Wristwatches have been around for over 500 years now and it would be an understatement to say that much has changed since its advent. The first wristwatch was created for a countess in Hungary as more of a symbol of status than a keeper of time. For decades, the wristwatch continued to be reserved as a piece of feminine jewelry for the upper-class. It was only until World War I that the wrist watch’s image and purpose shifted completely. Due to the bravado of war, the wristwatch that soldiers wore was also perceived as masculine for the first time. This gave watches a newfound place in the fashion industry, which we will be examining today.
As mentioned above, wristwatches started to be worn by men due to WWI due to its convenience. Being able to free up the hands for other uses while still being able to read the time by simply looking at their wrist was crucial for battles. And because first and foremost watches were used at that time for their utility, it was critical to design the watch for readability and durability. A design component that sets watches from that time period apart is its protective grids over the watch face as seen in the picture.
The wrist watch, with its fresh perspective after the war, was propelled into the fashion industry with a bang in the Roaring 20’s. One extremely influential piece, the Cartier Tank, was designed by Louis Cartier in 1917 to mirror a tank from above. The Cartier Tank continues to be one of the most replicated and mimicked pieces in the watchmaking industry.
During the ’30s, the designs and movements from the ’20s were further improved on and perfected. The popular Art Deco style at the time was an influence on watch design as seen in some watches that had unique designs such as the gold rectangular watch face with thick upper and lower margins. Yet, a lot of watches were fairly similar to those from the ’20s, except more durable and well-designed.
As the world saw an outbreak of yet another war (World War II), watches were once again heavily influenced by it. The round face with big and clear numbers made a comeback so that soldiers would be able to tell time quickly and easily. During this time, pilot timepieces were also created for its practicality. The Big Pilot’s Watch by influential watch brand IWC was produced for the German air force.
The 1950s saw the birth of the watch industry’s most influential watch of all time – the Rolex Submariner. Its sporty, stylish, and useful design made ripples in the watchmaking industry. To this day, the submariner is the most replicated watch design of all.
Especially during the former part of the 60s, watch design did not change too much. However, with the automation process becoming more developed, many watch movements became less refined. This does not apply to all watches during the time, as many luxury watches continued to improve in quality; Yet, the increasing mass production of watches was very notable during this era. Furthermore, with the surging fascination with space travel, watches also saw the bold design of adventure. As seen above, the Omega Speedmaster was worn by Buzz Aldrin, the second man to land on the moon and also the first to take a watch to space.
By this time, mechanical watches were falling out of style as quartz watches dominated the market. These watches had a signature redd LED light panel that showed the exact time.
In the 80s, Swatch took the watch industry by a storm with its new fun and affordable watches. For the first time, buying multiple watches not only for the time-keeping ability but the unique designs and colors was widely popular. In fact, it was so popular that Swatch had to implement a rule of one watch per person when selling new releases.
During the ’90s the mechanical watch saw a comeback. Horology and its complicated technology saw an increase in popularity as pieces such as the Lange 1 emerged. This off-center design is replicated in many watch designs to this day.
The 2000s saw a rise in independent watch companies and creativity in the market alongside the consistent increase in popularity in classic brands such as Rolex. Out of all watches, Hublot’s Big Band was perhaps the most popular of all with its classical round case revolutionized by the wide range of materials and details to characterize it.
In the 2010s, innovative designs and the fascination for the movements were characteristics that defined the era. Skeleton dials that showcased the inner workings of the watch or the absence of dials altogether were common to find.
It is still quite difficult to say what will be the overarching characteristics that the watch industry will harbor for the 2020s. However, as of now, it is valid to say that the watch industry has never been so diverse. With the rise of independent, small companies, the selection of unique watches is never-ending. And although classic designs and major watch brands are still popular, innovative and creative pieces are also surging. Rotate Watches fit right into this era, as we provide a whole new experience with watches by providing an easy, yet stylish watch that can be built by you.