Hi. Winnie Griggs here. On an out of town trip I took a while back I lost my wristwatch. I just looked down at my wrist at some point and it was gone. No doubt the leather strap or the buckle broke - but regardless of what happened, it was nowhere to be found. Since I’m lost as a goose without a watch, I immediately rushed out to the nearest department store and picked up a replacement.
And because this has become such an indispensible accessory for me, it got me to wondering about just when folks started wearing timepieces on their wrist. I did a bit of research and it turns out that wristwatches have not been in general use nearly as long as I’d imagined.
True, there are some examples as early as the 1500s - in fact Queen Elizabeth I was said to have been given one as a special gift. But even so they were few and far between and were usually pieces specially commissioned for royalty..
That changed in the middle of the 19th century. But even then men still clung to their pocket watches, viewing wristlets, as they were called at that time, as a feminine and foppish adornment. In fact, men were quoted as saying they “would sooner wear a skirt as wear a wristwatch”.
The watch making community itself was at least in part to blame for this. They looked down on them as inferior timepieces. Because of their size, few believed they could achieve an acceptable level of accuracy and the vast majority of those being produced were made as decorative pieces with delicate fixed wire or chain link bracelets.
All of that began to change when military men discovered how useful these hands free timepieces could be in battle situations. Soldiers found pocket watches difficult to handle while engaged in physical combat and began to fit them into makeshift leather straps to wear on their wrists. Not only did this leave their hands free for other things, but being able to check the time at a glance instead of having to dig through their pockets gave these soldiers a strategic advantage over those less well equipped, especially when synchronization of activities was critical.
Officers in the South African Boer war (1899-1902) were the first to use wristwatches extensively and were not afraid to sing their praises. By World War I, the military not only encouraged but began to demand them for their troops.
By the 1920s, wristwatches had become the most popular type of personal timepiece among both men and women. Rolex is credited with creating the first water resistant watch, a model of which was worn in 1927 by a female channel swimmer. Both Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh wore wristwatches for their celebrated transatlantic flights. Today, wristwatches have become as much a symbol of status and style as a utilitarian instrument to tell time.
While I have one watch that I wear most often - my go to watch if you will, I will admit to being somewhat of a collector - having one for just about every mood and occasion. Over time I've amassed a rather large collection - below is a photo. Some of these were gifts from friends and family who know me well, some of them were impulse buys when I stumbled on one I couldn't resist or that would fit in perfectly for some special occasion event I was attending.
So what about you? Do you feel the need to wear a wristwatch most of the time or are you like a friend of mine who'd rather not be bothered with it? And if you wear one, what is your personal style - do you select your watch(es) purely for their function, or do you look for one that reflects something of your style and personality?
I feel naked without a watch. When my battery died in Canada I ended up getting a new one cos I needed to have a watch. (the one with dead battery getting back of is like breaking into a safe). The new one was the bracelet one the one with a hinge and clips around both in gold and silver (fake) its easy to wear and great this time of year but in summer it gets to tight as its a snug fit. I then got a nice one at wallmart but the clasp is loose and it keeps falling off. But its pretty. will try and get it tightened. I like a small face like several of yours. I like a thin band too dont like bulk.ReplyDelete
I pick ones that fit but that I like I dont pick leather bands and will go small rather than large.
Hi Jenny! I'm with you. I too have gone out and purchased a new one on the spot when I'm out of town and the one I brought with me dies or gets lost.Delete
I LOVE watches too!! In fact I was reading this story and my husband came up and said to me, "your not looking at watches again?!" :) I don't like watches with batteries though, I love the old wind up watches! I love the ticking sound a wind up watch makes! I have 4 old wind up watches in my collection, 1 each from the 1920's, 1930's, 1940's, 1960's. My 1920's watch quit working, but I wear the others. My 1930's watch is my favorite, it was a gift from my husband. It was made by Mappin & Webb of London and the watch and band are 9ct rose gold.ReplyDelete
I love this article! :)
LOL on your husband's comment. And those vintage watches sound amazing. Unfortunately mine are all of modern vintage and most are costume jewleryDelete
The vintage watches you have pictured above are gorgeous! I love when watches are made for beauty as well as function. However, I have to say that I love the modern inventions of the watch like Indiglo light (won't buy a watch without it!), date, and water resistance. I hate to not have on a watch, but my husband couldn't care less! Right now, my watch band is just about to break so I'm afraid to wear it, and it's driving me crazy to be without a watch! lolReplyDelete
Hi Bethany. Yes, there are many watches that are crafted like fine pieces of jewelry. I have one watch with the indglo feature and I do love it when I'm in a dark place like a movie theater.Delete
As Bethany said, those vintage watches are lovely. And you also have a very pretty collectioin yourself, Winnie. I used to wear a watch all the time. I liked small, unobtrusive watches. Oval face. Brown bands.ReplyDelete
But the last time my band broke, I had started carrying a cell phone and just never got around to going to buy a new watch. And since I don't like the clicking/scrubbing noise of a watch against my computer (the finish is worn off my laptop on the left side!), and I work 24/7 on the thing, I suppose it's a good thing.
