Wristwatches: Short Historical Background



Over time clocks have become a symbol of status by individuals who wear them. The elegance, precision, plus the convenience are a few of the qualities that watches and clocks symbolize. Frequently they are purchased strictly for their attractive appearance. They are also acquired due to their technical qualities such as being accurate to the second and even milliseconds. This is one of the reasons that watches and clocks are collectible. They can often be worth substantial amounts of money.

It makes no difference whether you collect watches from a different era or high precision ones, the truth is that through the years the watch collecting hobby has developed into a highly competitive business. In many circles, watch collecting is considered to be a wise type of investing.

wrist watch
By: Joe Haupt

Starting at the turn of the century, the only clocks that were readily available to men and women was the pocket clock. The next step in the evolution of the personal clock was a pendant which was attached to the clock and lining of corsets or jackets. The advent of industrialization, war, and the increased sports activities, brought new trends that changed not only the manner in which we dressed but also the way we carried our clocks.

It is believed to have been a nanny that designed watches worn around the wrist “wristwatches” at the end of the 19th century. She attached a clock on her wrist using a silk band. The earliest wristwatches to be produced were smaller sized types of pocket watches that were attached using a leather strap. As soon as this product burst on the scene, newer styles began to be created based mostly on this exact same principle.

Louis Cartier initially created the type of watches seen today when he designed a watch for flying pioneer named Santos Dumont. By 1911 this style of watch selling as a normal product. That identical style was to become the blueprint of wristwatches today.

Changing Wristwatch Shapes

Shortly after, the designs of wrist “clocks” started to shift from the traditional rounded design which was fashionable at that time. Along with the Cartier classical wristwatch, other watchmakers began to design watches that would become recognizable by their appearance or shape. Movado may be a perfect example of these fresh designs when it announced the “Polyplan” shaped watch.

wrist watch
By: Joe Haupt

From 1913 and later an increasing number of watches began to be created in all styles and shapes. Beginning with Patek Phillipe’s “gondola” watch to Louis Cartier’s’ “Tank” these watches were in great demand. Cartier’s watch was referred to as the “Tank” because it was influenced by the style of British armored automobiles of that time period.

There were other many watch makers such as Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, who together with Cartier and Patek Philippe came out with a number of other designs. These included such additional features as the month, day, and lunar phases many still found in the modern watches of today.

Obviously. if we are going to talk about wristwatches, we must certainly mention the most well-known of all of them: the Rolex watch. In the 1920s Rolex debuted the exquisite “Rolex Prince” with its revolutionary “dual time” feature that was made famous by having the “seconds” larger than the minutes.

In addition, a much more sophisticated piece called the “Reverse” was produced by Jaeger Le Coultre. This watch was revolutionary because it could be turned 180 degrees within the case. This feature safeguarded the dial and crystal. It became extremely popular and would have even more so if it was not for the economic downturn of the 1930’s and the start of World War II.

Early Watch Designs Influence Watches Today

These early watches designed from the 1910s to 1930s are what actually define the makes of watches which we see and wear now. This informative article has merely scratched the surface of what is an extremely vast subject which includes additional watchmakers using revolutionary and diverse designs.

However it is creators such as Rolex, Jaeger Le Coultre, and Cartier as well as the others mentioned that are among the most valuable and collectible, and if you ever become lucky enough to acquire one then be sure you hold on to it – ideally by wearing it on your wrist.