Five Fun Facts About Luxury Watches That You Probably Didn’t Know
1. Watches Were Originally Designed for Women
Think of a modern luxury timepiece, and you will probably think of a Rolex, a Patek Philippe, an Audemars Piguet, or something from another brand. However, no matter what brand you choose, it will probably be a male watch you think of from that brand. Well, in the 1800s, the idea of a wristwatch was a distinctively feminine thing. Created as a gem-set bangle with a tiny dial and manual-wind movement, the early wristwatches, or "wristlets" as they were known, were for women. It wasn't until after WWI that men would begin to wear wristwatches as they do today.
2. The First Men's Luxury Tool Watch Was A Cartier
Ask someone on a street to mention a watchmaker, and the chances of someone naming French jeweler Cartier are pretty slim. However, in 1904 the Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos Dumont asked his friend Louis Cartier to create a wrist-bound timepiece that he could use to keep track of the time while flying as his pocket watch was to0 cumbersome and inconvenient. As such, Louis created the Cartier Santos Dumont, the world's first pilot's watch, the first tool watch, and even the first men's watch. Luckily, the Santos still survives today as a family of watches, with the Santos being one of the most popular collections.
3. Rolex Was Founded in England
Famed for their Genevan roots, Rolex is, in fact, an English brand. While they are indeed headquartered in Geneva to this day, they were initially founded in London by brothers-in-law Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in 1905. After the end of WWI, in 1920, Rolex was moved to Geneva due to the unfavorable economic environment in England and as a response to the increasing taxes on luxury goods, with precious metal items, like wristwatches seeing tax hikes that would have put Rolex out of business. This is also somewhat ironic as (Bonus fact!) Rolex, to this day, is owned and operated by a charitable trust, the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation. They really don't like taxes, do they?
4. The Breitling Emergency Mechanism Has Saved Dozens Of Lives
The idea of a field watch, or explorer's watch, is certainly not a new phenomenon, with brands like Rolex, with their Explorer I and II models, and brands like Hamilton and plenty of others producing some great field watches. However, none of these watches have been the single reason that its wearer was saved, something Breitling can claim. In 1995, Breitling included a built-in emergency mechanism into their Emergency Mission collection. This incredible piece of technology sends out an S.O.S. signal to the emergency services and acts like a beacon for those services to detect the signal's source. Furthermore, it has been used in many life-threatening situations and has saved lives. One notable incident occurred in 2003 when two stranded helicopter pilots activated their Emergency Mission while lost in Antarctica and were saved.
5. Testing, Testing, and More Testing
While plenty of luxury watch brands will test their watches to rather extreme limits by submerging them in pressurized tanks of water to test their water resistance, doing drop tests from various heights, exposing the watch to extreme temperatures, and measuring their accuracy in various conditions, Jaeger Le Coultre takes things to the next level. Famously, JLC are renowned for their "1000 Hours Control," which is precisely as its name suggests. This test checks the functionality of the movement before and after it is fitted into its corresponding watch case for a total of 1,000 hours. The watches experience a variety of tests that simulate different everyday situations in incredible detail.