November 28, 2021

The watch is an instrument of timekeeping and, more generally, of measuring the spend time. It essentially consists of an engine, an energy transmission and control system as well as a real time indicator, the dial. From pendulum clocks to solar-powered models, in many epochs the clock has gone beyond the meaning for which it was designed - that of recording the passage of time - becoming a status symbol, decoder of the habits and customs of different peoples and of different generations.


The need to measure the passage of time was felt since ancient times. The simplest possible tool was the sundial, consisting at least of a pole driven into the ground, the use of which is documented in China starting from the third millennium BC. The Stonehenge complex is believed to be an astronomical device for determining the moment of the equinoxes. Until the measurement of time took place with the sundials, the prevailing subdivision of time was that in which the hour was the twelfth part of the diurnal cycle, from sunrise to sunset. It was therefore longer in summer and shorter in winter. The main disadvantage of the sundial is that it does not work at night or on cloudy days. For this reason, alternative clocks were developed, based on the regular progression of events. The water hourglass, for example, is a simple device based on the regular flow of water from a perforated container. The use of water hourglasses by the Egyptians is documented in the 15th century BC. In Greece they were used to mark the duration of competitions, games, guard shifts and also to control the length of depositions in court. In the third century BC in Greece the water hourglass was perfected into more modern models in which water flowed between two connected containers. Water clocks equipped with a mechanical timekeeping system were also created: the most famous is the Tower of the Winds in Athens, significantly formerly called horologion. During the Middle Ages the first mechanical clocks were invented: within half a century, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, many city bell towers were equipped with clocks. We can remember those of: Paris, Milan, Florence, Forlì, etc. In the 18th century, John Harrison built the first spring-loaded clocks that were quite accurate and reliable but, above all, capable of working aboard a ship. This allowed their use to calculate longitude solving one of the most serious navigation problems of that time.

Artistic watchmaking

The clock, as an object of common use, has often assumed an important artistic and symbolic value. From the very beginning of watchmaking, the cases were more or less richly decorated, and sometimes the interior was too, to enhance the charm of precision mechanics. The table clocks could be contained in precious materials, gold, silver, bronze, lacquered and inlaid caskets, while the clocks were enclosed in refined decorated wooden furniture, with a glass window that highlighted the movement of the pendulum. Tower clocks were no exception. A formidable example is the famous clock in Piazza San Marco in Venice, built starting in 1493 by Giancarlo Ranieri. At the stroke of the hours, two mechanical statues (called Mori for the dark color due to the material) bow to the Madonna and strike the bells with a hammer. In addition to the time, it also indicates astronomical information such as the position of the planets, moon phases, the position of the sun in the zodiac. The building that contains it and the refined quadrant, 4.5 meters in diameter, are also valuable. The current mechanism derives from restorations carried out in the 18th century. Another important clock, famous for being the largest astronomical clock in the world, is the one kept in ca.

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