It’s time to embrace the pocket watch again. Increasingly popular with everyone from horologists to fashionistas, a pocket watch makes a real style statement – but in an elegantly discreet way.
If you haven’t already thought about buying a pocket watch, here are some excellent reasons why this old-time charmer is becoming the timepiece of choice for those who want to wear their watch with panache.
A pocket watch is a piece of history
In the 1520s, German inventor Peter Henlein created a clock that was powered by springs rather than falling weights. Clocks could now be small and portable, and people took to wearing them around their necks.
It was the Merry Monarch, Charles II, who was responsible for popularising the “pocket clock”, which by now was small enough to be carried in a pocket rather than worn as a pendant. Extremely inaccurate, these were ornaments for the elite rather than practical timepieces.
However in the 1750s, the lever escapement was introduced, improving accuracy and welcoming in the new minute hand. A century later, changes to industry enabled watches to be made from standard parts, and suddenly they were available to many more people.
Then, towards the end of the Victorian period, military men began to strap their watches to their wrists (it’s pretty hard to extract your watch from your pocket during a mounted cavalry charge), and that marked the beginning of the end for the pocket watch. During WWI, wrist watches were issued by the War Department, and were adopted by pretty much, well, everyone. However, for those of us who like to know the pedigree of their watches and jewellery, nothing can replace the heritage of the pocket watch.
There is a great choice of pocket watches
There is one basic pocket watch design; however within this template there are options as individual as the wearer.
There are two main types: the open-face pocket watch and the hunter-case pocket watch. The former is simply a pocket watch without a cover, so you can see the dial as soon as you pull it out of your pocket. These are more popular now that improved technology has made the protective glass stronger and more scratch-resistant.
The hunter watch was introduced to protect the once-porcelain face of the watch. The dial is covered with a hinged lid – attractive and protective, but a bit of a nuisance when you want to tell the time. The half-hunter is a compromise, as the lid has a glass window in it, enabling you to read the dial through it. The double hunter has a second lid on the back, so you can open it up and see the mechanism. This has the additional advantage of acting as a stand, so you can prop your watch up as an impromptu clock. There’s also a double half-hunter (transparent lid on the front plus the second lid at the back).
Movements wise, pocket watches are available with quartz mechanisms or traditional mechanical movements. Many people choose the latter, as this complements the antique look and feel of the pocket watch.
In terms of finishes, our range comes in chrome plated for a contemporary style, yellow gold or gold plate for an antique effect, or sterling silver, which gives an elegant look.
Pocket watches are a fashion statement
The recent popularity of the vintage look and the rise of neo-Victorian Steampunk style, have brought pocket watches to the fore again. We’ve recently seen pocket watches on the waistcoats of actor Johnny Depp, dragon Peter Jones, presenter Dermot O’Leary, and if you watched last week’s Saturday Kitchen, chef Glynn Purnell was sporting one.
They are discreetly elegant, suggesting old-world, gentlemanly charm. It’s also a rare chance for gentlemen to express themselves, style-wise. Women have a great choice of accessories to liven up an outfit; however gents are a bit more limited. A watch, and in particular a pocket watch, gives you chance to personalise your style.
This is not to say that pocket watches are just for men. A pocket watch worn as a pendant or with a lapel pin, vintage Matron-style, makes an individual and engaging accessory for women too.
A pocket watch is a wonderful present
An engraved pocket watch – particularly a gold one - is a traditional British retirement gift. Thanking a loyal employee for their time in the form of a timepiece is a nice idea, and one that remains popular.
However, don’t wait until someone’s retirement to buy them a watch. Watches make fabulous birthday, Christmas, and anniversary presents too. A good watch will last a lifetime (sometimes several!), and as they’re something we don’t tend to buy ourselves that often, they always feel like a really special gift. If the recipient likes their presents to be a bit quirky and individual, a pocket watch is a perfect choice.
They are fantastic watches
We’ve talked a lot about the beauty and style of the pocket watch – but let’s not forget that there’s also a lot going on in the background.
Although pocket watches are available with quartz mechanisms, most horologists will opt for a mechanical watch. There is great pleasure in winding your own watch, and thanks to Swiss technology, modern pocket watches are accurate. A skeleton (transparent case) watch or a double hunter will allow you to watch the elegant performance of the mainspring, gears, wheels, and escapement mechanism. For we horologists, this is a thing of pure beauty.
Have we convinced you? One thing we’ve noticed is that once someone embraces the idea of a pocket watch, they are converts for life! At Bonds the Jewellers, we have a selection of over thirty different pocket watches, complete with a choice of chains. Please contact us to find out more about our pocket watch range and engraving services.