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    

Zodiac Olympos "batman" Stainless/steel Automatic 17 Jewels VintageVersace Mens Character Made Quartz Chronograph Watch Black Vqn070015Gerald Genta Donald Duck BaseballFossil Batman Li2054 Men's Watch - Low #4 Set Popular Star Wars Watches And Wallets Sets Children Party Favors GiftsVintage 1982 Jim Henson Kermit The Frog Timex Character Watch RunningVintage Diantus Boy 1 Jewel Character Wind Boys / Men's Wrist Watch Runs + BandDisney Vintage Donald Duck Quartz Lady Watch Kermit The Frog Disney Watch Ewatchfactory Original PackagingMusic Character Leather Band Analog Quartz Vogue Wrist Watches Black Montre6 Vintage Novelty Character Watches, Snoopy, Alice Wonderland, Snow WhiteRega Spaceman Animated Moving Eyes Character Wristwatch ~ As Is, Not WorkingCute Armitron Scooby Doo Character WatchRare Armitron Tweety Bird Hologram Face 3d Floral Band Ladies Small Wrist WatchVintage Batman Lcd Digital Watch Quintel Inc. Glow In The Dark 1989 Unopened10pcs Batman Children Quartz Watch 3d Silicone Wristwatches Cartoons WatchesUnisex Character Watch Froot Loops Toucan Sam 1991 Kellogg Cereal CopyrightPlanters Peanut Character Watch - Gold Tone - Black Leather Band - WorkingCharacter Wristwatch Price Guide & Identification Book. 157cStar Wars: Episode 1 - Die-cast Lcd Watch - Battle DroidStar Wars Episode 1 Bk Hope Wrist Watches C3po Darth Maul Anakan Skywalker (l5)Vintage Bradley Star Wars Digital Watch C3po R2d2 QuartzWavy Character Leather Band Analog Quartz Vogue Wrist Watches Bracelet