Wristwatches – Necessity or Accessory



Last weekend I lost my favorite wristwatch.  I’d noticed earlier that the band was beginning to show signs of wear and had planned to take care of it ‘soon’, but like most other things in my life these days, I put it off until it was too late.  I do have other watches, several in fact.  I collect ones that reflect different aspects of my mood and personality.  I have one with a dragonfly on it and one that is for ‘dress up’ occasions and one that is very bold and colorful for when I’m in a fun mood.  But, while this particular watch was not an especially showy or expensive piece, it did have a lot of sentimental value and was the one I wore most often.  My mom gave it to me as a Christmas gift about eighteen years ago and I have treasured it ever since.

As luck would have it, I was about 300 miles from my home when I discovered my watch had gone missing.  Since I’m lost as a goose without a watch, I immediately rushed out to the nearest department store and picked up a replacement.  And because this has become such an indispensible accessory for me, it got me to wondering about just when folks started wearing timepieces on their wrist.  I did a bit of research and it turns out that, historically speaking, wristwatches have not been in general use for all that long.

While there are some examples as early as 1500, and Queen Elizabeth I was supposedly given one as a special gift, they were few and far between and were specially commissioned pieces most often for royalty until the mid to late nineteenth century.decorative1

Even then men still clung to their pocket watches, viewing wristlets, as they were called at that time, as a feminine and somewhat faddish adornment.  In fact, men were quoted as saying they would  “sooner wear a skirt as wear a wristwatch”.

The established watch making community was partly to blame for this.  They looked down on them as inferior timepieces.  Because of their size, few believed they could achieve an acceptable level of accuracy and the vast majority of those being produced were made as decorative pieces with delicate fixed wire or chain link bracelets.

soldier1That began to change when soldiers discovered how useful wristwatches could be in battle situations.  Military men found pocket watches difficult to handle while engaged in physical combat and began to fit them into makeshift leather straps to wear on their wrists. Not only did this leave their hands free for other things, but being able to check the time at a glance instead of having to dig through pockets gave soldiers a strategic advantage over those less well equipped, especially when synchronization of activities was critical.  

ww-i1Officers in the South African Boer war (1899-1902) were among the first to use wristwatches extensively and the veterans were not afraid to sing their praises both during and after.  By World War I, the military not only encouraged the use of wristwatches but began to demand them for the soldiers. 


adBy the 1920s, wristwatches had become the most popular type of personal timepiece among both men and women.  Rolex is credited with creating the first water resistant watch, a model of which was worn in 1927 by a female channel swimmer.  Both Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh wore wristwatches for their celebrated transatlantic flights.  Today, wristwatches have become as much a symbol of status and style as a utilitarian instrument to tell time.

As for my own lost wristwatch, I still cling to the hope that I’ll find it wedged down in some nook or cranny in my car or purse or some such.  In the meantime, I’ll use one of the others I own.

So what about you?  Do you select your watch(es) for their function, or do you look for one that reflects something of your style and personality?


And just a quick note – To celebrate my very first day at Wildflower junction as an official filly I’d like to give away a signed copy of my March release, The Hand-Me-Down Family (or one of my backlist if you prefer).  I’ll be drawing a name of one poster sometime Monday evening.

Website | + posts

Winnie Griggs is the author of Historical (and occasionally Contemporary) romances that focus on Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace. She is also a list maker, a lover of dragonflies and holds an advanced degree in the art of procrastination.
Three of Winnie’s books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and one of those nominations resulted in a win.
Winnie loves to hear from readers. You can connect with her on facebook at www.facebook.com/WinnieGriggs.Author or email her at winnie@winniegriggs.com.

49 thoughts on “Wristwatches – Necessity or Accessory”

  1. Hi Winnie! I’m very practical when it comes to watches. I have an old something-or-other that I wear the most, and a couple of newer watches that get put in the rotation if I can’t find my favorite. I need a watch at the day job and miss it terribly if I forget it.

    My biggest “watch” pet peeve is having it set to the exact right time. I’m a confused camper if the clocks in the house and cars and my wristwatch are all five minutes off. Yep, I’m compulsively on time!

    It’s great to be with you at Wildflower Junction. “The Hand-Me-Down Family” was a joy to read. Loved the cover!

  2. Hello Winnie,

    First, glad to have you here. Enjoyed reading your first post. I love learning new information about pieces of history I would probably never research myself. Would love to win one of your books. Count me in. Have a great day.

