Automatic Winding – Some Significant Dates

Posted by Mike Disher on August 28, 1999 at 12:38:11:

TZ Classics Forum Number: 810

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Automatic Winding – Some Significant Dates

1770 Abraham-Louis Perrelet, Sr. (1729-1826) builds the first automatic winding apparatus in a pocket watch. 1770 seems to be the consensus date. A few sources claim 1780.

1777 (approximately) Abraham Louis Breguet builds an automatic winding pocket watch prototype.

1780 According to some sources, Breguet begins commercial production of automatic winding pocket watches called “perpetuelles”. These watches did not work reliably. Breguet ceased production around 1800.

1780 Louis Recordon builds an improved automatic winding mechanism.

1842 Adrien Philippe (a founder of Patek Philippe) develops a pendulum winding pocket watch.

1922 Lon Leroy of Paris builds a small series of self-winding watches.

1923 John Harwood applies for a Swiss patent, issued in 1924, for a hammer style automatic winding system. Harwood is considered the inventor of automatic winding, as his system was designed for mass production.

1924 – 1929 Harwood works with Anton Schild S.A. to develop his automatic winding movement for production. AS produces raw movements, and Fortis S.A. finishes them. Fortis is credited with bringing the first line of automatic winding watches to market.

1926 Blancpain builds prototype wristwatches using Harwood’s patent under license. Blancpain also produces a limited series of these watches.

1929 At the Basel Fair, Fortis displays the first Harwood Automatic for large series production. Harwood and his business partner Harry Cutts also license Harwood’s mechanism to the Perpetual Watch Company, which sold watches in the U.S. and Canada.

1929 John Harwood declares bankruptcy.

1930 Some sources claim Rolex introduced its Perpetual automatic winding system in 1930.

1931 Harwood’s companies were liquidated.

1931 Some sources claim Rolex introduced the Perpetual automatic winding system in 1931.

1931 The Wig-Wag automatic movement is patented.

1931 Fortis introduces the Autorist automatic winding wristwatch.

1933 Breguet creates a one-off watch with the first-known power reserve indicator.

1933 (May 16) Rolex obtains a patent on its revolutionary 360 degree “Perpetual” rotor automatic winding system. A new watch using this system is launched in late 1933 according to some sources, however the exact date appears uncertain.

1942 Felsa introduces a production bi-directional rotor winding system in the “Bidynator” caliber.

1948 Jaeger-LeCoultre introduces the first power reserve indicator in a production series with the “Powermatic.”

1948 Eterna introduces a ball-bearing mounted winding rotor. Some sources place the date in 1949.

1955 Jaeger-LeCoultre introduces the “Futurematic”, the first entirely automatic winding watch, i.e. a watch that cannot be wound by hand and which has no winding crown. Some sources place the introduction date at 1953.

1956 Jaeger-LeCoultre introduces the first automatic winding alarm watch, the “Memovox”. However, the alarm requires manual winding.

1957 Buren introduces the “Super-Slender” automatic winding movement which is only 4.2 mm thick.

1959 Piaget introduces the Cal. 12P, an automatic winding movement with solid gold micro-rotor. This movement is only 2.3 mm thick. It holds the record for thinnest automatic until 1978.

1978 Bouchet – Lassale S.A. introduces the Cal. 2000, an automatic winding movement only 2.08 mm thick.