From the moment that people started measuring time, they have been thoroughly fascinated by the magical movements of the tik-toking devices…
From sundials to pocket watches to mechanical to modern day smartwatches, they have kept us intrigued with all the stories they tell and the intricate mechanisms they hide in them.
It seems that there is a direct, proportionate connection between how expensive and popular a watch is and the rumors that go with it. With their centuries-long and interesting history, Patek Philippe and Rolex are one of the most talked about luxury watch brands that keep stirring up people’s interest.
Today, we are taking the role of MTV’s Mythbusters, but for timepieces instead, and will reveal some of the most popular myths and misconceptions about watches.
The more jewels, the better the watch
Do you know why jewels ended up in watches in the first place?
The reason is rather simple – to reduce friction of the parts in the watch and prolong theirs and the life of the watch. Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, Peter Debaufre, and Jacob Debaufre came up with the brilliant idea of jewel bearings in 1704, for which they also got a patent. And it really makes a lot of sense, as jewels are harder than metal and may reduce metal to metal wear in a watch.
You know how diamonds are a girl’s best friend? Well, it appears they are also a watch’s best friend. Diamonds, sapphires, and rubies are perfect for the job of keeping your watch safe from wear and tear, and today, the most common jewel used in watches is synthetic rubies.
The higher number of jewels used to be an indicator of the better quality of the watch in the past. However, it all changed when Auguste Verneuil discovered a method to create synthetic sapphire or ruby in 1902. Since it was easier and cheaper to add jewels to a watch, watchmakers started adding them elaborately, even if they are not necessary, and marketers jumped on the bandwagon by boldly promoting timepieces with up to 100 jewels.
For reference, the average number of jewels in a watch should be between 16 to 18 for it to function normally.
Rolex created the automatic mechanism
The self-winding mechanism existed long before Rolex was even founded.
During the 18th century, Abraham Louis Perrelet and Hubert Sarton designed the automatic pocket watch, whereas the first wristwatch with automatic mechanism was created by the English watchmaker John Harwood in 1924. His mechanism or the so-called Hammer automatic relied on a weight (rotor) inside the watch that would be limited to rotate at 180 degrees, prompting a back and forth motion, just like a hammer. That is where the mechanism got its name from, and the watches were respectively called ‘bumper’ watches.
To get it straight, Rolex did not invent the self-winding mechanism, but significantly improved it. When the Harwood company was out of business due to bad management, Rolex stepped into the game adopting the automatic mechanism and improving it by having the rotor turn to 360 degrees.
‘Swiss-made’ means that the watch is entirely made in Switzerland
The label ‘Swiss-made’ indicates that the watch is made or assembled in Switzerland, but does not guarantee that the entire watch was produced in the region.
According to the Swiss standard, as long as 60% of the manufacturing costs are domestic, the product may have the label ‘Swiss-made’, which is also known as the ‘60% rule’. Some watches have the label ‘Swiss movt’, meaning that at least 50% of the parts of the watch were produced in Switzerland.
Throughout the years, there have been several attempts to make the law stricter, but many Swiss watchmakers have opposed it, as it seems like a rather idealistic vision to not take advantage of globalization and cheaper costs of production elsewhere.
Patek Philippe was the father of the first wristwatch, as well as the perpetual calendar wristwatch
This is actually a quite tough one since there is a widespread debate on who created the first wristwatch. The reason behind it is that the transformation from pocket watch to a wristwatch happened gradually over the years, and it is hard to say when exactly people started wearing wristwatches in the modern sense of the word.
Patek Philippe claims that they created the first wristwatch for the Countess Koscewicz of Hungary in 1868. They are even listed in the World Guinness book, but there is evidence pointing to Breguet who was commissioned to create a wristwatch for the Queen of Naples in 1812.
Patek Philippe also claims that they have invented the first wristwatch with a perpetual calendar in 1898, and although the watch indeed had a perpetual calendar, the caliber inside it was initially intended for a woman’s pendant watch, which is not the same thing.
In 1929, Breguet produced the first wristwatch in history with a perpetual calendar movement that is specifically designed for a wristwatch.
The 10:10 myth(s)
If you haven’t noticed by now, then head over to Google and do a quick search on the word ‘watch’. You may be surprised and maybe a little bit shocked to realize that almost if not all watches show the time “10:10”.
People’s curiosity and urge to know the answer to why this is so, has made them come up with some pretty interesting theories, some of which sound as if they are coming straight out of a Hitchcock movie.
Some theories claim that 10:10 is the time when the US President Abraham Lincoln died. In fact, Lincoln was shot at 10:15 PM but died at 7:22 AM. Another theory links the death of Martin Luther King to the 10:10 phenomenon, which is also not true, as he died at 7:05 PM.
Some theories claim that 10:10 is the time when one of the atomic bombs was thrown by the US on Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the end of WWII. In fact, the bombs were dropped at 8:15 AM and 11:02 AM.
The real reason for having all watches point to 10:10 is actually quite boring and has to do with psychology and marketing. The watches do seem ‘happier’ when the arrows point upwards, as opposed to downwards, when the watch may appear to be frowning.
These are some of the myths surrounding the existence of the timekeeping devices. Do you know of any myths and misconceptions about watches? If so, do share them in the comments below, we would love to hear them.