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Pocket Watches

Updated on August 9, 2009

The pocket watch has always been an accessory of the wealthy and sophisticated.  When pocket watches were first invented back in the late sixteenth century, they were very expensive and only the wealthiest individuals could have them.  Today, when they are more affordable, a pocket watch is a symbol of class and sophistication.  Pocket watches are often given as gifts for big lifetime achievements like retirement, graduation, significant birthdays, or when a man becomes a father.  To make the event even more memorable people often have pocket watches engraved with some sentiment or date to commemorate the achievement.  Fathers often hand down antique pocket watches that have been in their families for generations as their sons come of age.  The pocket watch is primarily for men.  Nevertheless, men’s pocket watches have not always been the only variety.  Once upon a time, women carried pocket watches as well and many vintage pocket watches are passed down the women of a family.  Another common occasion where pocket watches are given as gifts is at a wedding.  Pocket watches for groomsmen can complete the look of the men that stand up for the groom on his wedding day.

There are two main types of pocket watches and they are called the hunter style and the open faced style.  The hunter pocket watch has a case that protects the face of the watch.  This case flips open and provides an excellent surface for decorating or engraving.  Pocket watch manufacturers often engrave designs or put jewels on the case of a hunter pocket watch.  By contrast, the open faced pocket watch has no case and is exposed.  Both kinds of timepieces are usually attached to a chain.  When they were first invented, this chain was used to wear the watch around the neck.  Later, the chain was used to loop through a belt loop or around a shirt button so the watch could be stored in a waistcoat pocket.  Pocket watches were at their height in the mid nineteenth century.  One reason they became so popular was the American Railroad Association that insisted that every engineer and train operator wear a pocket watch kept at the correct time to ensure no train accidents occurred.  The popularity of the pocket timepiece died out with the introduction of the wristwatch in early twentieth century.

If you are looking for pocket watches for sale today then you have two options. You can purchase a pocket watch that was made recently that has the antique look or one that is more modern. Alternatively, you can actually look for a truly vintage pocket watch. Of course, the antiques will cost more in general but you will also be purchasing a little piece of history. Pocket watches were one of the first items mass produced in the United States and helped to usher in the Industrial Revolution.

A good modern choice is a Swiss Army pocket watch. These watches are still round like an antique watch and they have a chain, but they are usually silver which is a much more durable metal than gold. Gold is a soft metal that scratches and dents easily so it really is not a good choice for a pocket watch that you plan to use on a daily basis. Another modern manufacturer is Colibri. Colibri pocket watches are beautiful timepieces. Colibri is best known for their lighters and cigarette and cigar accessories but they also have a line of jewelry that includes pocket watches.

Three rather well known antique pocket watches are Hamilton, Elgin, and Waltham. All three of these companies were founded in the mid to late nineteenth century. Hamilton pocket watches are particularly valuable if they were made before 1920. The Hamilton Pocket Watch Company stopped making these timepieces in 1969. There is still a company with the Elgin name but this is not the same company that made the antique pocket watches that collectors are looking for. If the pocket watch you possess is a true vintage Elgin then it will have a serial number printed on the movement. The same goes for Waltham pocket watches. There are websites where you can enter the Elgin or Waltham serial number and it will give you information about when the watch was made and how valuable it is. An Elgin or Waltham pocket watch that works and is in good condition can sell for $3,500 or more.


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