4 Fun Facts About Timepieces

General

There’s no right or wrong time to learn new and interesting information. So, read on to discover fun facts about watches.

Inspired by a Movie

In April 1972, the very first electronic digital watch was launched and made available to the market. It was a limited edition item called Pulsar P1 manufactured by Hamilton, a company in Pennsylvania. The concept was said to be inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey, a 1968 futuristic film.

Stanley Kubrick, the director of the movie, personally approached the Hamilton company to make tabletop clocks that could display time in digits. The firm thought about using such a fascinating concept in wristwatches. Fast forward 4 years later, the Pulsar P1 was born.

Pulsar P1 was encased in 18-carat gold housing and strap. It also used a light-emitting diode (LED) display with a synthetic ruby crystal, so the numbers shown were red. The original market price was $2,100. This amount is equivalent to around $12,000 today, factoring the rate of inflation over the last 4 decades.

Quartz: Boon or Bane?

Before the 1970s, all watches were mechanical and functioned through a mainspring: a tiny device that got energy from the wearer’s pulse, random hand movements, or an automatic winding system. Their market prices remained very high because of this complex mechanism. So, many manufacturers thought of a way to make their products more affordable by using quartz crystals.

In one part of the world, it was called the “quartz revolution” since it made timekeeping devices less expensive and accessible even to low-income people. But, it was considered a “quartz crisis” around Europe, particularly in Switzerland. The availability of low-cost alternatives landed a hard blow to the Swiss watch making industry.

There was a silver lining to this “crisis,” though. Swiss manufacturers, like Rolex, Omega, and Patek Philippe, found a new market for the products they sold. These brands became really popular as women’s and men’s luxury watches, which are often worn as a status symbol.

World’s Most Complicated Timepiece

On their 150th founding anniversary in 1989, Patek Philippe created the Calibre 89, which they declared “the most complicated timepiece in the world.” It was a pocket watch that weighed 2.4 pounds, showed 24 hands, and exhibited33 features, including a thermometer, star chart, and leap year indicator. Also, it was encased in an 18-carat gold housing.

More than 5 years of research and 4 years of manufacturing was needed to assemble the 1,700 components of the Calibre 89. Only 4 pieces of this product were made, and it has since become a collector’s item. Each is said to cost about $6 million today.

“Happy Time”

The so-called “happy time” is a traditional marketing technique used by sellers of mechanical timepieces. It refers to setting the time of their products to 10:10 or 1:50. This way, the hands form a wide V-shape, which resembles a smiling face. When you browse through luxury watches in Atlanta, you might find that some shops display their items in this manner.

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