Thursday Salute to Originals: The Wristwatch

If you’re of a younger generation, then chances are you rely on your digital devices to track time for you (microwave, iPod, cell phone, laptop). Time has been depersonalized and removed from direct contact with the body, yet our society is as time-conscious, technology-addicted, and prone to stress as ever.

Old Time Watches

From novelty to necessity and back to novelty, the history of the wristwatch is filled with interesting developments. So what’s the story behind this tiny object that occupies valuable “real estate of the wrist”?


Historically, wrist watches (or “wristlets”, as they were called at the time) were only worn by women, and were regarded as undesirable and impractical. Males typically adorned pocket watches attached to long chains, regarding what we know as today’s wristwatch as an emasculating symbol. Many doubted their staying power in culture, dismissing wristwatches as a passing fad, skeptical of their accuracy and durability.

This all began to shift during the 19th century, when soldiers fastened their pocket watches to their wrists or arms during battle to free up their hands. Capitalizing on the technology, generals began using the instruments to synchronize troops and improve tactical precision. The durability of the instruments were improved through wrist bands, protective covers, and other accessories that made them vital tools of wartime. Once the brave soldiers returned from war donning these wristwatches, the previously feminine perception of the objects began to change.

Several companies took hold of the potential of the wristwatch, marketing it for both men and women alike, in both everyday use or for tactical precision in the sciences and military.  Now available in traditional mechanical or highly digitized versions, in varying shapes, colors, and designs, for use as a technical tool or pure jeweled ornament, the wristwatch currently occupies a diminishing place in modern culture.  Is the wristwatch destined for the cultural graveyard or will its design continue to iterate in order to remain relevant?  Only time will tell…

Image Credit: Through 4 Eyes via Flickr