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

By | December 18, 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.

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

  1. Lindsey

    I think it’s a hoax. My big issue is the way the dust seems to have crusted over the face of the clock, clearly showing what time it is… a real clock would have had glass covering these components, so these reliefs wouldn’t be visible. I guess it’s possible that the glass broke off the watch long ago, but isn’t it likely that the hands would then have been damaged too?

    On the other hand, the fact that it’s a ring-watch makes me think it’s genuine. After all, if you’re going to pull a hoax like this, who would think of using a ring-watch instead of a normal sized one? And why?

    I guess any of your 5 possibilities could be true… Although I lean away from the time-travel one simply because I don’t think ring-watches are very fashionable or liable to come back in style, so the idea of someone from the future wearing one seems silly to me.

    Maybe the tomb really was just broken in to.

    1. marq

      …no hoax…you were on the verge of uncovering a paradox but you asked the wrong questions…verification of event mods are most dificult for the traveler…what year did the traveler leave from? (could the watch be duplicated and built today…five years from now…)
      why did the traveler go to this particular tomb in China 400 years ago? There is something very unique about this tomb…it’s where the watch was found! So here is a clue…watch the watch…it will return to its original owner…can you guess which will be the original and which the copy? I will leave you with one last clue … you look forward into the rearview mirror to see where you were a moment ago, and though the place looks the same, you are not there…neither are you where you were when you looked into the mirror…

      1. Josh

        Like this item was mistakenly teleported there through some quantum entanglement jibberish or are you implying time travel?

    2. Joel Kilgore

      I think the hoax is true. If you download and enlarge the picture you can clearly see grime encrusted against, yet not under the hands. Also you will notice that due to it’s shape the minute hand is longer than the right side of the watch. If the minute hand were on 10:15, the hand would be past the faceplate. These hands are clearly molded.

      As a SCI-FI I am disapointed to make these observations. But I would rather be skeptical enough to see the facts than blindly believe that something is un-naturally taking place.

  2. free books

    How remote is this area? There are people everywhere in China. When I was there, I was struck by how there seemed to be no remote or totally wild areas… at least up in the North by Beijing where I had visited. It seemed that every single tree had been hand pruned, even in the forests.

    My thought on this: A packrat or similar. They carry shiny things all over the place and then will drop them and pick up something else. They live in the desert in the USA, but there are varieties of them in China too…

  3. M. Bell

    I’m fascinated by small artifacts—I collect them myself—and I spent a lot of time looking at the pictures of this watch on other sites, wondering how a watch that encrusted (and apparently old) could be that thin. I was also wondering if there was once glass on the watch face.

    Then it occurred to me, maybe it isn’t a watch. Maybe it’s a replica advertising give-away “watch”–a ring that looks like a watch.

    Upon hunting around on the Net to see if there was any documentation on replica ring watches, “advertising” ring watches, I found this site.

    So perhaps it’s not a real watch, but a small image of a watch in the form of a ring. I wonder what the experts who will be examining it will discover. If it’s a real watch, it’s quite an engineering feat to create one this thin.

  4. Peter

    I have heard about German Wehrmacht radios in the seize of a cellphone in WWII. Lt. Corso told in his book about technology found in Germany which was much advanced. The electro-aerodynamic -not really secret – but it is surpressed in our world. Special departments in special companies are producing technology which is -at least for the workers – completely unknown.

    What about a parallel world which – regarding the releative centuries – is more advanced than ours? What about the first big nuclear war in ancient times in our world? What about our world as a place for procurement of lost technology which was lost in a big war on another world?

    But consider: there is no time travel and there is no parallel universe, at least in nature.

    The opposite of natural? Artificial. The final version of “Second Live” as a strategic game?

  5. M. Bell

    Xeno asked: “Good theory, but who made it, and when, and how did it get inside this 400 year old tomb …”

    Since I was the one who proposed the idea that it might be an advertising watch, a replica give-away, perhaps I should take a shot at these questions.

