When the Living Tribunal gave Adam Warlock the ultimatum to give up the Infinity Gauntlet or have the Living Tribunal wrest the gauntlet away, Adam opted for the decision that rendered less havoc to the universe. Adam chose to separate the gems from the Infinity Gauntlet, allowing the Living Tribunal to set forth a law that the gems would never again be allowed to work together in unison. Adam then set about delivering the gems to six individuals he felt could be worthy guardians. Each guardian was selected for their ability to guard their gem without misusing it's power. Although Adam selected the guardians of the gem while possessing the Infinity Gauntlet and was, presumably, omniscient, they were considered, especially by Eternity, to be completely inappropriate choices.
Adam kept the soul gem for himself, having worn it for several years.
Drax the Destroyer was given the power gem. The gem's power enhanced his already formidable strength and durability, making him a formidable guardian. Drax's limited intelligence at the time made him unlikely to abuse the gem's power. Drax swallowed the gem, keeping it in his stomach.
The time gem was given to Gamora, one of Adam's allies from previous times. Gamora's strength and skill as an assasin made her an effective guardian, while her lack of knowledge or training made her unlikely to abuse the gem's power.
Adam gave the mind gem to Moondragon, Drax's daughter, although Drax had no memory of their relationship. Moondragon seemed like an especially questionable choice considering her troubled past. However, the mind gem significantly increased Moondragon's powers and skills, making her a formidable protector for the gem.
The space gem went to Pip the troll, another long time companion of Adam's. Pip's self serving and devious personality made him another questionable choice, although his limited understanding of how to use the space gem helped ensure he wouldn't abuse it's powers
Originally the guardian of the reality gem was a secret, known only to Adam and a few cosmic powers. Eventually Thanos was revealed as the possessor of the gem. Thanos's power made him an effective guardian for the reality gem, and he was wise enough to understand it was too dangerous to use. Considering Thanos had only recently attempted to use the Infinity Gems to conquer the universe, Eternity found his choice especially unacceptable.
After giving the gems to the team, Warlock departed from them, weary from becoming mortal once again after relinquishing his godhood. The team all went their separate ways. Adam Warlock went to receive some help from the High Evolutionary, who had helped him previously with a similar situation. He found the High Evolutionary seriously mentally diminished. He and his men were also being hunted by a group with extremely advanced technology. This group also sought out the other members of the Infinity Watch. Drax, Pip, Moondragon and Gamora were all captured.
The culprit behind the plot turned out to be none other than one of Adam's greatest foes, the Man-Beast. He dared not use the power of the gems directly but instead created a giant energy monster with the power of the gems he had captured. Adam went to rescue his teammates but was completely overpowered by the creature. He did manage to fool it into destroying the ship which carried them, and Man-Beast escaped. Luckily for Adam, he was saved at the last moment by his teammates when the ship crashed on Earth. After this, they determined it may be best for them to remain together as a group.
The team settled on Monster Island, home of Mole Man and his subjects. The team came to an agreement with Mole Man, helping bolster his claim to the island while he provided a castle for their use.
When the Magus returned and planned to rule all the universe, it was Thanos who came to the Infinity Watch for assistance. Together they followed the source of the energies through dimensions. But, Magus had made it seem as though Thanos and Adam Warlock were the culprits behind the entire scheme. When Earth's heroes arrived at the same place as the Watch, they were attacked. This was all part of the Magus' plan. The battle was stopped by Galactus, who read all of their minds and thus gave them all the truth.
Thanos convinced Warlock that there was only one way to defeat the Magus - return the gems to the gauntlet. Warlock reluctantly did this, but the Living Tribunal and Eternity had removed the gems power when together. This was also part of the Magus' plan and he teleported in and kidnapped Warlock. Magus was in possession of the gauntlet when Galactus and Gamora revived Eternity and thus restored the gauntlet's power.
But the gauntlet was not complete, and Magus was deceived by Warlock and Thanos. Warlock defeated Magus and trapped him in the Soul World, but Warlock himself was placed in a catatonic state. This left the team without a leader and threatened to split them up. Gamora tried to keep them all together and was successful long enough for Adam Warlock to come out of his sleep.
The team was split when the Goddess began the Infinity Crusade. She was able to control Gamora and Moondragon into becoming part of her Holy Guard. With only Pip, Drax and Maxam remaining, Pip saw this as his chance to become a leader, but this was not as successful as he had hoped. The remaining members fought with Earth's heroes while Adam Warlock once again teamed with Thanos. Warlock put much trust in Thanos and this was proven to be the correct decision in the end. Warlock was able to break the control of the Goddess over the other heroes and defeat her. The Watch was reunited, but once again it was Warlock who took the blame from everyone over the dangers to the universe.
Back on Earth
After the Infinity Crusade, the team returned to Monster Island. After an attack by Count Abyss, the team found a man with amnesia washed ashore named Maxam. He could not remember anything but instantly attacked Adam Warlock on sight. He didn't know why and even though Gamora had seen a vision of him from the Time Gem killing Adam, he was allowed to remain with the team.
Monster Island was invaded several times by the United Nations who believed Warlock and the Watch to be a threat, especially since they were in league with the Mole Man. It wasn't until after Warlock exposed Senator Kyle Munson as the evil Man Beast that the United Nations allowed the team to remain on the island undisturbed.
Count Abyss finally made his attack, sending his consort Maya to Monster Island with a story of becoming their allies in battle against Abyss. Adam was fooled and drank a 'customary' toast to their partnership. This spirit they drank was a powerful love potion that caused Adam and Maya to fall desperately in love. Abyss quickly captured Maya and forced the team to travel to his dimension to retrieve her. Once there, Abyss showed the ability to control their gems and use them against the team, simultaneously defeating all of them with the incredible power he possessed in his own realm. The Infinity Watch was captured and taken prisoner and the Soul Gem taken into his possession. With the help of Darklore and Meer'Lyn, Adam was able to escape (the remainder of the team in no shape for battle) and defeat Abyss, allowing the team to return back to their own dimension.