ETYM Old Eng. wacche, as. waecce, from wacian to wake; akin to Dutch wacht, waak, German wacht, wache. Related to Wake.
(Irregular plural: watches).
1. A small portable timepiece; SYN. ticker.
2. A purposeful surveillance to guard or observe; SYN. vigil.
3. A period of time (4 or 2 hours) during which some of a ship's crew are on duty.
4. The period during which someone (especially a guard) is on duty.
Portable timepiece. In the early 20th century increasing miniaturization, mass production, and, in World War I, the advantages of the wristband led to the watch moving from the pocket to the wrist. Watches were also subsequently made waterproof, antimagnetic, self-winding, and shock-resistant. In 1957 the electric watch was developed, and in the 1970s came the digital watch, which dispensed with all moving parts.
Traditional mechanical watches with analog dials (hands) are based on the invention by Peter Henlein (1480–1542) of the mainspring as the energy store. By 1675 the invention of the balance spring allowed watches to be made small enough to move from waist to pocket. By the 18th century pocket-watches were accurate, and by the 20th century wristwatches were introduced. In the 1950s battery-run electromagnetic watches were developed; in the 1960s electronic watches were marketed, which use the piezoelectric oscillations of a quartz crystal to mark time and an electronic circuit to drive the hands. In the 1970s quartz watches without moving parts were developed—the solid-state watch with a display of digits. Some include a tiny calculator and such functions as date, alarm, stopwatch, and reminder beeps.