La Conquête du Temps

"The Mastery of Time", which traces the history of time measurement from its origins to the present day, lands in Dubai for Dubai Watch Week, November 15th to 19th 2016. Visitors can discover an exclusive presentation of some one hundred clocks and watches loaned by the FHH's 26 partner-brands: illustrations of the ingenuity deployed over the centuries to conquer our temporal environment.

The exhibition presents Man's epic endeavour to master time. From early sundials to modern-day mechanisms, it tells the story of watches from a historic and scientific perspective, and illustrates the gradual conquest of precision over the centuries. It unfolds in six parts which take visitors to the heart of milestones in the history of time measurement. This remarkable human adventure is further highlighted by decisive advances in technologies and by watchmaking's companion crafts, the métiers d'art that have become one of its favourite forms of expression.

Practical Information


November 15th – November 29th 2016

Opening times:

From Monday to Sunday
10 am – 12 pm


Grand Atrium - The Dubai Mall – Dubai






Portable sundial, Pierre LeMaire, Paris, early 18th c.
Rocaille table clock, Anonymous, Germany, second half of the 18th c.
Pocket watch decorated with a bouquet of flowers on a mauve background, made for the Chinese market, Bovet, Fleurier (Switzerland), circa 1830.
Pocket watch decorated with a bouquet of flowers on a mauve background, made for the Chinese market, Bovet, Fleurier (Switzerland), circa 1830.
Planetary clock, Francois Ducommun, La Chaux-de-Fonds, 1830
Replica of Rieussec's chronograph, 1821.
Convertible wristwatch, Waltham, USA, 1910.
Beta 21 wristwatch, FAR, 1970.

Copyright Dominique Cohas / Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, Genève, Suisse

Key dates

  • Horology, a child of astronomy

    Portable sundial, Pierre LeMaire, Paris, early 18th c.

    约 -1450

    First sundial: -1450 before JC in Egypte.

    After observing the natural rhythm of daylight and dark, civilisations around the world looked for ways to measure time, first with calendars then with instruments of increasing precision. 

  • From Clock to Watch - Fourteenth to sixteenth century

    Giovanni de Dondi of Padua built his Astrarium : an astronomical clock considered to be the wonder of its age. Although the original has disappeared, a replica was made based on detailed descriptions left by its creator.

    Fusee © MHE

    约 1410

    Development of the mainspring. Combined with the fusee, this innovation made possible the truly portable domestic clock and, as components grew smaller, paved the way for the production of watches.

    The celebrated French enameller Pierre Huaud (1612-1680) was granted residency of Geneva.

    Frenchman Jean Toutin invented the technique of painting on enamel for cases and dials (1632).

  • Achieving Precision - Sixteenth to eighteenth century

    Christian Huygens invented the spiral balance spring for watches, thereby significantly improving their accuracy.

    English watchmakers Edward Barlow (Booth), Daniel Quare and Thomas Tompion developed systems for a quarter-repeater watch.

    The British Parliament passed the Longitude Act which offered £20,000, a fabulous amount (equivalent to over $5 million dollars today), to whomever found a method for determining longitude at sea. The competition demanded unprecedented accuracy, calculating longitude to within half a degree after six weeks at sea.

    The English watchmaker Thomas Mudge invented the lever escapement which, together with the detent escapement, is the most important of the so-called "free" escapements. They constitute the third category of escapement after "recoil and "dead-beat". Mudge also devised mechanisms for the equation of time, perpetual calendar, minute-repeater, etc.

    Invention of a simplified flat calibre with bridges, named the Lépine calibre after its inventor, the Frenchman Jean-Antoine Lépine. Its principle is still used in mechanical watches.

  • During the industrial revolution - 1790-1918

    Foundation in Biel of the first Swiss institution to officially control watch rates, acknowledged as the official watch observation bureau in 1893 and now the Bureau officiel des chronomètres (BO).

    Wristwatches produced in small series appeared in Vienna (Austria).

    The United States and Canada introduced Universal Time whereby the Earth is divided into 24 equal time zones (as suggested by Sandford Fleming). The Greenwich meridian was chosen as the prime meridian.

    Paris accepted to take the Greenwich meridian as the basis for legal time. France's new time was 9 minutes and 21 seconds behind the old one. Now all of Western Europe shared the same time zone.

  • Wristwatches : From the practicality of mechanics to the accuracy of quartz - 1920–2000

    John Harwood filed the first Swiss patent for a self-winding wristwatch with a central oscillating weight.

    The American Harold Lyons invented the ammonia maser atomic clock.

    The first self-winding watch with a rotor on ball bearings (Eterna-matic).

    1955 Vacheron Constantin created the Extraplate.

    The first self-winding watch with alarm: the Memovox by Jaeger LeCoultre.

    Calculating from 0 hour on January 1st, 1900, the second was defined as 1/31,556,925.947th of the year during which the earth revolves around the sun.


    First prototype for a quartz wristwatch, known as Bêta 1.


    In Paris, the 13th Conference on Weights and Measures defined the second as the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom. This replaced the astronomical definition where a second equalled 1/86,400th of the average solar day.

    Presentation of the first analog quartz watch, Bêta 21, by the Centre Electronique Horloger (CEH) in Neuchâtel.

    The first mass-produced quartz watches with analog display and integrated circuit (Bêta 21).

    The first Swatch watches were launched in the United States and in Europe a year later.