Period of Decoration

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, watches were still considered to be primarily decorative objects because of their poor functionality. Men who could afford them typically wore pocket watches, which hung from a short chain and easily slipped into a waistcoat pocket. Women's watches were traditionally more embellished and visibly worn as a pendant or on a chatelaine.

The century marked a period of rapid technical development. Pioneered by organizations and guilds in Germany, France, England, and Switzerland, inventors introduced new types of springs, encasements, and bearings that allowed for better accuracy and performance under vacillating temperature and position. They also replaced the key-winding watch with self-winding movement. Some English and Swiss watchmakers, who utilized jeweled bearings and newer escapements to control the rate of wheel movement, were able to equip watches with a minute hand, which until then was impossible.

These advancements influenced the design and stylistic components of watches, which became much smaller and slimmer. Greater attention was also paid to the protection of the watch, as they became more useful. Circular or oval faces were encased on either the front or back, sometimes both, by a hinged cover. These covers, made from brass, gold, or silver, often displayed intricate engravings or enamels of pastoral scenes, portraits, or other related designs. Fob watches, which were attached on a short chain or ribbon and often held other gold charms, became popular around this time as well. Although watches still lacked the accuracy they had in later years, they sometimes had calendar, moon phase, or alarm functions.

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