Back in the days of yore, early man didn't have much use for a watch. His internal clock was enough: when the sun rose, it was time to wake up; when it set, it was time for bed. Life was simple and so were the demands of the day: no appointment was necessary to meet the boys in the forest to hunt down dinner for the tribe, while the women didn't have to stress about keeping junior amused on an hourly basis because play dates and extra-curricular activities hadn't yet been invented.
From the first sundial in Egypt in 5000BC to water clocks, candle clocks (probably not the safest of ways to tell the time) and incense clocks, man figured out early on just how important it was to keep a handle on time, even if it was by shadows created by the movement of the sun. Watchmakers took their time in coming up with the first wristwatch, and even then it was more a showpiece than a serious timekeeper. The legendary Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe lays claim to the world's first wristwatch, launching it in the form of a ladies' "bracelet" in 1868.
Men's wristwatches didn't really fly until the early 1900s, when air force pilots and soldiers realised that telling the time from their wrist was a whole lot easier - and safer - than pulling out a pocket watch in the middle of battle. Since then, horologists have outdone themselves in coming up with incredible complications and designs. We take a look at some of the more notable ones.
The watch From the company that gave the world a watch containing a piece of the Moon comes the Jurassic Tourbillon. Set in 18-carat white gold, the timepiece features 56 baguette diamonds and a stamp of authentication by a geologist. Bells and whistles The dial features a fossilised dinosaur bone believed to be 150 million years old. The company says it hails from the Diplodocus, a large herbivorous dinosaur largely found in western North America that measured up to 50 metres long and weighed about 50 tonnes.
The person Fred Flintstone types need not apply. With just 12 of these watches made, this is for serious time travellers looking to own a rare piece of history, not to mention the bragging rights.
The watch From the Swiss watchmaker credited with inventing the tourbillon (the part of the mechanism that counters the effect of gravity), this 18-carat gold timepiece could be described as a work of art. Bells and whistles One of the most expensive pocket watches in the world, the classic design features a grande sonniere, or grand strike; fancy-speak for a watch that is capable of striking the hour and quarter hour automatically with a repeat function. The person For collectors looking to revive a classic from a bygone era.
The watch According to the company's branding, "You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely take care of it for the next generation." Let's hope the private museum in Switzerland, which is believed to now own this rare timepiece, keeps this in mind. Bells and whistles Christie's, which sold the watch at auction in May, has described this yellow-gold timepiece as the "Mona Lisa of all watches". Made in the early 1940s, it features an avant-garde design and is believed to be the forerunner of today's complicated wristwatches. The person For serious aficionados with money to burn - and a grateful family member to pass it on to.
Published: July 3, 2010 04:00 AM