History of wristwatch
Today, a wristwatch is considered as much of a status symbol as a device to tell time. In an age when cell phones and digital pagers display tiny quartz clocks, the mechanical wristwatch has slowly become less of an object of function and more a piece of modern culture. Walk into the boardroom of any Fortune 500 company and you’re likely to see dozens of prestigious wristwatches, including such names as Rolex, Vacheron Constantine, Frank Muller, Jaeger-LeCoultre and even Patek Philippe. However, this was not always the case. Less than 100 years ago, no self-respecting gentleman would be caught dead wearing a wristwatch. In those days of yore, real men carried pocket watches, with a gold half-hunter being the preferred status symbol of the time—no pun intended. Wristlets, as they were called, were reserved for women, and considered more of a passing fad than a serious timepiece. In fact, they were held in such disdain that many a gentlemen were actually quoted to say they “would sooner wear a skirt as wear a wristwatch”. The established watch making community looked down on them as well. Because of their size, few believed wristlets could not be made to achieve any level of accuracy, nor could they withstand the basic rigors of human activity. Therefore, very few companies produced them in quantity, with the vast majority of those being small ladies’ models, with delicate fixed wire or chain-link bracelets. This all started to change in the nineteenth century, when soldiers discovered their usefulness during wartime situations. Pocket watches were clumsy to carry and thus difficult to operate while in combat. Therefore, soldiers fitted them into primitive “cupped” leather straps so they could be worn on the wrist, thereby freeing up their hands during battle. It is believed that Girard-Perregaux equipped the German Imperial Naval with similar pieces as early as the 1880s,which they ore on their wrists while synchronizing naval attacks, and firing artillery. In 1906, the evolution of wristlets took an even bigger step with the invention of the expandable flexible bracelet, as well as the introduction of wire loops (or lugs) soldered onto small, open-faced pocket watch
cases, allowing leather straps to be more easily attached. This aided their adaptation for military use and thus marked a turning point in the development of wristwatches for men. Another timely issue was the vulnerability of the glass crystal when worn during combat. This was addressed by utilizing “pierced metal covers”, frequently called shrapnel guards. These were basically metal grills (often made of silver), placed over the dial of the watch—thereby protecting the glass from damage while still allowing the time to be easily read. A less common solution was the use of leather covers, snapped into place over the watch. While they did offer protection from damage, they were cumbersome to use, and thus were primarily seen in the extreme climates of Australia and Africa Over the next decade, watch companies slowly added additional models to their catalogs, and finally, by the mid-1930s, they accounted for 65 percent of all watches exported by Switzerland. It was an uphill battle, but the wristwatch had finally arrived. They were now accurate, waterproof and, by 1931, perpetually self-winding, when Rolex introduced the Auto Rotor, a revolutionary design, which is used to this day by watch companies around the world. The success of the wristwatch was born out of necessity, and Rolex continued this tradition by introducing a series of Professional, or “tool watches” in the early 1950s. These models, including the Submariner, Explorer, GMT-Master, Turn-O-Graph, and Milgauss were also designed out of necessity, as they included features and attributes that were essential for a specific task or profession. Because of its rugged design, variations of the Submariner have subsequently been issued to numerous militaries, including the British...
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