We tend to think of our current calendar as an artifact that has been with us forever. But that is not the case at all. Over the centuries, starting as far back as 4000 B.C., the ancient Egyptians were using a solar calendar with 12 months of 30 days each for a 360-day calendar. They were way ahead of the ancient Greeks and Romans who were using a lunar calendar with only 10 months and a total of 264 days. January and February didn’t exist and the year started in March. Julius Caesar asked an Egyptian astronomer to devise a better calendar. The result was the Julian calendar with 12 months of 30 or 31 days and the outlier February. But the calendar still wasn’t quite right, so Italian doctor, astronomer and philosopher Luigi Lilio created the Gregorian calendar, the basis of today’s calendar.
Getting the days of the year right wasn’t the only worry. Since the beginning of time, humans have also pondered the passage of time over the period of a day. Before we had clocks and watches, we had poles and sticks as well as pyramids and other tall structures to try to make sense of the hours. From there, we moved to sundials, hourglasses and water clocks as well as the length of a burning candle to tell the passing of time. Mechanical clocks, which used weights and springs, appeared in the 1300s; but it was not until the 15th century that portable timepieces like clocks were made possible by the invention of the mainspring. From clocks, craftsmen moved to ornamental pendants like pocket watches and ladies’ necklaces. Interestingly enough, only women wore wristwatches at the beginning of the 20th century. That changed with World War I. Soldiers found that taking the time to check a pocket watch in battle could result in unpleasant consequences. And today? We have digital watches, atomic clocks and watches that are actually computers in disguise.
Our local retailers have gotten into the spirit of the invention of the calendar and timepieces and have provided a spectacular showcase of beautiful watches and clocks. Enjoy!
Read the entire article in the March 2016 issue