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THE WATCHISMO TIMES WATCH BLOG A reliquary of obscure timepieces from bygone eras as well as the cutting-edge watch designs of today.

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The Wristwatch - Born on a Woman's Wrist

The Wristwatch - Born on a Woman's WristIt's true, women were the first to adorn their wrists with time. Since the mid-19th century, with sporatic examples dating even further back (here), most ladies wristwatches were incorporated into bracelets, heavily jeweled, stylishly decorative, and quite often concealing their functions. Women were at least five decades if not more than a century ahead of the first mens Cartier Santos, a watch made for a pilot in the early 1900s. Ahead of the first military watches that placed strapped pocket watches onto a soldiers wrist.

This history has been beautifully documented in the extensive interactive exhibit, "Fine Watchmaking - A Tribute to Women", an exhibition from the 2007 SIHH. Examples from the show below and the complete online catalogue here-->LINK

The Wristwatch - Born on a Woman's Wrist1868 - First Patek Philippe wristwatch
Made for Countess Koscowicz of Hungary
The Wristwatch - Born on a Woman's WristOne of the oldest known bracelet-watches.
Movement signed Capt & Freundler à Genève, 1813.
Musée d’Horlogerie du Locle, Switzerland

The Wristwatch - Born on a Woman's Wrist1930s Cadenas Watch witch serpentine chain
Van Cleef & Arpels

The Wristwatch - Born on a Woman's WristAdvertisement for the Marquise watch by Baume & Mercier.
Marquise watch. Early 1950s. Baume & Mercier collection

The Wristwatch - Born on a Woman's WristUnusual watch attached to a ribbon

And from the article, "Women and watches - A long standing love affair"

"The wristwatch conquers new fans

With the sleeveless dresses of the Directoire and Empire styles, the bracelet became a blank canvas on which jewelers could express their creativity. Some were inspired to incorporate a timepiece, proving that women, not men, were the first to wear their watch on their wrist. However, not everyone welcomed this innovation. Certain of its detractors even claimed that such small and doubtless fragile mechanisms would inevitably be damaged by the movements of the wrist.

This by no means discouraged Omega, which proposed wristwatches for men and women as of 1905. The watch was seen from a new angle, as a fashion accessory. Women were encouraged to own several and adapt them to their outfit and activities. When, in 1914, the women’s magazine Femina ran a poll of its readers, 3,437 of the 4,350 respondents said they preferred the wristwatch. After the First World War, both men and women adopted the wristwatch for its modern, sporting or avant-garde image. All eyes focused on Rolex when in 1927 Mercedes Gleitze swam the Channel with a waterproof Oyster strapped to her wrist. After the Second World War, society discovered mass consumption and an emphasis on well-being as never before. Life was once again a social whirl and luxury reinstated. Piaget was one of the first to create watches in a jewelery spirit, followed by Jaeger-LeCoultre and Chopard."

For the rest of this article-->Link

Via Journal de la Haute Horlogerie
& Origins of the Wristwatch before 1900

Related Posts on The Watchismo Times;
All Ladies Wristwatch Features-->Link
Jewelry Features-->Link



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Tic-Tock-Walk - Antique Walking Stick Watches

Tic-Tock-Walk - Antique Walking Stick WatchesAlways the sucker for cloaked clocks & watches, I recently discovered the genre of antique walking stick timepieces and couldn't resist sharing...

Above, a 1900 lion cane with sliding panels for hidden watch, keyless winding by the revolving bezel.

Tic-Tock-Walk - Antique Walking Stick WatchesA fascinating 1900 walking stick topper with bezel rotating like the iris of a camera shutter. Twisting of the bezel revealed the concealed watch. The top was also hinged to house a photograph and to access the winding and hand-setting crowns. Sold for nearly $30,000-->Link

Tic-Tock-Walk - Antique Walking Stick Watches1860 Walking Stick with Sundial inside hinged globe. The sphere made from ivory and horn, the equator in tortoise shell.

Tic-Tock-Walk - Antique Walking Stick Watches1890 walking stick with silver cane handle and patented keyless concealed watch by Albert Bertholet and Louis Burry-Haldi, Bienne.

Tic-Tock-Walk - Antique Walking Stick Watches1815 Snake Stick by Ch(ris)t Moricant à Genève. Concealed watch and tobacco compartment.

