Winding the clock back to 16th century Europe, watches began to evolve from the spring-driven, portable clocks that were worn as ornamental timepieces, which was the beginning of the timepiece accessory as we know it.
What began as a traditionally feminine accessory, pinned onto dresses and aprons alike, morphed into a staple accessory across the world, adapting in efficiency, style and budget along the way.
Let’s take a look at the evolution of the timepiece, or more specifically, the wristwatch.
The introduction of wristwatches
Whilst pocket watches had been popular as personal clocks long before the concept of a wristwatch came about, they were often more cumbersome, owing to their protective covers and larger size.
Pocket watches also had the issue of reliability – some could be off by more than half an hour per day!
These timepieces weren’t cheap, either, tending only to be used by those who were of high nobility, particularly as these forms of wearable watches were more about aesthetic and fashion, rather than functionality.
Back in the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I of England received one of the first known wristwatches, then called an ‘arm watch’, presented to her by Robert Dudley, the 1st Earl of Leicester, said to be richly jewelled and with a pearl pendant.
Whilst men predominantly preferred the pocket watch, women preferred the wristwatch, though in both cases, fashion was the primary driver.
The rise of practicality and function
Earlier wristwatches tended to be ornate and delicate, which made them easily prone to damage, and was a contributing factor as to why men tended to prefer pocket watches for their comparative durability.
Though British army officers had begun to wear wristwatches in the 1880s to help them synchronise attacks, it wasn’t until World War I that soldiers began modifying pocket watches with straps – perhaps creating the perfect way to switch up your timepiece collection with interchangeable straps!
There was also the matter of convenience, with the wristwatch gaining popularity amongst aviators due to the hands-free nature of a wristwatch over a pocket watch.
Whilst the wristwatch had previously been considered a feminine accessory, it was now popular amongst men after World War I had ended, though these wristwatches weren’t shatterproof, and tended to utilise protective grids over the watch face.
This paved the way towards more hardwearing, durable designs. Our Zeus timepieces use sapphire crystal, which can never be scratched or shattered, for longevity!
Decades influencing designs
In the Roaring 20s, Louis Cartier gained prominence when he produced the iconic Cartier Tank in 1919, with an elegant and elongated shape, whilst Rolex popularised their water-resistant Oyster model, featuring a screw-down caseback, crown, and bezel.
By the 1930s, rectangular cases gained prominence as a result of the prominent Art Deco style, with many designs of the time featuring parallel lines and gold detailing.
The military once again influenced the trajectory of the wristwatch in the 1940s, with larger watch faces and easy-grasp crowns being utilised for easy operation for soldiers wearing gloves.
Once we get to the 1950s and 1960s, Rolex’s Submariner dominated the sporty, self-winding watches market (which is the inspiration behind our very own Apollo line that pays homage to the iconic model with never-before-seen colour styles, and a black edition inspired by the bold Submariner modifications seen over the years!).
Whilst the Submariner was busy being the iconic sporty watch, Omega’s Speedmaster became the first watch to be worn on the moon!
The quartz takeover
The mechanical watch industry was in a state of shock by the time quartz watches gained popularity, as they became a staple by the 1970s, with a heightened focus on design and function.
In turn, the wristwatch continued to adapt throughout the decades, with design innovations such as off-centre dial arrangements, the renaissance of mechanical watches, and now, the popularity of smart watches!
Whatever the style, timepieces remain an iconic accessory that can be passed through generations.
We truly believe in the value of longevity when it comes to luxury timepieces. It’s why our Zeus quartz-powered battery will last you 3-4 years, built to stand the test of time like the ancient Greek temples.
We’re so confident that our watches are built to last, we guarantee at least 2 years of battery life, or you can simply return your watch and we’ll send you a new one, free of charge!
Wristwatches are still a staple accessory across the world, a matter of both function and fashion, and still a way for many to showcase their status, wealth, and personal style.
In our opinion, luxury watches will never go out of style… what do you think?