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.
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.
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 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.
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.