    If it turns out that it’s a replica ring that’s an advertising watch (rather than a functioning watch), my guess is it was made in the early 1900s to advertise the new tournaud “slim-line” watches, the narrow ones. It probably wasn’t made before 1908 and could have been made any time after (but the encrustation suggests it’s probably old). Maybe it was made by Longines to promote their rectangular watches.

    How did it get inside the tomb? I guess there could be may explanations.

    Someone excavated there but didn’t report the digging and maybe covered it up again with the intention of returning.
    Someone excavated there but didn’t quite find the tomb and gave up (this happened often with the search for pyramids in Egypt).
    An animal or bird attracted to shiny things carried or buried it there.
    Someone planted it there.

    I don’t know. I’m curious to find out what experts discover when they look into it further. And, at this point, even though I suspect it’s a replica ring rather than an actual watch, who knows, perhaps there is a tiny mechanism inside. That would be fascinating.

  6. Peter

    What is known about the tomb and the dead person inside?

    Was the person important, involved in certain events or decitions so that someone from outside attended the funeral 400 years ago?

    Atlantis, the Rama Empire and Gobi waged war centuries ago, the same is already happening again in our modern times, when the USA, Russia and China batteling agains each other – at the moment – in a asymetric and covered-up war which my get hot, resp. thermonuclear in some years.


  8. Carly

    “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.”

    ??? Wal-Mart sells ring watches today. They’re just faces of watches turned into rings instead of worn on wrists. And this is supposedly a style the Swiss made 100 years ago — not 100 years in the future.

  9. Old Archaeologist

    Mystery solved.

    I snuck into the grave shortly after the Great War and lost the watch I meant to give to my darling back home. The watch was a Korean knock-off.

    The evidence is simple. A 100 year old watch is found in a grave not opened in 400 years. Ergo the grave has been opened in the last 100 years.

  10. Pingback: Swiss watch found in 400-year-old tomb - MONTREALRACING

  11. Dr. Scott

    Simplest explanation is that it’s a hoax. However, a very screwy one if it is.

    Tonneau style watches were only introduced by Cartier about a century ago, and as has been noted, even today, none are this thin. The metal still retains a gold lustre, which suggests actual gold–but the tip of the clasp (a strange loop design) looks more like tin where it’s worn away. Other eroded areas don’t show the tin color underneath. Gold electroplating has been available since the 1840’s. However, if it were a toy, it wouldn’t have been made with real gold, and any other gold-tone metal would have acquired coloration of a patina.

    So, my wild-ass theory is that it hasn’t been manufactured yet… it’s from the future, perhaps blasted through the spacetime continuum in a nuclear explosion.

    But since this story has been out for over a year now, and there has been no follow-up or published analysis of the artifact, I have to presume it was a hoax. Can anyone verify that there even was such an archeological dig in China, confirm the legitimacy of the individuals named, or report on whether such a dig was suspended and whether it has since been resumed?

  12. Stefam

    The pointers are set to “ten past ten” wich is the comercial setup for display and photos. The watch is supposed to smile. 🙂

    Maybe not a real watch?

  13. John Phoenix

    Oh. another thing.. it’s been a year since this story broke and we have no follow up. Does anyone know what happened after this? Did the ring watch get studied? If so, what were the results?Can we get pics of it cleaned off? I will try to research this and if I find anything I will post again.

  14. Mark

    It seems to me that in all probability the whole thing is a hoax. This is exactly the type of thing one sees on the headlines of supermarket tabloids where it probably belongs.

    How about a little critical thinking here with regard to source and veracity?

    So many want to believe…

    While not discounting the possiblity of time travel, I don’t think it is applicable in this instance. There is a 19th Century term which sums up the whole incident: Humbug !

  15. Matt knows Scott k

    Haha Scott K all day is what I say today, home is where we met, I will see you in the jet?

  16. Morriset

    “The time was stopped at 10:06am”
    This is the most incredible discovery. An analog clock showing AM, not PM.

