Our History

At HS Johnson we have a rich heritage in watches stretching back to 1946, but that’s just a fraction of the time that the watch industry has been in existence. The earliest record of a timepiece dates back to 1530. Peter Henlein, a German clockmaker from Nuremberg, Germany, is said by some to be one of the first watch manufacturers. They were originally worn for ornamental, rather than purely functional purposes, and according to literature from the era, would operate for a length of four hours at a time.

Centuries before digital watches would appear, the first watches were mechanical devices which required winding up prior to use. The word ‘watch’ itself is said to come from 17th century English sailors, who timed their shifts on duty using the timepieces, although the evidence is far from conclusive.

The 1800s saw the mass production of the watch take flight in the factories of the United States, with the fast growth of the railway system credited in part with the increase in the number of watches manufactured. That’s because the timetables and scheduling system on the trains required a reliable source of the time on the move. The winding of watches became more efficient around this era – instead of having to use a key, it was now possible to wind a watch up using a ‘crown’ – the name given to the small knob on the side of a timepiece which the user twists in order to wind it up.

The basic, spring based, mechanical design, would continue to be used until the 20th century, when in the 1960s the quartz watch, running from electricity, marked a massive shift in the watchmaking industry.

Moving into the 1970s, and the first digital watch was created by Pulsar. Also the Omega Marine Chronometer, which was released in the same year, represented a huge step forward in terms of accuracy. It could keep time to within one second per month – meaning it offered accuracy of within 12 seconds per calendar year.

With the move towards the quartz based system which most watches now use, so too occurred a geographical shift to the Far East, where most watch manufacturing now takes place. Watches have come along way since their inception some five centuries ago – but it is clear that consumers still value watches that are able to offer both style and functionality, and that’s a principle we aim to embody in the HS Johnson range.