All via Antiquorum

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The Meandering History of Wandering Hours

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursThe Wandering Hour display (also known as a Floating Hour or Chronoscope) has been around four centuries. In 1656 the Campanus brothers had built a night clock for Pope Alexander XII. In a total innovation, they replaced the then conventional hands with hour figures on rotating discs, which performed a semicircular arc across the clock face. The correct figure appeared at the start of each new hour. It then moved clockwise across the arc of the dial and, depending on its progress, simultaneously marked the quarter or half-hour, which had just passed. Alexander's night pendulum clock was illuminated by an oil lamp so that the pope could see the time in the dark. The concept is that the moving hour display keeps an almost metaphorical count of the passing minutes rising and setting along the hourly arc.

"It is a deceptively simple and elegant system, and it is literally as old as the combination of concentric hours and minutes hands to which we are so accustomed. -- The orbit of the elegantly simple planetary ring, and the epicyclic dance of hour numerals which surrounded it, remained hidden beneath a solid dial." (source)

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursCampani Brothers Tabernacle Night Clock
Late 17th Century --> Link

Below are samples of Wandering Hour watches over the past four centuries. Only during the past few decades have watchmakers realized the full beauty of this display and exposed their dials to reveal the symbolic inner workings as part of the design itself.

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursWatches with wandering hour dials first appeared in the 17th century. In England, they were often commissioned by the King, to be presented to visitors or in recognition of loyalty to the country. The watch above from 1710 is likely the portrait of Frederick I of Prussia (1657-1713) -->Link

One of the earliest watchmakers to adapt this style to a pocket watch was British watchmaker Joseph Windmills. Joseph Antram, watchmaker to the King of England also produced wandering hours like this one-->Link

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursA variation was the 'Sun and Moon' dial. A 1750 Dutch pocket watch by G.Knip (above). Within the inner half ring, a revolving disc is painted with the sun and moon rotating every 24 hours, thereby indicating not only the hour but whether it is day or night. A minute hand was used in the normal circular fashion. -->Link Another model-->Link

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursSideview of the 'Sun Moon' Wandering Hour

The Meandering History of Wandering Hours1820 Chronos Breguet Wandering Hour
Etablissement Mixte series

Typically, four digits appear on three disks, each rotating epicyloidally one quarter while out of view and advancing to the next corresponding hour. The minutes were easily approximated by the hour position within the arc.

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursBreguet Wandering Hour Wristwatch by Gubelin

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursThe Audemars Piguet "Star Wheel" reinvented this system in the early 1990s, creating many variations of wandering hour wristwatches. "Three transparent sapphire disks, or star wheels, are each inscribed with four hour indicators and attached to a rotating center wheel. As the assembly turns, the current hour indicator is rotated into view and then passed across a 120-degree minutes sector. The time is read by noting the visible hour pointing to the current minute." (source) Additional information-->Link

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursStar Wheel Sapphire Disks

Each disk is obscured until it rises into the arc where the background contrasts the digits into legibility.

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursLate 1990s "John Schaeffer Star Wheels"
With Minute Repeater

The Meandering History of Wandering Hours2000 Millenary Star Wheel
125th Anniversary Model

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursVincent Calabrese "Horus"

"The wandering dates conceived by Vincent Calabrese (above & below), The jumping hour hand is displayed in a small window that turns around the dial, showing the minutes passing. There is only one hand on the dial, that of the seconds. The same principle as it applies to the date is a world first." (source)

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursVincent Calabrese "Ottica"

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursAlain Silberstein Wandering Hour "Cyclops"

These orbiting satellite displays have had a few revivals over the past 300 years but only in wristwatches in the past few decades. The brand Urwerk (below) is taking this very old concept to interstellar levels. Their revolutionary wandering hour displays have become three dimensional, the numbers are placed on spinning conical discs or rotating cubes with retractable retrograde pointers.

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursUrwerk's original 101
Inspired by the Campanus Night Clocks
and the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursUrwerk series 102 "Nightwatch"
also known as "Sputnik"

The Meandering History of Wandering Hours
The Urwerk wandering display was just too cool to keep covered.

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursUrwerk 103 series
Their first display with exposed hours

"The innovative rotating satellite complication is the heart and soul of the 103 series of watches. The orbital cross carries the four hour-satellites and an internal Geneva cross governs each of these satellites. Each of the satellite features three hour numbers four hours apart. As a satellite approaches the crown, its Geneva cross engages a pin and rotates the disk 120° for the new hour to take its position." (source)

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursThe Urwerk 201 'Hammerhead'

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursThe Urwerk team evolved their Wandering Hour into cubes and retrograde minutes for the Harry Winston "Opus V."

