The history of how the watch came to be is a fascinating one. At one time, most women wouldn’t be seen without one on their wrist. As society moves on and the world of accessories changes, what has happened to women’s watches and are they still as popular as they used to be? Let’s take a look from past to present at the origins, trends, and meanings surrounding watches.
The Emergence of the Wristwatch
When it comes to the history of the wristwatch, you’ll find a selection of highly important women at its roots. Caroline Bonaparte, the Queen of Naples and Napoleon’s sister, is thought to have owned one of the first ever wristwatches in history; a stunning bracelet decorated with a small clock face crafted by Breguet in the early 1800s.
In 1868, Patek Philippe manufactured a dainty yellow gold bracelet for Countess Koscowicz of Hungary, specifically designed to be a wristwatch, not a pocket watch or pendant watch that was transformed. The trend caught on quickly with their royal counterparts, prompting a flurry of beautiful women’s watches that, although wonderful to look at, weren’t always entirely accurate.
While you might be unable to imagine a time when men’s watches weren’t a staple in every watch store, up until the 19th century, wearing a watch on your wrist was solely a woman’s game. It wasn’t until around the time of the First World War that men were first introduced to wristwatches, altering their trusty pocket watch for something that made telling the time in a military setting more efficient.
In 1918, Timex transformed a pocket watch into one suitable for the wrist and it became the first ever wristwatch issued by the U.S. Military. As the market waited for men to catch on to the ‘feminine’ accessory, women’s watches expanded into a multitude of styles, stepping away from jewels and towards practicality.
Encouraged by the waterproof timepiece seen on Mercedes Gleitze, who swam the English Channel, women’s watches came to a crossroads. Should it be just an impressive piece of jewelry or a functional must-have for everyday life? The answer was both, and the market changed to suit consumers’ needs.
Changes in Women’s Watches
As women’s watches became more accessible for the everyday woman in the 1950s, watchmakers began creating styles that were both trendy, durable and built efficiently. Slimmer women’s fashion watches were ideal for evening events and for the office, while bulkier watches aimed at athletes and sports fans came on the scene, armed with new technology and encouraging further developments to bring about the digital watch age. Many women owned more than one timepiece, giving her the ability to switch up her accessory depending on her outfit or plans for the day.
Then, the fashion houses had their say. No longer just reserved for iconic watchmakers, fashion brands such as Chanel, Gucci and Armani set about creating timepieces that reflected their brands, elevating the watch industry once more and bridging the gap between royalty and normalcy.
Sophisticated, alluring and aimed at high-class members of society, these designer brands infiltrated fashion with women’s luxury watches, which in turn, influenced the styles of those in the mainstream.
Moving with the Times
As technology forged ahead, so did the concept of wearables, which has impacted the watch industry massively. Once designed only to please the eye and tell the time, watches can now make and receive phone calls, order your groceries, control your home security and tell you how many calories you burned in your morning pilates session – the possibilities really are endless.
But does this technological overhaul mean that watches are now purely focused on necessity and not a fashion accessory? Not quite. With the increasing popularity of technology in our everyday lives, the need for these gadgets to adapt to us seamlessly is still apparent, and so came the concept of making technology fashionable.
Huge brands in the tech and sports sectors have invested millions into the look and feel of their products, creating a variety of colors and styles of their best-sellers to cater to men and women. This suggests that for many, regardless of how many tricks a gadget can do, aesthetics is still incredibly important. Despite now taking on a different role for many, watches still need to be fashionable to come out on top.
A Personal Affair
Although it may seem like just an accessory, there’s so much more to a watch than meets the eye. The jewel-encrusted designs of the 20th Century showed wealth and prowess, which evolved into devices that were more practical, as well as those worn for fashion and fun.
With the input from iconic fashion brands, sports companies, and tech giants, the focus of watches has shifted, but one thing remains the same – they’re part of the identity of a person. Whether it belonged to a doting grandmother, passed down through generations, or was a gift for a college graduation ceremony, each timepiece can hold special memories to be treasured forever.
It could be an expression of personal fashion sense or a nod to your passion for an active lifestyle; or even a device that holds your most treasured photos and helps you organize your emails; whatever you choose, it’s a reflection of you and what’s important to you.
A Constant Throughout Time
The way that the watch industry has adapted and changed over time proves that although trends ebb and flow, women’s watches will always be popular and will always be in fashion.
In fact, with a whole host of new releases every year and many consumers eager to find the best women’s watches on the market, the watch industry is very much still alive and kicking, suggesting that their popularity is at an all-time high.
Whether you’ve inherited a beautiful diamond-encrusted vintage piece or splashed out and treated yourself to an Apple Watch for women, people from all walks of life rely on watches for a multitude of uses and the offering is more diverse than ever before.
For the coming years, we predict that unisex designs and those that take inspiration from a time gone by are the ones to watch. Retro-inspired large faces in gold, rose gold and silver teamed with sleek leather and metal straps will be making an appearance, and a touch of animal print will definitely be on the cards.
When it comes to tech, watches might not be the only jewelry-like wearables that we see entering the frame. Experts predict that earrings, as well as clothing and even nail varnish, could all be in the pipeline for the next ten years. Only time will tell.
Although watches might be considered to some as a masculine accessory, the wristwatch’s origins truly lie with women. Over time, we’ve seen many trends come and go, transforming to suit the ever-changing lifestyles of women all over the world. With societal, fashion and technological changes, the choices really are endless when it comes to finding the perfect watch for you – have you found yours yet?
Which watch style do you love best?
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