The Definitive Guide To Pocket Watches

Pocket watches are a 'timeless' piece and a wonderful accessory; a statement of elegance and sophistication. However, despite their beautiful appearance, these timepieces aren't being put to use they way they use to be, probably because the wristwatch is more practical and has flooded the market since it was first manufactured. However, these timepieces still deserve at least a glimpse back to see where it all began.

History of Pocket Watches

Made in 16th century Europe, the first timepiece was a cross between a clock and watch. These "clock-watches" were worn by being fastened to clothing or on a chain around the neck. These heavy drum-shaped cylindrical brass boxes were several inches in diameter, featuring engravings and ornament etchings.

These watches at the time had only an hour hand and the face was not covered with glass, but usually had a hinged brass cover - done in a grill-work so it could be read without opening the cover.

Back in the day, the inner movements were made of iron or steel and held together with pins and wedges; in 1550 screws replaced these parts. The shape of the watch also began to morph and took on an interesting transformation from the square to the more rounded form called, Nuremberg eggs. This was so popular other styles began to be manufactured like; books, animals, fruit, stars, flowers, insects, crosses, and even skulls (Death's head watches).

In the 19th century the rise of railroading led to the popularity of the pocket watch. However, it also led to stick standards being enforced on the use of this timepiece. The famous train wreck on April 19, 1891 of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway in Kipton, Ohio could have been prevented if the engineers' watch hadn't stopped. This four minute lapse in time had the officials commission Webb C. Ball as their Chief Time Inspector. This man was hired to establish precision standards and a reliable timepiece inspection system for Railroad chronometers. By 1893 stringent standards were put in place regarding the pocket watch used in railroading. These railroad-grade pocket watches, as they became known as, had to meet the high standards set, in order to prevent further railroad collisions.

Types of Pocket Watches

There are two main types of pocket watches with very distinct differences.

  • Open-Face Pocket Watch; also known as the Lepine, this watch case lacks a metal cover to protect the crystal.

  • Hunter-Case Pocket Watch; the "hunter" has a spring-hinged circular metal lid or cover. This closes over the watch-dial and crystal and gives it protection from dust, scratches, damage or debris.

Types of Watch Movements

Pocket watches had different types of movements. Let's explore these options.

Key-wind, Key-set Movements

Up until the 19th century, pocket watches had a key-wind and key-set movements. The watch key was necessary to wind the watch and to set the time. This was done by either putting in the key over the winding-arbor to wind the mainspring or by putting the key onto the setting arbor (connected with the minute-wheel and turned the hands).

Stem-wind, Stem-set Movements

Invented by Adrien Philippe in 1842 and commercialized by Patek Philippe & Co. in the 1850s, the stem-wind, stem-set movement made the key-wind/key-set obsolete. Stem-wind, stem-set movements are the most common type of watch-movement found in both vintage and modern pocket watches.

Stem-wind, Lever-set Movements

This mechanism became mandatory for all railroad watches after 1908. This watch was set by opening the crystal and bezel and pulling out the setting-lever.- this was generally found at either the 10 or 2 o'clock positions on open-faced watches, and at 5:00 on hunting cased watches. Once the lever was pulled out, the crown could be turned to set the time. The lever was then pushed back in and the crystal and bezel were closed over the dial again.

Stem-wind, Pin-set Movements

This style of watch is occasionally referred to as "nail set", as the set button must be pressed using a fingernail. The small pin or knob next to the watch-stem had to be depressed before setting the time.

Pocket Watches Today

The pocket watch may seem like a thing of the past, but they can still make an impressive accessory for either fashion or functionality.

Pocket watches come in many different styles, so choosing one for yourself or someone else may be a difficult task. The first thing you should look at is what the watch is made out of. Metal watches can be crafted of brass, steel, gold or silver and others are made from plastic. Of course, the metal cased watches are going to be more expensive, but also more durable. One nice thing about the pocket watch is the case is usually decorated with different motifs to suit every personality, plus they may also be engravable. Both these options lend themselves to finding the perfect gift.

With the pocket watch usually comes a chain, if not, you should seriously consider purchasing one to match your watch. Chains not only finish off the look of the pocket watch, but also keeps them safe from a drop.

How to Wear a Pocket Watch

Has the name implies, pocket watches are made for being worn in pockets. They can be kept in a shirt pocket, a pants pocket, a vest pocket or a jacket pocket. Some coats on the market still include a special pocket with a loop specifically for the pocket watch. If your clothes don't have any loops ask seamstress to include one. Regardless of wear you wear it, always make sure the chain is securely in place.

The pocket watch has been around for ages and is a beautiful timepiece that should be worn with pride. An investment in one for yourself or as a gift will soon become a fashion piece that will make any outfit elegant and stylish.

Pocket Watch FAQs

  • What's the difference between a mechanical movement pocket watch and a quartz movement pocket watch?

    Mechanical movement pocket watches are basically wound every day or every other day to run. These affordable pocket watches for men don't use a battery but, instead, a series of springs and movements to keep time. Quartz pocket watches are battery operated.??
  • How long does a quartz pocket watch battery last?

    The battery on a quartz pocket watch usually lasts about 3 years. This can vary once you receive it depending on how long it’s been on the shelf at the manufacturer before you put it in an inexpensive mens pocket watch.??

  • How long is a pocket watch chain?

    Almost without exception, pocket watch chains are 12 inches long. Sometimes, you can get engraved pocket watches with chains of different lengths or purchase a chain of a different length separately.

  • What are some engraving ideas for a pocket watch?

    We actually did a blog post on Pocket Watch Engraving Ideas.?Visit the posting for some engraving options when you buy mens pocket watches.

  • How can I get my pocket watch repaired?

    We would always, 100% of the time, recommend bringing your pocket watch to a jeweler or watch repair shop. You can try opening the back to check if your pocket watch isn't running due to a dead battery. Even if that's the case, having a battery professionally changed is not much more expensive than buying the battery yourself at Radio Shack and inserting it into your personalized pocket watch. Plus, you don't have the inconvenience of having to change it yourself, which is a concern for those who own personalized pocket watches. If your pocket watch isn't running for some other reason, than you'll have no choice but to bring your men’s pocket watch to a professional. Either way, save yourself the trouble and bring your engraved watches for men to a pro to start with.

  • How do I set the time on my pocket watch?

    While this isn't universal, the following will apply to almost all pocket watches. You'll need to pull the stem of most engraved pocket watches out about 1/8". From there, you'll be able to rotate it to set the time in nearly all affordable engraved watches for men. Once you've done that, push it back in place.

  • I received my pocket watch and it is not running, what could be wrong with it?

     It is most likely one of 2 things. The first possible issue may be that you received one of the many personalized pocket watches with a mechanical or wind up movement. Try winding the stem on any of these pocket watches for men fully, and you'll hear it clicking. Once its wound fully, you won't be able to wind the stem any longer. The second possible problem may be that you received a pocket watch with a dead battery. If this is the case, any local jeweler should be able to replace the battery in all engravable pocket watches for a few dollars. Executive Gift Shoppe will replace a dead battery on the rare occasion someone gets one in the watch they purchase from our engraved pocket watch sale.