The Meandering History of Wandering HoursQP Magazine recently featured this public clock in London, The Newgate Clock, possibly the only public wandering hour clock in the world. It was created by horologist Joanna Migdal and inspired by Joseph Windmills original designs. See how it works here-->Link

"The innovation lies not only in the display which evokes the natural course of the sun on the horizon, but also on the original satellite mechanism whose future applications are yet to be discovered." (source)

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Victorian 1886 Spy Camera Pocket Watch

Victorian 1886 Spy Camera Pocket Watch
An update to my original vintage subminiature spy watch-cameras post (link) the other week with this remarkable find (Thanks to Alex at QP). This 1886 Victorian Lancaster Pocket Watch Camera predates what I thought to be the first camera watch in 1907. It just sold at a Bonhams auction for £18,000

From Bonhams;

The Lancaster Ladies Watch Camera was brought into Bonhams by a gentleman whose grandfather had owned it originally. He was a cabinetmaker at the Birmingham-based firm J. Lancaster & Son, probably working on the many wooden cameras sold by the company. The vendor, consigning several watches to one of Bonhams’ sales, noticed that among his collection was what looked like an ordinary nickel-plated pocket watch case when closed – but when he opened it he discovered that it actually contained a tiny camera inside.

Lionel Hughes, Bonhams’ Camera Specialist, was delighted to come across the piece:
“This is a truly exceptional piece, and the price achieved at Bonhams today reflects this,” he explained. “The Lancaster Watch Camera was patented in October 1886 and made until 1890. Such tiny cameras were the forerunners for the ‘spy’ camera – a mechanism disguised as a different object. However, it would have been very inconvenient to use as four very small catches had to be released in order to remove the glass screen and to fit a separate metal sensitised material holder for each exposure. As a result, the model sadly sold badly and is much rarer than the improved version which came on the market in 1890. The ladies’ pattern is therefore particularly special, and only four original models are known to exist."


Victorian 1886 Spy Camera Pocket Watch
Victorian 1886 Spy Camera Pocket Watch
Victorian 1886 Spy Camera Pocket Watch
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Click to see one of my favorite new watches under $200

Victorian 1886 Spy Camera Pocket Watch


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Big Ben On Your Wrist

Big Ben On Your Wrist
"Dent London has not, it is fair to say, been quite the leading force in recent years that it was in its heyday. That, however, is about to be changed with the launch of a new collection of men’s watches – its first for 40 years (Parliament pictured above). With a history that is matched by only the highest ranked companies, the interest in the Dent name has already gone beyond expectations. Shown here is a sample from the first collection, which is to be launched imminently. If you find its design naggingly familiar, you won’t be alone: it is in fact that of ‘Big Ben’, or rather the Houses of Parliament Great Clock, whose prestigious construction contract was awarded to Edward J Dent in 1852. Appropriately, the brand’s 21st-century incarnation has already secured the contract to make the largest public clock currently under construction in Europe, for the new Eurostar terminal at St Pancras station, London."


Via QP Magazine
Dent Watches-->Link

Big Ben On Your WristBig Bad Ben


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Concept Turned Reality - Vulcania by HD3 Complication

Concept Turned Reality - Vulcania by HD3 Complication
A former concept watch called the Vulcania has become flesh and bone. Designed by Fabrice Gonet for the three year old brand HD3 Complication. A trio-collective started by Jorg Hysek where he, Gonet and Valerie Ursenbacher design watches from their wildest imaginations.

The Vulcania name derives from the Jules Verne Steampunk hero, Captain Nemo and the island which was his home port. Like many of his contemporaries, Gonet has deconstructed the watch with its functions in a deeply set three-dimensional display, separating each gauge as a tribute to vintage naval technology both fictional (Nautilus) and fact (Turn-of-the-century mechanical submarines). The hours are determined from the rotating wheel cylinders on the left, the minutes on a disc like a ship's Chadburn Telegraph, a sextant style power reserve indicator, porthole loupe date window, and highlighted by the tilted bi-axial tourbillon. All the watch functions can be seen through its front and rear sapphire glass panels, side-viewing porthole, and the back plate has an etched map with its coordinates engraved on it. The case is titanium and platinum.

I've been pacing like an expecting father for this baby to come out! So pass out the cigars to the lucky few - and by few, I mean only 11 Vulcania will be made. The coming out party will be in Geneva Switzerland at the SIHH (Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie) in April. The price? If you have to ask...

Down Periscope!

HD3 Complication --> Link

Concept Turned Reality - Vulcania by HD3 Complication
Concept Turned Reality - Vulcania by HD3 ComplicationClose-up of rear plate with map/coordinate engraving

Concept Turned Reality - Vulcania by HD3 Complication
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Watch built from Bone! Wood you believe?

