Stop and Watch

A (Very) Short History of Time

Humans have always been obsessed with time. Long before our lives were governed by the snooze button and Google calendar alerts, we were looking to sundials, water clocks and hourglasses to measure its passage. In the 16th century, Galileo Galilei and Christiaan Huygens helped invent pendulum clocks, before Jost Burgi made things a little more accurate by adding a minute hand. It didn’t take long to go from these spring-powered clocks to mechanisms that you strapped onto your wrist and, hey presto, the watch was born.

The first watches were mechanical and driven by a mainspring which had to be wound periodically by hand or via a self-winding mechanism. These were dominant until the 1960s, when battery-powered quartz watches – so-called because of the internal vibrating quartz crystal that helped them keep time – were invented. Fast-forward to the 2010s and smartwatches exploded onto the market. While these mini computers can now take phone calls, monitor your heart rate and count your steps, the number one requirement we still ask of them is… to tell us what time it is.

History’s Most Iconic Watches


Omega boasts the accolade of being the first watch to be worn on the moon. Neil Armstrong donned an Omega Speedmaster during his ‘one small step’ in 1969, after NASA put it through a rigorous selection process. The brand has also been the official timekeeper at the Olympic Games since 1932 – remember Usain Bolt celebrating next to his new 100m record at London 2012? With such pedigree, it’s little surprise that the watch has found A-List fans in the likes of George Clooney, Tom Hanks and Ryan Reynolds, not to mention 007. Daniel Craig wore an Omega Seamaster Diver 300m in his latest, and last, James Bond movie, No Time to Die.

Tag Heuer

Tag Heuer watches are solid timepieces that suit men with bigger hands and wrists. The brand’s slogan is ‘Don’t Crack Under Pressure’ and, appropriately, one of its most famous watches, the Tag Heuer Carrera, is a lightweight watch inspired by racing cars. This watch, created in 1963 and relaunched several times since, has a very simple design, with only registers and applied markers on the dial. This simplicity has proved popular all over the world and Tag counts Brad Pitt and Chris Hemsworth among its fans and ambassadors.


Bulky and flashy, a Rolex watch is worn to be noticed. The Daytona is one of Rolex’s most
famous models and was made famous by Hollywood icon Paul Newman, while he was trying
to pursue a racing career. It has a diamond finish which makes the face scratch proof and
resistant to colour change, while a stainless-steel casing means it will always look shiny and new. Other Rolex fans include Robert Downey Jr, Jason Statham and Reese Witherspoon.


The Cartier Tank watch has a stunning rectangle case which is encased in either yellow or rose gold and has a soft brown leather strap. This watch, which has a 100-year history, is
unique in that it’s equally beloved by both men and women. Princess Diana was often snapped wearing one, while Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks are also known to be fans of its graceful design.


A relative newbie when it comes to the watch world, the Tudor Black Bay was launched in
2012 but, since then, it’s been spotted on several celebrity wrists, including that of its ambassador David Beckham. This timepiece is characterised by a slender design and has a
smaller casing than other watches. The Black Bay has a vintage aesthetic, with crisp lines and a tough stainless-steel casing which, even though it’s the new kid on the block, gives it timeless appeal.

Patek Philippe

This Genevan watchmaker is regarded as one of the best – if not the best – and its Nautilus
watch, originally designed in 1973, is its most iconic. The watch is a clever mix of historic styling with modern details and is resistant to water. As you’d expect there are nautical themes in its design with navy blue clockface and sporty steel finish. Celebrity fans of Patek Philippe are varied, from Queen Victoria and Albert Einstein to Ed Sheeran and Victoria Beckham.


Breguet has been making watches since the 18th century and notable among its designs is the Classique, timepieces characterised by simple shapes in rose and white gold or
platinum. Breguet introduced engravings on the dial plate which, as well as being decorative, have the advantage of preventing the reflection of light on the metal plates. Engraved surfaces are also better protected than a polished finish when it comes to corrosion and scratches. Notable Breguet owners include Nicolas Sarkozy and Sir Winston Churchill.


Longines timepieces have more of a vintage feel than other watches, and the Longines Master Collection features a brown leather wrist strap and a white face with a classic design. Streamlined and light, this watch is comfortable to wear and suits smaller wrists. Kate Winslet and Bridgerton’s Regé-Jean Page are Longines fans and ambassadors.