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Early models were essentially standard pocket-watches fitted to a leather strap but, by the early 20th century, manufacturers began producing purpose-built wristwatches.
The Swiss company Dimier Frères & Cie patented a wristwatch design with the now standard wire lugs in 1903.
Today most watches that are inexpensive and medium-priced, used mainly for timekeeping, have quartz movements.
Expensive collectible watches, valued more for their elaborate craftsmanship, aesthetic appeal and glamorous design than for simple timekeeping, often have traditional mechanical movements, even though they are less accurate and more expensive than electronic ones.
Wristwatches were first worn by military men towards the end of the 19th century, when the importance of synchronizing manoeuvres during war, without potentially revealing the plan to the enemy through signaling, was increasingly recognized.
They generally incorporate timekeeping functions, but these are only a small subset of the smartwatch's facilities. Watches evolved from portable spring-driven clocks, which first appeared in 15th century Europe.
Watches were not widely worn in pockets until the 17th century.
Improvements in manufacturing such as the tooth-cutting machine devised by Robert Hooke allowed some increase in the volume of watch production, although finishing and assembling was still done by hand until well into the 19th century.
A major cause of error in balance wheel timepieces, caused by changes in elasticity of the balance spring from temperature changes, was solved by the bimetallic temperature compensated balance wheel invented in 1765 by Pierre Le Roy and improved by Thomas Earnshaw.
Although there was an attempt to modernise clock manufacture with mass production techniques and the application of duplicating tools and machinery by the British Watch Company in 1843, it was in the United States that this system took off.