Wristwatch | A Short Story

Wristwatches are one of the significant items that mark the start of modern civilization. The portability and accuracy of wristwatch facilitate efficiency in daily activities. With electronic devices displaying time more accurately without manual adjustment, wristwatch is still essential as a part of time-telling, fashion, and personality.

Watches from Pocket to the Wrist

While time is conveniently displaced on wearable and digital devices nowadays, the modern wristwatch is a result of persisting craftsmen and innovation affecting eras to come. The shadow of wristwatch can be found in pocket watches, which consists of a dial, hands, and some with calendar and moon phase. Due to high manufacturing costs, pocket watches are luxury items that most labour class could not afford.

Industrial revolution accelerated the commonality of pocket watches, as both employers and employees would like to keep track of the time they worked, for having proper payment. The demand for accuracy of watches heightened when trains and ferries established fixed time departure, and passengers would need to follow the schedules. However, at the time, wristwatches were not popular among men, as it was considered too small and lack accuracy comparing to pocket watch. Wristwatches were viewed as decorative wearable, and women mostly used them as fashion details.

It was not till soldiers realized the convenience of using wristwatches, allowing them to free both hands when checking the time; that the accuracy and quality of wristwatch elevated from mere accessories. The timepiece soon became part of military necessity, and was popularized among male fashion after soldiers return from war (Stone & Pulvirent, 2018). This is the birth of leather strap wristwatches.

Vegetable-tanned Leather Straps

Another key feature of a traditionally designed wristwatch is the leather straps. Leather usage is one of the most useful among initial discoveries of man. While originally the hide and skin are a by-product of hunting and consuming animal, after processing the material with tanning, the leather outcome is very durable and can be applied to almost every item. Leather production is considered to be man’s first manufacturing process (Kite & Thomson, 2006).

Hides are tanned and processed into leather, for durability, resistant towards elements and longevity. For our timepieces, we choose leather that are vegetable tanned - the most traditional and history-rich method of tanning. The origin of vegetable tanning can be sourced back to ancient Egypt, with early records on the usage of leather and vegetable tannings (Howes, 1953). The material was widely applied, from everyday items like sandals, bags, cushions, rope, to military use of chariot, dagger sheaths and quivers. The tanning method spread into Europe and Asia through trading and gradual civilization and became the most common leather type used in western cultural heritage (Larsen, 2008).

Caring for Leather

The leather straps of Tordney timepieces are designed to be worn daily and last for a long time. Even though leather has high durability, caring and maintenance still play an important part for the longevity of leather products. Storing the piece in a well-ventilated area under room temperature would be preferred. Keeping the leather out of sunlight and heat from long periods of time can prevent it from drying out, reducing the chance cracking and fading in colour. If your leather straps become dry, apply some leather conditioner will soften it up again! While exposure to rain will not harm the leather, highly humid environment should be avoided as mildew will form on leather.

Takeaways

Every piece of machinery or material around us has a rich history of evolving with the era; every design detail and unique feature represent the hard work of a craftsman, a scientist or an artist. We wish to acknowledge their efforts by telling their story, and the smallest detail on our wrist could be someone else’s mindful fruit.


References

Howes, F.N. (1953) Vegetable Tanning Materials. London: Butterworths Scientific Publications.

Kite, M & Thomson, R. (2006) Conservation of Leather and related materials. Burlington, MA: Elsevier Ltd.

Larsen, R. (2008) The Chemical Degradation of Leather. CHIMIA International Journal for Chemistry, November, pp. 899-902.

Stone, G & Pulvirent, S. (2018) The Watch, Thoroughly Revised. Second Edition ed. New York: Abrams.

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