The first wristwatches were essentially bracelets that told the time. In fact, the very first wristwatch, made in 1868 by Patek Philippe, was sold to a woman, Countess Koscowicz of Hungary, in 1876. Men came to wristwatches much later, around World War I. Until then, men mostly carried pocket watches.

By design, ladies' wristwatches were small, which meant they generally lacked the physical space inside to support features we associate with men’s wristwatches, including chronographs and chronometers. Instead, vintage and antique ladies' wristwatches were essentially functional pieces of jewelry. These petite timepieces had small dials and stretchy bands, which were sometimes as encrusted with diamonds and gemstones as the cases and covers that framed and protected the dials.

Companies that have manufactured ladies wristwatches include Bulova, Elgin, Gruen, Hamilton, Jaeger LeCoultre, Omega, Patek Philippe, Rolex, and Vacheron & Constantin. Of the jewelers who purchased watch movements from Swiss manufacturers, Tiffany & Co. and Van Cleef & Arpels were important players, but Cartier was probably the most influential.

Cartier has been making wristwatches for ladies since the mid-1890s, but it was the development of a wristwatch for aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, beginning in 1904, that would eventually lead to the Santos, a breakthrough brand for Cartier in 1911. Though designed for male pilots, these handsome wristwatches were quickly embraced by women, who were already fans of Cartier for its 1906 Tonneau.

After World War I, Cartier introduced the Tank, whose case mimicked the parallel metal tracks of the Renault tanks that had helped the Allies with the war. Again, women claimed this seemingly male object of adornment as their own, encouraged, of course, by Cartier designers, who decorated the device with diamonds and eventually elongated and curved its rectangular shape to make it more comfortable (and fashionable) on the wrist. Indeed, Cartier’s Tanks seemed to presage the Art Deco Baguette wristwatches that followed later in the 1920s, and were often difficult to make out amid their brilliant bands.

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    

Hublot Mdm 1391.3 18k Gold Elegant High Fashion Quartz Ladies Watch W/ DateOmega Vintage 1950s 14k Wg 2.21ct Vs1/g Diamond Flip-top Mechanical Ladies WatchCartier Tank Francaise Ladies Midsize Watch Steel 2301 Model Cc708177Mint $3000 Cartier Ladies 18k Gold Ss Must 21 Watch & Box Genuine Ladies Rolex Datejust Mop Dial Diamond Bezel Ss Watch 69160Estate ~ Rolex Datejust Gold & Stainless Steel Jubilee Ladies Blue Dial ~ ClassyRolex Lady Datejust Oyster Perpetual Ss/18k Gold Green Mop Diamond & Ruby WatchScarce Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Moonphase Diamond Bezel Ladies Watch 2 StrapsMichele Caber 18kt Rose Gold Plated 140-diamond (0.58ct Tw) Women’s Swiss WatchOmega Constellation 18k Gold Stainless Swiss Movement Ladies Watch 42.4 Grams NrCartier Tank 1613 Gold Vermeil Sterling Silver Ladies Quartz Dress WatchOmega Heavy 18k Gold Elegant .80ct Vs1/g Diamond Mechanical Ladies WatchRare 1982 Rolex 6917 Lady Datejust 18k Gold & Steel Watch, Blue Roman Dial, Nr!Genuine Cartier Ladies Panthere Diamonds Everywhere "original Papers"Michele 71-2701 Mini Urban Diamond Women's Stainless Steel WatchTudor Princess Date Blue Dial Ladies' Watch, 7 3/4"Michael Kors Mk5354 Ladies Watch2005 Ladies Rolex Datejust Rose Gold/steel On Oyster Bracelet Ref. 179161Fantastic Boxed Ladies Rado Diastar Jubile Watch No ReserveAuthentic Must De Cartier Tank Argent White Dial Manual .ladies Wrist WatchRolex Lady Datejust Oyster Perpetual Ss/18k Gold Ice Blue Diamond/sapphire WatchLadies 9ct Gold Tudor Royal WatchMichael Kors Kerry Mother Of Rose Gold-tone Ladies Women's Watch Mk3313Tag Heuer "professional 2000" Stainless Steel Ladies Watch Original!!!!!!!!!!!!!Vintage Rolex Watch Lady Dudley Model Rare Smallest Oyster Rolex MadeMarc By Marc Jacobs Mbm3293 Ladies WatchVintage Ladies Longines 18k Gold 27 Diamonds Wrist Watch 33 GramsLady's Mini (19mm) Chopard Diamond St Moritz 18k & Stainless Watch (25/8067)A Superb 9 Ct Gold Ladies Rolex Tudor Wristwatch With 17 Jewels Lever Movement.Piaget 9801 Heavy 18k Wg Super Rare Mechanical Ladies Watch W/ Fantastic BandCartier Santos Womens Stainless Steel And 18k W/boxChopard Happy Diamonds 18k Gold .15ct Vs1/e Floating Diamond Quartz Ladies WatchRolex Lady Datejust Oyster Perpetual S/steel Pink M.o.p Baguette Diamond WatchTag Heuer F1 (formula 1) Women's Ss Sports Watch. Boxed/papers!Michael Kors Women's Parker Mk5491 Rose Gold Stainless-steel Quartz WatchLadies Rolex 6917 Oyster Perpetual Date 2-tone 18k Gold & Stainless Steel WatchMichael Kors Women's Blair Stainless Steel Crystal Bezel Watch Mk5165 $275Tag Heuer Classic Ladies' Stainless Steel Watch Wk1312-0 Ad3563Ladies Skagen Denmark Titanium Stainless Steel Silver Watch Working - V3 P17Michael Kors Women's Parker Mk5865 Rose-gold Stainless-steel Quartz WatchRaymond Weil Othello Ladies Black Dial ServicedChanel J12 White Ceramic 33 Mm Ladies Watch Rolex Ladies 18k Yellow Gold Jubilee Bracelet 13mm Weights: 30.80g 8-6Michael Kors Silver Chronograph Womens Watch Swarovski Crystal Glitz Mk5690 $250Omega Geneve Women's Mechanical Watch. 25mm Silver Dial And Bezel. LovelyConcord 18k Y Gold Ladies Wristwatch & Band With Original Box & BookRolex Tudor Monarch 18k Gold Stainless Steel Ladies Watch.49.0 Grams NrGenuine Tag Heuer 2000 Women's Stainless Steel Watch In Its Tag Box! $1 Start Omega Constellation Ladies Qz 18k Yellow Gold/stainless Steel_223253-21 Sexy Women's Corum Ovale Bi-time Stainless Watch W/ Mop Dial (137-220-20)Omega Constellation Automatic Ladies 28mm 18k Gold & Steel Authentic Burberry Women's Swiss Smoke Check Fabric Strap Watch Bu9029 $395Vintage Ladies Rolex Precision Cal1401 Wristwatch Movement WorkingOmega Heavy 18k Wg Amazing Elegant 2.52ct Vs1/f Diamond Mechanical Ladies WatchCharriol Ladies Actor Stainless Steel, Diamonds And Mother-of Pearl DialWomens Rolex Datejust 18k Solid Gold *** Diamond ***Chanel J12 White Ceramic 33mm Case Ladies H0968 - Guaranteed Authentic!Ladies Michael Kors Chronograph Silver Bracelet Mk5171 Bnib Rrp £185 *stunning*Michael Kors Mk5888 Ladies Chronograph Genuine Designer Watch Michael Kors Women's Ritz Mk6077 Rose Gold Stainless-steel Quartz Watch