It’s hard to think that there was a time when the passing of a day could only be measured using a sun dial. Then imagine before that when we had to rely on the luminaries. It’s a whole different world to the one we live in, where every single gizmo from a microwave to a car has a clock built into it. But what’s really surprising, though, is that timekeeping didn’t become popular until the beginning of the industrial revolution in the late 18th to early 19th century. Of course the technology had been around for centuries before that though. Clumsy, oversized clocks came first (in roughly 1386) with the Salisbury Cathedral Clock commissioned by Bishop Erghum, which horologists call the oldest working clock. It didn’t have a dial and its sole purpose was to signal every hour with a bell, without visually displaying the time. At 4pm the clock rang four times, for example, gathered the locals and heralded the church service. Supposedly the clock mechanism could still run smoothly, although now it’s disabled to protect its treasured condition.
Clocks didn’t develop into watches until the 15th and 16th century when folk realised they needed something smaller than a cathedral clock to carry around with them.
The invention of watch birthed two main types: the pocket watch and the wristwatch. The earliest known wristwatch belonged to Queen Elisabeth I, in 1571. After that the industrial revolution spread across the world and ushered-in a period of mass-production, which necessitated more precise measurements to divide the day into recordable sections of work. As the smog of industry began to swell clocks and watches became more and more essential. By the late 1800s wristwatches were widespread and, whereas once they’d only been worn by eccentric women, were now replacing pocket watches as the choice possession of men.
To celebrate the rich history of watches and the impact they’ve had on the working world (not to mention the ripples they’ve made in fashion and style), we decided to choose our Top Five Nostalgia Watches. Each piece exudes a debonair touch of class, notable for their unique and sophisticated designs, as well as the fact they transport us to a time much earlier than our own.
Rotary Sterling Silver Case Watch
This elegant watch looks almost fragile. It has a dainty, feminine appearance, a strap interlinked and a delicate clasp. The stylish accessory features a mother-of-pearl face with a rickety metallic frame wrapped in hand-crafted oxidised sterling silver.
This Sterling Silver Watch stands out next to the following pieces, but we wanted to add a distinctly feminine touch to the selection. We also loved the unusual detail of the linked strap and the leafy decorations that writhe like vines over the casing.
Unisex Nostalgia Classic Analogue Watch
This classic collector’s watch is adorned with an uncovered mechanism that shows its mechanical movement. The stainless steel piece whirs with automatic winding and possesses an elegant skeleton. It features a genuine leather strap and was skilfully wrought thirty years ago by Jacques Leman, the founder of a multifaceted watch company that celebrates and perpetuates the art of watch-making, from their European workshop amongst the mountains of Austria and Switzerland.
We were big fans of this monochrome skeleton design immaculately presented with a metallic touch and a circular window revealing the network of cogs and interwoven mechanisms.
Rolex Daytona Pearl Dial Watch
We turned to Rolex and found the gentleman’s Daytona model with a Tahitian Mother of Pearl face. This self-winding model features a chronograph dial framed with an 18 carat yellow-gold casing and fitted to a light-brown crocodile strap. It was first manufactured in the 1960s by Rolex, the esteemed brand that had already been established in London for almost sixty years. The chronograph watch includes an immaculate design adorned with solid 18 carat yellow-gold, within the dial there are also three subdials that measure minutes, seconds and hours.
The old-fashioned antique appeal of Rolex is undeniable. We’d never seen anything like it, featuring a brazen face coupled with a faded yellow-gold case.
The contemporary design of this Millenary piece wears its mechanical prowess on its sleeve. The three-dimensional composition of the elliptical case opens up the intricate inner workings. An off-centred dial with a singular mechanism can be viewed through the sizeable oval case, beautified by a sleek neo-classical design.
This was a no-brainer for us, not only does the design effortlessly marry a pink-gold case with an inset white-gold enamel dial, but it also displays an elegant sapphire crystal and caseback. These artistic touches made the Quadriennium as unique as it is timeless and stylish.
Hybris Mechanica à Grande Sonnerie
Jaeger-LeCoultre has developed an adapted interpretation of the minute repeater, indicating the time using the subtle tones of the Westminster chime. This exceptional model is comprised of 1472 intricate parts, including a stylish perpetual calendar and flying tourbillon, whilst simultaneously recounting the history of horology. The Grande Sonnerie features an intricate mechanism that contains two-hundred repeater calibres and has been developed since 1833. It was designed to push the boundaries and play the longest melody of any watch with a striking-mechanism.
We loved how the split cover reveals the layered cogs and wheels of the inner mechanism. The sheen of the metallic face complements a sleek mixture of classical and modernist influences.