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From sundials to wristwatches

From sundials to wristwatches

History of timekeeping

People often complain about the lack of time. Indeed, for many of us having 24 hours in a day is not enough to sleep, eat, work and have a rest. To orient in time, humanity invented the clock, a unique device that went through a lot of transformations from huge stone discs to tiny watches.

PanARMENIAN.Net - Ancient Egypt is believed to be the first civilization to invent the sundial 1500 years B.C. Used to tell time by the shadow the sun made, the sundials were installed outside and were often damaged by wind and rain. To keep them working, special brigades were formed.

In all, archeologists discovered about 13 types of sundials across the globe.

Sand clock has become the next stage of this evolution. Commonly known as an hourglass, it is a calibrated physical timepiece that uses sand falling from an upper container to a lower container to measure a predetermined amount of time. Factors that affect a sand clock include quality and volume of the sand, quality and size of the vessel's material and the tilt of the surface the clock is placed on. Any moisture can cause the sand to clump together, inhibiting its smooth flow and preventing accurate timing. For this reason, sand clocks are sealed after being filled.

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 pocket watches 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 19th 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 first known alarm clock can actually be traced to Ancient Greece (427 B.C.) and was owned by famous philosopher Plato. Unhappy with his students oversleeping, Plato added a tube to the filling vessel in his water clock so it formed a siphon. When the water got high enough to fill the tube and start spilling over, all of it at once was siphoned off into yet another vessel. This last vessel was mostly enclosed, but it had thin openings, making it whistle like a tea kettle when it filled up quickly. Plato’s invention was successful and people who used his alarm clock woke up on time.

After many years of perfecting the art of watch making, inventors from all around the world set their sights on creating new mechanical designs that enabled their clocks to wind by themselves, enabling users to use hand watches without the fear of missing their daily routine of providing power to their time measuring machines. The first efforts in this field came from 1770s, and after that production of automatic watches spread around the world.

A true revolution in automatic watch industry came after World War I when advanced in manufacture finally enabled production of small wrist watches with automatic winding. Because movement of the hands provided much more kinetic power than with pocket watches, engineers finally had the opportunity to more easily transform that power into changing mechanisms. First man who managed to do that was John Harwood, watch repairer from Bolton, England. After he claimed patents English and Swiss for automated wristwatch ion 1923, Hardwood started producing watches in his factory in Switzerland in 1928 giving the European public chance to use watches which had the capacity for 12 hour work after they were fully charged.

Others manufacturers soon embraced designs of John Harwood and started an era of improvement. Famous watch company Rolex added a new system of weights which could move more freely and capture much more energy with every turn (up to 35 hours of work when fully charged). In 1948, Eterna Watch introduced ball bearings to the automatic watch designs, enabling much better control over internal components and ability to preserve structural integrity of the watch even when external forces reached critical levels (for example when the watch was dropped on the ground).

Nowadays, many people just use their mobile phones to know the time, but there are still true lovers of wristwatches. Some wear expensive ones as a sign of wealth, for the others it’s just a habit.

Lusine Mkrtumova / PanARMENIAN.Net
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