A wristwatch is a small timepiece that is usually worn on the left wrist by right-handed people, and on right wrist by left-handed people. With a smart little clock face and straps made of leather, links, or other material, wristwatches have evolved as an accessory more than a timepiece.

The wristwatch is a practical piece of jewellery one can own. But throughout history, it was more of a women’s accessory.

Tracing the Origins of the Personal Clocks

The first watches were known to be small personal clocks, which were ideally carried in pockets, or pinned on the attire itself. People drew the clock to check on time, with grace and fanfare. Though ornamental, pocket watches required the user to drop other things off to know the time, It was a bit impractical since one had to lift off the lid and close it up again after becoming aware of the current time.

The earliest dated watch is known to be from 1530, a watch worn by Protestant Reformer Philipp Melanchthon.

earliest dated watch

The Advent of the Wristwatch

The wristwatch or luxury watches have their origins from the 16th century, when Queen Elizabeth received a unique one-of-a-kind arm watch. Curiously, as part of the trivia about watches, the Queen of England possessed the only watch that was in existence too.

The earliest model of a wristwatch appeared in 1571 and the existence is attributed to Robert Dudley, the First Earl of Leicester. He is known to be the inventor of the “wristwatch” presented to the Queen.  The watch was set in a ring, also featuring an alarm with a prong that let her brush fingers at the appointed specific time.

Bracelet watches then came in vogue in 1790, and in 1809 after Parisian jeweller Nitot created two bracelets, one with a timepiece and the other that incorporated a calendar. Empress Josephine presented her daughter in law Princess Auguste-Amelie of Leuchtenbergin with both the watches!

Watchmaker Breguet on the other hand was commissioned a wristwatch in 1810. It was later presented to the Queen of Naples in 1812. Patek Philippe developed a stunning bracelet watch in 1860s with a winding key that was gifted to Hungary’s Countess Koscowicz. In 1889, Albert Bertholet of Bienne received a patent for a simplified wristwatch that included a rotating bezel, and a Swiss patent. Watchmakers soon developed similar pieces, embellished with gold, enamel, and jewels.

The Timeline of the Wristwatch in the 20th Century

The earliest wristwatches were delicate in appearance and vulnerable in function. Men continued to prefer pocket watches over wristwatches. Army officers started using wrist watches to synchronize attacks on the battlefield, since pocket watches were a hassle to handle in case of emergencies.

After the Swiss company Dimier Freres & Cie got a patent for the wristwatch featuring wire lugs in 1903, there were several improved versions available. Branded watches were handed to combatants; and hence designed with robust design to withstand trench warfare. It included unbreakable glass and luminous dials that shone at night.

John Harwood invented the useful self-winding watch in 1923 and then ushered in the age of electronic watches.

Electronic Watches – The Story!

Electronic movements in timepieces were first introduced by CEH, Switzerland, in 1967. The first BETA 1 quartz wristwatch was an attractive timepiece that was sleek and square with tremendous performance. By 1970, 18 manufacturers developed their unique quartz watches in the market. The lack of technology patents also led to huge innovation in the field, benefitting watchmakers worldwide.

Now aeronautical watches and space watches are also doing the rounds, offered by top luxury watch manufacturers like Rolex, Seiko, and Omega.

The Digital Revolution of Smartwatches

Calculator watches then gave way to novelty watches that hosted simple computer games in the late 1970s. Steve Mann developed a Linux wristwatch in 1998, while Samsung offered a watch phone in 1999 with an unprecedented 90 minutes of talk time, a huge amount in those times.

From 2003 to 2010, several luxury watches came into existence as manufacturers like Fossil, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, and many others developed new smartwatches. Apple also joined the bandwagon with the Apple Watch in 2014 just like Microsoft did with the first Microsoft Band watch.

Each of the watches now sport unique features, style, fitness trackers, GPS, and more. It’s time to witness what 2019 brings to the fore!

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