Horology Schools & The History of Time

Horology Schools & The History of TimeI love my Swiss watch, a Baume and Mercier Riviera – you can see it in the picture . I therefore thought I’d do some digging and put together a special article all about time! I didn’t even know what Horology was before writing this!

What is Horology?

Time is like a river, ever flowing forward toward the sea of infinity.

No matter how rich (or financially troubled) we are, our politics, ethnicity or viewpoints on world affairs, we all have one thing in common, time.Horology is simply the measurement of time from a scientific viewpoint.

As technologically has advanced, time (often measured in the billionths of a second) has become crucial to the effective use of computers, cell phones, GPS (global positioning satellites), space travel and of course assuring we’re on time to pick up our kids, or make that important luncheon.

FACTOID: The foundation of our 60 second minute and 60 minute hour can be traced to ancient Babylon.The Babylonians were the first (later refined by the Egyptians) to divide a day into 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night.

Horology can be as simple as enjoying the workings of a well made clock, or as intricate as the atomic clock (accurate to within one second in 20 million years).Strictly speaking it is the continuing search for an instrument(s) that measures time.Today even the simplest timepiece keeps accurate digital time, but turn your gaze backward 100 or more years and the science was complicated not only by time, but also the mechanics of constructing the clock itself.


The sundial (or sunclock) dates to ancient Egypt (approximately 1500BC).These early clocks were the first (in recorded history) to measure the passage of hours and were normally divided into ten equal parts with two twilight sections.NOTE: This type of sundial had to be physically rotated to accurately record time in the afternoon.

Most likely invented by the ancient Greeks, these clocks locked the flow of water (into and out of container) to a period of time.Markers on the side of the container were scribed to indicate a fixed period of time.These types of clock, while not accurate to the second, were used widely in the Middle East and North Africa.

While Galileo is most often given credit for inventing the first mechanical clock, the design he created was not manufactured till after his death. Delving deeper the actual credit goes to Christian Huygens who in 1656 created the first “Pendulum clock”.This clock (which was improved on over time) had an accuracy of one minute per day (unheard of for the era).

Quartz clocks or timepieces were a giant leap forward, measuring time based on the constant of an electrical signal.Quartz crystals, when subjected to an electrical current, actually change their shape.The measure of this shape, when combined with an electronic circuit, generates a measured and constant vibration or signal.It is this signal, when used in conjunction with an electronic time display, provides an extremely accurate measure of time.

In our technological world, atomic clocks (in effect) run the world with airlines, financial markets, smart phones, manufacturing and utility companies depending on them for an accurate (micro second) measurement of time.This measurement, based on “9,192,631,770 Oscillations” per second is far beyond the needs of most of us, yet technology depends on it.

In centuries past, when most learned a trade and worked on a farm or nearby village, time was simply the passing of dawn into morning, into twilight, into night.People were ruled more by their bodily functions than the time of day.
Today our culture is fully wired into the passing of time with schedules to keep, appointment to makes, conference calls to complete and the demanding schedules of our children.Add in multiple time zones, business in multiple countries (via the internet) and the study of time (or Horology) is something each of partake of every day.Time is a commodity that all of us have equal amounts of, but few of appreciate its importance.


The Institute of Swiss Watchmaking is a Swiss organization supported by some of the leading brands from luxury Swiss watches – such as IWC. They operate a ‘school of horology‘ – or watchmaking school: one is based in the USA, with the other in Hong Kong. Here students are able to study and learn how to become first class horologists (or watchmakers), choosing from the courses offered – either as an ‘encasing technician’ or as a ‘certified Swiss watchmaker’. Watchmaking is a very specialized profession but one that is perfectly suited to people that are fascinated by time. The IOSW courses grants WOSTEP certification for students that pass the course, thus enabling graduates to work in the Swiss watch industry, either in a central office, or in one of the many authorized repair centres globally.