision contest took place in 1876, during the International Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia (the winning four top watches, which outclassed all competitors, had been randomly selected out of the mass production line), on display was also the first fully automatic screw-making machine. By 1900, with these advances, the accuracy of quality watches, properly adjusted, topped out at a few seconds per day.
The American clock industry, with scores of companies located in Connecticut's Naugatuck Valley, was producing millions of clocks, earning the region the nickname, "Switzerland of America". The Waterbury Clock Company was one of the largest producers for both domestic sales and export, primarily to Europe. Today its successor, Timex Group USA, Inc. is the only remaining watch company in the region.
From about 1860, key winding was replaced by keyless winding, where the watch was wound by turning the crown. The pin pallet escapement, an inexpensive version of the lever escapement invented in 1876 by Georges Frederic Roskopf was used in cheap mass-produced watches, which allowed ordinary workers to own a watch for the first time; other cheap watches used a simplified version of the duplex escapement, developed by Daniel Buck in the 1870s.
During the 20th century, the mechanical design of the watch became standardized, and advances were made in materials, tolerances, and production methods. The bimetallic temperature-compensated balance wheel was made obsolete by the discovery of low-thermal-coefficient alloys invar and elinvar. A balance wheel of invar with a spring of elinvar was almost unaffected by temperature changes, so it replaced the complicated temperature-compensated balance. The discovery in 1903 of a process to produce artificial sapphiremade jewelling cheap. Bridge construction superseded 3/4 plate construction.
Mappin & Webb's wristwatch (1898)
Some people say the world's first wristwatch was created by Abraham-Louis Breguet for Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples, in 1810.
The concept of the wristwatch goes back to the production of the very earliest watches in the 16th century. Elizabeth I of England received a wristwatch from Robert Dudley in 1571, described as an arm watch. From the beginning, wristwatches were almost exclusively worn by women, while men used pocketwatches up until the early 20th century. By the mid nineteenth century, most watchmakers produced a range of wristwatches, often marketed as bracelets, for women.
Wristwatches were first worn by military men towards the end of the nineteenth century, when the importance of synchronizing maneuvers during war without potentially revealing the plan to the enemy through signaling was increasingly recognized. It was clear that using pocket watches while in the heat of battle or while mounted on a horse was impractical, so officers began to strap the watches to their wrist. The Garstin Company of Londonpatented a 'Watch Wristlet' design in 1893, although they were probably producing similar designs from the 1880s. Clearly, a market for men's wristwatches was coming into being at the time. Officers in the British Army began using wristwatches during colonial military campaigns in the 1880s, such as during the Anglo-Burma War of 1885.
During the Boer War, the importance of coordinating troop movements and synchronizing attacks against the highly mobile Boer insurgents was paramount, and the use of wristwatches subsequently became widespread among the officer class. The company Mappin & Webb began production of their successful 'campaign watch' for soldiers during the campaign at the Sudan in 1898 and ramped up production for the Boer War a few years later.Planning map for an Allied creeping barrage at Passchendaele
a tactic that required precise synchronisation between the artillery and infantry
These early models were essentially standard pocketwatches fitted to a leather strap, but by the early 20th century, manufacturers began producing purpose-built wristwatches. The Swiss company, Dimier Frères & Cie patented a wristwatch design with the now standard wire lugs in 1903. In 1904, Alberto Santos-Dumont, an early Brazilian aviator, asked his friend, a French watchmaker called Louis Cartier, to design a watch that could be useful during his flights. Hans Wilsdorf moved to London in 1905 and set up his own business with his brother-in-law Alfred Davis, Wilsdorf & Davis, providing quality timepieces at affordable prices – the company later became Rolex. Wilsdorf was an early convert to the wristwatch, and contracted the Swiss firm Aegler to produce a line of wristwatches. His Rolex wristwatch of 1910 became the first such watch to receive certification as a chronometer in Switzerland and it went on to win an award in 1914 from Kew Observatory in London.
The impact of the First World War dramatically shifted public perceptions on the propriety of the man's wristwatch, and opened up a mass market in the post-war era. The creeping barrage artillery tactic, developed during the War, required precise synchronization between the artillery gunners and the infantry advancing behind the barrage. Service watches produced during the War were specially designed for the rigours of trench warfare, with luminous dials and unbreakable glass. Wristwatches were also found to be needed in the air as much as on the ground: military pilots found them more convenient than pocket watches for the same reasons as Santos-Dumont had. The British War Department began issuing wristwatches to combatants from 1917.
A Cortébert wristwatch (1920s)
The company H. Williamson Ltd., based in Coventry, was one of the first to capitalize on this opportunity. During the company's 1916 AGM it was noted that "...the public is buying the practical things of life. Nobody can truthfully contend that the watch is a luxury. It is said that one soldier in every four wears a wristlet watch, and the other three mean to get one as soon as they can." By the end of the War, almost all enlisted men wore a wristwatch, and after they were demobilized, the fashion soon caught on – the British Horological Journal wrote in 1917 that "...the wristlet watch was little used by the sterner sex before the war, but now is seen on the wrist of nearly every man in uniform and of many men in civilian attire." By 1930, the ratio of wrist- to pocketwatches was 50 to 1. The first successful self-winding system was invented by John Harwood in 1923. In 1961 the first wristwatch travelled to space; it was Russian.
