Women wore watches on their wrists long before men, and Patek Philippe was there from the beginning.
It’s often been suggested that wrist-watches came about because of the early wartime needs of pilots and navy personnel to have the time on their wrists for synchronizing military actions.
But in fact the first Swiss wristwatch was a ladies timepiece, commissioned by the Countess Koscowicz of Hungary from Patek Philippe in 1868.
The wristlet model was tiny by today’s standards, with a rectangular case housing a baguette movement, while the strap was a slender bangle of yellow gold.
In effect a gold bangle with a small watch built-in, it had a gilded movement that was wound by key, a cylinder escapement, eight jewels and an enamel dial.
This was in keeping with marketing at the time, which saw wristwatches presented as bracelets for women, while men continued to use pocket watches until the early 20th century. This was when military demands saw them begin to adopt the wrist-borne watch.
It’s interesting to note that Patek Philippe’s first complication was also a reference for ladies; a 5-minute repeater model produced in 1915, it featured a platinum case and bracelet.