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How many watches would the average guy have owned in the 50's and 60's?

Posted: Sat Sep 29, 2018 10:08 am
by 502 to Right
One of the things that fascinates me about researching and collecting vintage items (such as watches and fountain pens) is to think about the people who would have used these item when they were new. In the internet age it seems like we've gone crazy collecting things that someone in the 50's or 60's would never have done. I have dress watches, sport/dive watches, casual watches, beater/utility watches, and the like. And it made me wonder what the average Joe would have owned in the 50's and 60's (my preferred collecting era).

The person I'm thinking about would be someone who was a middle-class businessman. Not a CEO or bank owner, and not someone who would be standing in a bread line.

Did the average guy own just one watch and wear it for all occasions? Would they normally buy a steel watch or was gold more common then even for a daily wear watch? I know there's no specific answer but I'd like to hear from people who lived during that time (I was born in 1970) to get some idea of what watches and how many watches an average guy would own/wear during this era.

From my memory of the 1970's, I think my dad had one watch he wore every day. I remember it was a manual winder on a black leather strap. Pretty sure it was a Timex. And if it broke or was lost he would buy another and wear that one every day.

Edit - my dad is in his 70's now and he's still a one watch guy. Still a Timex but now it's quartz. It's a simple watch with a leather strap. Probably 38mm in case size.

Re: How many watches would the average guy have owned in the 50's and 60's?

Posted: Tue Oct 02, 2018 9:52 pm
by 441victor
I wasn't that aware of men's watches in that period other than a vague understanding of the military and racing connections. Until less expensive watches like Timex came on the scene, the watch a man wore had the same basic function in daily life then as cell phones do today. Most men wouldn't consider having more than one phone because they are basically tools and their expense is non-trivial. The fifties man would have had at most a daily watch and a special occasion watch that was a present or family heirloom or an award for service or retirement. The exception might be a specialty tool like a dive watch or pilot's chronometer that would be worn for a particular purpose. The brand of watch you favored was like the car you drove. It was determined by family tradition or loyalty to a region like New England or the mid-west. Or even family origins like the UK or Europe. Ladies watches were another matter. Being more decorative than useful, there was greater variety and they sold in much greater numbers which lent them to matching up with different outfits and moods. Joel

Re: How many watches would the average guy have owned in the 50's and 60's?

Posted: Fri Oct 05, 2018 4:14 pm
by mrtoad
For much of my father's adult life, he owned two Hamilton watches. One was a "Dixon", from 1936, which was about the time he finished his first graduate degree and started his career in college teaching. The other was an "Emerson", from 1941; I have a vague memory that it was a gift from my mother. I wasn't paying a lot of attention to watches in my childhood, but I have the feeling that the Emerson was his primary watch down into the 1970s. (I have both of these watches today.) Later in life, when he was spending a lot of time outdoors, he often wore inexpensive quartz watches. When we cleaned out my parents' house, we found a box for a Hamilton Thin-o-matic, but we never found a watch to go with the box.

My mother wore an Elgin "William Osler" most of her life. I suspect she bought it because she was a coach in her early career and wanted a watch with a sweep second hand. She had no interest in the tiny ladies' watches of the 50s and 60s; they were too small to be practical for a botanist working in the field. She wore the Elgin for both work and dress. I have this watch, too, with box and papers.

My first "good" watch was an early-40s Omega, which one of my father's colleagues gave me for a high-school graduation present; he had just bought a new watch for himself and wasn't wearing the Omega anymore.

Re: How many watches would the average guy have owned in the 50's and 60's?

Posted: Tue Oct 09, 2018 8:05 pm
by 502 to Right
Thanks for the stories. It would seem to back up what I was thinking.

I talked to my dad over the last weekend and he confirmed he was a one-watch guy from the time that he started to wear them in the later 50's. He said it was nearly always a Timex because they were inexpensive and reliable. Just as their marketing suggested. When quartz became popular he never bought another mechanical watch.