Antiques Column: Practical and accurate timekeeping
During the early years of the twentieth century the wristwatch gradually began to replace the pocket watch. A wristwatch was a far more practical timekeeping method and was issued in the military during the First World War in reflection of this.
Accurate timekeeping was now necessary and watches became everyday items instead of expensive possessions few could afford. Following the war, a new market emerged and by the end of the 1930s sales of the wristwatch were outnumbering the pocket watch.
The design of the earliest wristwatches was not that different from the pocket watch; the face was a smaller version and was attached to the straps with wire ‘lugs’. The earliest versions from the 1920s and 30s were usually simple rectangular or circular faces, reflecting the fashion of the period for geometric shapes and clean lines.
During the 1940s and 50s, wristwatch design expanded to include more extravagant creations and unusual shapes with many watches taking on more of the stylistic traits of jewellery from the period.
As a rule the very earliest wristwatches usually hold low monetary value to collectors unless they are unusual or of particularly fine quality. Value is found in many factors, including the maker, the materials, the style and date of the watch as well as the type and complexity of the movement.
Some of the makers to look out for include the more famous Rolex, Omega and Cartier as well as the lesser known Hamilton and Elgin. Rolex, the brand developed in 1905 at Wilsdorf & Davies in London, is particularly interesting as Hans Wildorf actually started his first wristwatch factory on the basis of his theory that the wristwatch would became more popular than the more dominant pocket watch; a gamble that definitely paid off.