The founding story of timekeeping devices dates back to when ancient civilisations first observed the Sun and the Moon as they moved across the sky.

The very first device that was invented to measure the position of the Sun was the shadow clock. The Egyptian obelisk–which dates back to 3500 BCE–was one of the earliest shadow clocks. With time, this would develop into the sundial.

Water clocks known as clepsydras were used to measure time vis-a-vis the inflow and outflow of water. They relied on flowing water to measure the hours of the day. The oldest known documentation of the water clock dates back to the 16th century BCE. The tomb inscription of Egyptian court official Amenemhet identifies him as its inventor.

Etymologically, the word clock has its origins in the medieval Latin word for ‘bell’ which was clocca. The first known geared clock that did not rely on natural phenomena was invented by the mathematician, physicist and engineer Archimedes during the 3rd century BCE.

Archimedes’ astronomical clock was a cuckoo clock with birds singing and moving every hour.

It was the world’s first ‘bell’ clock as it played music.

The Wristwatch

The world’s first wristwatch was created for women by Patek Philippe in the late nineteenth century. Prior to the 1900s, Patek was mostly known for its pocket watches which were more widely used by the public.

In 1904, Louis Cartier designed the first wristwatch for men. It was inspired by his friend Alberto Santos-Dumont, a pioneering aviator who longed to have one to wear while he was in flight.

It is no coincidence, then, that early wristwatches for men have to do with two fields that traditionally held great prestige for men: athletics and the military. The chronograph was a symbol of precision, reliability and stamina: traits that were traditionally associated with male-dominated professions.

The popular boom for wristwatches emerged in the 20th century. It arose out of the desire to meet the need for watches that could operate underwater. It was the involvement of legendary diver Jacques Cousteau that marked a turning point for Rolex. As scuba diving became a popular sport and pleasurable past time, watches that could work under the sea became much sought after.

Much like mobile phones, now watches do much more than tell the time. They keep track of our fitness, our heart rate and our steps per day. While the smart watch first debuted in 1972, they became popular during the 2010s. They are companions to the mobile phone. In the third quarter of 2019, global smartwatch shipments amounted to 14 million.

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