See also: Electric watch
The first generation of electric-powered watches came out during the 1950s. These kept time with a balance wheel powered by a solenoid, or in a few advanced watches that foreshadowed the quartz watch, by a steel tuning fork vibrating at 360 Hz, powered by a solenoid driven by a transistor oscillatorcircuit. The hands were still moved mechanically by a wheel train. In mechanical watches the self winding mechanism, shockproof balance pivots, and break resistant 'white metal' mainsprings became standard. The jewel craze caused 'jewel inflation' and watches with up to 100 jewels were produced.
See also: Quartz crisis
In 1959 Seiko placed an order with Epson (a daughter company of Seiko and the 'brain' behind the quartz revolution) to start developing a quartz wristwatch. The project was codenamed 59A. By the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Seiko had a working prototype of a portable quartz watch which was used as the time measurements throughout the event.
Quartz Movement of the Seiko Astron (1969)
The first quartz watch to enter production was the Seiko 35 SQ Astron, which hit the shelves on 25 December 1969, which was the world's most accurate wristwatch to date. Since the technology having been developed by contributions from Japanese, American and Swiss, nobody could patent the whole movement of the quartz wristwatch, thus allowing other manufacturers to participate in the rapid growth and development of the quartz watch market, This ended — in less than a decade — almost 100 years of dominance by the mechanical wristwatch legacy.
The introduction of the quartz watch in 1969 was a revolutionary improvement in watch technology. In place of a balance wheel which oscillated at 5 beats per second, it used a quartz crystal resonator which vibrated at 8,192 Hz, driven by a battery-powered oscillator circuit. In place of a wheel train to add up the beats into seconds, minutes, and hours, it used digital counters. The higher Q factor of the resonator, along with quartz's low temperature coefficient, resulted in better accuracy than the best mechanical watches, while the elimination of all moving parts made the watch more shock-resistant and eliminated the need for periodic cleaning. The first digital electronic watch with an LED display was developed in 1970 by Pulsar. In 1974 the Omega Marine Chronometer was introduced, the first wrist watch to hold Marine Chronometer certification, and accurate to 12 seconds per year.
A Pulsar LED quartz watch (1976)
Accuracy increased with the frequency of the crystal used, but so did power consumption. So the first generation watches had low frequencies of a few kilohertz, limiting their accuracy. The power saving use of CMOS logic and LCDs in the second generation increased battery life and allowed the crystal frequency to be increased to 32,768 Hz resulting in accuracy of 5–10 seconds per month. By the 1980s, quartz watches had taken over most of the watch market from the mechanical watch industry. This upheaval, which saw the majority of watch manufacturing move to the Far East, is referred to in the industry as the "quartz crisis".
In 2010, Miyota (Citizen Watch) of Japan introduced a newly developed movement that uses a new type of quartz crystal with ultra-high frequency (262.144 kHz) which is claimed to be accurate to +/- 10 seconds a year, and has a smooth sweeping second hand rather than one that jumps.
In 1990, Junghans offered the first radio-controlled wristwatch, the MEGA 1. In this type, the watch's quartz oscillator is set to the correct time daily by coded radio time signals broadcast by government-operated time stations such as JJY, MSF, RBU, DCF77, and WWVB, received by a radio receiver in the watch. This allows the watch to have the same long-term accuracy as the atomic clocks which control the time signals. Recent models are capable of receiving synchronization signals from various time stations worldwide.
In 2013 Bathys Hawaii introduced their Cesium 133 Atomic Watch the first watch to keep time with an internal atomic clock. Unlike the radio watches described above, which achieve atomic clock accuracy with quartz clock circuits which are corrected by radio time signals received from government atomic clocks, this watch contains a tiny cesium atomic clock on a chip. It is reported to keep time to an accuracy of one second in 1000 years.
The watch is based on a chip developed by the breakthrough Chip Scale Atomic Clock (CSAC) program of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which was initiated in 2001, and produced the first prototype atomic clock chip in 2005. Symmetricom began manufacturing the chips in 2011. Like other cesium clocks the watch keeps time with an ultraprecise 9.192631770 GHz microwave signal produced by electron transitions between two hyperfine energy levels in atoms of cesium, which is divided down by digital counters to give a 1 Hz clock signal to drive the hands. On the chip, liquid metal cesium in a tiny capsule is heated to vaporize the cesium. A laser shines a beam of infrared light modulated by a microwave oscillator through the capsule onto a photodetector. When the oscillator is at the precise frequency of the transition, the cesium atoms absorb the light, reducing the output of the photodetector. The output of the photodetector is used as feedback in a phase locked loop circuit to keep the oscillator at the correct frequency. The breakthrough that allowed a rack-sized cesium clock to be shrunk small enough to fit on a chip was a technique called coherent population trapping, which eliminated the need for a bulky microwave cavity.
