For today’s WatchCo post, we welcome in guest blogger and author Adam Partridge. Fresh off writing and publishing An Illustrated History of the Wristwatch, Adam shares some of his findings below that he came across in his research. You can read more about his book at the link above.
The timeline of the wrist watch has come full circle. From starting out as a luxurious piece of jewelry, to becoming an essential for some professions and back around again to being a stylish accessory.
The first ever wristwatch was 1876 purchased by a Hungarian Countess–one of the original hipsters setting the trends of the time. She desired it as a piece of jewelry rather than for the purpose of keeping time, because why would you need to keep track of time when your blood is blue? This stylistic choice was first shunned by men, having a preference for the pocket watch.
That all changed in the late 19th century when the military found it was more practical to have a watch on your wrist rather than in your pocket. I guess there wasn’t so much time in a war zone to pull out a pocket watch the size of your face and check to see what time you were meant to spring into battle. (Unless of course you planned on using it as a shield from incoming bullets.) Once the wristwatch had been legitimized for men through its use in the military, it slowly became a common accessory for the public. From then onwards the wristwatch developed into a time keeping instrument of luxury and style through a series of evolutions in technology and fashion.
Here is a rundown of some of the more intricate watches that were part of what evolved the wristwatch into what it is today.
It may be lacking its crown, but a crown doesn’t make a Rolex any more than it makes a king as this guy will tell you…
The brilliance of the Rolex Oyster lay in its patented hermetic seal (It’s water resistant and stops dust.) It has remained an iconic piece ever since its genesis in 1926 and has sealed its place in Rolex’s history, as well as the history of the wristwatch, as an innovative step forward in horology.
The Hamilton Ventura was the first battery-powered watch and was favored by a man who lends further evidence to the fact that you don’t need a crown to be called a King, Elvis Presley. The timepiece introduced electronics to the watchmaking world with its battery-powered mechanics and its asymmetrical style, which is completely unique.
Ten years later, Omega SA came out with the watch that brought time to the moon, the Omega Speedmaster, aka The Moon Watch. It was worn by Buzz Aldrin as he and the Apollo 11 team landed on the moon’s surface. As a result, has been immortalized in the watching making world. The Omega’s Speedmaster was the only watch put forward to NASA that survived their rigorous tests.
It was in the early ’60s that the race to produce the first Quartz watch took place between the Swiss watch making companies and the Asian watch making company Seiko. The outcome ended the Swiss hegemony in the watchmaking industry with Seiko developing the first Quartz watch–the Seiko Quartz Astron. It took 14 years for the Swiss watch making world to retaliate with their last hopes of keeping a presence in the industry, dependent on a syndicate of Swiss watch companies. After establishing a research fellowship of different Swiss watch companies–Elrond style–they came up with the Swatch, the one watch to bring them all under affordable mediocrity. Within two years of its release, the Swatch sold more than 2.5 million watches.
Now that we have seen the wristwatch’s usefulness expire at the popularity of the mobile phone–but ever keeping in with the times–the wristwatch has taken another step in its evolution; the smart watch. Released in 2013, the Pebble Smartwatch received most of its funding from Kickstarter; $10,266,844 to be exact. It’s a sign that the wristwatches’ technological progress isn’t dead, but it does seem that the true future of the wristwatch currently lies in luxury.