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    

Genuine Ladies Rolex President W Custom Diamond Bezel 18k Gold Bracelet2003 Rolex 79173 Datejust Automatic Swiss Ladies Diamond Watch S Steel /18k GoldScarce 18k Rose Red Gold 5003 1940s Bubbleback Rolex Ladies Wrist WatchLadies Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date 18k Gold & Ss Black Dial Automatic Ref.6517Piaget 9046 18k Gold High Fashion 32mm Mechanical Ladies Watch W/ Sapphire CrownCartier Santos Date Automatic Ladies Wris Watch Ref.2423 Great ConditionGenuine Tag Heuer Aquaracer Waf1312 Diamond Mother Of Pearl Dial Ladies WatchLadies Rolex 18k Gold/stainless Steel Datejust White Mop Mother Of Pearl DiamondLadies Michele Deco Chronograph Diamond Mop Dial Watch Mw06a01a1025Rolex Cellini 3810 Swiss Made Luxury Ladies Manual 18k Solid Gold Watch C 1980sChopard Happy Diamonds Ref#278559-3001 Diamonds & Steel Ladies WristwatchWomens Rolex Datejust President 18k Solid Gold *** Diamonds Everywhere ***Rare Vintage Rolex Gold Ladies Dress WatchOmega Constellation Heavy 18k Gold Elegant High Fashion Quartz Ladies WatchCartier Santos 166930 Ladies Quartz Stainless And Gold Watch For Parts / RepairWomens Rolex Datejust President 18k Solid Gold *** Diamonds Everywhere ***Rolex Ladies 18k Gold President-red Vignette Diamond Dial-ruby Bezel 69178 26mmFossil Cecile Multifunction Stainless Steel Link Ladies Watch Gold Tone DateMatched Pair Mens And Womens Rolex Datejust 18k Stainless Watch Cool Vintage Oyster Bracelet 1970s Ladies Gold Steel Rolex Retro WatchVintage 1940 Lady's 14k Rose Gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual Chronometer Watch 3869Rolex Tudor Princess Oysterdate Women's Wrist Watch Ref No 92400 - No ReserveLadies Rolex President Solid 18k Yellow Gold W/ Diamonds On Dial Bezel BraceletGorgeous Ladies Steel Rolex Datejust W/ Stunning Custom Diamond Dial And Bezel!Michele Csx Diamond Chronograph Ladies Watch #71-3600 Box And Authenticity CardHeavy 18k White Gold Diamond Enamel Art Deco Long Ladies Elgin Wrist WatchRolex Ladies Datejust 18k With Diamond Dial Aftermarket Band And Bezel Ref: 6517Beautiful Ladies Steel Rolex Datejust W/ Lovely Custom Diamond Dial And Bezel!Tag Heuer 2000 Series Women's Watch Wm1312 Blue DialFossil Heather Es3192 Gold Tone Date Ladies Ss Link Quartz 3 Hand WatchRolex Ladies Datejust 18k Gold Tt Red Vignette Diamond Dial-diamond Bezel 26mmAuthentic Vintage Gucci Men's Ladies Unisex 2000m 3000m Watch Wristwatch Cartier Santos Luxury Lady Swiss Made Automatic 18k Gold And S Steel Watch 2008Tudor Rotor Self-winding Stainless Steel Automatic Women's Watch All212Michael Kors Chrono Silver Stainless Steel Women's Mk5076 Runway WatchCartier Santos Unisex Automatic Mens/ladiesFossil Heather Es3180 Silver Tone Date Ladies Ss Link Quartz 3 Hand WatchAntique Art Deco Platinum 2.48ct Diamond/sapphire Mechanical Ladies WatchRolex/carl Bucherer Orchid 18k Wg 2.12ct Vs1/g Diamond Mechanical Ladies WatchTag Heuer Aquaracer Ladies S/s Diamond Bezel/diamond Mop Dial Waf1416 / Faa026Ladies Rolex Precision St.steel Diamond Manual Winding Blue Dial Ref.2653Vintage 9ct Gold Ladies Bracelet Watch Boxed No ReserveRolex Ladies Datejust Two Tone 18k Gold Diamond Bezel Ice Blue Diamond Dial 26mmFossil Ch2826 Rose Gold Tone Sydney Ladies Ss Chronograph Link Quartz WatchRolex Ladies Datejust 18k Gold-blue Diamond Dial-diamond & Baguette Bezel-26mmRolex Ladies Datejust 18k Gold Two Tone Green Diamond Dial Diamond Bezel 26mmCartier Ballon Bleu Stainless Steel Automatic Ladies WatchCartier Santos Stainless Steel Automatic Ladies Watch 7.5 Inches 9+ Out Of 10Antique Ladies Platinum Diamond Watch With Blue Sapphires.Rare Tag Heuer Se/l 18k Gold & Ss Women's Watch. Box/papers! Gorgeous Ladies Steel Michele Csx Chronograph Watch! Exceptional! #j32Awesome Art Deco 1924 Vintage Diamond Sapphire 14k Gold Bulova Ladies WatchOmega Deville Vintage Swiss Made Ladies Mechanical Gold Plated Dress Watch 1980Ladies Rolex Datejust Vintage Stainless Steel Champagne 26mm Pre Owned With Box Cartier Panthere Or Et Acier Ladies Watch 18k Gold-stainless Steel 669210292291956 Womens Omega Ladymatic Wristwatch Cal.455 - 17 JewelsMichael Kors Women's Watch Mk5300 Fast Shipping Michael Kors Womens Audrina Quartz Watch Blush Mk6203Rolex Women's Oyster Perpetual Datejust 18k Stainless With Box Blue Dial Rare Cartier Vermeil 18k Gold Women's Vintage Watch!