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Watch and Clock Repairers

History

Keeping track of time has always been important to people. Ancient devices for measuring the passage of time included sundials and hourglasses. People also measured time through watching water drip at a steady pace until it filled a fixed container or by burning candles with regularly spaced marks on the side. The earliest mechanical clocks were built in Europe in the 1300s. Made of iron and driven by the energy of slowly dropping weights, they were so large and heavy that they had to be fitted into towers, and could indicate the hours only approximately. Improvements in clock mechanisms made them smaller, and a few household versions of weight-driven clocks began to appear by the end of the 1300s.

Portable clocks and watches became possible in the early 1500s, when a coiled mainspring replaced weights as a means for driving the mechanism. Early watches were about four to five inches in diameter, three inches deep, and so heavy that they had to be carried in the hand. A long series of advances refined the size of watches and clocks and improved their performance. By 1809, a watch belonging to the Empress Josephine of France was small enough to be made into the first wristwatch, although wristwatches were not very successful for nearly another century. Among the many changes that improved clocks and watches were parts made of brass and steel, then later of special metal alloys, the introduction of the pendulum in clocks, and the invention of the hairspring to regulate the motion of the balance wheel in watches. More recently, electric and electronic devices have brought further miniaturization and helped increase timekeeping accuracy.

Until the 1800s, timepieces were made by hand, one by one, by skilled artisans. In the early United States, a few clockmakers copied European clocks of the era, and clock towers were built in city public places. Not many people owned watches prior to the 1800s. In that century, however, large numbers of clocks and pocket watches were made using factory methods. Prices became more reasonable, and watches and clocks became popular as people led more active lives and traveled more. Today's watches and clocks are almost always mass-produced in factories, but workers skilled in adjusting and repairing precision parts are still needed to work on electric and mechanical timepieces.

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