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    

Rolex President Geneve Diamond 18k Yellow Gold Ladies Watch 61.9 Grams NrRolex Datejust 6917 Ss/14k Gold .80ct Vs Diamond Automatic Ladies WatchImportent Vacheron Constantin Ladies Diamond 18k Gold Swiss Watch 89.1 Grams NrLongines Diamond 18k Gold Ladies' Bracelet Swiss Bracelet Watch 47.6 Grams NrMichael Kors Blair Rose Gold-tone Swarovski Pave Chronograph Ladies Watch Mk3104Chopard Happy Diamonds Collection 18k Gold Ladies' Watch 29.3 Grams 30mm Case NrGenuine Rolex 691733 Sapphire Quickset 18k Gold Ss Mint Ladies Datejust WatchBeautiful Vintage Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust Stainless Steel Ladies WatchChopard Happy Diamonds 4112 18k Gold .40ct Vs1/f Floating Diamond Ladies WatchCartier Panther 166921 Ss/18k Gold 2-stripe Quartz Ladies WatchBeautiful ~ Authentic Tag Heuer Aquaracer Women's Stainless Steel Watch ~ Nice!Cartier Panthere Ladies 18k Gold Stainless Steel Watch W/ Box Amazing ConditionEstate ~ Rolex Datejust Ss & 18k Gold Dial Ladies Watch 69173 ~ Minty ConditionRolex Ladies Datejust 18k Yellow Gold/ss Ice Blue Dial Diamond WatchVintage Rotary .375 9ct Gold Cased Ladies Wind-up Wristwatch, Working - V07 B56Rolex Lady Datejust Oyster Perpetual Ss/18k Gold Ice Pink Diamond/ruby WatchCartier Panthere Unisex Diamond Watch Ss Stainless Steel Womens MensVery Rare Ltd Ed 50 Made Platinum Steel Muhle Glashutte Ladies WatchAuthentic Rolex Cellini Ref.4109 18k Solid Gold Case Manual Ladies Wrist WatchLadies Must De Cartier Tank Silver 925gp Tank Manual Winding White Roman DialElegant Radley Model Ry2007 Ladies Black Leather Quartz Wristwatch - V21 N08Movado Museum Classic Steel Ladies Watch 12.9 Grams NrRolex Lady Datejust Oyster Perpetual Ss/18k White Gold Silver Diamond WatchEstate ~ Rolex Datejust Ss & 18k Gold Diamond Dial Ladies Watch 69173 ~ Exc Cond$7000 Blue Mop Diamond Genuine Rolex Ladies 18k Gold Ss Datejust Watch Box WarrMichael Kors Mk5160 Women's 3 Hand Runway WatchChopard Happy Diamonds 4112 18k Gold .40ct Vs1/f Floating Diamond Ladies WatchMichael Kors Parker Chronograph Glittery Mk5491 Wrist Watch For WomenRolex Lady Datejust Oyster Perpetual Ss/18k Yellow Gold Pink Mop Diamond WatchLadies Hermes "clipper Diver" Quartz Watch. 29mm White Dial. Date. V Good Cond.Ladies .750 18ct Gold Patek Philippe Quartz Wrist Watch Tiffany & Co Not WorkingVintage Job Lot Mens Ladies Wrist Watches Pocket Watch Spare Repairs Parts Vintage Rolex - 14k Yellow Gold Ladies Watch - 17 Jewel 1400 - No Reserve !!!!!!Pre-owned Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date Ref 69190 Ladies Stainless Steel Watch N/rNice Ladies Omega Geneve Automatic Wrist Watch Cal 684Rolex Lady Datejust Oyster Perpetual Ss & 18k White Gold Ice Blue Diamond WatchEstate $12,000 14k Yellow Gold Emerald Diamond Datejust Ladies Watch & Box 7"Ladies Michael Kors Champayne Horn Watch Bnib Rrp £209Rolex Lady Datejust Oyster Perpetual Ss/18k Gold Ice Blue Diamond/sapphire WatchMichael Kors Ladies White Leather Kacie Bracelet 39mm Gold Roman Watch Mk23949k Solid Gold Omega Ladies Watch, Excellent Condition, Omega Buckle And Crown.Rare Ultra Chased Art Deco Lecoultre Ladies Fancy Dl 1920s Serviced Watch 14k GfVntg 1969 Ladies Rolex Oyster Perp Chronometer 18k Gold 6571 No Reserve!!Ladies Hermes Carrick Solid 18k Gold & St.steel Roman White Dial Quart // NrCartier Panthere Or Et Acier Double Row 18k/ss Women's Wrist WatchCartier Panthere Elegant High Fashion Ss/18k Gold 2-stripe Quartz Ladies WatchVintage Rolex C.1920's 9k Manual Ladies Cocktail WristwatchTag Heuer Luxury Women's Aquaracer Waf141a WatchFossil Womens Riley Rose Gold-tone Crystal Chronograph Watch Es2811Michael Kors Mk5896 39mm Gold Steel Bracelet & Case Mineral Women's Watch Ladies Rolex Cellini Manual Winding Movement/ Dial - Cal 1600 // NrRolex Lady Datejust Oyster Perpetual Ss/18k Gold Green Mop Diamond & Ruby WatchRolex Lady Datejust Oyster Perpetual Ss/18k Gold Black Diamond & Sapphire WatchEstate ~ Rolex Datejust Ss & 18k Gold Tapestry Dial Ladies Watch 69173 ~exc CondBreitling Cockpit Ladies Chronometer A71356 Diamond Dial Diamond Bezel Timepiece$250 Michael Kors Ladies Silver Parker 39mm Designer Bracelet Watch Mk5353Croton F435 17j Vtg 14k White Gold Diamond Ladies Watch Runs #5568Rolex Lady Datejust President 18k Yellow Gold Blue Vignette Diamond Watch$10,000 18k Gold Ss Genuine Rolex Qs Ladies Datejust 2ct Diamond Watch & BoxLadies Rolex 179174 18k Wg & Ss No Holes Case Datejust, White Roman Dial 2007!!