A timeline of important watchmaking events.
15th Century – Portable timepieces were made possible by the invention of the mainspring.
16th Century – Nuremberg clockmaker Peter Henlein (1485-1542) is often credited as the inventor of the watch.
1657 – The addition of the balance spring to the balance wheel, an invention disputed both at the time and ever since between Robert Hooke and Christiaan Huygens.
1735 – Blancpain was founded by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain in Villeret, Switzerland.
1755 – Vacheron Constantin was founded by Jean-Marc Vacheron in Geneva, Switzerland.
1759 – The lever escapement was invented by Thomas Mudge.
1760 – The going barrel was invented by Jean-Antoine Lépine.
1770 – The first self-winding mechanism was invented by Abraham-Louis Perrelet.
1775 – Breguet was founded in by Abraham-Louis Breguet in Paris, France.
1790 – Abraham-Louis Breguet invented the “pare-chute” anti-shock device.
1794 – Abraham-Louis Breguet invented a retrograde display mechanism.
1795 – Abraham-Louis Breguet invented the tourbillon escapement (patented in 1801).
1795 – Abraham-Louis Breguet invented the Breguet spiral (flat spiral balance spring with overcoil).
1810 – Abraham-Louis Breguet created a wristwatch for Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples.
1816 – The first modern chronograph was invented by Louis Moinet.
1832 – Longines was founded by Auguste Agassiz.
1833 – Jaeger-LeCoultre was founded by Antoine LeCoultre in Le Sentier, Switzerland.
1839 – Patek Philippe SA was founded in Geneva.
1847 – Cartier was founded by Louis-François Cartier in Paris in 1847.
1848 – Omega was founded by Louis Brandt in La Chaux-de-Fonds (incorporating the name “Omega” in 1903).
1851 – Aaron Lufkin Dennison started a factory in 1851 in Massachusetts that used interchangeable parts, it eventually became Waltham Watch Company.
1860 – Founded by Edouard Heuer in St-Imier, Switzerland.
1865 – Zenith SA was founded by Georges Favre-Jacot in Le Locle, Switzerland.
1868 – The first Patek Philippe wristwatch was created.
1868 – American engineer and watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones founded IWC.
1875 – Audemars-Piguet was founded in 1875 by Jules-Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet in Le Brassus.
1881 – Seiko was founded by Kintarō Hattori in Tokyo, Japan.
1884 – Lemania was founded by Alfred Lugrin in Switzerland in 1884.
1884 – Breitling was founded in 1884 by Léon Breitling in Saint-Imier.
1904 – Louis Cartier created a flat wristwatch for Alberto Santos-Dumont after his friend complained about the unreliability and impracticality of using pocket watches while flying. The “Santos” watch was Cartier’s first men’s wristwatch.
1905 – Originally founded as Wilsdorf and Davis by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in London, England in 1905, the company registered Rolex as the brand name of its watches in 1908 and became Rolex Watch Co. Ltd. in 1915.
1910 – A Rolex wristwatch became the first such watch to receive certification as a chronometer in Switzerland.
1910 – Louis Cartier, the grandson of Louis-Francois Cartier, the founder of the House of Cartier, invented the “folding” deployant clasp in 1910.
1925 – First perpetual calendar wristwatch.
1926 – Montres Tudor SA was founded in Geneva by Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex SA, both companies being owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation.
1926 – The first waterproof wristwatch, the Oyster, was launched.
1932 – Lemania, Omega, and Tissot merged to form the SSIH group.
1946 – Casio was established as Kashio Seisakujo by Tadao Kashio.
1953 – Rolex introduced the Submariner.
1957 – Omega introduced the first Speedmaster Ref. CK2915.
1962 – Walter Schirra becomes the first person to wear a Speedmaster in space.
1967 – Armin Strom set up his eponymous watch company in Burgdorf, Switzerland.
1969 – The Omega Speedmaster Professional was worn by Buzz Aldrin during Apollo 11 which saw the first humans walk on the moon.
1969 – The Seiko 35 SQ Astron was the first quartz watch to go on sale.
1970 – Omega earns the coveted NASA “Snoopy” award.
1970 – The beginning of the “quartz crisis” which started when Seiko introduced the world’s first quartz watch, followed by numerous other, mostly Japanese companies.
1972 – The original Audemars Piguet reference 5402 A-Series “Jumbo” Royal Oak, designed by Gerald Genta, was introduced.
1976 – The original Patek Philippe reference 3700 Nautilus, also designed by Gerald Genta, was introduced.
1983 – The G-Shock was conceptualized in 1981 by Casio engineer Kikuo Ibe when he accidentally dropped a pocket watch gifted to him by his father thus breaking it. Casio released the G-Shock in April 1983.
1983 – Swatch was founded to develop the Swatch Watch in response to the quartz crisis.
1990 – Junghans invented and sold the first radio-controlled wristwatch, the MEGA 1.
1996 – Parmigiani Fleurier SA was founded by Michel Parmigiani in Fleurier, Switzerland.
2001 – Patek Philippe museum opened in Geneva (Plainpalais).
2001 – Richard Mille was founded by Dominique Guenat and Richard Mille, in Les Breuleux, Switzerland.
2019 – Armin Strom created the first mainspring barrel that has a stop-work declutch mechanism combined with automatic winding to create consistent power delivery to the balance.