Before Nanotechnology, There Was The Pocket Watch A Dependable Time P

Long before the advent of Nanotechnology, fine craftsman created amazing micro-mechanical machines that were both precise and beautiful. Although it is not clear when the first time piece that could be carried was produced, it is generally thought that the first pocket watch was made during the 16th century. These early devices, although finely crafted, were crude at timekeeping until the mid 19th century. During the late 1870’s it became a truly precision time piece, rivaling most technology of that time, and combed numerous advancements in science of the time. This level of precision was possible with the advent of temperature compensating balances, and fine adjustments enabling the watch to run at a consistent rate of time in several positions. These refinements were primarily due to the need for a precision time keeper that could be stored in a railroad workers pocket, as the train was increasingly relied on for dependable and safe travel. It was during this time that manufacture moved from the cottage craftsman to mass-production in factories. These are the time pieces that can be used, and are the most affordable for the average person today.

Although these watches were mass produced, they still capture the style and pride of the craftsman of earlier years. Open a common 7 jeweled Elgin (or a Waltham, Hamilton, New York Standard, Illinois. . ) pocket watch from the late 1800’s and you will notice attractive plate patterning (called damaskeening), polished screw heads, finely finished wheels (gears), and polished jewel settings. These artistic elements (with the exception of the jewels) are not needed for the watch to function properly, and many would not be noticed by anyone but the watchmaker (watch repair person) when the watch was disassembled for repair.

Why would someone want to own an antique mechanical watch (wind-up watch) today? A battery operated quartz watch can be purchased for under $20.00, keeps excellent time, and is very practical. Well, an antique pocket watch represents an age that seemed to pride themselves in fine craftsmanship. It is truly unique to have in your pocket a tiny mechanical machine that works for years before needing any maintenance, and is independent of an outside power source. Also, the pride in owning and using daily a fine piece of machinery is appealing to many. Some collect a wide array of different time pieces, while others have one pocket watch that is used on a daily basis. Many have a watch that has been handed down through the family, and would like to have their heirloom restored.

Whatever ones preference, owning and using an antique device such as a pocket watch can enrich our understanding of how impressive technology of the past really was. It also sparks interest in furthering our knowledge of history, and can even provide inspiration for the pursuit of self sufficient technology for today.

Joel Trenalone is an architect working at California State University, who also operates a small buisness in repair and sales of antique and vintage mechanical watches. Find more about mechanical watches and services offered at