In 1884, Greenwich, England was named the zero meridian, a worldwide acceptance of a starting point for global time zones. After 1900, advances in metallurgy improved the mechanisms, primarily because the balance spring was sensitive to temperature and position. Self-compensating balances were made with bi-metallic properties to compensate for high and low tempartures, and eventually a balance was created that could compensate for middle temperature errors. In 1905 the Rolex Watch Company was started by Hans Wilsdorf. 1914 saw the first wristwatch with an alarm. Seiko was started in Tokyo in 1924.
In 1933, Ingersoll introduced the Mickey Mouse watch, considered to be the first comic character watch. This initiated a trend that has expanded greatly in popularity and scope. The pocketwatch continued until the end of the Second World War, then was for the most part replaced by wristwatches. The Swiss dominated the world markets in quality by the use of an expensive jeweled watch with a lever system. The pin pallet was used in cheaper watches, finally displacing the cylinder escapement. Rolex produced a day and date watch in 1956, and the following year Hamilton produced the world's first battery operated watch. In 1970, the "Pulsar" appeared, the first electronic digital watch. This was followed two years later by LCD watches, produced by both Seiko and Longines. 1999 saw the innovative Global Positioning System built-into a Casio wristwatch.
It is the character watches starting with the 1933 Mickey Mouse watch that can command premium prices, even in the face of inferior timekeeping ability. The heroes of the comics, sports, and cinema, both real and imaginary, have become identities to children, as much a form of who you are as the adult form of the tattoo. But as a child's companion and toy, the product could often be broken or lost, with the result that finding rarer models in near mint condition is a daunting task. The challenge of hunting for such pieces through flea markets and garage sales can be the essence of the joy of collecting.
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