  3. Nice to have you here Winnie I love watches I have way to many and will keep buying them if I see one that is just right. I get the ones that I want that are not to big and a little fancy and then there are the Mickey ones I probably have 15 of them at least. See I am a Mickey freak. I am sure you will hear about that at another time. Glad you are here at the Junction.
    I have to have a watch on even if I don’t look at it the feel of having it there.

  4. Morning Winnie! I love reading about this history! My uncle always used a pocket watch. I loved to see him go and check the time out of the blue and I thought it was so neat.

    I don’t know why my watches always stop working! I had mostly those that came from this one department store but I loved them and always fit my wrist better. But since the last one broke and I’m not working now, I haven’t gotten another one. So its odd not having anything on me. I do like this 1928 Jewelery (that’s the name of the brand 1928.com ) and so want to get one from there that I saw in the store before but don’t see on the site now. But has some neat ‘Victorian’ Jewelery. I’ll have to look more to see what others they have styled from the past.

    But to loses, when I was going through the surgeries I lost the weight and lost my wedding band! Its my fault, I knew it was lose but I didn’t want to take it off, I never did. It feels so odd with it not there. So I told hubby I think I want one of those anniversary rings but not expensive since I hate that to happen again!

  5. Great post Winnie. I have never thought about where this particular item got its start.

    For years I always wore a watch on my left arm and then about 12 years or so ago, I started to have a problem with my left wrist and hand and ever since then I have not had a watch on this wrist or my right one either. And now I don’t miss wearing one at all. There have always been clocks around me, at work, in the car, on my cell phone on my computer. Where ever I happen to be.

    So even though they are a wonderful adornment I do not worry about the time, because I can always find it somewhere around me.

  6. I’ve noticed that since everyone is now carrying a cell phone more and more NO one is wearing a watch.

    I haven’t worn one for years…until this weekend.

    Here’s a watch story….I received a wristwatch from my grandmother for my highschool graduation. My grandma, whom I dearly love, was nothing if not OLD SCHOOL. I was the third daughter in my family, third child too. So three girls in a row and then BAM the heaven’s opened and my parents were given a SON.

    Well, you could never tell that my parents cared for one of their children more than another (thought privately I was always sure I was the favorite…don’t tell) But my grandma…she was GA GA for that baby boy. He was always her beloved favorite, even over the two boys that followed him (there were eight of us in all).
    IN fact we used to more or less torture my brother when he was older. “You’re her favorite, you go help her clean her basement.”
    My hapless brother would say, “I didn’t ask to be her favorite.” He never denied he was.

    So, I got this wrist watch…value $12 from my grandma when I graduated from highschool. It was a Timex (this was long ago) and a good watch, lasted for years.
    TWO YEARS LATER my brother graduated from high school and my grandma gave him………drumroll, please……..a check for one hundred dollars.

    Reason? He’s a boy.

    Anyway, I still loved my grandma, my brother AND my watch. But I won’t pretend I didn’t notice.

  7. Victoria – LOL about your pet peeve. I actually deliberately set my watch ahead two or three minutes, just to give me some fudge room on appointments and such. And thanks for the kind words on my book! So glad you enjoyed it.

    Roberta – Thanks for the welcome and the nice comment on the post. And yes, your name is in the hat for the drawing

    Brenda – Hi! And yes, I have way too many myself – didn’t mention them all in my post due to length LOL. Neat that you’re a Mickey Mouse collector. I’m partial to Winnie The Pooh myself 🙂

  8. Aw, Mary, that’s a sad story. 🙁

    Wonderful post, Winnie, and welcome to Wlldflower Junction!

    I have a sad watch story, as well. I too am a watch addict, though as Mary mentioned I rely pretty heavily upon my phone nowadays. I have a drawer full of watches and keeping up with the batteries has become a joke. I take in 5 or 6 at a time for new batteries, so those watches always konk out at the same time.

    I inherited a lovely watch from my mother-in-law when she passed away. The band was three strands of pearls held together by gold decorations. It had a big rectangular face and was just the flashy sort of jewelry I love. I wore it all the time for dress up occasions.

    I wore it out of town to my aunt’s funeral, and was riding with my husband and brother. We stopped at a rest area along the interstate and I used the restroom. Long about the time I stood up, I felt the watch slip from my wrist.

    In horror, I looked back in hopes that it had landed on the floor. But alas, my beloved watch was in the stool — in the water.

    Okay, I think. I just reach in quickly and grab it. I can always wash my hands and perhaps the watch won’t be damaged if I’m quick enough. I can do this. So I reach for it.

