Friday, 29 January 2016


Whether you've purchased a brand new watch or inherited a family heirloom, a good watch not only looks and feels satisfying to wear, it can hold its value - or perhaps increase its worth - with age. Like a good wine, look after it and store it well and you can enjoy years of maturing value.

Here Mr. Town Talk and the professional jewellery and antique experts at AC Silver based in Newcastle Upon Tyne, investigate the history of watch manufacture.


Mr. Town Talk: "What do you see as the main differences between antique watches and today’s modern watches?"
AC Silver: "Initially, watches were functional items, allowing an individual to keep track of time whilst on the move. Over time, they have become more advanced i.e. anti-magnetic/automatic/ capable of remaining watertight under a great depth of water.

Latterly, watches have become more of a statement piece: either as a fashion accessory, or an overt display of wealth. Modern technology and newer designs allow watches to be made in all shapes and sizes. No longer do watches just ‘keep the time': today's watches keep ‘perfect/auto-adjusting’ time and also have an array of various functions, from the more common chronographs to Breitling’s Navitimer World, which houses a dual time zone system. Ultra-modern examples such as the Apple Watch, released in April 2015, incorporate state of the art technology enabling use of online applications and synchronization with mobile phones.


1400s -
The mechanical watch, requiring a key to wind it up, appeared in the late 1400s. Timepieces worn on the wrist were very slowly introduced in the mid-1600s and English and Swiss horologists became the main watch movement producers worldwide.

1800s -
The vast majority of watch movements (some of which by this time had interchangeable parts) in the late 1800s to mid-1900s were hand crafted in Switzerland, hence Swiss movements being so prevalent at this time. America however was soon to become a serious competitor and a catalyst in the development of watch technology. Wristwatches only became readily available in the early 1900s - the time when the Greenwich Meridian was recognised as the baseline for worldwide time zones.

1900s -
With the development of steel and modern technology in the early 1900s, watch cases were more easily mass produced and could be made watertight. Mechanism and refined engineering techniques permitted smaller and many more components to be made for a single timepiece.

Sales of wristwatches and pocket watches became comparable by the 1930s. Watch keys were no longer needed to ‘wind up’ the movement, instead an integrated ‘crown’ or winder was incorporated into wristwatch design. With increased sales in wristwatches, mass production and new technologies facilitated the production of self-winding, automatic, battery and quartz operated watches to be manufactured at ‘reasonable’ cost. Potentially, such watches were better at accurate timekeeping than mechanical watches and the use of electricity reduced the number of kinetic mechanical components.

By the mid 1970s digital, light emitting diode (LED) watches were replaced by thinner watches with liquid crystal displays (LCD). Then, by the turn of the 21st century, we saw the introduction of silicon in watch movement production and modern watches may now be considered to be mini computers in their own right."


Mr. Town Talk: "An antique watch is the most wonderful of treasured possessions to own, but what are the challenges of the wearing an antique timepiece in a modern world?"

AC Silver: "Like most antique items, authentic timepieces need to be cared for as the irreplaceable components may become damaged or knocked out of synch. Replaceable parts, or the skill and craftsmanship to fit such parts may be difficult to source.

Depending on the age or type of watch, water resistance may not be guaranteed, never mind true waterproofing! This can be easily forgotten, and a watch worn when in effect, it should be removed."

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Mr Town Talk’s Gleaming Polished World was established in Lancashire, Great Britain in 1895 to supply the finest Polishes, Cleaners and Accessories for Silver, Gold and Precious Metal Jewellery. More recently, Mr Town Talk’s range of unparalleled products has been expanded to include Household Cleaners and Laundry Requisites.

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