History/Watch Cases

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A Brief History of Watch Cases

The earliest known watch cases were ball shaped and made of gilded brass. Gilded bronze was common in the sixteenth century. The ball was rapidly superseded by the drum shape which became rounded at the edges after about 1575, when octagonal shapes also appeared.

Oval shaped watch cases were introduced just before 1600 (see Puritan Watch). There were no glasses and the single hand was read through the pierced decoration of the cover, although rock crystal was sometimes used as a 'glass'. The case was hinged below the pendant, the movement being hinged on the same line, but held in the bottom of the case by a small catch.

The pair case increased in popularity after mid-seventeenth century. Considerable decoration was applied from this time, of rock crystal, enamel, chasing, chiselling, and repousse. The form watch also appeared about this time. Gold, silver, brass, and pinchbeck were used and outer pair cases were sometimes of leather (see Pinwork), shagreen, or pique.

Most modern wristwatch cases are of gold or platinum alloy, stainless steel, or plastic.