From Pocketwatch to Wristwatch: A Brief History

Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Clock collectors everywhere love to tinker with their elegant mantle pieces, searching for and buying old clock parts from companies like Merritt's where there is a wide selection to make repairs to their mementos of history. However, few collectors know more than the basics of their origins. Specifically, the history of wristwatches is both fascinating and unknown to most of us. What inspired the genius of strapping tiny time pieces to our wrists? To understand, lets look to the past.

A European Fashion Statement

In the age of cellphones, wristwatches are more of a status symbol than an essential timekeeping device, but it wasn't always that way. 
Before the 1700s, the only timekeeping devices were clock towers in city squares. Eventually, people found it cumbersome to look to towers to tell the time and instead began to carry small clocks around with them, called pocket watches. These expensive devices were considered a smart financial investment, like fine jewelry. 
By the 1860s, European designers created a peculiar design; bracelets now had small clocks on them. This trend was overwhelmingly mocked by Americans as a 'silly ass' fad until their peers across the Atlantic (especially women) began wearing them as high fashion accessories.

World War Origins

Careful time keeping is an essential part of military strategy, and during the decades before WWI soldiers grew frustrated with their cumbersome pocket watches and slowly adapted to wearing wrist watches instead. Many European watchmaking companies began producing industrial quality wrist watches that were strong enough to survive the rigors of war while also being cutting-edge in modern fashion. 

Mainstream Popularity

By the end of the war, soldiers were taking their wristwatches home with them, and civilians on the home front adopted the trend as a simple way to appear more martial and masculine. The wristwatch quickly became a symbol of progress, reminiscent of modern marvels like the airplane and the automobile, while pocketwatches came to symbolize an older era, as out of date as the steam boat. 
By the Great Depression, wristwatches had conquered the clock world, and still reign supreme in fashionable circles everywhere. The status symbol of high quality wristwatches has remained unchanged for decades, and is likely to remain so for years to come.  

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