The world of watches has been ever-changing throughout history. From early timekeepers that people wore around their neck to modern smartwatches that have come to dominate the watch industry today, below is a short guide to some of the developments that have shaped our modern watch industry.


1. Religious Upheavals of the 16th century

Loyal readers will remember our history of Swiss watchmaking post that was written a few weeks ago. That post is accessible here. The 16th century witnessed great upheavals in central Europe. Caused by religious differences witnessed during the 1500s, many refugees fled their native homelands for friendlier and less war-torn areas. This dynamic was a direct driver of the development of the Swiss watch industry. The refugees from around central Europe migrated to Switzerland, especially Geneva, and brought with them their vast industry knowledge, including their watchmaking expertise. Eventually, this developed into the most important and influential watchmaking region in history.


2. The influence of quartz crystals


Another major shake-up of the watch industry saw the creation of quartz crystals in watches. This is another topic that was previously covered and can be further read about here. The first quartz oscillators were developed in the early 1920s and the first commercially available quartz watches were introduced in 1969. Quartz watches have come to dominate the market ever since their inception, seeing especially increased growth in the late 20th century.

Quartz watches became dominant due to their ease of use, accuracy, and accessibility. These watches can be seen as the watches of the people due to their mass availability compared to the harder to produce mechanical watches. Quartz watches also do not need to be wound, relying instead on battery power. They are also more accurate. Unlike mechanical watches, quartz watches do not lose much time over a long time span.


3. The influence of digital

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The first digital wristwatches were created in the 1970s. These watches are important due to the ease of use they allow for everyone. You no longer needed to know how to read a clock to understand what time it is. These watches also opened up the opportunity for watchmakers to be creative. Due to their electronic watch faces, digital watches can be designed to present anything to the user by the watchmaker.


4. The new kid in town, the smart watch

These watches originally developed out of the digital watch craze. Early smartwatches were digital watch hybrids that had small computer capability. They were bulky and large. Then the watches slowly morphed into the major fashion piece that we see today. By the early 2000s, the technology had evolved to look like something that resembles what has come to dominate the present market. I probably do not need to tell you the importance and uses for smartwatches, but some highlights of modern smartwatches include, navigation, calling, multiple watch face options, texting, and even some games.

We have come a far way from the refugees that molded the Swiss watchmaking industry. If you would like to build your own mechanical watch, visit our shop here.