When Did Wristwatches Come Out?

TimeFAQ Feb 18, 2024
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History of WristWatches Featured Image
Table of Contents
  1. Measuring Time Over History
  2. Birth of the Pocket and Wristwatches
  3. The Future of Wristwatches

The ability to mark the passage of time is one of the fantastic developments exclusive to humans as a whole. Undoubtedly, an average critter can tell that night is turning into day and vice versa, but being able to accurately tell at what rate we’re cycling between the dark and light is genuinely appreciable. 

Humans always needed something to assist us in telling the time. So, we invented several ways to mark the passing of hours, minutes, seconds, and even milliseconds. From sundials and water clocks to candles that burnt at a very particular rate, we have always been finding exciting ways to track time. 

Nowadays, we wear miniaturized versions of time-telling devices on our wrists. However, there is a lot of history and development that has led wristwatches to where they are today. AND, understanding this unique history is essential to appreciate the intricacies and beauty of wristwatches truly.

Measuring Time Over History

The concept of keeping track of time stretches back to the beginnings of recorded history. In 3,500 B.C., the Ancient Egyptians used “Shadow Clocks” or “Obelisks” to measure the time. From there, they introduced the concept of sundials to help determine the time. Though modern wristwatches are more advanced, their appearance has been greatly inspired by the circular design of Egyptian sundials.

The water clock is another unique historical creation designed in ancient Greece around 250 B.C. The gradual rise and running of water are used to measure the time and eventually trigger a mechanical bird. Also, the hourglass was created in the 8th century to keep track of the time more accurately. 

Birth of the Pocket and Wristwatches

In the mid-1500s, the Swiss watch industry came into being. The ban on wearing any type of jewelry by reformer John Calvin was one of the biggest factors in watchmaking. So, to save new materials such as silver, bronze, and brass, jewelers learned to make pocket watches. Shortly, wearing a pocket watch became an integral part of men’s wardrobe. 

The first iteration of these pocket watches only showed the hour until the minute hand was introduced in 1680. Initially, the portable timepieces were worn around the neck as a pendant, but Charles II popularized the waistcoat, transitioning portable clocks into pocket watches. 

During this whole development and evolution, the wristwatches as we know them today were not so much popular. In fact, it was women’s fashion that inspired the wrist-wearing. As far as history knows, the first wristwatch can be credited to Abraham-Louis Breguet. He designed the very first wristwatch for the Queen of Naples in 1810.

In the 20th century, wristwatches began to see a rise in popularity when Louis Cartier designed the first smart wristwatch for his friend Alberto Santos Dumont. Alberto wanted to fly his plane with both hands while keeping an eye on the time, which he could not do with the pocket watch. So, Louis Cartier created a smart wristwatch for this purpose. 

The Future of Wristwatches

Over the years, the watch industry has continued to boom, and new patents and inventions have been released. For lack of a better word, we would say the invention of wristwatches has shaped our lives in far more ways than can be imagined. Today, you see endless smart and traditional watches in the market that can lift your style to a whole new level instantly. 

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Table of Contents
  1. Measuring Time Over History
  2. Birth of the Pocket and Wristwatches
  3. The Future of Wristwatches