There’s no denying that the first world war, which lasted from July 1914 until November 1918, is one of the most influential militarily conflicts in human history and is, without doubt, one of the events that has had the most impact on shaping the world as we know it today.

One of the lesser-known products that came out of the great war is the wristwatch. It’s fair to say that wristwatches did exist before this, but they were basically just bulky pocket watches placed on a leather strap. Not surprisingly, soldiers quickly realised that the practicalities of modern warfare demanded upgrades – scavenging through your pockets in the chaos of the trenches was far from ideal.

The solution arrived in the shape of a moderately sized wristwatch that was unobtrusive when worn on the wrist and made it easy to view the time. The reasoning behind the wrist-mounted convention was simple: it freed up one hand that would normally be used to operate a pocket watch.

By 1916 a quarter of all soldiers wore wristwatches. A big reason for this came as a direct result of a military tactic called the creeping artillery barrage. Careful synchronisation between artillery gunners opening up a field for infantry to advance behind demanded extremely accurate timing for the soldiers to coordinate the moves, otherwise, the consequences could be fatal.

The watches themselves developed drastically due to the harsh conditions they were subjected to, on a daily basis. Tougher crystals were developed and luminous dials incorporated. In 1917 the wristwatch was deemed so essential to the soldier that the British War Department began issuing wristwatches to all combatants. This led to the wristwatch becoming an integral part of the modern soldier’s uniform.

Pilots also started using wristwatches as they proved more practical in combat. This gave the new timepiece an instant coolness factor that they had not previously enjoyed.

In 1918, the infusion of American troops and resources into the western front finally tipped the scale in the Allies’ favour. Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies on November 11, 1918. World War I was supposed to be the “war to end all wars” because of the great slaughter and destruction it caused, which we now know is sadly not the case.

The human loss from WW1 was around 20 million, half of which were civilians. The first day of the Battle of the Somme remains the worst in British military history, with forces suffering around 57,000 casualties.

So, when you check your watch next it’s worth remembering that what you’re wearing was born out of necessity in the theatre of war more than 100 years ago.

My cart
Your cart is empty.

Looks like you haven't made a choice yet.