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    

Lovely Rare Timex Snoopy Vintage Watch.fab Case/woodstock Mystery Dial 60'sVintage 1962 Bradley Huckleberry Hound Cartoon Watch Swiss Character Running!Vintage Yellow Tennis Snoopy Watch With Floating Ball Works Just Fine. Vintage 1965 Red Snoopy Watch With Moving Woodstock Second Hand 390150247760 + Vintage Mens & Ladies Wristwatches Elgin Waltham Character Repair SteampunkStar Wars R2d2 By Bradley Manual Wind Wrist WatchNovelty Character Watch Lot,vintage Cowboy Cinderella Shortcake Snow White,bugsMens' Watch Lot Warner Brothers Guess Fossil Steel Leather Superman Batman Dc Limited Edition Batman Fossil Watch #1058 Of Only 3000 Produced.Lot Of 5 Batman Warner Bros Watch Dc Comics Rare Vintage C.1950's Zorro Wdp Walt Disney Character Watch W Original Strap Us Time Watch Lot!!! 20 Watches!! Toy Story, Batman, Barbie, Tag!Huge Vintage - Recent Jewelry All Ladies Character Wrist Watch Lot Golf IrishVintage Original Beethoven Character Wristwatch Watch Off-beat Time Co. Swiss1958 Snoopy Watch Orange Band Red Silver Adjustable BucklesCute Couple's Durable Transparent Plastic Pvc Unisex Watch Batman Quartz Watch Batman Warner Bros Collection Men's Watch By Fossil - Dc Comics RareVintage Peanuts 1958 Snoopy Watch Snoopy Playing TennisDisney Donald Duck Watch Lorus Quartz Japan Movement 1958 Snoopy Playing Tennis United Features Watch Wind Up Working ConditionVintage 1980s Snoopy Watch By Timex For Spares And Repairs Working OrderArmitron Snoopy WristwatchVintage 1977 Sorry Charlie Tuna Character Watch By Star Kist Foods RareStar Wars Memorabilia Spaceship Watch Star Wars, Thx Digital Studios, Rare Darth Vader, Mens Watch,1780,l@@kStar Wars Pod Racing Digital Wrist Watch Looney Tunes Wristwatch Metal With Stretch Band: Bugs Bunny Daffy Duck SylvesterRetro Lorus Quartz Analog Kermit The Frog Muppet Watch - No ReserveVintage 1980 "bradley" Cinderella Child's Wrist Watch, Swiss MadeLovely Alice In Wonderland Cheshire Cat Necklace Watch Long ChainVintage Armitron Wonder Woman Girls Can Do Better Collectible Wrist WatchHard To Find/rare Vintage Jimmy Carter "from Peanuts To President" Watch 1976 ByPopeye The Sailor Man,75th Anniversary Watch (working,used)