During the early years of the twentieth century the wristwatch gradually began to replace the pocket watch. A wristwatch was a far more practical timekeeping method and was issued in the military during the First World War in reflection of this. Accurate timekeeping was now necessary and watches became everyday items instead of expensive possessions few could afford. Following the war, a new market emerged and by the end of the 1930s sales of the wristwatch were outnumbering the pocket watch.

The design of the earliest wristwatches was not that different from the pocket watch; the face was a smaller version and was attached to the straps with wire ‘lugs’. The earliest versions from the 1920s and 30s were usually simple rectangular or circular faces, reflecting the fashion of the period for geometric shapes and clean lines. During the 1940s and 50s, wristwatch design expanded to include more extravagant creations and unusual shapes with many watches taking on more of the stylistic traits of jewellery from the period.

As a rule the very earliest wristwatches usually hold low monetary value to collectors unless they are unusual or of particularly fine quality. Value is found in many factors, including the maker, the materials, the style and date of the watch as well as the type and complexity of the movement.

Some of the makers to look out for include the more famous Rolex, Omega and Cartier as well as the lesser known Hamilton and Elgin. Rolex, the brand developed in 1905 at Wilsdorf & Davies in London, is particularly interesting as Hans Wildorf actually started his first wristwatch factory on the basis of his theory that the wristwatch would became more popular than the more dominant pocket watch; a gamble that definitely paid off.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website


This weekend has dawned sunny and our grass is long and our weeds are numerous. My wife is busy with a black bag, fork and kneeling mat, but sadly I have to wait as all my years of grass cutting experience tell me the grass is too wet to cut. As I sit with my coffee soaking the rare and wonderful sun’s rays and watching them dry the long green blades that constitute our lawn, my mind turns to time and from time to that great teller of time, the wristwatch.

Cartier made the first wristwatch in 1904 for the aviator Alberto Dumont. However, it was during the First World War that the wrist watch was first recognised as a more convenient method for soldiers to tell the time than by trying to consult a pocket watch on a chain. It was not surprising then that many small fob watches were converted to wrist watches after the war by having strap fittings attached to them.

During the 1920’s the Swiss led the way in being able to produce wrist watches in every quality in number large enough to satisfy public demand. In the 1930’s Rolex led the way by producing one
of the first fully automatic and waterproof watches.

The early watches were usually of circular form. During the years between the World Wars, following the fashions of the time, different styles were introduced that made use of clean and bold numerals in square, rectangular, oval and octagonal cases.

Today collectors are mostly interested in the classic designs of the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s, while also recognising the merits of the more recent years. Value is determined by many factors including condition, maker, model, style and mechanism.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website