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Although Patek Philippe was credited with inventing the first wristwatch in 1868,
watches attached to the wrist were in fact around much earlier than this. Queen
Elizabeth I is said to have worn one on occasions, and indeed royalty in general
were the first to wear early wristwatches during the 19th century.

Initially, wristwatches were considered to be accessories for women, not men.
Men preferred the more traditional pocket watches that had been around for a
while. However, during battle the ability to be able to tell the time with a quick
glance, rather than fumbling for a watch in one's pocket, became critical. They
were initially used by Officers in the Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902) and
during the First World War they became increasingly requested and used by the
military. They were crucial in aerial combat situations where it was necessary to
synchronise one's watches. After the war, the soldiers were allowed to keep the
wristwatches they had been given and they became popular with the rest of the
population.

After the First World War, wristwatches became widely worn by both men and
women. Men preferred more rugged designs, including sports models and
chronographs, whilst women preferred slimmer more decorative designs, as
today. In 1927, Rolex created the first waterproof watch which was worn by
Mercedes Gleitze when she swam across the English Channel.

Aound this time, the self winding mechanism was created, using the principals
found in pocket watches. It was initially unreliable, but the original reliability
problems were overcome and they became more accurate in the early 1940s.

However, during the depression of the 1930s, the demand for luxury items such
as watches plummeted and many watch making companies went bust. In World
War II, watches were again used for military purposes but were not available to
the masses. Switzerland still made watches for the military, including fighter
pilots.

After the end of World War II, watches were again manufactured for the
population in general, and in 1957 the first battery operated watch, called "The
Ventura",was developed by the Hamilton Watch Company in America.

This lead to increased competition to make watches ever smaller. In 1969, Neil
Armstrong wore and Omega Speedmaster, one of the first automatic
Chronographs, when he took his first steps on the moon.


The Introduction of Quartz Watches

The first Quartz clock was developed in the 1920s and at the time was one of
the most accurate timepieces available. It had long been known that quartz
crystals vibrate at a constant frequency, but it was not until the invention of
integrated circuitry in the late 1960s that quartz could be used in wristwatches.

The first quartz watch was the Beta 21, developed by an industrial consortium of
Swiss manufacturers in 1968. However, commercial production became the forté
of the Japanese, and by 1971 Seiko was manufacturing watches accurate to
within 5 seconds a month. However, these early models suffered from a short
battery life and LED (Light Emitting Diode) devices (introduced by Hamilton)
required that you press a button in order to be able to tell the time.

LED's were replaced by LCD's (Liquid Crystal Displays) which continuously
displayed the time without having to press a button. The development of Quartz
chronographs continued at a pace and today, less than 10% are mechanical.


Nowadays, the wristwatch is no longer just a watch. The wristwatch has become
a fashion accessory. Watches come in all colors and shapes imaginable. One
can also buy compatible watches from every fashion collection. The current
watches are dominated by the correct fashion trends. Despite these different
trends, there is something for every taste. The small watches, which require
glasses to tell the time, and the extravagant giant watches, which make it hard to
walk upright. In any case, one thing is sure: science is still likely to make so much
progress - that the wristwatch will be found on the wrists of people for a long
time, to answer the question as to what time it is.  The history of Americans and
their watches is complex. Watches aren't just functional
everyday objects that provide the correct time. They are personal expressions of
fashion and status. They are sometimes significant gifts - treasured family
heirlooms that link generations or keepsakes that mark important life moments
such as weddings, anniversaries or graduations. They are indicators of the way
we think about ourselves. And they are deeply meaningful symbols of the ways
we think about and use time.