The Wristwatch Creation
How women created the wristwatch.
To honor women, the actual inventors of the wristwatch, the next watch I release will be a ladies' model, which will be available on November 17th at 13:00 GMT.
Understanding how ladies' watches have evolved illustrates how all wristwatches came to be. For centuries, wristwatches were worn exclusively by women, emerging out of the desires of royalty:
The first known wristwatch was made for Queen Elizabeth I of England in the 16th century. In 1810, Caroline Bonaparte, the Queen of Naples, commissioned Louis Breguet to create a wristwatch. The first Patek Philippe wristwatch was made in 1868 for Countess Koscowicz of Hungary.
At royal court, wristwatches were considered fashion items; nobility considered it chic to tell the time with a fashionable piece of jewelry. But wristwatches were used exclusively by the women of the aristocracy; small and inaccurate, these wristwatches were shunned by men who saw timepieces only as work tools that required reliability.
Watches have slowly adapted until they reached their current shapes and sizes around the beginning of the 20th century. The popularity of women's wristwatches has grown over the last 150 years. As women moved into the workforce and needed convenient access to timekeeping, women tied small pocket watches to their wrists with ribbons. (The larger pocket watches that men carried were too complex and too large to be worn on the wrist. Men's wristwatches became popular after World War I, when the timepieces worn by returning war heroes sparked the popularity of wristwear for civilian men.)
Precise wristwatches only appeared at the end of the 19th century, and that's when they began to catch the male audience's attention. Artillery and cavalry soldiers at the end of the 19th century were the first men to wear watches on their wrists – essentially standard pocket-watches fitted to a leather strap. In 1904, the Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos Dumont commissioned his friend, Louis Cartier, to create a small watch to wear during his flights in the skies over Paris. The result was the Cartier Santos, which is still manufactured today. Breitling created one of the first wristwatch chronographs in 1915, and Rolex produced the first waterproof wristwatch in the 1920s.
Interest in men's wristwatches grew after World War I when the timepieces worn by returning war heroes sparked the popularity of wrist-wear as a fashion item for civilian men. Men's wristwatches exploded in popularity; by 1930, the manufacturing of wristwatches outnumbered pocket watches fifty to one.
I have followed the evolution of women's watch fashions since the charming and colorful 1970s Omegas Dynamic. Many directions for designs have developed: For instance, in the 1980s, high-end minimalist watches for women appeared elegant but boring – such as Piaget, and Baume & Mercier. In the 90s, the Bulgari burst into fashion, becoming a high-profile company banner that showed the brand engraved three times around and on the dial.
At the beginning of the 21st century, larger versions of ladies' watches began to appear, such as Michael Kors' "Turtle," which became a hot-selling model. Chanel followed the trend with the J12 in white ceramic. The only major premium brands in the women's market that retained their classic style and size are Rolex and Cartier because they produce consistent timepieces and examples of how quality and design surpass fashion.
In recent years, men's watches have become increasingly popular among women interested in the complex functions offered by larger watches. The industry has recognized this trend and began to adapt men's watches to female tastes by adding new colors and textures. But women's wristwatches have never lost their unique character; they remain sophisticated and elegant and, on the female wrist become true jewels.