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Soldiers Strap on Their Helmets and Watches

Boardrooms full of CEO's sporting the most impressive wristwatches they can find might be a common sight today; but a century and a half ago, these same businessmen would have found this unthinkably effeminate. In those times, men had pocket-watches.

Wristwatches, then known as "wristlets," were worn almost exclusively by women. Their small size, construed as inability to maintain adequate accuracy, combined with the inherent structural weakness of these early models, dissuaded most major timepiece manufacturers from entering the market.

 

Therefore, the few companies that did produce these original wristwatches overwhelmingly manufactured them for women, who wore them primarily as a piece of jewelry with fragile wire or chain-link segments connecting the watches to the ladies' wrist. These segments were the precursors to what we now consider the "strap" of watches.

This article will discuss the transition from men's wearing pocket watches to wristwatches.

 

Soldiers Strap Pocket Watches On

The advent of modern warfare changed all that.

In response to an order from German Emperor Wilhelm I, Constant Girard developed the first mass-produced wristwatch made available to German sailors and artillery operators because they allowed the soldiers to view the time with a one-armed motion as opposed to the required two-armed motion of the classical pocket-watch.

Supposedly, an artillery officer complained that it was inconvenient for him to use his pocket-watch when timing bombardments, so he strapped his pocket-watch to his wrist with a piece of leather or cloth. His superiors were so impressed with the idea that they placed the order with Girard.

Although this was a major milestone in wristwatch development, it only became a well-known tactical tool in South Africa during/after the Anglo-Boer War from 1899-1902, in which it served as an invaluable tool in turning the tide against the Boers. Slightly outnumbered and attacking well-entrenched Boer positions, the Brits used makeshift wristwatches to coordinate tactical artillery strikes and to conduct simultaneous flanking maneuvers.

 

Improvements in the Strap of Watches

In 1906, the development of the expandable flexible bracelet, as well as the creation of wire loops aiding in the attachment of leather straps, further improved the ease of use and practicality of the wristwatch.

Taking into account these advancements, "wristlets" were still worn primarily by women; that is, until World War I.

Thanks to the lessons learned in South Africa against the Boers, military commanders on all sides viewed this relatively new technology as now indispensable on the battlefield. As hundreds of thousands of soldiers marched towards, and died in, the trenches of Europe from 1914-1919, the demand for reliable wristwatches skyrocketed and finally broke into the mainstream markets.

Wristwatches were no longer a passing fad to be insulted, but rather a widely recognized military necessity that could decide the fate of major battles, not to mention countless lives.

 

From the Battlefield to Mainstream

After the Great War, many nations saw their heroes come home wearing the same watches they sported bravely in battle. This did a great deal in changing the public's perception of the wristwatch from overwhelmingly feminine to at least partly masculine.

From 1920 onward, the wristwatch started outstripping the now "traditional" pocket watches, and eventually, established itself as the most widely sold genre of timepieces on the planet.

This market offers consumers an incredibly diverse array of wristwatches from the easily affordable and practical to the most extravagant.

Orient Watch has excelled for years in creating long-lasting, practical, aesthetically pleasing, and affordable wristwatches. And if staying traditional is a goal, Orient Watch USA does carry an executive style pocket-watch: CDD00001W.


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