Today it is common for a man to wear a watch on his wrist, but about 100 years ago it was a different story. World War I, which began in 1914 and ended in 1918, brought many new things to the battlefield: airplanes, mustard gas, and military tanks. This brought something new to civilian society: wristwatches, previously restricted to women, became military-issue devices, replacing pocketwatches popular among gentlemen. Soldiers returning home from war brought the habit of wearing a wristwatch with them, thus beginning the fascinating history of the wristwatch, which has become an integral part of our modern lives.
In this article from the Watchtime archives, you’ll discover 10 landmark moments from the first 100 years of wristwatch history. This is the summary of the feature “A Wristwatch Timeline,” you can download from WatchTime Shop.
- 1 1. Breitling Chronograph
- 2 2. Cartier tank
- 3 3. LeCoultre & Cie. and the Jaeger Reverso
- 4 4. John Harwood designs the winding mechanism
- 5 5. IWC’s first pilot’s watch
- 6 6. The factory of A. Lange & Söhne was destroyed
- 7 7. The first automatic chronographs
- 8 8. Jean-Claude Biver and Jacques Piguet bought Blancpain
- 9 9. SMH now known as Swatch Group was formed
- 10 10. Rolex New Cosmograph Daytona
- 11 Related
1. Breitling Chronograph
1915: Breitling Launched one of the first wrist-worn chronographs. It featured an innovation: a push-piece at 2 o’clock, separate from the winding crown, was integrated into it, as in pocketwatch chronographs of the time.
2. Cartier tank
1919: Cartier Introduced Tank Watch. The company claims that the shape of the case sides was inspired by the treads on military tanks first used in WWI.
3. LeCoultre & Cie. and the Jaeger Reverso
1931: Swiss company LeCoultre & Cie. and the French firm Jaeger Collaborate to bring out the Reverso, whose case can be slid to the side and rotated to protect its crystal. (The two companies would merge in 1937.)
4. John Harwood designs the winding mechanism
1926: Fortis introduced the first wristwatch with an automatic winding rotor. The winding mechanism was designed by British watchmaker John Harwood, who based it on Abraham-Louis Perrelet’s design for pocket watches in the 18th century.
5. IWC’s first pilot’s watch
1936: IWC Schaffhausen Makes its first pilot’s watch, calling it the Special Watch for Pilots. It has a rotating bezel to measure elapsed times.
6. The factory of A. Lange & Söhne was destroyed
[1945:[1945: Russian planes bombed the A. Lange & Söhne factory in Glashütte, Germany, nearly destroying it hours before the armistice was signed.
7. The first automatic chronographs
1969: The world’s first automatic chronographs were introduced. One, Caliber 6139, was the first to hit the market, from Seiko; Another, the now famous El Primero, from Zenith; And the third, Caliber 11, is the work of a consortium of companies: Heuer-Leonidas, Breitling, Dubois Depraz, Buren and Hamilton.
8. Jean-Claude Biver and Jacques Piguet bought Blancpain
1983 Jean-Claude Biver and Jacques Piguet, head of the Frédéric Piguet movement manufacturer, bought the defunct Blancpain brand and relaunched it as an all-mechanical watch brand with movements supplied by Frédéric Piguet.
9. SMH now known as Swatch Group was formed
1983: Two financially troubled Swiss watch conglomerates, ASUAG and SSIH, merged to form SMH (Societé Suisse de Microélectronique et d’Horlogerie), now known as the Swatch Group. Nicolas Hayek engineered the merger and became CEO.
10. Rolex New Cosmograph Daytona
2000 Rolex Cosmograph has launched a new version of the Daytona featuring the new in-house caliber 4130. The introduction means that all Rolex-brand mechanical watches now have in-house movements.
These milestones are part of our 12-page timeline to chronicle the first 100 years of wristwatch history. Download now from the Watchtime Shop for just $2.99!