    And WHOOOOOOSH the automatic toilet flushed and away went my precious heirloom.

    When my husband and brother saw me walk out of the restroom into the lobby, they took one look at my face and asked, “What’s wrong?” at which time I burst into tears, blubbering about my watch.

    Well, it became the funny story of the day, and a couple of months later for my birthday, my brother gave me a new watch. Purchased from Walmart. When I opened it, he said, “It was cheap. You can flush it.”

  9. Caffey – Hi, glad you enjoyed the post. And ooooooh, so very sorry to hear about the loss of something with suh enormous sentimental value as your ring.

    Kathleen – Interesting about you not feeling the need to wear one any longer. I’ve rushed off to work a couple of times over the years and while there is always a lock nearby at the office I still feel completely lost without a wristwatch. Just a creature of habit I suppose LOL

    Mary – so sad that a relative can show such blatant favoritism for one family member over another, but it sounds as if you handled it well. And I’m sure you absolutely WERE your parents’ secret favorite!:)

  10. Winnie, good luck finding your watch. I have a very good watch for every day that has lasted for years. I also have a “dress up” watch. Two special watches though are my husband’s father’s pocket watch and a broach watch my dad gave my mother as engagement present 68 years ago.

  11. What an interesting post, Winnie! Great info and I love the soldier picture 🙂

    My mom has a huge watch collection—I think her count was over 200. She and her friend buy watches for each other–kind of their thing. I bet she has a watch to match ANY outfit–and has the earrings, necklace and bracelet to match 🙂 And my mom is ALWAYS on time–if not early.

    Me, I probably own a watch (likely bought by my mom *g*) but it’s buried in a jewelry box somewhere and hasn’t been seen in years. Personally, I don’t really care for jewelry–don’t even wear my wedding ring. I will adorn a bracelet or two for a special event, but other than that I’m doing good if my socks match *g*. As for punctuality…uhm…yeah…not so great at the whole “on time” thing either. Seems to be a genetic defect 😉

  12. My one rule for watches is I have to be able to make sense of them. That means…none of this four decorative flourishes at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 spots. I want NUMBERS–TWELVE NUMBERS.
    I want a big watch face. LONG DARK dials on a white background.

    Of course this weekend I wore a brand new watch for the first time.

    PURPLE, black dials on a flowery dark purple watch face. Why did I buy this watch, break my rules and (incidentally) never actually use the watch to tell time the whole time I wore it….???

    ……..cuz it matched my jacket and was pretty. Always fundamentally practical, that’s me. 😉

  13. Sorry about the watch, Cheryl. My cell phone fell out of my pocket about a month ago and bounced off the toilet seat onto the floor…

    Missed disaster by the bounce of a toilet lid.

    So, I am traumatised by your story, Cheryl.

  14. Hi Winnie,
    Great blog today on wristwatches. I never knew they’d once been discriminated against by men!!

    I go nowhere without my watch on. I feel naked without out. I have only one criteria, I have to be able to read it without my glasses on. I wear a pretty Brighton watch that has very easy to read numbers. It’s fashionable and functional.

    Cheryl – oh those darn auto flush bowls! Sorry you lost your precious watch.

    Oh and I don’t use the cell phone time, it’s too small for me to read.

  15. Cheryl – Oh my goodness!! I know that was such an awful feeling to see that watch swirl away, and the loss of something with such sentimental value as that watch is always sad. But I couldn’t help but laugh at the way your brother turned it around on you with his gift. 🙂

    Judy A. – Hi! Those two heirloom watches sound like real treasures.

    Stacey – Thanks for the kudos on the post. As for the soldier picture, better late than never on getting it up 🙂 Ah, me and technology – that’s a story for another post. And my goodness – I thought my dozen or so watches was excessive but it sounds like your mother has me beat by a longshot!

  16. I feel horrible for laughing, Cheryl! (((BIG HUGS))) on losing something so precious 🙁 Your brother…not sure if that deserves an elbow jab or a hug 😉 Both 😀

  17. Great informative blog, Winnie. I always have to check when I use a watch in a story. Now I’ll remember. Hope you find your precious watch.
    My mom had the same little gold watch for most of her life. She only took it off to bathe and sleep, and she was ALWAYS on time. We buried her with it on her wrist. As for me I have a couple of inexpensive watches, but I only wear them when I really need to, like when I’m meeting someone or on a trip. Otherwise I rely on being able to see a clock.
    So nice to have you as a new filly!

