WRISTWATCH

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Referring to the watch, the wristwatch is very popular now and obviously plays a dominant role.

The concept of the wristwatch can go back to the production of the very earliest watches in the 16th century. Elizabeth I of England received a wristwatch from Robert Dudley in 1571, specifically, described as an arm watch. From the beginning, wrist watches were almost exclusively worn by women, while men used pocket-watches up until the early 20th century. This was not just a matter of fashion or prejudice; watches of the time were notoriously prone to fouling from exposure to the elements, and could only reliably be kept safe from harm if carried securely in the pocket. When the waistcoat was introduced as a manly fashion at the court of Charles II in the 17th century, the pocket watch was tucked into its pocket. Prince Albert, the consort to Queen Victoria, introduced the ‘Albert chain’ accessory, designed to secure the pocket watch to the man’s outergarment by way of a clip. By the mid nineteenth century, most watchmakers produced a range of wristwatches, often marketed as bracelets, for women.

Wristwatches were first worn by military men towards the end of the nineteenth century, when the importance of synchronizing maneuvres during war without potentially revealing the plan to the enemy through signalling was increasingly recognized. It was clear that using pocket watches while in the heat of battle or while mounted on a horse was impractical, so officers began to strap the watches to their wrist. The Garstin Company of London patented a ‘Watch Wristlet’ design in 1893, although they were probably producing similar designs from the 1880s. Clearly, a market for men’s wristwatches was coming into being at the time. Officers in the British Army began using wristwatches during colonial military campaigns in the 1880s, such as during the Anglo-Burma War of 1885.

During the Boer War, the importance of coordinating troop movements and synchronizing attacks against the highly mobile Boer insurgents was paramount, and the use of wristwatches subsequently became widespread among the officer class. The company Mappin & Webb began production of their successful ‘campaign watch’ for soldiers during the campaign at the Sudan in 1898 and ramped up production for the Boer War a few years later.