The Pocket Watch

“The Pocket Watch: The Wearable Clock”

By: Tayler Anderson, Virginia Tech



Frequently, people think of time as a valuable element in society. Time keeps track of the progress of existence and events. It serves importance to have a tool to measure, keep, and indicate the time. When the clock became invented around the start of the 14th century in Europe, it became the standard timekeeping device until the pendulum clock became invented in 1656. [2] The invention of the clock serves useful in many ways but remained immobile and able to be used when individuals left their homes. When this deficit in the design of the clock became uncovered by other individuals as well as inventors, Peter Henlein, a locksmith and clockmaker of Nuremberg, Germany, produced the pocket watch which serves as a watch on a chain intended to be carried in the year 1504. [1] This new technology created a social impact on the world then and now with the increased trend of wearable technology and expensive name brand watches.

Pocket watches resulted in being most common between the 16th and 17th century. [5] The main purpose of the pocket watch intended to be able to have a mobile technology to tell time. Constructing the functionality of a normal-sized clock to a portable smaller version became very complex. The construction and mechanics of the pocket watch consisted of five primary components: a gear train, a balance wheel, an escapement mechanism, a mainspring, and a clock face. [7] The mainspring gets compressed when a pocket watch results in being wound, and mechanical energy produced serves to power the watch. Early models of the mainspring powered watches were round and bulky, but screws introduced in the 1550s enabled them to take on a modern flatten shape that is seen in pocket and wristwatches today. Peter Henlein’s design for his small drum-shaped portable watch could run for forty hours before it needed rewinding. [5]

The innovation of the pocket watches not only helped with convenience for individuals to check time actively but also melded a social impact. A pocket watch told a lot about gentlemen and their social standing during the 16th century. [3] Pocket watches turned into prized possessions and family heirlooms and something men could treasure. Wealthy men would usually demonstrate their wealth by the type of pocket watch owned and they were status symbols. However, social divides did not mean that the poor could not own a pocket watch, they would have to inherit them from their fathers. [4] This invention also impacted today’s trend of wearable technology with the innovation of products like the Apple watch and other wearable technology options. Even though the pocket watch resulted in being useful, it was not always practical. Whenever individuals had to check the time, they would have to take out a huge piece of metal and copper, which interrupts too much time in the day for individuals. The impracticality of the pocket watch aided in the invention of wristwatches and the wearable technology that is used in the modern world and tie into the social aspect of fashion trends and signification of wealth among individuals. [6]

Word Count: 473

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