  17. Xerxies

    Quantum Phisics has proof that time travel is possible… That having been said, I believe that the OTHERS have been in contact with the human race ever since we walked this Earth. The government that controles the government does a good job of covering up the evidence but not always… I believe that the watch may have been a gift from the OTHERS form another time, to the past as a means of accurate time measurement… But why? And for What reason??? One can only speculate…

  18. Dsivan

    It wasnt found inside a tomb. Not inside a coffin.

    Occums razor. The earing of a swiss woman fell of while exploring the tomb 100 years ago. case closed.

  19. TT

    Ahem! Look closer… it is a designer watch, designed for a specific purpose.
    It’s not an ear ring.
    The watch hasn’t been invented yet. Too thin.

    1. Xeno Post author

      “The Clock Tower flyer was a photocopied sheet of paper distributed by the Hill Valley Preservation Society in 1985 as part of an effort to curtail Mayor Goldie Wilson’s initiative to replace the inactive clock tower atop the Hill Valley Courthouse.

      The flyer was xeroxed on one side of a sheet of blue paper. The words “SAVE THE CLOCK TOWER” adorned the top of the page, and below that was a reproduction of the November 13, 1955 edition of the Hill Valley Telegraph chronicling the Clock Tower’s fate. The bottom of the page featured text asking for donations.

      One copy was given to Marty McFly by the Clock Tower Lady on the afternoon of October 25, 1985. Jennifer Parker wrote her grandmother’s phone number and a personal message on the back of the flyer, and Marty placed it in his pocket for later use.

      Ultimately, the flyer would benefit Marty in more ways than one. After finding himself stranded in 1955 without the necessary plutonium to return to 1985, he handed the flyer to Doc after being told that a bolt of lightning could also generate the necessary 1.21 jigowatts for another temporal displacement. Doc used the flyer to predict the bolt’s location during the thunderstorm later that week.”

    2. Joel Kilgore

      Xeno is poking fun. This is from the ‘Back to the Future’ movies. Marty McFly was played by Michael J. Fox.

  20. Maud Crossing

    There is no watch – it is merely an optical illusion caused by a light refraction from the South Pole which causes brain malfunctions on steroids.

  21. Lindsey

    This in my theory (and JUST a theory) from research: The dials on the ring watch are engraved. A ring made to look like a watch. In the 1600’s the Swiss made jewelry to look like watches. The Swiss are known for their time pieces, This shows their early interest. in 1006 Switzerland and China (and other countries) saw the first supernova.The Chinese interpreted it as wherever it shined would have great prosperity. Since Anciet times, people were buried with things to bring with them to the afterlife. This could be a talisman to bring good fur tune in the afterlife (or we call Heaven).

    1. Lindsey

      Of it turns out a photoshop Hoax, I’m gonna be mad. I wasted 30 minutes searching the internet. I had a typing error, I meant ” bring good fortune in the afterlife.”

  22. jerry

    carbon dating can have a 400 year error in age detection, it is possible that the ring watch is only a 100 years old, very possible and ring watches today are both analog and or digital and some of the digital rings are pretty slim in thickness.

  23. lin

    I think it’s a toy, like those they put in boxes of Cracker Jack. According to Wikipedia, Cracker Jack has been around since the late 1800s and prizes were included since 1912. It could be any of their competitors at the time, or prizes from midway-type games or bubble gum type machines. The adjustable back means it could fit anyone. A working watch would have been expensive and not one-size-fits-all. Since it didn’t work it was probably for kids to pretend they had a watch. Something made for the wrist would be more expensive to make and moreover would not fit in the box as well.

    That doesn’t explain how it got in the tomb in China, of all places. Maybe the tomb is really a giant Cracker Jack box.

  24. Julie DuVal

    I read an article about this watch before, and it was said that “time had frozen at 10:06”. Time does not freeze a watch. A watch just winds down. Time does not control the watch; hence, this is why watches do not self adjust to the correct time wherever one wearing it is located. Obviously, this is a hoax. The watch could well have fallen into the grave while archaeologists were digging into the space. It may have been buried in the soil up top and fallen in during the dig.

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