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    

Accutron Woody Gent's Day And Date Watch, Working Great And Keeping Nice TimeVintage 1970 Jay Ward Productions Character Watch - Swiss 17 Jewels Wind UpRolex 50th Anniversary Submariner Green Bezel "kermit"Vintage Swiss Wind Up Character Watch~smokey The Bear~nos~by Bradley~runs Fine!Vintage C.1958 Snoopy Denim Tennis Ball & Racket On Rotating Disc WristwatchOmega Snoopy Award BoxFossil Star Wars 20th Anniversary 1977-1997 Death Star Watch In Box Frederic Remington Silver Cowboy Watch For Men No Reserve24x24mm Stitched Black Cowboy Oil Calf Leather Strap Bsh Marina Parnis Militare Old Brass 1939 Kansas City Stockyards Cowboy Boot Watch Fob On Strap & FramedVintage Hopalong Cassidy Cowboy Wristwatch With Original StrapBatman Jewelry Watch Chrome Colored In Batman Box20x22mm Stitched Brownish Cowboy Calf Leather Strap Brush Marina Parnis MilitareAntique Snoopy Watch 1958Snoopy Limited Edition Fossil Watch With Lapel PinSnoopy Limited Edition Peanuts Manual Winding WatchBatman Flik Flak Watch - Bnib20x22mm Stitch Light Brown Cowboy Leather Strap Brush Marina Parnis Militare Lot Of 12 Mixed Character Watches.disney,timex,m & M's,armitron,nice LotVtg Rare 1970's Johnny Horizon Character Wind Up Watch Bicentennial Needs RepairRoy Rogers Watch 1950's Made In Usa24x24mm Stitched Black Cowboy Oil Calf Leather Strap Bsh Marina Parnis Militare Swiss Digital Mechanical Wristwatches, 2 Are Character Clown Wristwatches. 109mVintage Mint Armitron Looney Tunes Marvin The Martian Watch 19971968 Snoopy Yellow Dial Wind Up Wristwatch Authentic United Feature- Ufix- N/r!!26 Watch Lot..bart Simpson, Snoopy, Garfield, Cali Raisins Etc..advertising LotMary Marvel Comic Book Character 1948 WristwatchFossil Batman For Warner Bros. Studio Men's Stainless Steel WatchVintage Waltham Flintstones Watch 1994Vintage Cinderella Watch With Pink BandArmitron Looney Tunes Character Watch Tazmanian Devil Bugs Bunny Daffy Duck Etc.C.1994 Waltham Detroit Tigers Bugs Bunny Lt02dt - 136 Stainless Steel Watch1995 Batman Armitron Collectibles Men's Leather Wrist WatchDisney Prs504 Women's Cinderella Analog Powder Blue Silicone Wrist Band WatchVintage Armitron Tweety Bird Musical WatchWonder Woman: Flashing Light Up Digital Wristwatch Pink!! Easy To Read, ModernEstate Collection Of Cartoon Themed Watches 14 Total, Jungle Book, Taz, Tweety +Batman Led Watch Flashing Changing Colors Boys Adult1999 Warner Brothers Armitron Tweety Bird Musical Wristwatch