The Evolving Role of the Wristwatch in Men's Fashion | Watchfinder Blog – WatchFinder

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In the late 19th and early 20th century, the classic men’s pocket watch evolved into a variety of versatile wristwatch models. 

During World War I, the first wristwatches made available to soldiers were seen as both a key military tool and an iconic fashion accessory associated with essential, positive attributes, such as power, punctuality, and responsibility. 

The First Wristwatches Responded to a Practical, Battlefield Need 

The 100th anniversary of the start of World War I was seen by many watch and fashion powerhouses as a perfect opportunity to celebrate and re-envision their most iconic timepieces. At the time of their conception, wristwatches allowed military personnel to coordinate their actions on the front and prepare themselves for the challenges brought on by the era of airplane-enabled battle. 

Some historians believe that the history of the wristwatch began a few centuries ago, when Napoleon was allegedly frustrated by the fact that he had to open and check his pocket watch during battle. Whether true or not, most experts agree that the birth and widespread availability of the wristwatch as we know it is connected to World War I. It was certainly the environment that allowed this iconic piece to become a statement accessory serving both as a men’s jewelry essential element, and a military tool of great importance. 

Modern Wristwatches are Seen as an Indispensable Men’s Fashion Accessory 

As you can probably imagine, a heavy pocket watch would be difficult to carry around and use on a daily basis, not to mention during armed battle. Faced with this challenge, an officer from the German Imperial Navy discussed this issue with his superiors, claiming a watch tied to his wrist would be the simplest, most convenient solution to the problem. A wristwatch would eliminate all the drawbacks linked to a conventional pocket watch. 

In this context, watchmaker Girard-Perregaux brought some of its finest craftsmen from Switzerland to Berlin to work on small, lightweight, revolutionary timepieces meant to stay attached to the wearer’s wrist. This bold move encouraged other prestigious companies to follow the same approach, and produce iconic wristwatches that served both as an innovative fashion accessory, and a key military tool. 

In 1917, for instance, Cartier rolled out its legendary Tank Watch, a design inspired by war tanks seen by its maker on the western front. Present-day luxury watch buyers who appreciate the versatility and timeless appeal of Ulysse Nardin, Zenith, and Jaeger-LeCoultre watches, can find no less than 41 reinterpretation of the iconic Tank design. These new models are available in different high-end combinations of precious metals, including white, rose, and yellow gold, as well as steel. 

Luxury Modern Timepieces Display an Ideal Balance between Form and Function 

More than one century ago, the classic wristwatch as we know it started making history as a statement piece worn with great pride by distinguished soldiers. Nowadays, watches go well beyond their initial purpose, and mesmerize potential buyers with their increased practical and aesthetic value. 

Aside from telling the time, sought-after timepieces – including Jaeger-Lecoultre, Ulysse Nardin, and Zenith watches – are interpreted as the epitome of professional and personal success, and are a great indicator of their wearer’s style, taste, personal preferences, lifestyle choices, and social status.