Wristwatches (2)



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Time at a Glance 


  • - Occasionally during the Renaissance, a miniature watch would be attached to a bracelet as a lady's accessory.

- This idea reemerged during the 19th century, as women's pocket watches were fitted with a bracelet or leather strap so they could be worn on the wrist.

- Although the wristwatch was initially an ornamental piece of jewelry for women, military personnel recognized the practicality of the timepiece, and helped make it an acceptable timepiece for everyone.

- By 1880, German naval officers were being supplied with Swiss-produced watches. Companies like Cartier, Omega, Movado, Waltham, and Patek Philippe were producing wristwatches for a small but emerging market by 1910.


- Wristwatches became even more popular during World War I, as soldiers worldwide took advantage of them. In 1920, approximately 25% of the watches exported by Switzerland were wristwatches, while 75% were pocket watches. By 1934, wristwatch exportation had climbed to 65%, while pocket watch exportation had dropped to 35%.


- Automatic self-winding and water-resistant models were in production by the late 1920s, and shock-resistant movements were in the works by the late 1930s.

- Between 1915 and 1940, watch companies introduced thousands of unique styles for both men and women. Dials and cases were produced in almost every shape imaginable, while watchbands were manufactured in a wide array of materials, colors, and styles. By the mid 20th century, the wristwatch had become the most versatile and reliable personal timepiece available.

The Era of Personal Timepieces


- Because of international competition, watch companies consistently researched and experimented with new designs in an effort to increase accuracy.


- In 1954, the Hamilton Watch Company teamed up with the National Carbon Company to develop a battery. Consequently, Hamilton released the world's first commercial electric watch in 1957.

- While the battery was a great innovation, the watch still lacked the accuracy that an oscillating quartz crystal could provide. - While quartz technology had been harnessed in clocks for nearly thirty years, it was still too large to be incorporated into a wristwatch. The invention of the integrated circuit in 1959, however, would eventually make quartz wristwatch technology possible. Within ten years, the integrated circuit was successfully incorporated into watches, making the quartz crystal oscillate and dividing the quartz frequency down to one pulse per second.


- The first quartz watch on the market was the Seiko 35 SQ Astron. It was made available on Christmas Day in 1969 and retailed for 450,000 yen, or about $1,250.

- By 1970, a quartz watch movement called Beta 21 was being produced by watch manufacturers in Switzerland.

- In 1972, the Hamilton Watch Company introduced the first digital watch, the Pulsar.

- By the mid 1970s, quartz watches were produced internationally and many models were very affordable.


- Today, watchmaking is a diverse and flourishing multi-billion dollar worldwide industry. While quartz technologies such as kinetic watches and radio-controlled watches have generated significant enthusiasm. For consumers who prefer the tradition and artistic elegance of mechanical watches, they too are still in production.