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    

Montegrappa Limited Edition Marvel Batman Set Cufflinks, Watch, Rollerball PenLot 3x Armitron Peanuts Snoopy Unisex Womens Quartz Watches Vintage Wristwatches - Parts For Repair - Alice Wonderland, Rolex, GruenVintage Snoopy Wristwatch-cool Yellow Dial-rainbow Band-1958-tennis Player-runs26x Micky Mouse Tweety Winnie The Pooh Loony Tunes Goofy Scooby Doo Parts Lot9x Disney Tinkerbell Snow White Little Mermaid Cinderella Quartz Watches Timex Vintage 1977 Dc Comic Batman Wind Up Wrist Watch Marx Toys- Working11x Armitron Merrie Melodies Looney Tunes Garfield Taz Bugs Bunny Marvin WatchesLooney Tunes Watch W/ Bugs Bunny & Daffy Duck - Mel Blanc Voice In Original BoxVintage 1960s Timex Novelty Wrist Watch With Cinderella Dial Ladies / Girls 13x Warner Brothers Tweety Bird Sylvester Armitron Quartz Watches Rare Casio G-shock Mountain Dew Batman Wrist Watch The Dark Knight Rises 2012 NrHuge Lot Of Vintage Character Novelty Wristwatch Watch Parts RepairUnisex Mens Armitron Bugs Bunny Musical Merrie Melodies Quartz Watch 2200/4611960s Vintage Disney Alice Wristwatch With Original Price TagVintage Hand-winding Mechanical Swiss Popeye Character WatchBatman Bat9204 All Black Men's Analog Adjustable Watch #1822Very Unusual Alice In Wonderland Cheshire Cat Faced Quartz Bracelet Watch Womens Armitron Tweety Bird Musical Warner Brothers Quartz Watch 2200/4611958 Snoopy Peanuts Vintage Childs Analog Wristwatch RedMusic Character Leather Band Analog Quartz Vogue Wrist Watches Black MontreWomen's Guitar Pattern Pu Leather Band Cowboy Analog Quartz Vogue Wrist Watche