Friday, 23 November 2012

I don't wear a watch. I want my arms to weigh the same.

The words of Harry Hill. Anyone else out there not wear a watch? My husband has a bit of a collection, the most precious both in material and sentimental value is a watch left to him by his grandfather. Harvey Lewis was born in the 1890's, he grew up in the East End of London where he trained and qualified as a Ladies Master Taylor. Just before the WW1 he married and moved to North London.  During the war he was a bit of a wheeler dealer then after he established a flourishing tailoring business which he ran from his front room. The success of this lead to him rewarding himself with a Rolex Zebra Striped 9K Gold Prince Brancard wristwatch.
The Rolex Prince Watch
On October 1, 1927, the patent number 120849 was granted for a movement that was to be named Prince. The main advantage of the movement design was that, by placing the winding barrel and the balance at opposite ends of the watch, they could each be much larger. The Rolex Prince watch proved to be one of the most accurate wristwatches made. The accuracy comes from the very high quality balance wheel, which most unusually for a wristwatch used solid gold screws to add extra weight and therefore, momentum. The watch also had a very high quality finish to the whole escapement, even the wheels. All of these efforts went to ensuring the accuracy of the Prince. Rolex Prince with two dials is often referred to as a ‘doctors watch’ or ‘duo-dial’. The strap is a replacement however it still has the original gold plated pin buckle. The watch was given to Max, Harvey's only child, who hardly wore it and kept it in a safe for many years before passing it on to his younger son. Feel tempted to buy one? click here to make an offer.
Harvey also left some labelled coat hangers and wonderful wool fabrics that have since been made into suits.

Watches have become a fashion accessory and for some a status symbol, others - just need to know the time. Which has made me wonder when man first had the need to tell the time, just going to google that question.......It seems that our forebears invented methods to divide the day or the night into different periods in order to regulate work and for ritual/religious festivals. The lengths of the time periods varied greatly from place to place and from one culture to another. An Egyptian sundial from about 1,500 BC is the earliest evidence of the division of the day into equal parts, but a sundial couldn't be used at night so other methods such as water clocks (clepsydra), oil lamps and candle clocks were developed. Click here to read about sundials in detail and make your own - all very mathematical.
In 27 AD Hipparchus of Niceae, working in Alexandria, proposed dividing the day into 24 equinoctial hours. Equinoctial hours, are based on the equal length of day and night at the equinox, split the day into equal periods. However, ordinary people didn't adopt this for well over a thousand years. (The conversion to equinoctial hours in Europe was made when mechanical, weight driven clocks were developed). The division of time was further refined by another Alexandrian based philosopher, Claudius Ptolemeus, who divided the equinoctial hour into 60 minutes, using by the scale of measurement of ancient Babylon.
The first clock escapement mechanism appears to have been invented in 1275 and subsequently watches evolved from these portable spring-driven clocks. More detail to follow in future blogs.
If you get a chance to visit the The science museum you can see a collection of early watches there.

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