Antique Wristwatches

Antique Wristwatches

In the field of watchmaking, antique wristwatches combine the typical functionality of watchmaking mechanisms with the aesthetics of jewelry. With sober or subtly baroque designs; made of luxury materials or simple metals; with a dial to tell the time or with all kinds of complications (moon phases, chronometers...), they constitute magnificent...

In the field of watchmaking, antique wristwatches combine the typical functionality of watchmaking mechanisms with the aesthetics of jewelry. With sober or subtly baroque designs; made of luxury materials or simple metals; with a dial to tell the time or with all kinds of complications (moon phases, chronometers...), they constitute magnificent complements destined to shine on the wrists of men and women. Wristwatches are a relatively recent invention, which in its day replaced the ubiquitous pocket watches. Today they continue to evolve and there are even space watches that operate at 0 gravity or models for divers that operate at depths of more than 100 meters.


Brief history of wristwatches
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The first portable watches date from the fifteenth century and were models attached to chains, intended to be carried in the pocket clipped to clothing. They had cylindrical or ovoid shapes and were only available to the wealthier classes. The first known wristwatch was built by the famous French watchmaker Abraham Louis Breguet in 1812 as a gift for Caroline, Queen of Naples and sister of Napoleon Bonaparte. However, it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that wristwatches began to become popular. During World War I, airline pilots needed a practical, small watch that could be worn for quick checks. The famous aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont asked his friend Louis Cartier to build him such a watch to wear on his wrist. Thus was born the famous Cartier-Santos watch, one of the first men's wristwatch models to appear on the market.


From this contest, wristwatches definitively ousted the pocket watches and began to be manufactured in all kinds of designs, materials and prices. The first automatic model that combined the winding mechanism with an inertia pendulum appeared in 1923, invented by John Harwood. Subsequently, the Rolex firm designed an automatic watch with a unilateral winding rotor that would later be imitated in all automatic watches, including those of today. In 1967 the first electronic watch with quartz engine was presented in Switzerland, pioneer of all the models that would come later and that today dominate the market for these items.


Vintage wristwatches: reference brands.


Vintage wristwatches were manufactured by all kinds of companies, from the most humble to the big firms. Nowadays, the most valued luxury wristwatches are signed by brands such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Tag Heuer, Audemars Piguet, Chopard, Piaget.... On the other hand, some of the most important Swiss firms that contributed the most evolution to wristwatches (such as Omega or Longines, among others) continue to launch new models and take on new challenges in the 21st century.


Types of antique wristwatches


Vintage wristwatches can be classified according to styles, brands, materials, designs.... But perhaps the most accurate and practical classification is according to their operation. Depending on the type of mechanism, we can group them into two types:


Manual wristwatches
. They are the pioneer designs, very popular until the 50s of the twentieth century. They have a side crown that allows winding the engine. Turning it tightens an internal spring that operates the gears, allowing the movement of the hands regulated by an escapement mechanism.


Automatic wristwatches
. The automatic mechanism was invented in the early 1920s, but did not become popular until decades later. In addition to the manual winding system, they incorporate an autonomous mechanism with a pendulum that is set in motion by the movement of the arm. This allows the watch to run much longer (as long as it is in use). When the watch is not in use, it must be wound manually to start it.


Collecting antique or luxury wristwatches is something that fills their owners with satisfaction. From the magnificent designs of the big brands to the functional and practical antique models, these objects are a milestone in the history of industrial design.

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