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The Watchmaker’s Art

Jeffrey Syken

Once upon a time in America - in the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch country, the craft of fine watch making was handed down from father-to-son and each generation in turn took immense pride in their craft. The name of the town was Lancaster, Pennsylvania – home of the maker of “America’s Fine Watch” – the Hamilton Watch Company.

The earliest watches were so expensive that only Monarchs and/or the very wealthy could afford them. A watch was a sign of wealth, no matter that they could be inaccurate up to an hour each day. Founded in the late 19th Century for the manufacture of highly accurate pocket watches for railroad conductors, by the middle of the 20th Century, the Hamilton Watch Company had established itself as the premier domestic manufacturer of fine watches. During WWII, they mass produced precision naval chronometers assisting greatly in the war effort. It was practically a tradition for a new graduate or retiree to be given a “Hamilton” as a gift symbolic of high regard and affection.

In and of itself, a fine watch is a miracle of mechanical engineering. Very often, the parts are so small as to be invisible to the naked eye. Power is supplied by the latent energy of springs and jeweled bearings provide a practically frictionless environment. Calibrated gears break down time to seconds, minutes and hours with a tolerance of one-ten thousandth of an inch. Though there are more efficient methods of telling time in the digital age, a mechanical movement made with skill and care is still regarded as the height of the watchmaker’s art.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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