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watch, small, portable timepiece usually designed to be worn on the person. Other kinds of timepieces are generally referred to as clocks. At one time it was generally believed that the first watches were made in Nuremburg, Germany, c.1500. However, there is now evidence that watches may have appeared at an earlier date in Italy. Early watches were ornate, very heavy, and made in a variety of shapes, e.g., pears, skulls, and crosses; the faces were protected by metal latticework. Watch parts were made by hand until c.1850, when machine methods were introduced by watch manufacturers in the United States. The introduction of machine-made parts not only cut manufacturing costs but increased precision and facilitated repairs. To insure the accuracy of a watch over a long period, bearings made of jewels (usually synthetic sapphires or rubies) are utilized at points subject to heavy wear. The mechanical watch contains a mainspring to drive the watch's mechanism. Part of the mechanism includes a hairspring and an oscillating balance wheel to control the rate at which the mechanism moves. The mainspring is wound by the wearer when he turns a knob outside the watch's casing. The automatic, or self-winding, watch has a mainspring that is wound by an oscillating weight, contained in the watch, that is set into motion by the movements of the wearer. The stopwatch can be stopped or started at will by pressing a tiny button on its edge and is used for timing such events as races. The electric watch, which was introduced by the Hamilton Watch Company in 1957, also uses a hairspring and a balance wheel to regulate the rate at which its mechanism moves, but it has no mainspring. In recent years sophisticated electronic watches have been developed. One type uses the vibrations of an electrically driven tuning fork to determine the rate at which a small motor drives the hands. In another type a crystal oscillator provides a signal that regulates this motion. In the most common type a quartz crystal oscillator is joined to digital counting and digital display circuits, thus eliminating all moving parts. See liquid crystal. Quartz watches with digital displays now account for nearly half of all watch production, since they are inexpensive to produce but are accurate to within several seconds per month. Electric and electronic watches are powered by tiny long-lasting batteries. See chronometer.


See C. Clutton and G. Daniels, Watches: A Complete History (3d ed. 1979); J. Zagoory and H. Chan, A Time to Watch: The Wrist Watch as Art (1985); E. Bruton, History of Clocks and Watches (1989).

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



Basic type of duty on ships and vessels, for the purpose of maintaining their combat readiness (in the navy) and navigational safety. The watch on naval ships is divided into general ship’s watch (combat watch, bridge watch at sea, and anchor watch) and special (for example, engine-crew watch). The distribution of personnel in shifts is provided for in special rosters. The term “watch” is also used to designate the interval of time during which one shift of a 24-hour detail stands watch; its duration is not more than six hours. The most difficult watch is considered to be the first night watch from 0:01 to 4:00 hours, which is called the dogwatch in all the navies of the world.

(2) Obsolete term used to designate half of the crew of a ship (vessel). Up until the 19th century a ship’s crew was divided into two watches; the first watch was located (hung its hammocks) in the right-hand portion of the ship’s hull and the second watch, in the left portion.

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


The service performed by a qualified operator when on duty in the radio room of a vessel. Also known as radio watch.
A small timepiece of a size convenient to be carried on the person.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a. any of the usually four-hour periods beginning at midnight and again at noon during which part of a ship's crew are on duty
b. those officers and crew on duty during a specified watch
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The fact that Abramovic remained alone each night in her self-imposed confinement made palpable the watchfulness of buildings left empty; four walls, generic furniture, light fixtures, a drywall floor, kept Abramovic company as she continued her private theater without anyone there.
While Americans rightly celebrate their independence day and their history under a shadow of increased security and watchfulness, Northern Ireland will enter a time of supposed celebration for unionists under the shadow of further violence, threats of violence and the prospect of concessions to those making the violence happen.
An alert from Washington calling for greater watchfulness at Pearl Harbor was misrouted by a telegraph operator.
They can exercise watchfulness on behalf of those who care.
The region's top cop also ordered thorough inspections in all checkpoints; deployment of more personnel, explosive ordnance K9 teams in places of convergence, economic key points and transport terminals, airports and sea ports; extra watchfulness for suspicious persons, packages or activities; intensification of intelligence gathering; and conduct of innovative strategies to harden soft targets.
Bell remained watchfulness itself, though, through to the end of another splendid day's cricket.
"The levels of watchfulness for H1N1 are much higher now in comparison to other Influenza like symptoms that broke out in the past.
But Symonds mixed watchfulness and clever placement with some occasional big hits to blunt the spinners and dominate a 90-run fourth-wicket stand with captain Michael Clarke (39 not out from 72 balls).
He followed his painstaking century at Lord's and 94 at Edgbaston with four hours of exemplary watchfulness. Sri Lanka's feeble attack must be heartily sick of him.
As seventy-three-year-old Alvin Straight, who can barely walk yet drives a battered lawn mower nearly 300 miles from low to Wisconsin to visit his sick, estranged brother, Farnsworth takes in the world and his own increasing frailty with an aching watchfulness. Farnsworth's eyes articulate what Straight himself can't put into words, conveying what it means to bear witness to decades of silent tragedy, shame, fear, and loss (Alvin mentions almost in passing that his late wife gave birth to "four teen babies--seven made it").
The cat is a symbol of watchfulness; this was taken from the belief that the lion slept with its eyes open, ever alert, ever watchful.
On the contrary, the life and character of its justices should be the objects of constant watchfulness by all, and its judgments subject to the freest criticism.