At the Beginning

Primitive Sundial

The tracking of time began over 5500 years ago in ancient Egypt. With thousands of years building various types of sundials, sand clocks and water clocks, knowledge of these devices soon spread across the Mediterranean, enabling empires to start their own wave of advancements. As centuries went on, time was measured with candle clocks, incense clocks, oil-lamp clocks, simple gear clocks, astronomical clocks, all up to the appearance of the first modern devices in the 15th and 16th century.

Sundials had begun appearing in ancient Egypt around in 4th millennia BC, with earliest known obelisk being made around 3500 BC. With sun being their primary deity, the act of measuring the sun’s shadow became widespread during that time. To measure time easily, Egyptians separated daytime into 10 equal parts, with four additional parts reserved to twilight hours in the dawn and sunset.  A series of markers on the ground enabled Egyptians to easily track time and even know which season it was. Of course, sundials were absolutely ineffective in cloudy weather or at night time. Because of these, new methods for measuring time were invented.

Ancient Greeks and Romans focused much more attention on developing water clocks, which by 325 BC achieved a much higher degree of accuracy than in its early stages. The flow of water in clepsydrae devices moved the hour hands, enabling everyone to easily measure time and use it as alarm clock (the first-water based alarm clock was created by Plato). Even with many developments in this field, sundials remained popular throughout the life of Greek and Roman empires. The largest sundial of the ancient times was built by Emperor Augustus in 10 BCE, and it used 30 meter high red granite Obelisk of Montecitorio that was imported to Rome from Heliopolis in ancient Egypt.

Sundial clock

After the fall of Roman Empire, water clocks continued to be refined in Persia and China, with the most famous and most complicated water clock of that period created by Muslim engineer Al-Jazari in 1206. By the 6th century, China began using candle and incense clocks, which slowly started spreading to the Western world, finally reaching the Middle East and Europe in the 13th century. By then, China had made advancements with the introduction of astronomical clocks. Renowned Chinese scientist and astronomer Su Song created a water-driven astronomical clock; this was also present in many 12th century cities in Persia, most notably Al-Jazari’s castle clock of 1206.

The expansion of ship trade in Europe and increasing popularity of sailing in the open seas brought on the need of having reliable and precise time measuring devices. Much-improved sundial devices that were designed in Persia became the integral part of every ship who wanted to sail beyond the sight of the coast. From the 15th century onward, dependable and precise sundials became very popular, not only at sea, but also in industries, churches, cooking, and more.

By the 16th century, mechanical devices started finding their way out of industrial laboratories, and time measuring devices based on pendulums and springs began appearing across  Europe, enabling a new era of dependable and precise time measuring. As centuries went on, their designs became more advanced, their structure smaller; and by the 19th century, mechanical pocket, table, and wall clocks became commonplace all across the world. Today, when the digital devices can be found in every corner of our civilization, the measuring of time has finally become available to everyone.

Time moves on…

History of the Portable Watch and Clock

The history of time keeping devices is filled with many examples of popular designs that enabled people to measure time; however, watches managed to transform our civilization on a much larger scale. Before we were introduced to the clocks that were attached to pocket chains or strapped to our wrists, all mechanical clocks were big static table or wall clocks that were slow to manufacture, expensive, and most importantly, very inaccurate. Arrival of small watches that could be carried anywhere was adopted by the population instantly, fuelling countless innovators, engineers, scientists, manufactures, and fashion designers to embrace watches and ensure their continuous evolution and growth. Such growing popularity enabled the creation of small, reliable, easy-to-produce, cheap time-keeping devices that formed the basis of the modern civilization in which we live today.

Portable Clocks

First portable clocks were introduced in the early years of mechanical clock production in Europe. During the 16th century, engineers and manufacturers finally gained the ability to created devices on such a small scale that people could carry it around with them; but those initial models were way to big and heavy for pocket and wrist. Instead, first portable watches were worn on a neck pendant. Other disadvantages were very bad accuracy (even though they had only the hour hand, they could lose several hours during one day), noise, durability, and bad protection from outside influences (the hour hand was not protected by glass, but only by a hinged brass cover).

Seeing as pendant watches are in dire need of upgrading, many innovators went back to the drawing board and searched for a way to improve them. This initiative gave birth to the small watches with glass protection, light frames, small gears, and, most importantly, screws. With these small clocks, it was inevitable that pendant watches would soon become outdated and forgotten by fashion. This moment came in 1675, when  Charles II of England introduced waistcoats – small pocket watches that were connected to the suit with the small chain. This fashion trend soon swept across Europe and North America, where pocket watches were used as an expensive luxury male items and pendant watches as female items. Widespread population gained access to pocket watches only in the second half of the 18th century, when popular lever escapement enabled clockmakers to produce cheap and very precise watches.