  18. Winnie,

    Thanks for the interesting info on watches. I tend to have one watch and use it until it dies, but recently, I say a lovely watch in a catalog and bought it. Now, I have two–and that seems like a luxury.

  19. I have a husband who loves watches and over 40 years he’s given me quite a few – all different. I inherited a little sporty women’s rolex which I adore but the cost of the leather bands is more than I can afford lol. I lost one while grocery shopping and it was never brought to the lost and found – I missed that one but hubby came to the rescue! I’m totally naked without a watch.

  20. I have a few watches, and only one is digital… I have to admit I do not care for the digital faces… give me the hands of time anyday! I have one watch for dressing up, the others are just cute ones I liked… Wonderful post! and Welcome!!! 😀

  21. Welcome to the Fillies. As for the topic, I’m a watch killer. Some people kill plants. I kill watches. I drown them or break them or the strap breaks, or I lose them. So I’ve resorted to $5 and $10 watches when I go on a trip. The watch usually disappears as soon as I return. So for time day in and day out, I depend on the TV or computer or my car clock. Thank goodness, those can’t crawl away. The sad fact: watches just plain don’t like me.
    Great blog.

  22. Mary – LOL, I know what you mean about having to be able to read the numbers. I have a couple I hardly ever wear any more because for some reason as THEY got older, the numbers became harder to read.

    Charlene – Yes, isn’t it amazing that women became the ‘first adopters’ of this convenience. Guess that’s because we always have our hands busy working on something. And I’m the same way with cell phone clocks – rarely even remember it displays the time and it’s always buried in the bottom of my purse anyway

  23. Elizabeth – Glad you found the info helpful. And what a touching story about your mom. Thanks for sharing.

    Vickie – Hi! And doesn’t it feel good to spluge on something occassionally for no other reason than ‘just because’ ?

    Jeanne – What a very sweet husband you have! And yes, like you, I feel completely adrift if I’m not wearing one.

  24. Hi Winnie, so great to be here at Wildflower Junction with you. I love this post, and I love watches. I prefer those that work like clockwork e.g. not digital ones. I’m nearsighted so seeing small numbers goes okay, but I have watches tha tdon’t have numbers at all, just marks, and I can tell time LOL by the position of the hands.

    I think I read somewhere that watches became essential when train-travel became the way to go. You couldn’t just look up at the sun and say, oh it’s time to catch my 1:45 train.

    Best wishes and keep the wonderufl posts coming! oxoxox

  25. When my children were in kindergarten and the teacher was trying to teach them to read a dial faced clock I asked her (to torture her for my own amusement of course) why she insisted on teaching them something so antiquated when there were digital clocks everywhere. Was she teachign them how to read a sun dial? I don’t THINK so. Was she teaching them how to hitch up a team???


    Was she making them add and subtract on an abacus???

    Of course not!!!!!!

    No, so why the dial face clock? Puh-leeze, that is sooooooooo 20th century.

  26. Colleen – I have to admit I don’t care for digital watches either. For some reason they just don’t feel like a ‘real’ watch

    Pat – Hi and thanks for the welcome. LOL on being a watch killer. I have a friend who is also a watch killer – literally. Something in her chemical makeup makes matches go kaflooey and they just quit working when she wears them for any length of time. Really strange.

    Tanya – Glad to be here! And yes, in my research I saw a reference to how essential pocket watches became to railroad workers in maintaining schedules. That’s when the timepiece really established itself as a valuable tool.

    Mary – Oh you are sooooo bad to tease your child’s teacher that way. 🙂

  27. Hi Winnie, welcome to the junction! The first thing I do in the mornings is put my watch on. I am like you I am lost without my watch. I just wear and old Timex for everyday. Then I have a nice dress watch that I wear for other things. The problem with that one is when I really need it the battery is run down on it. It goes to show I don’t dress very often.

    Its great to have some new faces here at the P&P and I am really looking forward to getting to know you.

  28. Yeah, yeah, it’s okay to laugh. I have an aunt who sends me cartoons about automatic flushing toilets whenever she finds one. It’s become a retold story in my family.

  29. I have a few watches; 2 have a black strap, 1 has a brown strap, one is gold colored and the other is mainly silver with gold accents. I wear a watch all the time. The black and brown ones are for work or casual, the others for dress up.
    For work I need a large face with big numbers and easy to read(which is my black one).
    As of yet I don’t own one that has a night light like dh does.

