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    

Vintage 14k White Gold Ladies Genuine Diamond Longines Cocktail WatchAwesome 18k Gold Colorful Tuxedo Dial Ss Ladies Rolex Datejust W Diamond BezelBaume & Mercier Heavy 18k Gold 1.48ct Vs1/f Diamond Cluster Dial Ladies WatchGenuine Rolex Lady 79173 Factory Diamond 18k Gold Ss Datejust Watch Box PapersPatek Philippe Nautilus Ss/18k Gold High Fashion Quartz Ladies Watch W/ DatePatek Philippe Ladies Calatrava Travel Time 4864j No ReserveGenuine 18k Gold Steel Ladies Datejust Rolex Oyster Perpetual Watch 6917Cartier 21 Stainless Steel Gold Plated Ladies Watch 70.5 Grams NrGenuine 18k Gold Ladies Patek Philippe Ultra Fine Factory Diamond WatchPiaget Tanagra 16031 18k Gold Elegant High Fashion Quartz Ladies Watch Rolex/bucherer Heavy 18k Gold Vs1/f Diamond Flip-top Mechanical Ladies WatchEstate ~ Rolex Ladies President 18k Solid Gold Datejust Custom Diamond Bezel WowRolex Datejust Ladies 2tone 14k Gold & Steel Watch Pink Mop Diamond Dial 6917Jaeger Lecoultre Ladies Reverso Sport Duo Night & Day Mechanical Watch 296.8.74Tudor By Rolex- Princess Oysterdate- 18k Gold-capped Auto Ladies Watch - Lovely!Rolex 9400 Womens Oyster Perpetual Blue Two Tone Diamonds Wristwatch BhfoMens / Ladies 1906 International Watch Co Vintage Skeleton From Iwc SchaffhausenLadies Rolex Datejust President Solid 18k Gold W Diamond Dial & Jubilee BraceletVintage Ladies 18k Gold And Ss: Rolex Oyster Perpetual 50'sRolex Heavy 14k Gold Elegant .72ct Vs1/f Diamond Mechanical Ladies WatchBreitling Colt Oceane A77380 Ss .60ct Vs1/f Diamond Quartz Ladies WatchHamilton Antique Heavy Platinum 3.75ct Vs1/f Diamond Flip-top Ladies Watch1929 Superb Vintage Art Deco Ladies 9ct Solid Gold Omega Wristwatch WatchLadies Michele Diamond Deco Chronograph WatchWomen's Tag Heuer Professional Quartz Watch. Date. 27mm Silver Dial. Wr 200mFine Vintage Ladies Movado Ermeto Purse Watch C.1953Rolex Datejust 6917 Vintage 1970s 18k Gold High Fashion Automatic Ladies WatchGenuine 18k Rose Gold Ladies Patek Philippe Ultra Fine Factory Diamond WatchRolex Datejust Lady Two-tone 14k Gold Stainless Steel Watch Silver Diamond 6917Ladies Rolex Datejust 18k Gold 69173 Two Tone Oyster Perpetual Mens / Ladies Steel & Stilish 1912 Omega Factory Vintage Quality Skeleton WatchSkagen Womens Skw2211 Ditte Silver Tone Stainless Steel Mesh Band Quartz WatchGenuine Lady Rolex President Sapphire Quickset W Diamonds Box Papers TagsAuthentic Rolex 6700 18k Solid Yellow Gold Ladies 25mm President Non Qs AutoLadies Cartier Santos Octagonal 18k Gold/ St.steel White Dial AutomaticRolex Ladies Datejust Ss-white Train Track Diamond Dial-diamond Bezel 26mmLadies Vintage Iwc C.44 23 Jewels Automatic International Watch Stainless SteelLadies Rolex 14k Gold/stainless Steel Datejust White Mop Mother Of Pearl DiamondWomens Cartier Tank Francaise DiamondRolex Ladies Datejust Blue Diamond Dial Steel Gold Usa Jubilee Watch 6917Rolex Oyster Perpetual Gold/silver Ladies Automatic Ref. 67193Ladies Vintage Baume Mercier 14k Yg & Diamond WatchMens / Ladies Antique 1896 Waltham - American Vintage Regulateur Watch SkeletonHeavy 14k White Gold Elegant 2.50ctw Diamond Cluster Quartz Ladies WatchBlue Stones! Mens / Ladies 1925 Omega Swiss Vintage Skeleton Watch - ButterflyMens / Ladies Gold 1910's Zenith Factory Vintage Skeleton Watch With Retro CarCartier Tank 92.5 Silver/goldplated Handwind Ladies WatchLadies Omega Constellation My Choice Stainless Steel Mother Of Pearl Dial WatchVintage Ladies 1950 Solid 9ct Gold Rolex Tudor Watch OctagonalAuthentic Pre Tag Heuer Heuer Unisex/lady 200m Diver Watch No ReserveEbel Wave 18k Yellow Gold Stainless Steel 0.51ct Diamond Ladies Watch 32.27 GramSolid 9ct Gold Ladies Longines Presence Wrist Watch 100% Genuine No ReserveMichael Kors Women Darci Crystal Tri-tone Stainless Steel Rose Gold Watch Mk3203Rolex Cellini 4109 Swiss Made Luxury Lady Manual 18k White Gold Watch 1976 C223Ladies Rolex Automatic Oyster Perpetual Date 6916 Stainless SteelAuthentic Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date Ref.6517 White Dial Automatic Ladies WatchVintage Ladies Longines 14k White Gold Diamond Bezel Manual Wind Watch W/ BoxBeautiful 1917 Solid Sterling Silver Ladies Art Deco Wristwatch, Superb ExampleLadies Olivia Burton WatchRolex 2611 Swiss Made Luxury Ladies Diamonds And Stainless Steel Watch C226