What You Don’t Know About the Pocket Watch

Quick History of the Pocket Watch

Just about everyone knows pocket watch. You know, it’s the watch that swings from the hip of a stylish gent. A pocket watch was completely designed to be carried in a pocket. Pocket watches were the first mobile item of technology to tell the time of the day during the 16th century. Since pocket watches were the first, they were generally built with an attached chain to be carried on a belt loop, lapel or any other place it can be hung. The components or ornaments of the pocket watch (chain and hinged metal cover to protect the face of the watch) are called the fob.

History Continues

The invention of the spring-driven clock in the 16th century is how pocket watches began a new birth. These watches were very big and bulky and worn around the neck. Not quite like Flavor Flav. These watches were a bit smaller than the infamous wall hanging Clocks that is worn around the neck of this character and the women who literally fight for his affection on the Flavor of Love series.

It wasn’t until the next century, during World War I that the pocket watch began to see competition rise to the scene. What we know today as the standard wristwatch became popular among soldiers during this historical war. Many soldiers preferred to wear a watch on their wrists as opposed to one hanging. In retrospect, it really makes more sense regarding convenience and safety. If in battle, a hanging watch can get in the way or even make a noise while in camouflage from the enemy.

Railroad Pocketwatches and the Kipton, Ohio Train Wreck

Time is of dyer importance in railroading. It’s no wonder why pocketwatches became of utmost importance during the rise of the railroads in the 19th century. All railroad employees were required to keep pocket watches to prevent any fatal train wrecks.

In 1887 standardized railroad watches were widespread following the infamous train wreck in Kipton, Ohio. An engineer’s pocket watch was unknowingly four minutes slow. The engineer proceeded on the track going east and did not pull over in time to let the local, fast-moving, passenger train going west pass. Indecently, this led to the first recorded train wreck in history. On April 18, 1887 eight people died, including both engineers.

Strict watch regulations were given a new birth and codified standards hit the scene. The American Railroad Association formalized standards for railroad grade watches in 1887 that are now followed by modern-day railroad employees. Even now, railroad employees are required to keep their watches on time. They are even subject to spot checks by a supervisor from time to time.

Vintage Pocket Watches

There is just something classy and chic about a vintage pocket watch. The look and feel of these watches is unmatchable to today’s brands and cost a mint to purchase and repair. The most expensive and complex vintage pocket watch sold at Sotheby’s for $11 million. This watch dates back to the early 1900’s and is compelled to be one of the most complicated pocket watches ever made. What makes it complicated? Designer, Patek Phillip designed the watch to include a “perpetual calendar with phases and age of the moon, indication of sunrise and sunset, and a celestial chart depicting the constellations of stars in the sky”. Some of these complicated watches took between 3 to 5 years to complete. This could explain the ‘complicated’ sticker price.

Pocket Watches for Women

Men aren’t the only beasts to dome pocket watches. Since the beginning of this creation, women adorned them too, in their own feminine way. Pocket watches for women were actually more versatile. Men primarily adorned the watch on a belt clip, but women wore them around the neck and usually tucked them in a seam on the waistline.

Today, pocket watches for women are still manufactured. Many times, these pieces are purchased as antiques and salvaged as heirlooms. Bulova carries a great line of pocket watches for women as well as many other watch manufacturers.

Modern Day Pocket Watches with Clips

Today’s pocket watches are made with that age-old regal charm. Even though technology and modern times have evolved operations, the look and feel resemble the watches of old. You can get a pocket watch that just left the assembly line yesterday and feel like it’s an heirloom from an ancestor.

Pocket clips have now surfaced the scene as sort of like the brother to the pocket watch and the modern-day pocket watch. Pocket clips are the same concept, but, with no fob and a sturdy clip to that easily clips onto just about anything. These timepieces are very useful because they clip and hang easily in an unobtrusive way. Pocket clips are becoming increasingly popular among doctors, nurses, construction workers, sports and any field who may make better use of telling time without involving the wrist.

Pocket clips make great gifts and can be personalized or imprinted with a company logo. They are also easy gifts to pass as business gifts.

Pocket Watches in Film

Throughout the decades, pocket watches have made their presence in many films. Some films depict the age and time of the popularity of the timepiece and other films embracing its eclectic appeal.

One movie stands out to me when the timepiece made its debut and became a sort of the star of the story:

In Life, starring Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy, it was the pocket watch that labeled a local sheriff as the culprit who murdered a con man in 1932. Ray Gibson (Murphy) and Claude Banks (Lawrence) were framed by the sheriff of a small hick town and wrongly accused of the murder. Ray and Claude were sentenced to ‘Life’ and tossed in a Mississippi State prison for the murder of the conman after Ray lost his pocket watch to him in a poker game and found him lifeless outside of the joint. Ray searches the con man for the pocket watch that was given to him by his late father only to find the sheriff with a host of racist hillbillies who accuse them (Ray and Claude) for the murder.

With good behavior under their belts and incarcerated for over 30 years, Ray and Claude were appointed to the prison Ward as his personal assistant. It wasn’t until then that the convicts recognize the sheriff as he twirled around the pocket that he never found on the victim during his visit to the Warden.

In Alice and Wonderland, the astute looking rabbit is followed by Alice after she sees him with a pocket watch in Wonderland.

In Gone with the Wind, Clark Gable plays Rhett Butler, the handsome rich husband (3rd husband, that is) of Scarlett Ohara, adorns a pocket watch on a three-piece suite in on of the scenes. This would be normal for this time in history. Pocket watches were still in more popularity than they are today.