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 Mid Size Watch Ladies Silver Dial White Gold Bezel 31 Mm £4995.00Cartier Santos Ladies Swiss Made 18k Solid Gold And Ss C2000 Automatic Watch C78Cartier Santos Ss/18k Gold Elegant High Fashion Automatic Ladies WatchPatek Philippe Twenty 4 Diamonds Ladies Watch 4910 /10a-011 *mint* No Reserve!!Cartier Basculante 2386 Swiss Made Stainless Steel Quartz Ladies Watch 2013 C83Michael Kors Women's Kerry Crystal Accent Rose Gold-tone Watch Mk3348Cartier Santos Swiss Made Ladies Mid Size 18k Gold And Stainless Steel Watch C91Cartier Panthere Swiss Made 18k Gold And Stainless Steel Ladies Watch C 2005 C77Micheal Kors Watch Stainless Steel Ladies Gunmetal Tone Wristwatch Mk3410Ladies Rolex 2tone 18k Gold/stainless Steel Datejust Watch Silver Diamond 69173Estate $12,000 2ct Diamond Ladies Rolex Datejust 18k Gold Ss Watch & Box & WarrGenuine 18k Gold Steel Ladies Datejust Rolex Oyster Perpetual QuicksetCartier Tank Francaise Ladies Wristwatch Model: 2300 Swiss Made Prestige Heavy 18k Gold Elegant High Fashion 1.0ct Diamond Quartz Ladies WatchScarce All Gold Ladies Rolex Oyster Perpetual Vintage Rare Rolex Bracelet WatchLadies Oris Big Crown, Automatic, Pointer Date Watch.Vintage Ladies Divers Watch Sicura Submarine Mechanical Watch Spares Or RepairLady Rolex Stainless Steel/18k White Gold Datejust White Mother Of Pearl DiamondVintage Omega Solid 14k Yellow Gold / Diamonds Ladies Wristwatch RareGucci 121 Stainless Steel Marina Chain Ladies Ss Swiss Watch Black Face BoxVintage Ladies Omega 14k White Gold With Diamonds Oblong Wrist Watch Vintage Ladies Vacheron Constantin 18k Manual Wind Watch W/box And Papers C.1950Estate $6000 Rolex Datejust Ladies Blue Mop Diamond Ss Watch Box & WarrantyGenuine Vintage Stainless Steel Ladies Rolex Date Model Wrist WatchVintage Ladies Omega 14k Yellow Gold With Diamonds Wrist Watch Rolex Datejust 18k White Gold Fluted Green Diamond Dial 36mm Ladies 16014 Watch$3000 18k Solid Gold Ss Cartier Ladies Dress Designer Watch Nice & Original Box Mint $3000 Cartier Ladies 18k Gold Ss Must 21 Watch & Box Michael Kors Mk6263 Gold Parker Green Dial Chronograph Women's WatchRolex Oyster Perpetual Ladies' Datejust Ref. 69173Ladies Cartier Must De Cartier Vermeil Gold Sterling Silver Roman Numeral WatchFossil Mini Georgia Es3265 Rose White Leather Ladies Ss Quartz Watch 3-handRolex Tudor Royal Ladies Solid Gold Vintage Watch, 1954 ServicedRolex Date 69174 Jubilee Silver Dial 18k White Gold Fluted Bezel Ladies Watch NrMichael Kors Black Wrist Watch For WomenMens / Womens Cartier Panther 18k Gold Midsize *** Diamonds Everywhere *** Women's Hermes Kelly Quartz Watch. 20x39mm Gold Dial. 18k Gold PlatedVintage Ladies Omega 14k White Gold With Diamonds Wrist Watch Vintage Ladies Omega 14k White Gold Wrist Watch Women's Tudor Princess Oysterdate By Rolex Rotor Self-winding 17j Swiss MadeLadies Must De Cartier Tank Silver 925gp Tank Manual Winding White Roman DialMichael Kors Crystal Stainless Steel Running Ladies Watch Mk5060 With BoxVintage Rolex Tudor White Gold Plated Ladies 1950 Hand Wound Bracelet WatchSkagen Ditte Skw2332 Silver Women's Watch With Mesh BraceletRare Ladies Baume & Mercier 18k Gold Bracelet WatchCartier Tank Francaise Stainless Steel Midsize Ladies' Watch @ $1 NrLadies Ww I Era Military Style Rolex Watch With Flexible Lugs.Ladies' Vintage Omega Gold Plated Wristwatch Cal. 245 #17800817Ladies Rolex 18k Gold/stainless Steel Datejust White Mop Mother Of Pearl DiamondLadies 18k And Stainless Steel Quartz Omega Constellation WatchOmega Ladies Seamaster Mini Blue Steel Ladies 2583.80.00 Women's £1520Ebel Wave 18k Yellow Gold Stainless Steel 0.51ct Diamond Ladies Watch 32.27 GramMichele Lady's Csx Diamond Watch White Mop Face Chronograph 71-4000/5000Cartier Ladies Rondo Solo Ss Model 2933 Brown StrapVintage Rolex 14ct Gold Ladies 1401 17j Watch With 1/20th 10k G/f BraceletRolex 6519 Vintage Automatic Ladies Swiss Made Luxury Watch Serial 1464568 1968Cartier 866010 18k Gold Elegant High Fashion Quartz Ladies WatchMichael Kors Mk5353 Wrist Watch For Women AuthenticLadies Rolex Datejust Vintage Stainless Steel Champagne Dial 26mm Pre OwnedRolex Date 6917 Ss/14k Gold High Fashion Automatic Ladies Watch W/ Blue Dial