History: The First Wristwatch

October 28th, 2011 | 14 Comments

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.

  1. 14 Comments | Tell us what you think!

  2. By Steve Balthrop on Oct 31, 2011

    It is interesting that wrist watches, along with aircraft, modern bolt action rifles, and so many other things first became popular as a reasult of the War to End All Wars.

  3. By Richard Best on Nov 15, 2011

    I am in a play, “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus,” set in 1897 and am researching the history of wrist watches to see if they were prevalent in that period. The consensus I have found seems to indicate that at least for the mainstream they did not become used by men until WWI. Thanks for your information which indicates somewhat otherwise.

  4. By michael gilboy on Dec 4, 2011

    old watch . new watch i would like to win one especally a orient auto matic

  5. By Tony Ball on Dec 14, 2011

    I for one am glad that Alberto Santos Dumont was smart enough to reuse the Germans idea of a wristwatch, because if he did not I think I would have mislaid a lot of pocketwatches by now. Clever chap!.

  6. By Nope on Apr 11, 2012

    Nice side boob :)

  7. By Micheal on May 1, 2012

    The wrist watches are excellent piece of time machine.As these watches plays important tool to reflect your personality and attitude.If you are looking for cool style there are many shops online

  8. By Micheal on May 11, 2012

    The watches plays a important role in defining the overall personality of a person. It explains lot about the persona and endeavor. The watches also acts as a person of choice and color

  9. By Television Source on Feb 4, 2013

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  10. By John Michael Rhodes on Feb 10, 2013

    Yes indeed Girard Perregaux was the first to “mass” produce timepieces for men. Patek Phillippe made that wristwatch for the Countess Kocewicz in 1868. This was a one off product. Even earlier in 1810 Abraham Louis Breguet also created a one off wristwatch for the Queen of Naples. Both of these feminine timepieces were more to do with decorative jewellery than to serve a practical purpose and wristwatches were also unfamiliar items amongst women too.

    Although men normally carried timepieces for practical use they were still pocket watches before Cartier’s conception. You may well credit Cartier to have been the first to commercially produce the wristwatch for men.

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  13. By RobL on Jan 18, 2014

    The concept of the wristwatch goes back to the production of the very earliest watches in the 16th century. Elizabeth I of England received a wristwatch from Robert Dudley in 1571, described as an arm watch. From the beginning, wrist watches were almost exclusively worn by women, while men used pocket-watches up until the early 20th century

  14. By Chana on Oct 1, 2014

    Yes! Finally something about gold watches.

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