After reading this article you’ll know why women have been wearing bulky, heavy, expensive, men's watches for centuries.
But, before we dig into the why, did you know that the very first wristwatches were made purely for women, and were fundamentally decorative status symbols?
Already in 1812 Breguet, a French luxury watchmaker created what is described as the first wristwatch in horological history. The timepiece was ordered by Caroline Murat, Napoleon's sister. At that time, the queen of Naples in Italy.
Closely after, in 1813, the second oldest wristwatches were made by Capt & Freundler, in Geneva. The bracelet was made up of 8 continuous infinity symbols linked together.
In 1868 Patek Philippe made its first wristwatch, sold to the Countess Koscowicz of Hungary.
The Women Wristlet
The first wristwatches, also referred to as wristlets, were really reserved for women.
However, they were considered as more of a temporary trend than a serious timepiece. In fact, they were held in such contempt that many men were quoted to say they “would sooner wear a skirt as to wearing a wristlet”.
Because of their size and decorative designs, few men believed wristlets could be used to achieve any level of accuracy, nor withstand the basic human activities. Therefore, very few companies produced them in high quantities.
Men Wore Pocket Watches Until WW1
Men's contradictory view on wrist watches all started to change in the 19th century when soldiers in the trenches of WW1 discovered how useless the pocket watch actually was. They were clumsy, difficult to reach deep down in their bags full of equipment and did not fulfil the fundamental function of keeping time during combat.
Men quickly decided to fit their pocket watches into leather straps so they could be worn on the wrist and free up their both hands during battle.
Picture from New York Times article - From Battle to Fashion Accessory
The wristwatches were now used to coordinate troop movements simultaneously and synchronize flanking attacks in a timely manner.
Keeping precise time during battle became crucial and were closely related to an army's victory. This aided the adaptation for military use and thus marked a turning point in the development of wristwatches for men.
Manufacturers said their main goal was “to make a man more soldierlike, more martial and more masculine”.
At this point, wrist watches had gone from being a women's novelty to a wartime necessity, and companies were scrambling to keep up with the demand.
20th Century Changed the Watch Industry Forever
Ever since the war, the watch industry has been dominated by men and women has simply been wearing smaller versions of men's watches.
This has all changed in recent years and new brands have started to take larger portions of the watch market. Some of which have made cheaper unisex watches to others taking the $1000 Swiss watch to an affordable price.
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Updated: Tuesday, 25 February 2019