Pocket Watches: Then and Now

In this advanced age, we sport wristwatches in profuse designs and varied colors. Watches are part and parcel of one’s personality these days. A timepiece adds value to your overall attire as you wear it on either of your wrists.

You would have barely heard of the prototype of timepieces. There was a time when watches were not a wrist-specific thing; people could wear them around the neck, or get them fastened to waistcoats, trench-coats, etc.

In that era, pocket watches were rocking the market. Imagine a time where watches used to be merely a source of time-telling; even then, pocket watches were considered as a sign of elegance. People with a rich taste had been hugely fond of pocket watches ever since it got introduced. Let us have a keen insight into this vintage timepiece!

Pocket Watches Historical Reference

pocket watches

Pocket watches were officially introduced to the European market back in 1524. As this important breakthrough was witnessed, the 16th century proved to be a progressive year for the horology industry.

Types of Pocket Watches

To begin with, the second and minute hands were recently discovered. Initially, all of the pocket watches comprised of only the hour hand. After some time, some advancement took place and minute and second hands came into being. Let’s briefly look into the different kinds:

1: Open face watch

According to the main theme of this watch, there is no metal cover to shield the crystal. Before the invention of a tiny screw down crown, there was a much larger crown along with the bow on top of every pocket watch. A pendant/winding stem appeared at 12 o clock, whereas, a sub-dial to read seconds appeared at 6 o clock.

An open-face watch had been beneficial mainly for railroad service in 1908 and onwards.

pocket watches

2: Hunter case watch

This is supposed to be a slightly advanced version of pocket watches. It used to come with a hinged metal cover to guard the crystal. Initially, the bow and the crown were situated at 3 o clock while the hinge to be situated at 9 o clock. The latest versions of this kind of pocket watches had a hinge positioned at 6 o clock and the crown at 12 o clock. However, the seconds-dial used to be located at 6 o clock in both old and new pieces.

The hunter case watches looked like a round soap bar; hence, they were also known as savonnette. The word savonnette was derived from a French word savon.

3: Half-hunter case watch

With this kind of watch, one could read the time without opening the lid. The outer surface was composed of glass panel along with a hole in the center; hands could be seen through it. The hour markers were specifically given in blue.

pocket watches

Notables sported the pocket watch, and it became a trend

The then Prince of England, Charles II, is considered to be the pioneer of these watches. He was the first one to sport pocket watches in a pocket. Charles can be deduced as a trendsetter to introduce this unique style of wearing pocket watches. He was really famous for his fashion sense in the mid-17th century. In 1675, he introduced waistcoats, and this proved to be a major paradigm shift.

After Charles II wore a pocket watch stuck in the pocket of his waistcoat for the first time in the 1600s, it became a trend which did not fade out until the mid-1900s.

A typical pocket watch used to be sharp-edged before this event. The horology industry then tweaked. They evolved the structures and designs and removed all the sharp edges that could hinder fitting in the pocket. Just like we know in this era watches are meant to be donned on wrists, it became common to have pocket watches placed inside the trench-pocket.

pocket watches

How a pocket watch evolved into a wristwatch

Pocket watches were inspired by clock watches. A clock watch looked like a mini clock that could be tied around the neck. Until the third decade of the 16th century, clock-watches were a common choice for the whole western populace. After a few years, clock watches were replaced by pocket watches.

The idea of straps/bracelets came from the First World War. When World War I began, pocket watches were owned by every man jack. Most of the soldiers used to keep pocket watches with them. During combat, they ought to have their hands free. Therefore, the manufacturers reorganized the structure of watches.

Scope of pocket watches in recent times

Those who are profoundly interested in classic timepieces sing praises for pocket watches even today. There are many watch enthusiasts around the world who like keeping and embracing antique timepieces; Pocket watch happens to be their topnotch favorite.

Do you remember your mobile phone 20 years ago? It was a feature phone and smartphones nowhere in the scene. No trend lasts for more than a decade, yet pocket watches remained in the limelight till the mid-1900s. From 1500 to 1900, there has been a number of advancements made to this niche of watches. Standards were ameliorated to meet the needs of the evolving time, and to keep the market enticed.

Tissot pocket watch

The trend of pocket watches started declining in the 20th century, so to say. Wristwatches completely took over thereafter.


The steampunk trend flaunted the exceptions of the Victorian era, which has pocket watches topping the list. Three-piece suits along with pocket watches were back in fashion due to the steampunk movement. Other than the fashion fraternity, commoners having a penchant for antique-collection are still big on pocket watches.

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