The Evolution of the Watch
Written by: Kelley Hudson
The first wearable watch was invented by Peter Henlein in the early 16th century. He was a German locksmith that invented the idea of a wearable watch and cashed in big time selling his invention to nobility. These wearable watches were not the sleek-lined, sexy watches that we have available to us today. Instead, they were huge statement pieces that had to be hung around the neck and measured 3 inches in length. But, regardless of size, these clocks began our love affair with wearing time and bearing it as part of our wardrobe.
In 1675 Charles II of England made the waistcoat fashionable and with this new fashion came the pocket watch. Since the technology of wearable watches had evolved to allow for a smaller, slender size of portable clock there now was a desire to place the watch into the pocket of the waistcoat. Later on, the chain came into the fashion and the look and feel of the modern pocket watch was now the envy of every fashionable male of the time.
These older forms of wearable watches were extremely unreliable and were only able to tell the time using the hour hand, making them far more fashionable than functional. Watches were very expensive and difficult to obtain and were only held by the highest ranking nobility. Their mark as a fashion statement began from the earliest parts of watch history and continued to do so long into the modern era.
While men were swooning over the pocket watch, women were more fond of the wristwatch. There are instances of wristwatches being worn as early as Queen Elizabeth I, but the wristwatch as we know it today is an invention of the early 1800s. Fashion was still the main driver for the use of the wristwatch, but war is what brought about its mass production and a desire for something more reliable.
The early 1900s saw the emergence of the first wristwatch manufactures that we still know today like Cartier and Rolex. Rolex was the first watch company to create a chronometer wristwatch and from this began their worldwide acclaim as a dominant watch brand. Cartier began creating quality timepieces after an aviator friend requested a wristwatch that would be convent to use during flights. Both brands began to mass produce and sell their pieces as a result of need during wartime. By the end of WWI, the ratio of wristwatch to pocket watch was 50-1 in favor of a convenient and fashionable timepiece that was useful for synchronization of military maneuvers.
The 1960s brought about the first quartz wristwatch which is the technology we still use today. Seiko and Epson partnered for the invention and brought about a revolution in watchmaking driving forward a new need for the common wristwatch. The smaller technology allowed for a fine focus on design and function and made room for watch companies with a love for the fashionability of the wristwatch to move into the mainstream.
A desire for a flush, sleek design with a minimalist look became a part of the fashion industry with the appearance of Scandinavian watch designers such as Nordgreen. We still enjoy our wristwatches with advanced functionality and flash; but the everyday wristwatch, one that can be worn with any outfit, has become a high priority for many watch wearers. From the large chunky box of the first portable clock to the sleek and fresh look of a Nordgreen, the history of the wristwatch reminds us of the enduring love we have for time and using it as a way to remain fashionable.