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History of Smartwatches: They’ve Been Around Longer Than You Think

As gadgets go, 2014 has been the year of the smartwatch. We’ve seen most major hardware players release their takes on wearable tech this year, along with even more smaller, third-party vendors looking to get a slice of this freshly-baked pie. The frenzy led up to the announcement of the Apple Watch, which, love it or hate it, will most likely take the smartwatch mainstream when it drops early next year.

Wristwatch communicators have been the stuff of tech fantasy ever since the days of Dick Tracy, when his 2-way wrist radio was introduced in the strip in the 1940s. That fantasy is becoming reality, as the smartwatches of today are finally, for the first time, capturing the intuitiveness of Tracy’s gadget. But, it’s not just a matter of mobile technology becoming small and cheap enough to fit into a wrist-worn device. Ever since the days of the comic strip, watchmakers have been toying around with the watch, trying to take it one step further. The results are varied and, well, not always pretty. They got us here, though, and for those of us who will be lining up early next year for an Apple Watch, that’s reason enough to celebrate them.

So, let’s take a brief trip through time, and see exactly how we wound up here.

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1868 – Patek Phillipe

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We’re going to start nearly a century before Dick Tracy’s watch made its debut, when the very first wristwatch was created by Patek Phillipe. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Phillipe created the first wrist-worn timepiece for Countess Koscowicz of Hungary in 1868. The wristwatch would remain a women’s fashion trend for decades afterward, with men’s wristwatches coming much later.

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