A Short History of the Wristwatch

Posted by david Hall on

  The earliest historical records indicating the inception of wristwatches involve Queen Elizabeth the first (1533-1603) of Britain in the year 1571, she was known for having a liking for timepieces & so as a gift, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester who longed for her hand in marriage, gave her a jeweled watch attached to an armlet which very closely resembled a modern wristwatch. Where Dudley bought the watch, nobody knows, the watchmaker remains anonymous.

For Queen Elizabeth was made the first wristwatch

     The most notable historical documentation is in July 8th, 1810 when the French watchmaker Abraham Louis Breguet was given a special order by the Queen of Naples, also well-known as Napoleon Bonaparte's sister, to make a watch mounted to a bracelet for a payment of 5,000 francs. The task was difficult but nevertheless Breguet satisfied the Queen's request and was respected and adjourned for making the first wristwatch in horological history. By this time wristwatches were still only worn by women and usually marketed as bracelets.

Queen of Naples Hallandladdco Blog Short History of the Wristwatch

    Men's wristwatches appeared in the late 1800's when they became necessary for British  military operations, being in the heat of battle with a pocket watch was impractical so in London the Garstin Company made and patented the first 'watch wristlet' for men in 1893 which consisted of a pocket watch fitted with a leather strap.The first men's wristwatches were being used in the 1880's by British military officers during the Anglo-Burma War and again in the South African War.

British Military officer sporting wristlet during Boer War Hallandladdco does not own rights to photo

     Then in the beginning of the 20th century and the First World War companies like Rolex, Dimier Frères & Cie, Wilsdorf & Davis were conceived and catered to the needs of aviators, foot soldiers engaged in trench warfare, artillery men and even civilians by making specially designed wristwatches with unbreakable glass and bright dials that could be seen in the dark. And finally when the Great War ended the trend lived on through the ages. 

Military Officers from the Great War wearing wristlets halllandladdco blog

    Of course there were other designers & companies that weren't mentioned like Patek Philippe & Girard-Perregaux who influenced the evolution of the wristwatch. Girard-Perregaux was the first company to manufacture wristwatches on a large scale, around 2,000 wristwatches were manufactured for German naval officers by order of Kaiser Wilhelm l, but the German public wasn't interested at the time and so the wristwatch was discontinued. Below is a photo of a German Militant circa 1880.

German Military Officer 1880 hallandladdco blog

    If you'd like to read more about the history of the wristwatch visit the following: