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


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.

It was in the late 17th century that the watch making industry became

a much more renowned industry in Britain. Evolution in watch design

meant that watches soon became more accurate, which made them much

more useful and as a result, the demand increased for British watches.

Watch making in Prescot

By the 18th century, Prescot was well established as the centre of

watch making in England, and for 100 years after, Prescot would become

world famous for its product quality.

John Wyke and other famous watch makers started their businesses in

Prescot, and at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1837, Watch

making was renowned in Prescot.

The area was already well known for its tools most importantly files,

and metal works, which made it easier for business to thrive.

Extremely high quality tools and metal were required by watchmakers so

the industries were set up next to each other to make life simpler.

Liverpool became a major c...

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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.
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