Timepiece Creation - The Making of Clocks and Watches

by Niclas Marie

A pocket watch from the 18th century

Time is a mysterious force that continually propels us forward. Measured and regulated entirely by our own constructs, it is a constant influence in our universe. Our lives revolve around the simple measurements of an hour, a minute, and a second. It impacts every industry, every activity, and every season. Keeping accurate track of the passage of time is a noble and practical exercise that requires precise calculation and focused, exact attention to detail.

Like most intellectual pursuits, it has its own science and artists. Horology is the study of time and the art of timekeeping, and those who study time and create timepieces are known as horologists. The term "horology" is closely related in definition to chronometry, but horology is more focused on the construction of mechanical watches and the study of time itself. Chronometry is a broader term that also includes the building of electronic clocks and watches.

The history of horology

Horology has a long and rich history. It is hypothesized that the first civilization to attempt time measurement were the Sumerians, but unfortunately, there is little to no record of these early people to go off of and scarce archeological evidence. The first clocks in recorded history are the great obelisks of Egypt. It is thought that their placement was not only ornamental but also functional, assisting people in figuring out the two halves of the day as their tall shadows moved across the areas in which they were built.

Soon after that, sundials, also known as "shadow clocks," were used in ancient Egypt to measure hours. Sundials were divided into ten regular hours and two twilight hours. It is thought that they needed to be turned at midday in order for them to be able to show the afternoon hours. Since clouds happen and the sun was not always available as a result, early horologists sought to create a more reliable method of time measurement.

The more reliable water clocks

Water clocks were the answer to this, and around 325 B.C., early Greeks began using them at first to measure the hours of the night, but it is thought that eventually, they were used in daylight also. They were not totally accurate and worked on the premise of measuring the flow of water out of specific marked containers to mark the passage of time.

The pendulum clock

The first mechanical clocks weren't created until the early 1600s. Galileo was credited with discovering how to create the pendulum clock earlier than that, but the design was not constructed until after his death. The first successful pendulum clock was constructed by Dutch inventor Christian Huygens in 1656. Pendulum clocks have remained prized symbols for meticulousness and high-quality craftsmanship and have experienced a renaissance in recent years.

The workplace of a horologist

Becoming a horologist takes patience, dedication, and quality tools. If you have the ability to design your workspace, try to use a work table that is elevated and sits higher up than most standard work desks. This will reduce wear and tear on your back from having to hunch over while you work. Most horologists use a magnifying device called a loupe, similar to the kind of eyepiece jewelers use. It allows them to see the small, delicate parts of the watch or clock they are working on as well as be precise with the lubrication of the device. Plus, it enables them get a clear visual of the watch as it ticks, which most horologists call "the motion." Keeping the workspace well lit, organized, and clean is essential to ensuring that your clock and watch parts don't become lost, dirty, or broken. As a horologist, the ability to memorize where the parts of the watch go is extremely important. There are a number of distance-learning programs and even college degree programs available to those wanting to learn the more technical aspects of horology and timepiece creation and maintenance.

The art of timepiece creation

Timepiece creation is the beautiful convergence of both science and art. It requires a patient technical mind and a creative flair for design. There is something amazing about creating something that measures the pulse of the universe and can have both a pleasing form and practical function. Horology is a field that is again seeing growth as a profession as handmade timepieces again become popular. There are many horological societies all over the world, which are valuable resources for those looking to step into this illustrious profession.

Check out these additional resources about timepiece creation:


About the author

is the founder and CEO of TimeCenter Online Scheduling and lives in Helsingborg, Sweden. He loves to code beautiful and simple web apps, and occasionally enjoys a game of blitz chess.

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