Telling Time: The Feminine Origin of the Wrist Watch

Invented at the end of the 19th century by Patek Philippe as an exclusively female accessory, the wristwatch has now become a fundamental object for organizing the various commitments of everyday life.

The first portable watches appeared in the 16th century. Their invention is traditionally attributed to the German watchmaker Peter Henlein who designed very small clocks to which was carried via a ring to the side. They could be worn in a jumper or at the end of a chain around the neck. This design was introduced around 1510, which is only an approximate date, guessed at by archival texts, but there is mention of portable clocks manufactured earlier in Italy as well. The box of the first watches has long had an oval shape though they gradually flatten to give way to the pocket watches we know today.

Until the 20th century, men used a pocket watch.

The turning point is attributed to Alberto Santos-Dumont, who had difficulty reading the time when piloting his planes commissioned Louis Cartier a more practical watch; that's how the first wristwatch was born.

Cartier, who became popular in Paris, began selling his watches to male customers as well. With the outbreak of World War I, army officers soon realized that it was more practical to look at the wrist to tell the time, and so the government made sure that all soldiers had a wristwatch with very large and luminescent hands.
Starting in the 1960s, Hollywood actors began to wear watches in movies, and so the undisputed success of this accessory began.

Sean Connery wore a Rolex Submariner in the Film Series with our favorite agent, 007, which became a famous and sought-after piece by many collectors. It also became the one worn by Roger Moore when he took over the role of 007, the Rolex ref 5513, which was sold at auction for 26,500 pounds.

Also sought after was the watch worn by Steve McQueen in many of his films, a Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655 and the one associated with Paul Newman who wore a Rolex Daytona, which was also worn by the Italian Gianni Agnelli.

Politics also helped spread the craze for the watch: US President John F Kennedy used to wear a 14-karat gold Nastrix with 57 rubies and brown alligator strap, given to him by Evangeline and David Bruce in 1963, and that Jackie Kennedy later gave to her second husband Aristotle Onassis.

On July 20, 1969, the wristwatch was worn into space by NASA astronauts who set out for the expedition to the Moon.

In the early 1980s, Swiss entrepreneur Nicolas Hayek led the merger of the two Swiss watch holding companies into SMH, with the aim of producing a new type of watch, with an attractive design and reduced costs; The price was between 39 and 40 Swiss francs.

On 1 March 1983 the new watch, named Swatch, was released on the market, obtained by the fusion of the words "Swiss" and "watch."

The experiment was carried out by limiting the components of the watch's production and thus lowering costs. Because the piece was designed by many artists, the SMH was able to produce a new collection each year, thus transforming the watch from a luxury object, known for durability to an object to be changed frequently.

Swatch became coveted objects by collectors, especially those created by famous artists, such as the model created by Keith Haring.

Since 1998 SMH has become the world's largest watch manufacturer, a record it still maintains today, having bought many of the historic Swiss watch brands such as Omega, Longines, Rado and Breguet.

The wristwatch has gone from a woman's time piece to one of the most important accessories in anyone's wardrobe.

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