  30. Quilt Lady – Hi! Thanks for the welcome and for taking the time to leave a post.

    RobynL – Sounds like a very pratical ‘wardrobe’ of watches. I don’t have one with a lighted dial either, but it sounds like it would be a great addition.

  31. Hi Mary, I recall from my recent sub-teaching days, the teachers would always suggest teaching the first-graders to tell time on the big Fisher-price clock if I ran out of things to do. Yeah right. I just pulled out another story book LOL.

  32. As long as I can tell the time when I look at my watch… I could never use one of those decorative watches that don’t even have any kind of numbers on them.

  33. I am bad with watches so there is no way on earth
    that I would have an expensive timepiece. I have
    a Wal Mart special that I use most of the time and
    a couple that look a little dressier for dress-up

    Sorry about you losing your MIL’s watch to that automated demon toilet!

    Welcome, Miss Winnie!

    Pat Cochran

  34. I have several watches,from sporty to dressy. I wear a watch all of the time—am lost without it.

  35. Minna – Yes, numbers are a must on watches as far as I’m concerned. And my preference is for standard arabic – not Roman Numerals!

    Pat – Hi and thanks for the welcome.

    Estella – Love your name, very soft ramantic feel to it. Thanks for stopping by and tkaing time to comment

  36. Great post, Winnie!

    I’m a watch-wearing addict, though I rarely look at it, since there are clocks everywhere, as Kathleen O metioned. But I feel naked if I leave the house without wearing it. Go figure.

    I buy for practicality – if I can see the time, I like it. lol The bands on my last two watches have been gold AND silver so I don’t have to worry about what other jewelry I’m wearing.

  37. Welcome, Winnie!

    I was hard on my watches at work, so I just got a cheap watch at Wal-mart that had gold AND silver in it (like Tracy G.) for work, but I love the fun, pretty watches for myself. I enjoy the fun, quirky watches, and have some with cats on them, as well as other things that catch my eye.

  38. Tracy – Hi girl! The gold and silver combo idea sounds like a very practical solution to the mix and match with other jewlery situation.

    Karern W. – Yes, picking out fun and funky watches can be great fun. Like little rewards to ourselves when we want to bypass anything calorie-laden 🙂

  39. Hi, Winnie! Wonderful post! Thanks for the interesting info on watches. I have a couple of basic watches for work and a fancier one for dressing up.

    Welcome to Petticoats and Pistols!

  40. Hi this is my first time looking at your site of Petticoats and Pistols, I really like what I see, please enter me into the contest to win a book, I am an advid reader and read about 4 hours each night, I am retired and there is not much for me to do anymore.
    May God bless


  41. Gosh, I love clocks and watches. I have to know what time it is.

    I have a work watch, a dress up watch, a sports watch and just because watch.

    I have a clock in every room. I just have to be able to see what time it is.

    I hope you find your favorite watch.

  42. I used to always have to have a watch. Then I started carring a cell phone and I don’t miss my watch near as much and as I am into making jewelry, I love having my arm free for one of my dozens of bracelets.

  43. Margie – You’re welcome, glad you found the post interesting. And thanks for the welcome to P&P!

    Edna – So glad you found us here at Petticoats & Pistols. And never fear – you’re in the hat for the drawing. 🙂

    Sherry – LOL on the clock obsession. I’m just as bad. I won’t go to sleep unless there is a clock with a lighted dial at my bedside.

  44. Welcome! Thanks for the interesting article on watches.
    Just got home from work and a meeting. Have several watches. Have a few for the holidays, but I wear the same timex most days. My grandparents gave me a lovely Bulova for my high school graduation in 1964 (sound so long ago. Guess it was). It is still lovely and still works fine. Want a watch that looks nice, but could never see the reason to spend LOTS of money on something that will indicate the time just as accurately as my less expensive one.

  45. Patricia – Thanks for the welcome and the post. Yes, price is not necessarily a good measure of value. Some of my favorite pieces are the least expensive.

  46. When I was younger I used to wear a watch, but, like my other jewelry, I have a nervous habit of taking them off and on and then losing them… so now I hardly wear any kind of jewelry 🙂

  47. I haven’t read it, but I love your title. It reminds me of favorite children’s books like Ready Made Family and All-of-a-Kind Family. Hmmm, perhaps not the association you most want, but I love children’s books too. 😉

  48. Ali – Thanks for stopping by. And I’m familiar with nervous habits – mine is chewing on pencils 🙂

    Willaful – Hi! And I’m perfectly ok with the associations you mentioned. Even though this is a romance novels, I too love children’s books.

Comments are closed.