Watch built from Bone! Wood you believe?Ok, 40,000 unique visitors to The Watchismo Times in two days caught my attention - Due in part to the all-wood pocket watch story picked up by Digg and BoingBoing. Well, if you really want to know more, I got the lowdown on who made these amazing handbuilt & handcarved mechanical watches made entirely of wood, ivory or bone (except for mainspring, balance spring and pivots). A horological dynasty is responsible, the Bronnikov family from Vjatka, Russia. The earliest model appearing in 1837 and rumored to have been purchased by the future Czar, Alexander II. A tradition carried out through the 1800s into the early 20th century by Semyon's sons Mikhail and Nicolai - Producing only one watch per month with approximately 500 ever made, and of those only about 250 have survived today. More about the history below the photos...

Pictured above, the 1865 'Bone Watch'.
Double-body, hinged back cover, polished, bezels with turned ribs at the edges, a small circle in the center. Chain: single and double links, carved from bone, 8 mm ring-links. D. Bone with Arabic numerals on circular cartouches, subsidiary seconds. Bone hands. Made entirely made of bone with pinned bone bridges, excluding the main-spring, balance-spring and pivots, with going barrel, cylinder escapement with bone staff, plain bone three-arm balance, bone index regulator. Back cover signed in Cyrillic. Diam. 50 mm. Selling at auction in 2005 for over $25,000 USD. Close-up photo-->Link

Watch built from Bone! Wood you believe?1865 'Birch Watch' Wood case, movement, bone hands, numbers and handcarved wood chain.
Close-up photo-->Link


Bronnikov's inventive design features a movement which is an integral part of the case, the dial which serves as the pillar plate and the bridges and cock supported by brackets milled in the back part of the band. The same idea was later employed by the celebrated Albert Potter. Bronnikov, A family living in Vjatka, Russia, which specialized in the making of all-wood, and all-ivory watches. The first recorded member of the family was Ivan Bronnikov (c. 1770 - 1860), a skillful joiner and turner. Upon the occasion of an exhibition in 1837, the Vjatka Industrial Town Council asked Ivan to exhibit some objects of his making. He refused, saying he was too old, but that his son, Semyon Ivanovitch (1800 - 1875) would contribute "some small thing". This turned out to be a pocket watch entirely carved out of wood which greatly impressed everyone. It is said that the future Czar Alexander II, then visiting Vjatka, purchased the watch. Encouraged by this success, Semyon continued the manufacture of wood and ivory watches. Semyon had seven sons. Of them, Mikhail Semyonovitch and Nicolai Semyonovitch continued his work, as did Mikhail's son Nicolai Mikhailovitch, who was the last watchmaker in the family.

Vjatka is an important metallurgical center, which suggests that it was not for the lack of metal in the area that the Bronnikovs made wooden watches. Indeed, it would appear that their predilection for wood and ivory and bone was the result of a specific and deliberate choice. As opposed to metal, wood is not subject to the thermal variations created by very warm and extremely cold temperatures. All-wood watches were more expensive than god ones, selling for approximately 120 rubles whereas a gold watch cost from 90 to 100 rubles. The clockwork parts were made of various woods, including walnut, honeysuckle, boxwood, and hardened bamboo ; the cases from birchwood, or boxwood, and the dials were often decorated with ivory or mother-of-pearl. Bronnikov watches feature an unusual type of construction: rather than having the wheels installed between two plates as is usually the case, the dial also serves as the pillar plate, as well as being an integral part of the case. These watches were not intended for everyday use but rather as expensive and rare souvenirs. This was not the first use of wood as applied to watch mechanisms, however: the Russian mechanician Kulibin used wood for some parts of his clocks and "pendulum watches". Skorodumov, a peasant of the Burga village in the Novgorod region, also used wood as the main material for his watches.

As to the number of Bronnikov watches produced, it seems likely that the three watchmaking generations of the Bronnikov family may have made some 500 watches; the production of a greater number would have required an existing watchmaking industry in the town, which seems not to have been the case. The number of surviving Bronnikov watches has been estimated at approximately 250. Although many - but not all - Bronnikov watches are signed, they do not always carry the initials of the maker, making it sometimes difficult to determine which Bronnikov made the watch. The signature is carved on the inside of the back cover.

History and photos by Antiquorum


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The Wristwatch - Born on a Woman's WristTic-Tock-Walk - Antique Walking Stick WatchesThe Meandering History of Wandering HoursVictorian 1886 Spy Camera Pocket WatchBig Ben On Your WristConcept Turned Reality - Vulcania by HD3 ComplicationWatch built from Bone! Wood you believe?

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