Wrist Watches

The 19th century and the rise of railroad networks brought on the need of the global standardization of time and expansion of clocks, especially after train accidents that could have been avoided if train personnel had synchronized clocks that were accurate. An initiative to standardize train times in United States finally came in 1893, which was responsible for large expansion of precise clocks all around the world. But, fashion change struck again during World War I, when pocket watches competed against small, portable, and easy-to-use wrist watches. With the improved technologies of automatic winding and small designs, wrist watches very quickly became the most popular type of portable clocks in the world. Decades of innovations enabled us to start using electronic watches of many designs, until late 1990s when era of mobile phones started.

In modern times, wristwatches are still very popular, pendant watches are rare, and pocket watches returned to fashion only during brief periods of times when three-piece suits were popular (late 1970s and 1980s). In the 21st century, pocket watches represent one of the central fashion items of the steampunk subculture.


At BC WATCH REPAIR, we recondition to new your antique or vintage pocket watch right here in Vancouver, B.C. We will  custom make parts for the escarpment wheel, second wheel, third wheel, centre wheel, balance wheel, staff, hair spring, main spring, dial, glass, stem, crown, bezel, lather band, pallet fork, ruler, pocket watch chain, T bar, and all the parts in between.



At BC WATCH REPAIR, we custom make the complete body for your wall or mantle cuckoo clock; fabricate a new balance wheel, Cuckoo bird, chain; repaint or re-varnish the body of the cuckoo clock; make new hands, dial, hair spring, pendulum, weight, bird, centre wheel, second wheel, third wheel, pallet fork, and any other part your cuckoo clock needs in order to make it as good as new.

What Makes a Cuckoo Clock a Cuckoo Clock?

Cuckoo Clocks are a passion of ours at BC WATCH REPAIR. The Cuckoo Clock strikes the hours with a sound like a cuckoo bird’s call, with each clock unique in sound and in style.

The Cuckoo sound is made by two tiny pipes. The clock movement activates it sending a puff of air into them. It strikes a number of times throughout the day. The dials are usually Roman numerals, which we can fabricate, right here in Vancouver, B.C. if the dial or hands are missing.

It has a mechanism with a cuckoo bird figure that moves forward with each strike through a small trap door; sometimes, the bird can open its beak and flaps its wings. In the background, it can be added a sound of other birds or waterfall. If your Cuckoo bird is damaged or missing, we can fabricate a new one for you. Some models can have a night silence feature to set certain hours not to strike.

Cuckoo clocks can be made in a chalet style to hang in a cosy room. They are made traditionally in a carved style—the wooden case may be embroidered with animal and leaves.

The additional function was added, a half-hour and full hour chime sequences. The most famous chime tune is like a Swiss music box tune. Because of this, a third weight was needed for the hour strike. Some cuckoo clocks can play twelve different melodies, one for each hour.

A weight suspended from a pivot to swing freely is called pendulum. Pendulum clock uses the pendulum as a timekeeping element. For a long time, the pendulum clock was the most precise timekeeper. In early days, pendulum clocks were handmade, rich in ornamentation and expensive; they were status symbols. Nowadays, pendulum clocks have antique and decorative value. One type of pendulum clock is a cuckoo clock. They are often weight driven. The weights are traditionally made in a pinecone shape.

The Cuckoo clock was made with two types of movement: An Old Cuckoo Clock has a one day or 30-hour movement, which needs winding once a week and has two weights for timekeeping and a striking mechanism, or even an eight-day movement – which needs winding every day and has one weight for both mechanisms.

If your Cuckoo clock’s mechanism is no longer working, ship it to us from anywhere in Canada to our office in Vancouver, B.C. where we will repair, replace, and recondition your Cuckoo clock to a brand-new state.

The origin of the cuckoo clock is not certain. Some descriptions of the cuckoo clock go back as far as 1650, when Athanasius Kircher described a cuckoo clock in the handbook about music.  Cuckoo clocks were mass produced since the 18th century, with many from the Schwarzwald forest area in Germany. The popular black forest-style clock called Rahmenuhr had a picture frame on the wooden background, usually a typical black forest scene, or scenes like hunting, deer heads, birds, pine cones, leaves, military, mythology, Christian religious, love, family, birth, or death. There were styles with wood decorated ornaments and 3D woodcarvings.

Modern cuckoo clocks are flat and smooth without carvings and are made of a variety of materials. They could have unconventional colours and include phrases and text.

Cuckoo clocks are usually weight-driven, but the newer ones can be spring driven, quartz or digital.

Like grandfather clocks, cuckoo clocks were exported throughout the world by travellers as a souvenir from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Most older Cuckoo clocks originate from this part of the world.


At BC WATCH REPAIR, we design and custom-make unique wristwatches that will last you a lifetime. If you have a special piece of gold, silver, pewter, or gems you wish to incorporate into your watch, please send us a photo as our design reference, and we’ll provide you with a very reasonable price.

History of the Automatic Watch:

After many years of perfecting the art of watch making, inventors from all around the world started creating new mechanical designs for clocks to wind by themselves.  This amazing new technology enabled users to use hand watches to maintain a daily routine of providing power to their time measuring machines. From 1770s, and after, production of automatic watches spread around the world.