The watch was designed by John Patterson, head of Bathys, who read about the chip and decided to design a watch around it, financed by a Kickstarter campaign. Due to the large 1½ inch chip the watch is large and rectangular. It must be recharged every 30 hours.
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Swatch began development in the early 1980s, under the leadership of the then ETA SA's CEO, Ernst Thomke with a small team of watch engineers led by Elmar Mock and Jacques Müller.
Conceived as a standard timekeeper in plastic, Franz Sprecher, a marketing consultant hired by Thomke to give the project an outsider's consideration, sought to create a trendy line of watches with a full brand identity and marketing concept.
Swatch was originally intended to re-capture entry level market share lost by Swiss manufacturers during the quartz crisis and the subsequent growth of Japanese companies such as Seiko and Citizen in the 1960s and 1970s, and to re-popularize analog watches at a time when digital watches had achieved wide popularity.
In 1983, the group hired Jacques Irniger - who formerly served as the marketing executive for Colgate, Nestlé- to launch the swatch.
In 1997, the Swatch group opened about 60 stores worldwide.
The first collection of twelve Swatch models was introduced on 1 March 1983 in Zürich, Switzerland. Initially the price ranged from CHF 39.90 to CHF 49.90 but was standardized to CHF 50.00 in autumn of the same year. Sales targets were set to one million timepieces for 1983 and 2.5 million the year after. With an aggressive marketing campaign and relatively low price for a Swiss-made watch, it gained instant popularity in its home market of Switzerland. Compared to conventional watches, a Swatch was 80% cheaper to produce by fully automating assembly and reducing the number of parts from the usual 91 or more to only 51 components.
Lebanese entrepreneur, Nicolas G. Hayek, who, with a group of Swiss investors, took over a majority shareholding of Swatch during 1985 in the newly consolidated group under the name Societe Suisse de Microelectronique et d'Horlogerie, or SMH, became Chairman of the board of directors and CEO in 1986 (who later significantly changed its name to Swatch Group), further masterminded its development to reach its now major worldwide Swiss watch brand status within the lower end of watch prices.
This combination of marketing and manufacturing expertise restored Switzerland as a major player in the world wristwatch market. Synthetic materials were used for the watchcases as well as a new ultra-sonic welding process and assembly technology. The number of components was reduced from 91 or more to 51, with no loss of accuracy.
Product linesSwatch Irony "Charcoal Suit"
Swatch Swiss Autoquarz, 1998
There are families under the Swatch brand:
The Originals are plastic-cased watches. They are available in various sizes, shapes, and designs. The Originals consist of various sub-families as well.
The Irony family contains all the metal-cased watches produced by Swatch. These include both quartz driven and serviceable, automatic mechanical watches. The automatics have a 21J/23J ETA 2842 movement. This movement is exclusive to Swatch and is derived from 2824-2.
Irony Chronograph was introduced in Aug 2013.
The Skin family contains two sub families: Original Skin and Skin Chronograph. The Original Skin was introduced on 6 October 1997 as a thinner version of the original Swatch watch. It is ultra thin, standing at 3.9 mm, hence the name Swatch Skin. The Swatch Skin later went on to enter the Guinness World Book of Records as the world's thinnest plastic watch. The Swatch Chronograph is simply the Swatch Skin with a chronograph function, adding two additional buttons on the side of the watch.
The Bijoux line is the jewelry line that Swatch released in the new millennium. It partnered with Swarovski to encrust the Bijoux line of watches.
Swatch Digital Touch
The Digital Touch line, launched in 2011, derives its name from the touchscreen technology used. In contrast to other Swatch families, a digital LCDshows the time. Various models in different colors of the display are available, which include backlighting for reading in the dark.
Swatch Bellamy and Pay
These Swatch models of wristwatches with a quartz movement are additionally equipped with a near-field communication (NFC) chip to accommodate contactless payment. In November 2015, Swatch and Visa Inc. announced a partnership to enable NFC financial transactions using the Swatch Bellamy wristwatch. As an improved second generation, Swatch introduced model Pay for the Chinese market in July 2017. Unlike the Bellamy, model Pay can be programmed and activated in Swatch shops using a Cloud Computing service operated by several Chinese banks.
Swatch introduced Sistem51 at Baselworld 2013 as "the world's first mechanical movement with entirely automated assembly." The movement uses 51 components anchored to a central screw with automatic winding and a 90-hour power reserve — and is 100% Swiss made on a 65-foot-long automated assembly line in clean-room conditions, without human intervention.
The movement is permanently sealed in its case with structural adhesive securing both the acrylic crystal over the dial and the caseback, making it invulnerable to environmental conditions including moisture, dust or foreign objects — and also making it maintenance free, i.e., impossible to service.
The movement is made from ARCAP, an anti-magnetic alloy of copper, nickel, and zinc — designed to free the movement from adjustment. The escapement has no manual adjustment or regulator; the initial rate is factory laser-set. Swatch reports precision of -5/+5 seconds per day. The design's peripheral bi-directional rotor allows viewing of movement components through the caseback.