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    

Seiko Custom Blue Ceramic Snoopy Peanuts Automatic Scuba Diver's Date Watch 7002Vintage Seiko Gene Kranz Model 6119-8460 Diver 5 Sports 1970 (serviced) Rare!!!!Seiko Orange Ceramic Snoopy Peanuts Automatic Diver's Day/date Watch Custom 6309Job Lot, Bulova,elgin,gruen Automatics,character,seiko Moon, Doxa, Parts Watches Vintage 1960 Zodiac Olympos Automatic Swiss Batman Style Asymmetrical Men Watch1950’s Vintage Hopalong Cassidy Western Cowboy Boy’s Wristwatch Works 2002 Fossil Boba Fett Watch Star Wars Limited Edition Watch With Case.Wristwatch Snoopy Tennis Ball Peanuts Wind-up Vintage WatchF. S. Schenk & Sons Co.-pork Packing Watch Fob- Wheeling, Wv - Cowboy On Front!Men's Vintage Snoopy Tennis 1958 United Feature Syndicate Gold-t Wind-up WatchVintage Citizen Hand-winding Movement Japan Made Cartoon Character Men's WatchVintage Character Watches - Lot Of SixVintage Citizen Hand-winding Movement Japan Made Cartoon Character Men's WatchVery Rare 1962 Bradley Yogi Bear Character Watch Still Ticking!Dabs And Co Wonder Woman Watch Comic Hero 1977 Dc Comics Works Vintage 1977 Superman Manual Wind Up Character Dc Comics Dabs Dress Watch Legend Men's 200m Deep Blue Diver Sapphitek Batman Black-blue Dial Ss Watch Vintage Cowboy Hero Hopalong Cassidy Original Wrist Watch Us Time WorkingVintage American Eagle Silver/turquoise ? Men's Watch Band Western CowboyUnisex "armitron" Gold Tone Musical Peanuts Character Watch Leather Band 8" LVintage Accutron N2 (1972) "woody" Tuning Fork Watch Cal 2182 - Spares Or RepairVintage Snoopy And Schroder Musical Watch By ArmitronNice Vintage Garfield Armitron Quartz WatchVintage 1972 Dr Seuss Cat In The Hat Wind Up Watch By Lafayette Swiss Made NiceB807. Looney Tunes Bugs Bunny Daffy Duck Sylvester Wrist Watch Armitron (1992) [Vintage Cinderella Pink Leather Watch 1950 U.s Time ''orig. Owner''Vintage Watch Hand-winding Movement No. Bfg 866 Cartoon Character Men's Watch2 Character Quartz Watches As-is,flintstones Waltham,armitron Peanuts As-isVintage Snoopy Watch By ArmitronVintage 1972 Dr Seuss Cat In The Hat Wind Up Watch By Lafayette Swiss Made NiceVintage Star Wars Watch,Good Vintage Snoopy Wristwatch Movement Latest Dc Universe Wonder Woman Superhero Quartz Wrist Watch WristwatchDisney Alice In Wonderland Cheshire Cat Pink Rhinestone Watch W/black Band WorksDonald Duck Watch Disney Watch Working But No Idea About It,Star Wars Kids Sw7kd156ct Digital Display Quartz Red Watch Coin Bank Vintage Lorus Quartz Kermit The Frog Watch Nip Unworn