History of timepieces

People’s engagement with time is long, and it is considered that time has understood by the position of the sun long time ago. Sundials are assumed to be used as a tool to measure time more than 10,000 years ago according to literary materials. In Egypt, people understood time at night based on the position of stars around 3400 BC, and then timepieces for measuring time were created using various materials including water, candles, and oil.

In 1090, a water clock tower (the astronomical clock tower) with an escapement was contrived in China. A mechanical clock driven by a weight was devised around 1300, and it developed to a small clock using a mainspring for power around 1462. The inventions of timepiece technology include the Galileo Galilei’s discovery of the isochronism of pendulums in Italy around 1582 and the Dutch Christiaan Huygens’ invention of a pendulum clock by leveraging the principle around 1656. These improved the accuracy of clocks remarkably. In 1675, Christiaan Huygens invented a balance-wheel regulator using a spring and produced a portable clock, and then, improvements of escapement and governor advanced, facilitating the development of mechanical clocks. The clock industry by handicraft manufacturing grew in Paris and London in the 18th century, and the evolution of rational production system in the U.S. in the 19th century made a huge leap of mechanical clocks.

In Japan in 671, Emperor Tenji started measuring time using a water clock and signaling the time by ringing bells and beating drums. In the Edo Period, clock masters made lantern clocks, pillar clocks with hour scales, carriage clocks, and other traditional Japanese clocks. Hisashige Tanaka, also known as Karakuri Giemon, built a myriad year clock in 1851. On December 3, 1872, the Meiji government abolished the lunar calendar, and then employed the solar calendar and transitioned to the fixed-time method from 1873, which ended the age of traditional Japanese clocks. In 1873, octagon-model and four-circle-model spring-type pendulum clocks (called bonbon clocks in Japan) were first imported, and later many clock manufacturers sprung up around Japan.

In 1927, the quartz clock was invented in the United States, and efforts were made in Japan to miniaturize these quartz clocks. In 1969, the ground-breaking quartz analog watch was released, and the precision of watches progressed rapidly. Subsequently, in 1973, liquid-crystal quartz digital watches were released. In addition, standard time and frequency signal transmission stations were established in Japan in 1999 and 2001. This enabled reception of the exact time countrywide, and Radio-controlled clocks were successively released.

Chronological history of timepieces
BC Around 1550 Amenemhet makes a water clock around the time of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt.
Around 250 Archimedes makes an astrarium (also called a planetarium).
Around 159 In Alexandria, a mechanical water clock is invented in which a doll appears at fixed times.
AD 671 Emperor Tenji measures the time using a water clock and notifies the public of the time using bells and drums. (The day that notification started, April 25 of the lunar calendar, is the origin of the Time Memorial Day in Japan on June 10 of the solar calendar.)
1090 A water clock (astronomical clock) with escapement is made in China.
Around 1462 A small spring-type clock is manufactured in Italy.
1480 The clock master of Louis XI in France makes a portable striking clock.
Around 1504 Peter Henlein makes a metal pocket watch (Germany).
Around 1582 Galileo Galilei discovers the isochronous principle of pendulums (Italy).
1652 Hans Buschmann makes a one-year winding spring clock.
Around 1656 Christiaan Huygens develops a pendulum clock (Holland).
1671 William Clement makes a one-second pendulum clock (England).
1675 Christiaan Huygens makes a balance-wheel clock with hair spring.
1730 Anton Ketterer plans a cuckoo clock (Germany).
1776 A prototype of the stopwatch is invented in Switzerland.
1780 Louis Recordon and Breguet make a self-winding pocket watch.
1840 Bain invents an electric clock (England).
1851 Hisashige Tanaka completes a myriad year clock, a traditional Japanese clock.
1873 The Japanese calendar switches from the lunar calendar to the solar calendar.
1884 The international Meridian Conference held and set the meridian that passes through the Greenwich astronomical observatory as the standard for longitude and determined that each country would use a time system that had a one –hour time difference at each 15° longitude interval.
1888 Japan Standard Time is officially proclaimed.
1927 Canadian Warren Marrison develops a quartz clock (United States).
1947 Shockley and others invent a transistor (United States).
1949 Lyons develops an ammonia atomic clock (United States).
1963 The first Radio-controlled clocks in the world are commercialized. (Japan)
1968 The first Quartz clocks in the world are commercialized. (Japan)
1969 The first Quartz analog watches in the world are commercialized. (Japan)
1973 The first Liquid-crystal quartz digital watches in the world are commercialized. (Japan)
1976 The first Solar-powered quartz analog watches in the world are commercialized. (Japan)
1990 The first Radio-controlled watches in the world are commercialized. (Germany)
1993 Radio-controlled watches made in Japan are commercialized.
1999 In Japan, a standard time and frequency signal transmitting station is established in Fukushima Prefecture, and official operation starts.
2001 A standard time and frequency signal transmitting station is also established on the border of Saga Prefecture and Fukuoka Prefecture, and all of Japan is covered.
2011 The first satellite Radio-controlled watches in the world are commercialized. (Japan)