The first wave, I submit, occurred in 1761 when John Harrison refined the chronometer escapement. He thus enabled a successful conclusion to the Age of Discovery and the world became a much smaller place.
The second wave, and one in which Vacheron & Constantin played a pivotal role, arrived in 1839 when Georges Auguste Leschot applied his pantograph device to the mass production of precision watch components. As Juan Carlos Torres described it; with this invention “watchmaking entered the Industrial Age”.
The third wave occurred within my memory; the Quartz Revolution of 1975. Although the Swiss watch industry cursed this difficult decade as the “quartz crisis”, the challenge was met by a renewed focus on craftsmanship and technical excellence. What was previously a cluttered and bucolic industry emerged as a stronger, global entity.
So, is there a forth wave approaching? I’m referring to Cloud Computing. With Internet as the conduit, multiple services are now delivered through a single portal device. Look around you and notice the infiltration of PDA’s (tablets, notebooks too) substituting for radio, television, telephone, paper media of all kinds, and timekeeping as well.
Lifestyles are quickly adapting to this new order; neither of my adult children own conventional televisions or telephones. If they want to know the time they reach for their iPhones to gather this factoid, plus the weather forecast or whatever app is the current favorite, while scanning for contact from their “social network”.
I am excited for the watch industry’s response to the Cloud; a hoped-for fourth wave of horological innovation. Trepidatious too, remembering those bejewelled cellphones sporting implanted tourbillons and ludicrous price tags.
And what of us watch aficionados? Will the wrist watch become merely an expression of eccentricity; has the contraption wrapped around my arm already reached the evolutionary status of the pocket watch? Please condemn or confirm my thesis, as you see it.