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    

Must De Cartier Tank 18ct Gold Vermeil Ladies Quartz 30mm Watch Circa 1990 BoxedVan Cleef & Arpels 18k Gold Beautiful Red Coral Dial Mechanical Ladies WatchCartier Ss Ladies Tank Francaise Watch--blue Hands & Crown--w51008q3Arte D' Oro Diamond Sapphire 18k Gold Ladies Watch 49.1 Grams NrRolex Gmt-master Ii 'fat Lady' Coke Bezel Ref:16760 Steel 40mm Men's WatchRetro Must De Cartier Tank 925 Sterling Silver Lady Dress Quartz Swiss WatchVintage Ladies Jaeger Le Coultre Steel Cased Manual Wind Dress Wrist WatchLadies Stainless Steel Rolex Datejust Watch W/silver Diamond Dial Diamond BezelLadies Rolex Datejust Oyster Perpetual 18k White Gold/ss Pink Ruby Diamond WatchChopard Happy Sport Beach Watch Lady's WristwatchAntique Lady 9 Ct Gold Rolex Prima Wristwatch Circa 1920 Swiss Made WorkingLady Rolex Stainless Steel Datejust Date Watch White Mop Diamond Oyster BraceletRare Fantastic Rolex 6517 Red Dial Stainless Steel Lady Swiss Made Watch C 1970Beautiful Vintage Ladies 6516 Rolex 2-tone Gold Stainless Steel Automatic WatchOmega 14k Gold Fancy High Fashion Mosaic Black Opal Dial Mechanical Ladies WatchVintage Ladies Hamilton 757 Movement 14k White Gold 1.22ct Diamond Watch 22jSwiss Womens Omega Seamaster Automatic Date Black Dial Analog Watch Dress StylesVintage Omega Seamaster Ladies Gold Watch No ReserveRare Rolex Gmt Master Ii Fat Lady Vintage 16760 Spider Dial No Date Coke 1984Gucci 9000l Swiss Made Yellow Gold Stainless Steel Women's Luxury Dress WatchLadies Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date 18k Gold Case Black Dial Automatic Ref.6517Ladies Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date 18k/ss Ref 69173 Diamond Bezel Stick DialLadies 1940s Rolex 18k Solid Gold Precision Vintage Original Super Balance WatchChopard Happy Sport 7 Floating Diamonds Women's WatchVintage Rare Must De Cartier Round 925 Sterling & Ss Ladies Swiss Dress WatchAmazing Ladies 18k Yellow Gold & Jade Piaget Manual Wind Wrist Watch Omega Ladies Seamaster Aqua Terra Chronometer Watch With Diamond Bezel Women's Michael Kors 38mm Runway Pink Classic Bracelet Designer Watch Mk5801Ladies 1950s Omega 14k Solid White Gold Diamonds 17j Retro Modern Vintage WatchLadies Stainless Steel Rolex Datejust W/mother Of Pearl Mop Diamond Dial & Bezel1970 Omega Geneve Automatic 24 Jewel Cal 671 Stainless Steel Ladies WatchLadies Rolex Watch$10,000 Genuine Ladies Rolex Datejust 1ct Diamond Mop 18k Gold Ss Watch WarrantyLadies Rolex 18k Yellow Gold Datejust President Diamond Crown Collection 69138Chopard Happy Sport Diamond Snowflake Lady Steel & DiamondsCorum Admiral's Cup 39.610.21 V-52 Ss/18k Gold High Fashion Quartz Ladies WatchVintage Rare Must De Cartier Round 925 Sterling Ladies Swiss Dress Watch 2000Estate $3500 18k Gold Ss Cartier Ladies Small Size Watch & Original BoxMichael Kors Ladies 38mm Catlin Glitz Bracelet Saffiano Leather Watch Mk2376Vintage Omega Geneve Ladies Gold Watch No ReserveGucci $750 6800 Womens Petite Steel & Black Leather Bangle Swiss Watch Ya068512Fantastic Fine Rolex 6917 Blue Dial Oyster Perpetual Lady Swiss Made Watch C1980Cartier Automatic Ladies 18kt 100% Authentic & Original Free Shipping No ReserveH. Stern Sapphire Diamond Watch 18k Ladies Woman's 24mm Quartz ExcellentPre-owned Ladies Santos De Cartier 18k & Stainless Steel WatchCartier Vermeil 18k Gold Women's Vintage Tank!Michael Kors Runway Black&gold Crystal Chronograph Women Date Watch Mk5215 Nwt$350 Michael Kors Ladies Skylar Swarovski Baguette Bracelet 40mm Watch Mk5868$325 Michael Kors Ladies 42mm Everest Baguette Tortoise Bracelet Watch Mk58739k Solid Gold Omega Ladies Watch, Serviced Movement, Cal 620, Adjusted 2 Pos.Movado Bold Ladies Swiss Watch Black White Leather Band 3600054 Classic In BoxRolex Datejust 69173 Ladies @ Tone Steel Gold 18k N Serial 1991Ladies T/t Rolex Datejust Diamond Dial Ref 69173 Chronometre Cert Wrist Watch NrLadies Rolex Datejust 2 Tone Watch 1.5 Ct Diamonds Bezel White Mop Dial Estate $6000 Genuine Rolex Mop Diamond Ladies Oyster Perpetual Watch WarrantyTag Heuer Ladies Watch Wg 1230-ko Michael Kors Quartz Classic Rose Gold With White Dial Women's Watch - Mk5403Sale $595 Burberry City Men Lady Brown Check Fabric Leather Chrono Watch Bu9361Women's Michael Kors Analog Rose Gold Chronograph Watch Mk5336Vintage Ladies Longines .925 Sterling Silver Manual Wind Dress Wrist Watch