Centuries of Timekeeping: The 500+ Years Old Watch That Still Works
Clocks began to transform everyday life as early as the medieval period in Europe when church bells ringing every hour gave people an idea of the time. Since then, affordable pocket watches became more common and they were important in building society. These quickly invaded the world of commerce, and became an industry that helped many other forms of development take shape.
It's an alarm clock you can't control. Source: Artists and Art
The invention of pocket watches first allowed workers to design efficient systems to keep strict schedules. Trains and other forms of transportation could begin to operate more efficiently. With this same technology scientists and astronomers could work more precisely.
For romance, pocket watches made it easier to arrange meetings at any given time. Keeping good time was connected to good manners and morals making the pocket watch an exclusive accessory when it first came to the market.
At that time, pulling out a pocket watch was also a sign a person was reliable and a member of the upper classes. To some degree this is still true today, as a watch is seen as a necessary tool by many people.
Watches are a part of men's style.
All this became possible thanks to Peter Henlein, a locksmith from Nuremberg, Germany, who invented the makings of an early pocket watch which eventually evolved to the modern wristwatch. In this article, we’ll talk about one of his creations that pioneered horology: the 1505.
The Watch 1505 – More Than 500-Years-Old
The 1505 watch, also named Pomander Watch, may not be the first watch in the world, nor is it the oldest, but it is the oldest known watch in the world that still works. It was made in the year 1505 by Peter Henlein.
A pomander is a necklace accessory containing perfumes.
To date, the watch is also the only existing artifact of a mechanical Renaissance timekeeping invention and is one of the most important pieces in the history of watches.
Henlein created the watch when he lived in the Franciscan Monastery in Nuremberg where he gained knowledge of the Oriental world gathered over centuries. He successfully brought the techniques he learned into the form of this amazing watch.
An Intriguing Appearance
The 1505 was designed as a union of two small half-spheres connected by a binding hinge. The upper half of the Pomander can be opened to reveal a smaller second half-sphere. It is a combination of German engineering with Oriental influences.
The top of the inner sphere shows the dial while the upper surface of the dial displays Roman numerals for the first half of the day and the dial Arabic numerals on the outer side for the second half of the day.
Correct to say that this is an engineering feat.
The copper case is fire gilded on the outside and fire silver-plated on the inside of the watch. It is 45 mm in diameter, 38.5 grams in weight, and has three feet on the bottom to support it. It is more of a small, portable clock than anything else.
The movement is made completely of iron, and the hour wheel was made with four teeth, an upper skeletonized plate, and a chain. 1505 packs a running time of 12 hours - which is pretty amazing for the first portable watch.
Almost as complicated as today's movements. Source: Quill & Pad
On the watch housing, there’s a Latin engraving that reads ‘DVT ME FUGIENT AGNOSCAM R’ meaning 'Time will flee from me, and I will recognize the right time'. Also, the letters ‘MDV PHN’ were engraved inside of the casing underneath the outer face of the clock, which have been interpreted as 1505 and Peter Henlein Nürnberg.
As Peter Henlein was a locksmith and was not considered as a watchmaker he was not allowed to sign his watches officially. Tiny engraved letters reading ‘PH’ were found in 1505, and these may be a secret signature.
How was it found and where is it now
In his lifetime, Henlein created other or similar types of watches such as the Nuremberg eggs or a tower clock for Lichtenau castle in 1541.
The history of the watch is mysterious. We know little about its whereabouts until the late 20th century. In 1987, the watch was picked up at an antiques and flea market in London.
Imagine walking down the bazaar and finding a horological heritage... Source: Zipcar
It changed ownership between collectors who were unaware of its actual worth until 2002 - when a private collector purchased the pomander watch. In 2014, it was assessed by a committee that confirmed its authenticity.
At this moment, the 1505 is in a private collection.
Not Just a Watch: Also a Symbol
The 1505 watch is one of the inventions that may have shifted the course of the world. It demonstrates that advancements in watchmaking were happening at an early phase of the modern era, even if they weren't accepted by watchmakers of the time.
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