ponedjeljak, 21. srpnja 2008.



For a long time the locksmith Peter Henlein was credited with the invention of the spring, which, as the driving force, made it possible to make smaller clocks. Even Frederick James Britten (1843-1913), author of the famousbook Old Clocks and Watches and their Makers, considered that Henlein invented the spring. However, a clock shaped like a Gothic cathedral, made between 1429 and 1435 for the Duke of Burgundy Philip the Good (1396-1467), was spring-driven, which puts the invention of the spring a century back. On this clock the use of a spring is not as surprising as the use of a fusee to even out the torque output from the mainspring, because watches make in Nuremberg a century later still had a more primitive type of regulator.


The first escapement used to regulate watch speed was the verge escapement (German Spindelhemmung, which is why these watches are popularly called spindle watches). The mainspring does not have uniform energy, in other words, its energy is greatest when the spring is fully wound, which makes the balance (foliot) oscillate about one third faster. It is, therefore, necessary to balance this energy in some way to make the watch work properly This was achieved by applying a fusee (fusee, spindle) or a stackfreed (possibly from the German starke Feder, which means strong spring). The latter was probably invented earlier, it is more primitive and was used practically exclusively in German watches. By the end of the 16th century the fusee was increasingly used in German watches, too. In England and France it was used from the earliest watches until 1800, and in chronometers and higher-quality spring-driven watches until the 20th century. The earliest German watches almost always had movements made of iron, which is not surprising considering they were made by locksmiths. It was not until the last quarter of the 16th centuary that the use of brass became more common.


The first watches were cylindrical. This shape derived from contemporary table clocks, however, watches were not 6 cm high (thick) but only half as much. Spherical watches were made, as well. As our first quotation shows, in the first half of the 16th century watches were sometimes placed in scent
bottles shaped as musk apples or musk balls, which used to be worn on a chain around the neck or on a rosary. In the second half of the 16th century the cylinder shape prevailed, especially in Germany. The oldest preserved French watch was made in 1551 by Jacgues de la Garde (mentioned between 1551 and 1565), and is spherical in shape. Other French watches from that period were not cylindrical, either, but round or oval, and one is tulip-shaped.
We should mention a term that is very often used in connection with early German watches, the Nuremberg egg. It is connected with the name of Peter Henlain, altough his watches, as well as other 16th century German watches, were not egg-shaped. The misunderstanding probably resulted from misreading the word Ueurlein (small watch) as Eyerlein (small egg).


The first watches was usally made of a copper alloy,
like bronze or brass, which was then gilded. A relatively cheap material was probably used because the first watchmakers belonged to the locksmiths' guild and were under restrictions imposed by the goldsmiths' guild concerning the use of a precious metals. In Blois the rights of goldsmiths were protected by a clause according to which gold and silver used by watchmakers had to be bought from goldsmiths, who also struck hallmarks on the finished items. Maybe it is thanks to this very fact, i.e. that watches were made of cheap metals that were not worth melting down, that a large number of these early watches are still extant. It is possible that watches were made of gold and silver, as well, because F. Robertet's inventory list from 1532 mentions watches with cases made of precious metals, but they have not been preserved. The fact that watches were at first more highly valued as art or decorative items than as timekeepers also indicates the early use of precious metals. These watches were in the same group as jewelry and were not considered scientific instruments. They were obviously a new toy for the rich and were also valued as "court gifts", sometimes even inserted into rings, like the watch from 1585 kept in the treasury of the Munich residence. These little "jewels" were probably melted down as time passed and made into new jewelry in line with the contemporary fashion.