Clock and Watch Industry

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Clock and Watch Industry


a branch of instrumentation that includes production of timepieces for everyday use, such as wristwatches, pocket watches, alarm clocks, table clocks, wall clocks, floor clocks, and public clocks for buildings and enterprises, as well as technical and specialized timepieces for transportation, timing devices, timers, chronographs, time-delay relays, and various types of clock movements used as precision drives.

The production of clocks was initially a cottage industry. The first clockmaker’s shop was established in Paris in 1453. The industrial production of pocket watches with a mainspring movement was begun in Germany in the 16th century. The clock and watch industry was also established in Switzerland in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The mechanized production of clocks and watches began in the second half of the 19th century in Switzerland, Germany, Japan, and the USA. In Russia, the cottage production of tower clocks was established by the 15th century, and the production of chronometers and deck clocks for the Russian Navy was organized in the late 19th century in St. Petersburg. In prerevolutionary Russia, clocks and watches for everyday use were assembled from imported parts at plants belonging primarily to the Swiss firms of P. Bouret, Moser, and Langendorf.

In the USSR, the production of very simple weight-driven pendulum clocks and the assembly of alarm clocks, partially from imported parts, were organized in the early 1920’s at the Aviapribor factory in Moscow. The core of the clock and watch industry was created in 1929 and 1930 when the First and Second Moscow watch factories were established. The production of pocket watches totaled 42,000 units in 1931 and increased to 192,000 units in 1935. In 1940 the USSR had three watch factories, two factories for the production of jewels for movements, and one factory for the production of wooden clock cases.

During World War II the clock and watch industry converted to defense production, but the manufacture of clocks and watches for everyday use was restored as early as 1944. From 1944 to 1952, watch and clock factories were constructed in Serdobsk, Yerevan, Petrodvorets, and Uglich, a scientific research institute was established for the clock and watch industry, and a design bureau was organized for the machine tool industry. The production of mainsprings, elinvar alloy hairsprings, ruby movement jewels, and watch lubricants was initiated, which made it possible to produce several very popular lines of clocks and watches: Pobeda, Zvezda, Salyut, and Molniia. Subsequent expansion of the selection of clocks and watches available and the improvement of labor efficiency through mechanization, automation, and specialization have made the USSR better able to satisfy the country’s demand for clocks and watches and to export its products.

In the mid-1970’s, the USSR widely exported Chaika, Zaria, Slava, Raketa, and Poljot mechanical wristwatches and Slava and Sevani alarm clocks. In 1975 there were more than 15 specialized production enterprises for the manufacture of specific types of clocks and watches: the Penza Watch Factory produces women’s wristwatches, the First Moscow Watch Factory produces men’s wristwatches, the Orel Clock Factory produces table, wall, and alarm clocks, and the Yerevan Clock Factory produces alarm clocks.

Production has increased for clocks and watches equipped with additional devices, such as calendars and self-winding mechanisms, and for electric contactless and electronic watches, including wristwatches with digital and analogue displays. The production of specialized equipment and tools has been organized for the manufacture of time-measurement devices. The modern clock and watch industry, as a branch of precision industry, has several distinctive characteristics resulting from the small size of the parts manufactured and the industry’s requirements for high precision. Special high-precision equipment is used, including automatic transfer machines that handle indexing for several production operations at one machining station or perform individual operations separately on multiposition automatic machines. The latter arrangement is characteristic of assembly operations, such as in the assembly of the gear wheel system of a clock or watch movement. The industry uses materials with special physical and chemical properties and extremely precise dimensions. The development of clock and watch production is shown in Table 1.

During the ninth five-year plan (1971–75), production quality was improved and the assortment of clocks and watches available was expanded. The output of class 1 clocks and watches has risen from 18 to 50 percent, and the production of watches with calendars, self-winding mechanisms, and other additional features reached 5.9 million items in 1975. The production of quartz-crystal watches with analogue and digital displays has been initiated; this required the production of integrated microcircuits, quartz-crystal oscillators, and miniature magnets and batteries, both within the clock and watch industry and in the electronics and electrical engineering industries. Labor productivity in the clock and watch industry during the period increased by a factor of more than 1.5.

Among the socialist countries, the clock and watch industry is most developed in the German Democratic Republic and Czechoslovakia, which produced 10 million and 2 million clocks and watches, respectively, in 1975. Clocks and watches are produced in small quantities in Hungary and Rumania.

The world production of wristwatches and pocket watches in 1974 totaled 230 million items, including 89 million in Switzerland, 32 million in Japan, 9 million in the Federal Republic of Germany, 24 million in the USA, and 17 million in France. Production is increasing for electronic wristwatches with analogue and digital displays (primarily in Japan) and digital quartz-crystal wristwatches (in the USA). The best-known firms are Seiko Time Corporation, Citizens Watch Company, Ltd., and Orient in Japan, Omega Watch Corporation, Longines-Wittnauer Watch Company, and Montres Rolex S.A. in Switzerland, Dill (Junghans) in the Federal Republic of Germany, Timex Corporation and Bulova Watch Company in the USA, and LIP in France.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.