10 Gems Of Watchmaking Trivia To Keep You Amused During Lockdown

10 Gems Of Watchmaking Trivia To Keep You Amused During Lockdown

Test your watch knowledge with these interesting horological facts.

By Sophie Furley
Editor-At-Large

While a large portion of the world is hiding out at home, we thought we could share some good old watch trivia to help you pass the time.

1. Crown Up Or Crown Down?

This is probably one of the most controversial questions in the watch industry. Some people swear you should never put your watch on its crown as it could damage the mechanism.

Others believe that putting a watch with the crown facing downwards avoids excessive scratching to the case.
 

Patek Philippe Ref. 5235/50R Annual Calendar Regulator
Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Chrono GMT

We spoke to several watchmakers who confirmed that it doesn’t really matter. There is no right (or wrong) way to place a watch on a surface. Just don’t slam it down.
 

Oris Aquis Date
Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition

2. Why Did Omega Criticize Bill Clinton For His Choice Of Watch?

During Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, he wore a Timex Ironman Triathlon timepiece.

The Swiss were up in arms about this, and Omega even ran advertisements suggesting Clinton should give up the Timex for something more appropriate.
 

Bill Clinton wore an early model of the Timex Ironman to his inaugural ball

He obviously listened as he went on to become quite the watch collector wearing Cartier, Panerai, Franck Muller, Roger Dubuis, and A. Lange & Söhne.
 

Bill Clinton holding his favourite instrument,  a saxophone and wearing his Aude
Jaeger LeCoultre Master Compressor Alarm Navy Seals on the wrist of Bill Clinton

3. Which Member Of Royalty Pick-Pocketed Winston Churchill’s Watch?

The answer is King Farouk of Egypt.

In 1942, Churchill was visiting British troops in Egypt when he was invited to dinner with King Farouk. During the dinner, Churchill noticed that his pocket watch had disappeared.
 

British troops in Egypt
King Farouk & Sir Winston Churchill

Oddly enough, King Farouk was a known kleptomaniac and often stole items from guests and others’ homes. It is also said that he hired a professional thief to teach him new tricks.

So, when Churchill told King Farouk that his watch had been stolen, the King excused himself from the table, only to return with the watch in hand claiming an employee was the culprit.
 

A Dent pocket watch similar in appearance to that stolen from Churchill ©Christi

4. Why Is The Number Four In Roman Numerals All Wrong?

If you look at most watches with Roman numerals, you will notice that the number four isn’t as it should be. It is most often written “IIII” instead of the correct “IV.” Watchmakers have been writing it like this for centuries, but why?

There are several theories. The first is that the number four used to be written this way, but people found that it was easily confused with the number three “III,” so it was changed.
 

Image ©Brooke Campbell

Another reason is that when the first clocks appeared, many people couldn’t read, so the “IIII” was easier to understand.

And lastly, and the most likely reason, it just looks more balanced on a dial like this, so why not?
 

Big Ben, London ©Marlon Maya

5. How Did Ulysse Nardin’s Freak Get Its Name?

Watches are often given code names during production while the marketing departments decide on the best name. During production, this timepiece was so different from anything else that its watchmakers called it “The Freak.”
 

Ulysse Nardin Freak neXt

Thinking it was perhaps not the best name for a timepiece, the marketing department tried to come up with a better name but to no avail. So the company just ran with the name Freak.
 

Ulysse Nardin Freak X

6. How Did One Man Prevent His Rolex From Being Stolen?

In more recent watch history, quick-thinking Mark Ewart from Essex, England, was attacked just last week by a man with a knife. Rather than hand over his treasured Rolex, he threw it up onto a nearby roof.
 

Mark Ewart from Essex, England

The attacker, rather surprised by the act, then grabbed the man’s laptop and fled. The watch was unharmed and is working just fine, as you would expect from a Rolex!
 

7. How Did Watches Save The Lives Of Numerous Jews During WW2?

Inside the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, in Germany, was a watch workshop set up to repair the watches taken from Jews. Over 160 watchmakers were sent there from other camps, including Auschwitz.
 

Sachsenhausen concentration camp

The watches were then given as gifts to German soldiers and others working in the war effort. These watchmakers were treated better than most, and the majority of them survived the war thanks to their horological training.

8. Which Watch Brand Was The Subject Of The World’s First Television Commercial?

The world’s first television commercial was for a Bulova timepiece. The advertisement aired on July 1st, 1941, just before the beginning of a baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Brooklyn Dodgers. The commercial aired on NBC’s WNBT-TV and lasted for just 10 seconds and cost the company a grand total of $9.
 

Which Celebrity Bought His Two-Year-Old Son A Rolex?

DJ Khaled treated his two-year-old son Asahd to a $34,000 diamond Rolex that was specially fitted for his tiny wrist. DJ Khaled posted a video on Instagram from the Rolex store in the Bahamas. You can also check out the toddler on Instagram as he has his own account @asahdkhaled, where he is often seen sporting his Rolex.
 

Instagram ©@asahdkhaled

10. Why Will Most Perpetual Calendars Need To Be Reset In The Year 2100?

This is because years that are divisible by four are usually leap years, but years ending in 00 must also be divisible by 400 to be a leap year. The perpetual calendar does not calculate the last part of this equation, so they will need to be reset in 2100. There is one exception: IWC has a perpetual calendar that doesn’t need to be updated until 2499.
 

IWC Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Spitfire

(Watchonista Photography by Liam O'Donnell)

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