17th July 2024

Reading time with Peter Henlein

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Peter Henlein

Peter Henlein

Peter Henlein, a 16th-century locksmith and clockmaker from Nuremberg, Germany, is considered to be the architect of the first ‘watch’. Devices for reading time, like sundials, obelisks, and hourglasses were used to measure the passage of time since ancient ages. The credit for the first mechanical water clock goes to the Chinese genius Su Song, for which he used the principle of escapement.

He was one of the first craftsmen to fashion small ornamental clocks that one could carry around in their breast pocket. These portable clocks were encased in metal spheres and hung from chains. However, the design of the clocks was not highly portable. It was therefore easier to hang them from the neck than carry them in the breast pocket. These small clocks were rare, expensive, and quite a novelty at that time. Henlein’s creations became popular, which the European population soon coveted. His gained further attention with the clock tower that he built for Lichtenau castle in 1541.

Henlein did not invent the mainspring and was not the first craftsman to design small clocks. Nevertheless, it was his invention that popularized the concept of the modern-day watch.

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