Monday, March 4, 2013

Pocket Watch Panache

These days, the most common timepiece found upon a man is the ubiquitous cell phone, occasionally a wristwatch.  However, there is an undeniable allure about a man elegantly pulling out a gently ticking pocket watch to check the time.  Even in our age of technology, the carrying of a pocket watch is not completely passé.  Pocket watches are still made, bought, and sold, though most are inevitably worn in jeans pockets, the chain attached to a belt.  While this at least keeps the ownership of such watches alive, there are far more striking ways to wear a watch.

However, I must first point out that there are various ways to correctly wear pocket watches, as scores of antique photographs prove.  Thus, I shall merely present two of the most common ways that watches are worn; I personally also find them to be two of the most polished-looking ways to sport a watch.

First, allow me to introduce the different parts of a pocket watch; if you are already familiar with such things, please forgive my pedantry.  Naturally, there is the watch itself.  Some are lidded, while others are open-faced.  If your watch has a case lid, do remember that it is never wise to snap it closed--eventually, the catch will wear out and the lid will not remain shut.  Instead, press the crown (the winding button) to release the latch, close the lid, and then release the crown to secure the latch.  Attached to the watch is the watch chain, which can come in varying lengths.  Typically, a T-bar is attached to the chain and slips through the buttonhole of the wearer's waistcoat (like the back of a tie tack).  At the end of the chain (or in the middle, if you wear the chain across the waistcoat in each pocket) is the watch fob.  A fob is really just a bit of finery used to make one's watch chain look dashed spiffy.  It can be something useful, such as a little cigar cutter; something sentimental, such as a locket; a medallion from one's club or society; a signet ring...the possibilities are endless.

The watch is always worn in the right pocket, with the face turned toward the body.  In this way, it is easy to slip one's hand into his pocket, take out the watch (nestled in his palm), and open it all in one fluid motion.  Like the older custom of taking snuff, there is a distinct art to the elegant removal of one's pocket watch; just a bit of practice makes a world of difference.

Here, in the first photograph, I am wearing my watch chain through a button above the level of my pocket, showing the fob off nicely against the waistcoat.

In the second photograph, I am wearing the T-bar of my watch chain through the buttonhole that is on level with my pocket, the watch in one pocket, the end of the chain (attached to a cigar cutter for weight) in the other.  My fob is now hanging from the middle of the watch chain, a the end of the little T-bar chain.

Like I said, there are other ways of wearing watches correctly; these are my personal preferences.  Regardless of how you wear your watch, do wear it proudly and often.  Perhaps, with the help of a few trend-setting gentlemen, the wearing of pocket watches (and waistcoats) will once again become all the rage.


  1. Replies
    1. I was fortunate--my grandfather gave it to me. The watch is an Elgin, made in 1887, and it belonged to his uncle. My grandfather used to always tell me that he remembered watching him cut his cigars with the little knife on the end of the chain. Everyone must have taken good care of it, as it is still in excellent working condition!

      However, you can find new watches in most department stores, and antique shops occasionally sell old watches that are still in working order. I shall keep my eye out for one, Caleb. :)

  2. So... how DOES one elegantly remove a pocket watch? Some tips? Perhaps a video would be in order?