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    

Ladies Hamilton Jazzmaster 25jewels Automatic Self-winding 165ft Watch H32315141Chanel J12 D.n. 22796 Elegant .12ct Diamond Black Ceramic Quartz Ladies WatchLadies Cartier Panthere 8057915 18k Yellow Gold Watch With Diamonds W21Vacheron Constantin White Gold Diamond Egerie Ladies' Watch Bnib 25540/000g-9051Michael Kors Gold Tone Women's Watch "darci" Mk3191 Bracelet Style Dressy Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 15300st 39mm Mens Ladies Automatic Watch StainlessHamilton Platinum/14k Gold 1.57ct Vs1/g Diamond Ladies Watch Bangle BraceletLadies Rolex 18k Yellow Gold Datejust Date President Watch W/white Mop DiamondsNwt!! Michael Kors Cameron Mk5692 Rose Gold Chronograph Ladies Women Watch $275Omega Vintage 18k Lady Automatic Constellation Date....1960sLady Rolex Stainless Steel Datejust Date Watch White Mop Diamond Oyster BraceletLady Rolex Stainless Steel Datejust Date Mop Diamond W/president Style BraceletHermes Paris Cc3-210 Stainless Steel & Leather Women's Swiss WatchBaume & Mercier Heavy 18k Gold Fancy Lapis Lazuli Dial Mechanical Ladies WatchLadies Rolex 2tone 14k Yellow Gold/steel Datejust Date Watch White Mop DiamondMichael Kors Ladies Rose Gold Tone 'pressely' Chronograph Watch Model Mk5836Baume & Mercier 14k Gold Elegant .72ct Vs1/g Diamond Quartz Ladies WatchVintage Corum Solid 999.9 Gold Ingot 5 Gram 18k Gold Ladies Wrist WatchMust De Cartier Paris Argent 925 Quartz Women's Watch No Reserve!!!!Ladies Hermes Carrick Solid 18k Gold & St.steel Date Func Roman White Dial QuartLadies Hermes Tandem St.steel Silver Dial Quartz Ta1.210Ladies Rolex Stainless Steel Datejust Date Watch W/white Mop Diamond & BezelGenuine Cartier Vermeil 18k Gold Women's Vintage Watch!Michael Kors Women's Mk5412 Bel Air Rose Gold Chronograph Rose Dial WatchBvlgari Heavy 18k Gold Fancy Elegant Vs1/f Diamond Dial Quartz Ladies WatchRare Classic Original Ladies Swiss Cartier Santos 18k Gold & Stainless # A2167Lucien Piccard Heavy 14k Gold 1.79ct Diamond Cluster Mechanical Ladies WatchVintage Solid 9ct Gold Ladies Omega Watch Iwo No Reserve Hallmarked London 1965Nwt Michael Kors Mk5870 Everest Silver Rose Gold Crystal Bezel Glitz Women WatchNwt Michael Kors Women's Chrono Camille Gold Bracelet Watch Mk5756 W/ Swarovski Cartier Must De Cartier 21 1340 High Fashion Ss/18k Gp Quartz Ladies WatchRare Cartier Vermeil 18k Gold Women's Vintage Watch!Ladies Rolex Datejust 18k Yellow Gold/ss Ice Blue Diamond WatchExcellent Ladies Rolex Oyster Perpetual 18k Gold & Ss Automatic Ref.67193Rare Vintage Luxury Womens Gucci 6400l 18k Gold WatchMust De Cartier 18kt Gold Vermeil Tank Quarts Ladies WatchMarc Jacobs Ladies Rose Gold 36mm Henry Designer Bracelet Watch Mbm3212Michael Kors Ladies Bradshaw Diamond Crystal Watch W/ Box & WarrantyLadies Rolex Datejust Perpetual 18k White Gold/ss Pink Diamond WatchMichael Kors Mk5314 Dress Chronograph Rose Gold Tone Stainless Steel LadiesNwt!!! Michael Kors Runway Mother Of Pearl Rose Gold Ladies Watch Mk5453Michael Kors Runway Silver Tone Women's Watch Chronograph Mk-5076Genuine Ladies' Rolex Steel & Gold Datejust Rubies & Diamonds Quick Set 69173Baume & Mercier Heavy 14k Gold .36ct Vs1/f Diamond Mop Dial Quartz Ladies WatchAuthentic Rolex Oyster Perpetual S. Steel Automatic Vintage 1970s Ladies WatchBreitling A30012 Chronograph Cockpit 1884 Mid-size Ladies Mens Automatic Watch $Rare!! Cartier "santos" Solid 18k Gold /st.steel Ladies Date Watch Display Box Michael Kors Mk5690 Silver Chronograph Women Watch Swarovski Crystal Glitz $250+Ladies Hermes Rallye 18kgp & St.steel Arabic White Dial QuartzPhilip Stein Teslar Watch Womens, Silver Body, Dual Time, Black Band, PristineNwt-michael Kors Wren Silver Stainless Chronograph Women's Watch Mk5837 $225Baume & Mercier Heavy Vintage 18k Gold 2.76ct Vs1/g Diamond Quartz Ladies WatchTag Heuer 2000 Aquaracer Women's Ss Watch In Its Tag Box! Fine Vintage 40s Art Deco Hamilton 14k White Gold Diamond Ladies Wrist WatchWomens Cartier Panther *** Diamonds Everywhere *** !!!Vintage Ladies Solid 14-karat Yellow Gold Mesh Rolex Dress WristwatchVicence Italy Diamond 14k Gold Ladies Watch NrVintage 1960 Lady's 18k Gold Patek Philippe Watch 3086-48 Fully Signed & Runs Women's Ladies Gold Rolex Wrist Watch~rare~ Rolex Datejust 18k/ss Ladies Gold Roman Dial Jubilee Bracelet Watch 69173