All mechanical watches are powered by the energy of mainspring, which moves gears that move hands. Because of the loss of energy of mainspring over time, users had to continuously wind it up by turning small the knob on its case. Self-winging (or automatic) watch have mechanisms that use eccentric weights configured around pivot, that spin while the users hand is moving. This spinning of the weights created circular motion of rotor (which is connected to series of gears and reversers until final connection to the mainspring) represent the basic look of every automatic watch on the market. However, first examples of this technology had several disadvantages that were overcome over the last 300 years of modern engineering; for instance, ways of preventing over-winding of the mainspring.

Automatic watches were produced in 1770s with the designs of Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Perrelet. He devised a mechanical device that could, according to his calculation, transfer energy created by the movement of a wearer’s body into enough power to fuel an automatic clock for eight days. However, a much more publicized design of automated watch came from French inventor Hubert Sarton, who published his designs in 1778 and managed to show to historians that Perrelet’s watches were inspired by his work. In 1780, the French public had the opportunity to buy automatic pocket watches from clockmaker named Abraham-Louis Breguet, who purchased designs from Perrelet and made several improvements. But he stopped selling them in 1800 after the public realized that his watches were not reliable.

A true revolution in the automatic watch industry came after World War I, when advancements in manufacturing finally enabled production of small wristwatches with automatic winding. Because movement of the hands provided much more kinetic power than with pocket watches, engineers finally had the opportunity to more easily transform that power into changing mechanisms. The first man who managed to do that was John Harwood, watch repairer from Bolton, England. After he claimed patents English and Swiss for automated wristwatch ion 1923, Hardwood started producing watches in his factory in Switzerland in 1928, giving the European public chance to use watches that had the capacity to last for 12-hours after they were fully charged.

Other manufacturers soon embraced the designs of John Harwood and started and era of improvement. Famous watch company Rolex added a new system of weights that could move more freely and capture much more energy with every turn (up to 35 hours of work when fully charged). In 1948, Eterna Watch introduced ball bearings to the automatic watch designs, enabling much better control over internal components and ability to preserve structural integrity of the watch even when external forces reached critical levels (for example, when the watch was dropped on the ground).

Currently, the majority of wristwatches in the world use automatic winding; only a small percent are manually wound designs. Some automatic watches embraced the digital era, with weighted rotors turning inside small electrical generators that store their power into on board rechargeable battery.

The Watch We Know Today: Different Types of Chronograph Watches

Chronograph is a type of watch that is a combination of a time display watch and a stopwatch. The stopwatch is a timing device designed to measure the amount of time between activation and deactivation of the device. If we want to measure time, we need to stop, reset, and restart the chronograph. A chronograph has hands to measure hours, minutes, seconds, and tenths of a second.

The start button is generally located at the two o’clock position, which needs to push a start button to begin recording time and push it again to stop recording time. When the start button is pressed, three train wheels start turning. They have revolution time of second, minute and hour.

Chronograph represents old -world craftsmanship and real word utility. Besides date function, chronograph became one of the most used features on a wrist watch.

The name is a combination of Greek words chronos, meaning “time”, and graph meaning “write”. The first ancient model had actual writing with a pen on the hand marking the past time.

In 1816, the first modern model of the chronograph was made by Louis Moinet to track astronomical objects.  In 1821, the first commercialized model of chronograph was made by Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec. King Louis XVIII liked horse races, wanted to measure the time of the race and ordered Nicolas to make this kind of the watch. In 1844, Adolphe Nicole made a re-setting feature.

Before, chronographs had mono-pusher, a button integrated into the crown that started, stopped and reset the time.

In 1923, Léon Breitling’s company, based on his ideas, applied first independent push-piece on the chronograph. In this way, the stop/start feature was separated from resetting. This pusher was placed at 2:00 o’clock and allowed that successive times could be added up.

In 1934 the reset pusher was separated and placed at 4:00 o’clock.

Self-winding or an automatic watch’s mainspring is wound automatically from the motion of the wearer’s arm. In 1969, an automatic chronograph was made by Seiko, Zenith, Breitling and Heuer. They depend on the kinetic energy as its power source.

Digital chronograph uses quartz for timing and battery for power.

In the 20th century, chronographs were made with tachymeter scale. It can have tachymeter mask around the rim of the watch. Tachymeter scale is used to calculate a speed based on travel time and distance based on speed; for example, it can determine average speed over one kilometer or one mile.

Some chronographs can have pulsometer that determinates the heart’s pulse rate. It is invented for medical purpose and can be combined with a stethoscope.

Chronograph can have tourbillon element in the mechanism that minimizes the effects of gravity and maximizes precision.

Rattrapante feature or double chronograph includes two separate stopwatch mechanism. We can measure two separate events of different duration.

Flyback feature made it possible that second hand could be rapidly reset to zero without the need to first stop the chronograph.

The use of chronograph is in diving, submarine navigation, car racing, and piloting airplanes. In diving, it is used to mark the extent of time allowed to be under water and to know how much time remains for safe diving.

In 1970, when Apollo 13 had a fatal failure, all onboard computers failed, but astronauts were able to recalculate their re-entry to earth and had a safe splashdown.

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