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Origins of the Watch making Industry

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Origins of the Watch making Industry The production of watches was a major industry of Great Britain for hundreds of years. Watch making originated in Europe in the early 16th century, when coiled springs were first used to power clocks. Clocks were powered by weights originally, and therefore remained stationary. The springs meant that clocks could be moved for the first time, and soon, German clockmakers started to make very small clocks, which are considered as the earliest watches made. Watch making was the most advanced line of the clock making industry, which developed when Blacksmiths started introducing their skills with metal to clock making. Watches were being made in Great Britain from around the middle of Elizabeth 1 reign as Queen of England. (1533 - 1603) It is likely that the success of European Watchmakers encouraged British Watchmakers to start producing Watches to make sure they weren't behind in technological developments. During this, watches were extremely expensive, and therefore quite rare, they were also quite inaccurate, and only had an hour hand. Most designs for early watches were for the watches to be worn around the neck, on either a cord or ribbon. This was because it was a status symbol to be seen wearing a watch and the watches were still pretty large, and couldn't fit in the pocket very easily, if the clothes had pockets, as this was also a rarity. ...read more.


Apprentices were taken on at 13 or 14 years of age and parents paid the master for the training, the sum of money paid was called a `premium'. For the first year to two years wasn't a very demanding job for the apprentices, all they had to do were basic chores such as preparing the workshop fire, cleaning, and providing a messenger and delivery service for completed parts. After the first couple of years, the technical training would begin. The apprentice would work towards becoming a fully trained watchmaker, and maybe at the end of his training, open up his own business or work for another watchmaker. The working conditions of the watchmaker were very good in comparison to other manual trades of the day such as mining or farming. Well lit workshops were out of necessity due to the lack of electric lighting, they were heated, and the work carried very few dangers. The tasks connected with heat were the most dangerous, such as casting or forging, and gliding. Gliding was the plating of watch parts with a thin layer of gold. The procedure required the use of mercury, a dangerous metal, which can lead to poisoning, resulting in the loss of teeth or madness. The Decline of the Industry The industry peaked around the 1860's, but soon it started to decline. ...read more.


This was a very important change as it made production quicker and therefore cheaper, as well as making keyless winding much simpler. Almost all keyless watches after this date used variation on T.P Hewitt's invention. Even though these gifted men introduced methods and ideas into the Prescot watch making industry in an attempt to keep it competitive, it had all but gone from prescot by the mid 1880s. A decision was made to act, and T.P Hewitt was one of the founding members of the Lancashire Watch Company. The building was completed in 1889, and it was based on the American Factory system of manufacture, where complete watch movements were made, by machines, under one roof. The factory was fitted out with machines to produce the watch parts, powered by a steam engine called the Horologer (Horology is the correct name for the study and production of clocks and watches). They made a range of watches too suit all the poorest of pockets. It lasted into the 20th century and had some success, becoming a major producer of watches in Britain. However, foreign competition was too great and by that time, very well established. This combined with poor marketing, especially overseas led to the company being forced to close its doors in 1910. Some small workshops still produced time pieces in Prescot until the middle of the 20th century, but the watch making industry in Prescot effectively ended with the closure of the Lancashire watch company. ...read more.

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