But it took weeks to feel comfortable without a watch! And I have my grandfather's pocket watch.
I've had other folks point to cell phones as the reason they no longer wear a watch, but that would never work for me. Digging my phone out of my overstuffed purse is nowhere near as convenient as glancing down at my wrist. Of course if I streamlined the contents of my purse...Delete
Hi Winnie, oh I love that collection of lovely watches! I have quite a few very inexpensive watches that I can't live without...they are all "bracelet" watches, the kind that clip around your wrist. Easier on me than having to buckle a strap. I don't know if I'd ever buy or wear an expensive watch...my grandbaby loves to play with them LOL. Great post and wonderful blog here. xoReplyDelete
I'm with you Tanya. I only have one watch that I would consider expensive and I rarely wear it. I'm much more drawn to fun or kitchy :)Delete
Winnie, I have collected quite a few watches without intending to. My favorite was my grandmothers, probably bought in the 1930's. It is a beautiful pink gold. But it doesn't work. I should go get it fixed.ReplyDelete
Debbie - oh yes, you SHOULD get it repaired. What a great family memento to have.Delete
Winnie, You better hang on to those wristwatches. They may become a collector's item before long. Ever since getting my cell phone, I've gotten out of the habit of wearing a watch. I just check my phone. Thanks for an interesting post!ReplyDelete
Vickie - LOL on collector's item. I posted in my reply to Pam why that will never be the case for me. But I see it happening with my kids and some of my friends so you may be right on what the future holdsDelete
Good article on watches and beautiful pictures on pocket watches, wristwatches and a ring watch. Things being invented because of a need. sharon, caReplyDelete
Hi Sharon - glad you enjoyed the post. And good idea - someday I'll have to dig a little deeper in other timepieces like pocket watches, broach watches and ring watches.Delete
I used to always wear a wristwatch. But when my arthritis went to my wrists, I couldn't anymore. I was so glad when cell phones became popular, because I always could check them time on the screen.ReplyDelete
Hi Lena - sorry to hear about your arthritis - and yes in that case I can see where the clock on a cell phone would be a very convenient back-up.ReplyDelete
Winnie, Interesting post.ReplyDelete
I stopped wearing a wristwatch and just whip out my cell phone when I need to know the time. You don't see many people wearing watches these days, at least not where I live.
Hi Margaret. Guess I'm just too much a creature of habit - I feel lost as a goose if I'm not wearing my watch.Delete
I haven't worn a watch in about 17 years when I began working at a middle school that had a clock in classrooms and hallways. I have not missed it. Below our home on a hilltop is a clock/temperature sign ~ I can see it from our front door through the trees and from the community walking trail. Time on cell phone, computer, stove/microwave, and in the car. I set the alarm on a clock in the hallway bathroom to get up to turn it off where I keep my exercise clothes. I like to go to an antique store, and ask, "How much more time do I have before you close?" Kathleen ~ Lane Hill HouseReplyDelete
Kathleen - that seems to be becoming more and more the norm. Guess I'm just a throw back...Delete
When I read your post, immediately I thought of Corrie ten Boom's father and his clock shop.
I've worn a wrist watch since my very first Ronald Mcdonald digital watch in the 2nd grade. I used to have a lot, like you, but-much like my purses, coats, and shoes--I tend to stick with my faves rather than switching out all the time! In fact, I bought a brown porcelain watch 5 yrs ago and have only worn it b/c I only wear gold jewelry and can't afford a real gold watch. This year it died, not just the battery, but I still wear it because I need something there and I've mainly used my cell phone to check the time for yrs now! Thanks for the great post!ReplyDelete
P.S. I keep my cell in my hip or back pockets so no digging. I'd have to buy a new watch if I carried it in my purse!Delete
Oh a Ronald McDonald watch - what a fun memory to have! And I know what you mean about having one favorite - my go to watch is a simple gold watch on a black patent leather band. I wear it all the time unless I'm 'dressing up' for something special. Thanks for stopping by and sharing with usDelete
This post made me giggle! I have a watch fetish too. I love unique and fun ones, all shapes and sizes for every mood. I have quite the collection, sadly most of them have dead batteries. I feel so lost without one on and I just cannot get into the habit of finding my phone to see the time. How can anything be faster than looking down at your wrist?? :)ReplyDelete
Ah - a fellow watchonista! And I'm with you - why fuss with pulling out a phone when a simple glance to your wrist will do the trick :)Delete