History of Clockworks

Our clockwork jewelry collections are inextricably linked with the history of mechanical clocks. We work with clock mechanisms beyond repair, giving a second life to broken but beautiful mechanical watch movements dating between 1880 and 1960. Through these designs, we also pay homage to the lost brotherhood of watchmakers with their pride in true and lasting craftsmanship.

Sundials and water clocks are some of the first time-keeping devices known to history. The Greeks added gearing to their water clocks but it was not until the 13th century that mechanical clocks began to surface in Mesopotamia (now South-Eastern Turkey) and western Europe. Sundial compasses, like the one at right were in use into the late 19th century.

For the first several centuries of design, watches were extremely inaccurate; a well-crafted movement could lose as much as 15 minutes per day. After the creation of the pendulum and spring around 1650, hundreds of mechanical designs were introduced. The first mechanical pocket watch iterations of required keys to wind them and set time. 

In 1704, a Swiss mathematician, Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, a friend of Isaac Newton,  invented the jewel bearing, using diamond, sapphire, ruby and garnet. Jeweled mechanisms allowed for better accuracy and smaller designs, no longer reqiring a watch key to wind and set the watch. Precise time pieces, with the loss of only seconds per day, was not achieved until 1760, with the invention of marine chronometers.   The Victorian era was a bridge between old traditions and new technologies. At the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert received the first mechanical keyless wind watches, making pocket watches and watch fobs popular for both men and women until the mid 20th century. Since watch keys were no longer necessary for pocket watches, decorative fobs became popular for women and men in the Victorian and Edwardian era.

Modern precision was attained by the Waltham Watch Company in 1854 by industrializing the manufacturing of movement parts, allowing for interchangeable pieces. The rise of the railroad industry required synchronization of precision watches to avoid calamity. Today, watchmakers repair only the highest quality jeweled pocket watches, leaving a world of memory-filled mechanisms to be treasured again. 

Shop the Compass Rose Design Clockwork Jewelry Collection

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