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The only constant is time. The passage of time represents change. The hourglass, one of the earliest timekeeping devices, symbolizes time itself. The sand running through its glass bulbs is a stark reminder of life’s transience. Many people are fascinated by it. Let’s find out more about horology and its history.
The history of Horology
From primitive sundials to cutting-edge satellite technology used in smartphones to tell the time, the human race has become steadily more adept at timekeeping over the centuries.
Horology, or the study of time measurement, dates back to 1450 BC when the Ancient Egyptians observed the earth’s natural circadian rhythms for the first time. They divided the day into two 12-hour periods and tracked the sun’s movement with giant obelisks.
Water clocks, also invented by the Egyptians, were first used in the Precinct of Amun-Re and by the ancient Greeks, who called them clepsydrae.
Other ancient timekeeping devices include the candle clock, widely used in ancient China, Japan, England, and Mesopotamia; the time stick, commonly used in India and Tibet; and the hourglass, which served a similar function to the water clock. Another early clock that uses shadows to estimate the hour on a sunny day is the sundial.
Mayan civilizations in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula used massive stone structures and pyramids, such as the renowned Chichen Itza, to plot the equinox and solstice. On the spring and autumn equinoxes, thousands of people gather to watch a snake descend Chichen Itza, built to serve as a calendar.
Time has long been a source of inspiration for writers, philosophers, and artists. The concept of time has always penetrated the human imagination, from the ancient phrase, ‘Time and tide wait for no man,’ to Macbeth’s note in Shakespeare’s celebrated play, ‘Let every man be master of his time.’
It is not surprising that watchmaking and horology have evolved into art forms in their own right. Horologists must keep up with those interested in timekeeping as they seek ever-more elegant ways to pursue their passion.
Grandfather clocks, like luxury Swiss-made timepieces, are status symbols. Their craftsmanship and attention to detail make them highly sought-after collectibles. However, antique clocks now find rivals with modern clocks.
The twenty-first century pushes horological boundaries to a certain extent. It pays to be unique in today’s watchmaking world. Designs are becoming more diverse and complex to stand out from the crowd.
Different types of watches
To most people, a timepiece is just a simple tool for telling time. On the other hand, a high-precision mechanical watch goes far beyond that. Mechanical watches represent one’s indulgences, personality, passions, and, of course, fashion statements.
Modern watchmaking has evolved over the last century to cater to a wide range of watchmaking enthusiasts, intending to meet their lifestyles, needs, and design preferences. Here are some of the most popular types of watches.
Before the quartz revolution of the 1970s, watches were entirely mechanical. It meant that instead of being powered by a battery, as in a quartz watch, they would be powered by the energy generated by assembling many tiny parts inside the watch. It was essentially energy stored in the mainspring of the caliber.
The mainspring would slowly unwind and transfer the energy required for the watch to function, and it would need to wound at regular intervals. The automatic watch is a subset of this type; the only difference is that it does not need to perforate manually, and the wearer’s natural movement supplies the energy. It is significantly more expensive than quartz due to the assembly process.
Skeleton watches are perhaps the most easily identified. The sole intention of their creation is to admire the intricacy and workings of a delicately constructed timepiece. When one removes the classic dial, only the skeleton of the timepiece’s movement and complications remain for admiration. Skeleton watches appeal to a subset of watch enthusiasts who appreciate the intricacy of watchmaking and are unafraid to flaunt it. In the mid-twentieth century, brands such as Breguet and Chopard popularised this genre.
GMT & Multiple timezone watches
These watches primarily focus on different time zones, making them ideal for frequent travelers. The original GMT Master was created in the 1950s for British pilots to remind them of home time while on intercontinental flights.
GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time, and the extra hand is the key feature that distinguishes this type of watch. In addition to the hour, minute, and second hands, the GMT watch has a fourth hand that rotates around the face every 24 hours, independently of the others. GMT watches also have a rotating bezel that one can use to set to different timezones.
Multiple timezone watches are more complex, but they benefit those who frequently operate in multiple time zones from a single location. For example, international business executives, who communicate with offices worldwide, may find this helpful.
It usually has a rotating inner bezel with a 24-hour display and another feature that lists the major cities each timezone. While the wearer sets the outer feature, the inner bezel, powered by movement, rotates once every 24 hours.
- You can define horology as the art of making clocks or watches. Horology encompasses clocks and watches to sundials, hourglasses, timers, chronometers, and clepsydras.
- One can trace the origins of horology back to 1450BC, during the reign of one of the world’s most influential civilizations.
- Today, many of the most prominent brands compete with increasingly ambitious complications, such as date windows, triple and perpetual calendars, built-in chronographs, and day-date complications.
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Q1. How long does it take to become a horologist?
Answer- The Certified Watchmaking Course takes two years to complete, and there is also a four-month Encasing Technician Course.
Q2. Is horology a promising career?
Answer- Although watchmaking may appear to be a lost art, horology is still a viable career option in this day and age. A horologist creates, constructs, and repairs a watch. To become a horologist, you must have patience and dedication and complete watchmaking school or an apprenticeship.
Q3. What is a high-horology brand?
Answer- High-horology is a fancy term that people outside the watch industry find perplexing, but it refers to fine or high-quality watchmaking. Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Blancpain, and Audemars Piguet are some of the high-horology brands.