Is a Watch a Piece of Jewelry? The Definitive Answer, and Why
[4 min. read]
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Wristwatches have long been the finishing piece to pull a great outfit together. They come in a wide range of sizes, designs, & features and are commonly worn by people of all races & socioeconomic classes.
From business professionals and politicians to medical professionals and law enforcement, nearly everyone has space in their wardrobe for a nice watch. With watches being so commonplace today, I've decided to tackle the not-so-simple question of Is a watch a piece of jewelry.
Is a Watch a Piece of Jewelry?
The short answer: It depends on how you define the word jewelry…
So, Lets Define Jewelry:
Dictionary.com defines jewelry as 'articles of gold, silver, precious stones, etc., for personal adornment.'
Typically, when you think of jewelry, you think of wearable accessories lined in precious stones, marked at high prices, and sold by people in fancy clothes. This aligns with the definition of the word and would exclude most watches from the being under the umbrella term jewelry.
And when you give it some thought, the vast majority of watches don’t seem to meet this criterion since an overwhelming number of them don’t have any diamonds or precious stones at all.
On top of that, and despite pretty much everyone using their phones to tell time these days, some people still use their watches as the tools they were designed as and specifically wear them to have easy access to the time.
So here we have Dictionary.com excluding most watches from being classified as jewelry with their definition, we know that the functionality of a watch is mainly to display accurate time, and, believe it or not, we still have people walking around wearing theirs solely for this functionality and not for fashion.
With this being the case, surely you wouldn’t be able to classify a watch as jewelry, right?
Not so fast..
Short History of Men Wearing Wristwatches:
Wristwatches started out as a basic way to tell the time from anywhere. Despite their convenience, wristwatches were viewed in the same category as bracelets and, as such, were a feminine accessory in this society. They were generally worn only by women while men would tell time using their pocket watches.
It wasn't until the late 19th century that men in the military began donning wristwatches as a means to remain synchronized on the battlefield. By the end of the First World War, nearly every soldier was wearing a wristwatch simply because they had to.
This would spark the normalization of men wearing wristwatches and, once the war was over, many of the soldiers continued to wear their watches back home. Now you have society’s most admired individuals unintentionally spawning a hot new fashion trend.
And this was only the beginning.
The wave of men wearing wristwatches spread like wildfire and by the 1930s, the ratio of wristwatches owned to the common pocket watch was 50 to 1.
The decades to come would bring along several different designs and styles of wristwatches from the emergence of the quartz watch to the first electric watch all the way down the road to the eventual smartwatch - each design bolder and more modern than the last.
As with any accessory, it eventually became less about producing a wristwatch that told time accurately (that was easy) and more about producing the most stylish and sleek piece of wrist wear.
It was around this time when you could start to consider a watch as a piece of jewelry with the introduction of luxury watches and watches overall being made with more expensive materials.
But even the watches that weren't on the pricey end could be classified as jewelry simply because people were purchasing them less for the purpose of telling time and more to improve on the look of their outfits.
There isn’t much of an argument against why people use watches, but at the same time, do we have to weigh the fact that its functionality does not revolve around its aesthetic appeal?
Is There a Definitive Answer?
We all know watches aren't specifically designed to just tell time. We all also know that people aren’t buying a Rolex to tell the time. People buy watches because they're an excellent compliment to any outfit and an excellent way to get more compliments on any outfit!
Whether it’s plastic or steel and whether it costs $30 or $3,000, chances are the person wearing it wears theirs solely for the aesthetic. Although you will find many dictionary definitions like before stating the need for actual jewels in an object to consider it jewelry, you will find just as many like the Merriam Webster definition below:
jewelry: ornamental pieces (such as rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets) that are made of materials which may or may not be precious (such as gold, silver, glass, and plastic), are often set with genuine or imitation gems, and are worn for personal adornment
The ‘may or may not be precious’ is important and we would say that it’s the appropriate way to look at it. If you see someone walking down the street with earrings on, you don’t question if whether they’re plastic or diamond – you’d automatically classify them as jewelry because it's just a no-brainer that that’s why the person is wearing them.
But earrings serve no purpose other than being worn – watches can tell time and, with this being their main functionality, doesn’t that mean they are nothing more than a tool?
Although it is a tool, today, it is so uncommon to use your watch to tell the time that if you ask someone wearing a watch for the time, they're more likely to reach for their phone than twist their arm and check the clock strapped to their wrist.
And despite their primary function being timekeeping, they’ve certainly evolved into much more than that.
Today’s watches are infinitely more complex than the basic models that preceded them and much of their evolution can be credited to watch manufacturers chasing that next distinct and aesthetically stunning piece.
Some people choose luxury watches for the status they bring while others choose more affordable options to accent their outfit. No matter the brand, material, or price, the most common selling point of wristwatches is the look they provide.
And the Answer Is...
They began as a simple way to tell the time conveniently and have transitioned into a stylish fashion piece that is often purchased for their aesthetic. So, when poised with the question ‘Is a watch a piece of jewelry?”, we would reply with a definite yes!
About Black Tie Watch Co.
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