Origins of ordinary things: Wristwatch

For a long time people all over the world have not only always had a fascination with observing the passing of time, but they have also gone on to be appreciated as jewellery or as collectible works of art rather than just as timepieces.

According to Worthy, an online accessories platform, the first watches were small personal clocks, carried in pockets, pinned onto dresses and aprons, and withdrawn to check the time, often with a flourish and a bit of fanfare. Though ornamental and useful, pocket watches were slightly impractical, causing the user to stop whatever he or she was doing, open the protective cover, and then close it up again when finished.

The first wristwatch was created in 1812, to fit the wrist of the Queen of Naples, even though they had previously been introduced in the 1570s, described as an arm watch.  They soon became popular but primarily by women as the watches were prone to damage by the elements, which is why men wore pocket watches and were thought to be impossibly inaccurate because of their size. But that was changed drastically after the outbreak of WWI, in 1914. This is according to Gallantry, an online shop with a penchant for well-crafted everyday carry gear.

According to Govberg watches, wristwatches later became more popular for men in the military. During the World War I, a pocket watch meant that to keep an eye on the time, soldiers could not fully carry all of their equipment.  To keep their hands free, they were given wristwatches called “trench watches”.   They were worn on leather straps and allowed for accurate coordination of maneuvers and attacks. 

Wristwatches soon became part of the ‘Officer’s Kit’ for the warfront. Watchmakers and inventors continued to develop advancements that would lend greater and greater accuracy, until they were just as reliable as full-sized pendulum clocks.

Electric watches were later introduced in the 1950s.  These electric watches foreshadowed the Quartz watch, introduced in 1969.  The Quartz watch removed all moving parts found in mechanical watches, replacing them with a battery.  This meant that the watches became more shock absorbent and could maintain better accuracy with no cleaning or oiling. 

Calculator watches preceded today’s smartwatches. These were introduced in the late 1970s and remained popular throughout the 1980s. Watch styles and technologies have since fallen in and out of favour — and will likely continue to do so — but the core spirit of the wristwatch is as intact today as it was after WWI.

Today, Apple, Microsoft, Casio, Misfit, Garmin, TAG Heuer, Samsung, and other top manufacturers offer their own smartwatches, all with unique features, cool styles, fitness trackers, and more. This according to Worthy.

Today’s smartwatches continue to play on these ideas, speaking to the person who constantly needs to be plugged in. By moving notifications to the wrist, where you can easily monitor them without having to spend time on your phone, the idea is that users can more efficiently spend time managing their tasks and receive and react to important updates in the moment.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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