In 1868, Patek Phillipe created the first wristwatch.
However, Constant Girard developed a lasting concept of wristwatches in 1880, when 2,000 watches were made for German naval officers. This production represented the first important commercialization of wristwatches.
For civilians, however wristwatches didn’t become popular for men for another 30 years. They were viewed as a feminine accessory and thought to be too dainty and inaccurate for men.
In 1904, pilot Alberto Santos Dumont asked Louis Cartier to come up with a timekeeping alternative that would allow him to keep both hands on the controls while timing his performances during flight.
Cartier and his master watchmaker, Edmond Jaeger, then developed the first prototype for a man’s wristwatch called the Santos wristwatch. The Santos first went on sale in 1911, the date of Cartier’s first production of wristwatches.
During WWI, soldiers were given wristwatches, called ‘trench watches,’ in order to view the time easily with their hands full. These watches were made with pocketwatch movements, so they were large and bulky and had the crown at the twelve o’clock position like pocketwatches.
At the end of the war, soldiers returned home sporting their trench wristwatches. Due to the public perception of manly-men wearing wristwatches, people no longer affiliated wristwatches with femininity.
After the war, pocketwatches went out of fashion and by 1930 the ratio of wrist to pocketwatches was fifty to one.
- Aug 23, 2012: Orient Watch Company: Pre-War History « OrientWatchUSA Blog