Advanced “100 yr old” Swiss Ring-watch found in sealed 400-year-old tomb

Posted on 18 Dec 2008


Best theory thus far: This is a non-working toy or jewelry item with a face made to look like a watch. A watch this small and thin does not exist, even today, so if this watch ever worked it would be highly advanced.


Published on: Dec 16, 2008 @ 19:47, updated Dec 18, 2008

Archeologists in China are baffled after finding a tiny Swiss watch in a 400-year-old tomb. The watch ring was discovered as archeologists were making a documentary with two journalists from Shangsi town.

“When we tried to remove the soil wrapped around the coffin, a piece of rock suddenly dropped off and hit the ground with a metallic sound,? said Jiang Yanyu, former curator of the Guangxi Autonomous Region Museum.

“We picked up the object, and found it was a ring. After removing the covering soil and examining it further, we were shocked to see it was a watch.”

The time was stopped at 10:06am, and on the back was engraved the word “Swiss”, reports the People’s Daily. Local experts say they are confused as they believe the tomb had been undisturbed since it was created during the Ming dynasty 400 years ago. They have suspended the dig and are waiting for experts to arrive from Beijing and help them unravel the mystery. – ana

The archeologists were filming a documentary with two journalists when they made the puzzling discovery.  ‘When we tried to remove the soil wrapped around the coffin, suddenly a piece of rock dropped off and hit the ground with metallic sound,’ said Jiang Yanyu, former curator of the Guangxi Museum. …  The Ming Dynasty – or the Empire of the Great Ming – was the was ruling dynasty in China from 1368 to 1644. – chinadaily

I found and added a link for the Guangxi Autonomous Region Museum, but can’t find anything showing Jiang as a former curator.

But, wow, check out this additional photo! I  doubt  a working watch that thin was made 100 years ago. Can someone prove me wrong?


The clasp looks old. It looks almost too small to fit on a finger. Could this be an earring instead of a finger ring?

A toy? The detail looks too good to be a toy, but starting in 1912 toys, including rings, and other metal items, were found in Cracker Jack boxes, for example.

The watch part looks only about 2 mm thick. ( A quarter is 1.75 mm thick, and this watch looks just a little thicker than that. ) One of the thinnest watches made today, 2008,  is 3.5 mm high.

2008…the Swiss watchmaking company Appella … celebrates its 65th anniversary this year. … the company produces its famous Gold 85-1011 which is advertised under the slogan “The Slimmest gold watch in the world”. … The case of the watch is 38 mm in diameter and only 3.5 mm high. – timebooth

But this is not the thinnest watch. Popular Science Jun, 1979 had this watch, but with no numbers on its face:

thinnestwatchConcord Dilirium  … A quartz analog watch barely as thick as a nickel has been introduced by Ebauches SA of Switzerland and ETA, its subsidiary. The solid-gold watch, only 1.98 mm thick (0.52 mm thinner than its nearest rival, says the maker), required that most components be specially designed. – mm

Some of these are still available and one source said they cost up to $11,000. If the ring watch ever worked, it was quite a treasure.

We know a 2 mm high watch can be made today, but 100 years ago, much less 40 years ago??  And no, the Titan watches from India aren’t thinner than this (3.5mm).

The June 6, 1899 New York Times published a blurb which described the smallest watch in the world at the time being about 6 mm thick.


I’d like to see what is inside the mysterious ring watch. Is it powered by some futuristic battery? Was this exact watch ever made in our known history?


  1. Jewelry or a toy, a non-working watch. An animal dragged it into the tomb, or someone previously raiding the tomb dropped it.
  2. Marketing ploy for a new movie. ( How else do they know it was 10:06 AM and not PM? How do they know it is 100 years old?)
  3. Propaganda film theory: The watch is very modern and advanced, but an aging process used to create phony artifacts for a propaganda film made it look this way.
  4. Due to quantum strangeness, items appear and disappear for no reason all over the universe.
  5. Humans invented time travel or a teleportation experiment at some point in the past or future.

They are claiming the watch is 100 years old. Would an old watch have the word “Swiss” in English on it? Yes, but when did that start happening? There should be a watch history site somewhere…

On some older watches, for example, the word “Swiss” appears alone on the dial at the six o’clock position. – wiki

Too bad the picture isn’t a higher resolution.

I did find a Swiss ring watch from 1890 and and another from 1938, but both are much thicker than this one.

Index No. A6525 Diamond Set Gold and Enamel Ring Watch A late 19th Century Swiss cylinder in a gold and enamel ring watch set with diamonds.  Circa 1890, Diameter 18 mm, – antiquewatch


Tiny Watch Worn Like Ring (Mar, 1938)


The mystery watch is a tonneau-shape which does date back to at least 1911.


In 1911, Longines took its lead in the watch world by successfully overcoming the difficulty in making tonneau-shaped movements and created its first tonneau-shaped wristwatch. Longines became one of the few earliest tonneau-shaped wristwatch makers, and its crafty application of simple and elegant geometrical lines had made its first tonneau-shaped watch the must-have of timepiece aficionados. – fhs

The first Tonneau model appears in 1906. – cartier

Looking for thin watches of this shape, we find what may be the real thinnest watch in the world, by the Swiss maker with the longest history:

foundit1Vacheron Constantin issued a stream of trademarks and patents. Probably the most famous was the world’s thinnest watch, first produced in 1955 and still made today. With a case only 1.64mm thick and containing 100 parts, it’s unlikely that this feat of engineering will ever be bettered. – buinessweek

Vacheron Constantin is a Swiss manufacturer of prestige watches … Vacheron Constantin was founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1755 by Jean-Marc Vacheron. This makes it the oldest watch manufacturer in the world with an uninterrupted history. –  wiki


UPDATE Dec 19, 2008: I spoke to a Swiss watch seller who has been in the business for 30 years and he highly doubts that this could be a working time piece. Nevertheless, he is going to check with Vacheron and will get back to me. Something like this, if it worked, would cost far more than $10,000, he thought.

UPDATE: Jan 5, 2009: Vacheron reports that it is entirely possible that they made a ring watch 100 years ago, but they do not make one now.

Posted in: Strange