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Why do we wear wristwatches?


A rare yellow gold Patek Philippe wristwatch, on display at a Sotheby's auction preview in Geneva, Switzerland.
A rare yellow gold Patek Philippe wristwatch, on display at a Sotheby's auction preview in Geneva, Switzerland.
Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

If you're of a certain age, you probably consider a wristwatch an essential piece of your wardrobe. But would it surprise you to learn that hasn't always been the case? If so, prepare to have your mind blown: In fact, wristwatches have been widely worn for less than 100 years.

Some trend watchers think that wristwatches may be going out of style already, consigned to the dustbin of history by advanced technology. After all, who needs a wristwatch when our smart phones -- and even the most basic cell phones -- tell us the time with more consistent accuracy?

Could wristwatches represent little more than a relatively brief technological phase- turned-historic-curiosity, something like eight-track tape players and telephone booths? Or are watchmakers figuring out ways to keep people buying and wearing watches on their wrists?

The future of the once-essential wristwatch may lie in the reasons we wear watches in the first place -- and those reasons may not be the same today as they were in the 20th century, when wristwatches first gained popularity.

How did watches find such an honored place on our wrists? Keep reading.

Peter Henlein: Watches

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