Ladies Dress Watch - Ladies' wrist watches predate men's. In the late 16th century, Queen Elizabeth 1 reportedly wore a gold one that was heavily decorated with jewels. However, it wasn't until the late 19th century that watches for women were made in any quantity. Chatelaine's Antiques Collectibles Appraisals

 

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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine > Jewelry > Feature: Ladies Dress Watch
 


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Ladies Dress Watch


LADIES' DRESS WATCHES

 For ladies, the wristwatch was designed not only as a practical and accurate timepiece but also as a fashion accessory studded with stones of great value.

 Ladies' wrist watches predate men's. In the late 16th century, Queen Elizabeth 1 reportedly wore a gold one that was heavily decorated with jewels. However, it wasn't until the late 19th century that watches for women were made in any quantity.

 Rolex played quite a part in their development.  Known at the time as Wilsdorf & Davies, they had a factory in England, and in 1905 produced some of the first wristwatches with lever movements. The first models were in silver cases with a leather strap. Later ones had cases and expanding bracelets of gold.

RISE OF THE WRISTWATCH

 In 1905, the Ingersoll brothers set up their company in England, and shortly afterwards produced the 'Midget', their first ladies' pocket watch. With the addition of a leather strap, this could also be worn on the wrist.

 The wristwatch and, especially, the dress or cocktail wristwatch really came into their own during the 1920s and 1930s. They became items of jewellery and were produced by like Cartier, Vacheron & Constatin, Cleef and Arpels, Rolex and Patek Phillipe.

 Wristwatch cases and bracelets were heavily decorated with precious gemstones, particularly diamonds, rubies and sapphires, or quality paste imitation stones. At times, indeed, the original function of the watch as a timepiece seemed almost forgotten.

 Jewelled watches, pave-set with diamonds, would have narrow straps of black moire silk or cord.  Cartier introduced a square wristwatch, the case set with diamonds and onyx,
the bracelet strap consisting of rows of seed pearls interspersed with diamonds.

COCKTAIL JEWELLERY

 The jewellery of the 1940s is often called cocktail jewellery. Colours and designs were both bold and stylish. For those who couldn't afford the real thing, fake stones were fine - synthetic rubies were favourites.

 The strap followed the shape of contemporary fashion, and could be a wide gold bracelet into which the watch was discreetly set. 'Gas pipe' linking was also popular at this time. For evening or cocktail wear, the watch face would be hidden beneath a hinged cover that was dazzlingly set with gems.

 Ladies' dress watches are still made today but in more restrained styles, suitable for day as well as evening wear, although still lavishly set with precious stones.

 When buying an old watch, always make sure that it is in working order. Look then at its price, the maker's name and the value of the materials used.

DRESS WATCH COLLECTOR'S NOTES

 Around the turn of the 20th century there was a transition from pocket watches to wrist-watches.  Ingersoll's 'Midget', for instance, came with a leather wrist strap fitted with a small leather cup in which the watch was held securely.  Other watches of this period were fitted with wire handles or loops, through which a leather wrist strap could be threaded.  These watches often still had the winding button set above the number 12 - as in a pocket watch - and it wasn't until much later that it was moved to its present position at 3 o'clock.  These adapted pocket watches were circular with gunmetal cases.

ART DECO WATCH DESIGNS

 In the 1920s, with the start of the art deco period that was set to continue through until the late 1930s, the design of ladies' wristwatches changed rapidly.  Dials became oblong, square or round, generally set in an oblong frame.

 Straps were made of leather or metal. Metal ones might be an integral bangle in gold or platinum, or they might be enamelled in geometric designs.  A French bracelet watch of this period, by Gubelin, was fitted with a decorative enalled cover which slid protectively over the watch face and was drawn back to reveal the dial by pressing a button.

 In the 1940s and 1950s the fashion was for the case, the strap and even the clasp to be heavily set with real or paste jewels.

POINTS TO WATCH

 Wrist watch dials come in all sorts of shapes and the following terms are used to describe them: round, oval, square, square cut corner, cushion, rectangle, rectangle cut corner, tonneau (oblong with outwardly curving sides), barrel (a squarer version of tonneau), and maxine (two long sides and six short sides).

 Condition is all important.  Dials should be examined closely for staining or damage; they should not be dirty or scratched.  The hands should not be loose, and should match the style of the watch - keep an eye open for replacements.

 The watch and its bracelet should also be in sympathy. Clues lie in the lugs or shoulders on the watch case. The bracelet should fit these snugly. Any looseness or sideways movement are indicative of a marriage.

 Check that the watch is working properly and keeping good time. Repairs can be extremely costly. If the watch is sold as gold, look for hallmarks. Some watch cases were made of rolled gold, or are marked 'gold back and front'; these are only plated with gold.

 


 

Seiko Ladies Day/Date Dress Watch - Stainless and Gold Tone
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