While many of the earliest wristwatches included decorations on their faces, what we now know as the character watch was a uniquely 20th-century invention. Generally featuring cartoon characters, these watches were produced to capitalize on franchises from comics, films, and television.

The first watch to feature a cartoon character was a pocket watch designed in 1908 by Ingersoll, which depicted the Buster Brown comic strip character promoting Blue Ribbon Shoes. Most character watches followed in this format, incorporating a static painted face plate mounted behind a normal-looking mechanism, though their design was trumped in 1933 by the animated style of the Ingersoll-Waterbury Mickey Mouse watch. These watches depicted Mickey’s yellow-gloved fingers rotating on wiry black arms, and resulted in the most successful character watch ever.

Even so, their animated quality was soon outdone by the New Haven company with its 1934 Popeye watches, whose entire hands were shaped like the tattooed sailor’s arms, making Popeye seem to flail about in mid-stride. Around the same time, New Haven also released watches featuring the likenesses of other kid-favorites, like Superman, the Lone Ranger, Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, and Smitty. Ingraham jumped in with Betty Boop and Buck Rogers, and the industry continued to boom until factory restrictions were imposed during World War II.

During the decades following the war, the character watch reached its height of popularity. The Mickey watch again secured its position as every child’s favorite—by 1957, around 25 million Mickey Mouse watches had been sold. To make the most of this demand, Disney expanded its line to include other recognizable stars like Jiminy Cricket, Davy Crockett, Snow White, and Donald Duck. During the 1950s, the explosion of Western-themed popular culture also meant a boom in cowboy character watches, showcasing illustrations of performers like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Dale Evans.

By the ’70s, the genre had expanded such that even politicians like Richard Nixon were given their own timepieces, though their caricatured portraits were not always flattering. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, many newer companies, including Dabs & Co., Picco, and Bradley, joined the game with Star Wars, superhero, Peanuts, or Looney Tunes-themed watches. A few of these created comical illusions, like the ’70s Snoopy watches whose arm-shaped minute hand holds a tennis racket while the seconds are ticked off by a flying tennis ball.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Diesel Batman The Dark Knight Rises Limited Edition Watch. Very Rare!!Lot Of Vintage Watches Bulova Rado Garfield Waltham Eterna Bucherer Display CasePre-owned Nixon 51-30 Chrono High Polish With Lots Of Character!Rare Vintage Swatch Watch Alice Pwk165 Working Uk SellerBatman Fossil WatchFossil Watch, Silver (1997) - Star Wars, Boba Fett - Number 00015/10,000!Lot Of 5 Comic Character Wrist Watches For Parts Or RepairVintage Character Watch Lot Ghostbusters Troll California Raisin Disney Lot Of 19 Retro Used Men's Wristwatches & 2 Stop-watches. Snoopy, Popeye, SwatchVintage Dc Comics Wonder Woman Swiss Made Character Mechanical Watch Non Working22x22mm Handstitch Light Brown Cowboy Calf Leather Band Marina Parnis MilitareLot Of Vintage Watches. (bulova, Rado, Woody Wood Pecker, Accutron And MoreBugs Bunny Made By Warner Bros. 196022x22mm Handstitched Black Cowboy Leather Strap Parnis Marina Davitton MilitareChildren Watch With Batman Pattern Analog Indicate And Rubber BandVintage Hopalong Cassidy Cowboy Wristwatch "good Luck From Hoppy" Watch22x22mm Handstitched Brown Cowboy Leather Band Parnis Davitton Triconstore 1996 Woody Fossil Toy Story Limited Edition Collectors Watch Li 1443 In Tin BoxVintage Disney Classic Donald Duck Quartz Men WatchGene Autry Fossil Wrist Watch In Mini Lunch Box & Barlow KnifeBatman Quartz Watch - WorkingRoy Rogers Watch Strap And Case. For PartsVintage Lot 4 Character Boys Or Girls W/watch As Is Resident Evil Wristwatch - Genuine Leather - Re5 - Alice - ZombieIllnois Watch Company Cowboy On Dial 18 Size Child's Watch Bugs Bunny - Silver Lot Of Old Watches~wristwatches~avon~timex~garfield~parts/repair/crafts~estate