2015 Archives

From the Pocket Watch to the Smart Watch: A Short History of Timekeeping


The following is from the March 9, 2015, edition of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's "The Take Away with John Hockenberry." SMU History Professor Alexis McCrossen provided expertise for this story.

March 9, 2015

If you're a little tired today, it might be because it's the first Monday after daylight saving time. Every spring we turn our clocks ahead one hour—it's one of those rules we've established about the way time works in our society.

But what if there were no rules about time? That used to be how it worked in the United States. Then, on November 18, 1883, time was finally standardized, and people needed portable devices to help keep track of the time. The pocket watch had already been invented, but its popularity began to explode.

Then during World War I, the the wrist watch caught on as a useful tool for the armed forces. Several decades later, we got the self-winding wrist watch, then the digital wrist watch, and now the smart watch.

Alexis McCrossen is a professor of U.S. history at Southern Methodist University and the author of "Marking Modern Times: A History of Clocks, Watches, and other Timekeepers in American Life." She discusses the history of timepieces with Takeaway Host John Hockenberry.

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