13 Best Pocket Watches For the Classy Gentleman

pocket watches

Before people wore watches on their wrists, they kept them inside their pockets. Indeed, the pocket watches are a very uncommon sight today. In fact, it feels like they’re something we only see in black-and-white movies.

I’m sure you’ve read a few articles about the history of watches. But if you want to go deeper into the rabbit hole called horology, the next step is getting to know pocket watches. Read on to learn what these timekeepers were before they grew straps. 

Pocket Watch Painting
Man Holding A Watch by Maso di San Friano

History of Pocket Watches

Before, pocket watches were more than just tools. Aside from telling the time, they also told a lot about a person’s social standing. With that said, these timekeepers were regarded as gems and were passed on as heirlooms to the succeeding generations.

During the 15th century, mechanical engineering was advanced enough to produce a simple spring device. Using the mainspring, a German inventor named Peter Henlein was able to make watches that didn’t need falling weights as a power source. Thus, the birth of portable timekeepers. And it was in 1524 when Henlein started producing these watches regularly.

Pocket Watch as pendant
Pocket Watch as pendant

Early Pocket Watches were Worn as Pendants

If you’re familiar with the history of wristwatches, you would know that they were originally considered as jewellery for women. In some way, early pocket watches were also jewellery for men in the form of a necklace. They were heavy, drum-shaped, and only had an hour hand. To add to that, the watch’s movements were only held together by pins and wedges. This was the time when screws were not yet invented.

However, by the middle of the 17th century, the trend began to change. After the invention of screws, these watches started to become smaller. In fact, they became small enough to fit into pockets. Aside from the size, they started to become rounded and flattened without any sharp edges. Additionally, the watchmakers also started using glass to cover the timepiece’s face.

In line with this, Charles II of England introduced the use of waistcoats in 1675. Thus, starting the fashion rule that pocket watches should be kept inside waistcoat pockets when wearing a three-piece suit.

A Boom in the Production of Pocket Watches

In 1857, people started creating watches from standardised parts. It was also lucky that this happened during the industrial revolution. Consequently, it helped in the increase of production of pocket watches which allowed more people to buy cheap yet durable timekeepers.

How did Pocket Watches become Out of Date?

As you can see, pocket watches are uncommon nowadays. By the time World War I started, soldiers were starting to see the convenience of wearing the watches on their wrists instead of keeping them in their pockets. Obviously, it is much more efficient to read time while operating a gun when it is on your wrist.

But this trend did not stop in the military. Soon, people started swapping the chain for straps. And it wasn’t long before wristwatches became more popular than pocket watches.

Types of Pocket Watches

Like wristwatches, the pocket versions are also divided into different types. Below are the three different types of pocket watches. 

Open Face Pocket Watch
Photo by Nettletons Jewellers

1. Open Face Pocket Watches

As its name suggests, Open Face pocket watches have no metal cover to protect the dial. Meanwhile, the winding stem (a crown’s counterpart) is located at the top and a sub-second dial is located at the 6 o’clock position. This type of watch was required for railroad services due to its readability.

Omega Hunter Case Pocket Watch
Photo from Catawiki

2. Hunter Case Pocket Watches

Unlike the previous type, Hunter Case pocket watches have a spring-hinged metal cover. Its purpose is to protect the dial. Old versions of Hunter case watches had the hinges at the 9 o’clock position while the crown was at 3 o’clock. On the other hand, their modern counterparts feature the hinge at the 6 o’clock position while the crown is at 12 o’clock.

Jean Pierre Double Hunter Pocket Watch
Photo from Pocket Watches

3. Double Hunter Pocket Watches

The Double Hunter pocket watch is very similar to a Hunter Case. In fact, its only difference is the additional hinged back case. With that said, users have the luxury of viewing the mechanical movement at the back. Both sides have their hinges at 6 o’clock so the watch can stand up on its own when both sides are open.

Types of Pocket Watch’s Movements

Key Wind

The Key Wind movement is a lot similar to modern-day hand-wound ones. But the difference is that you need a key to wind and set the time. 

Key Wind Pocket Watch
Photo from pocketwatchrepair.com

Firstly, the user has to remove the caseback and insert the key in a setting that’s connected to the winding mechanism. To wind it, one simply had to turn the key a few times. The same can be said for adjusting the time. However, for some watches, you had to remove the crystal and bezel to adjust them. That’s a lot of work just to get the right time so make sure your watch is always fully-wound!

Stem Wind

Modern pocket watches feature this movement. To wind it, simply turn the crown in a clockwise manner. This is very similar to how you wind a mechanical wristwatch.

The Stem Wind movement was invented by Adrien Philippe during the middle of the 1840’s. Furthermore, it was commercialised by watchmaking giant Patek Philippe a decade later.

The Most Complicated Watch is a Pocket Watch

Did you know that the most complicated watch features a total of 57 watch complications? Indeed, the Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260 is a ground-breaking project made by only the finest watchmakers.

Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260, Pocket Watches
Photo from Vacheron Constantin

It all started when an anonymous special client commissioned Vacheron Constantin to produce one of the most complicated watches in the world. But of course, the brand won’t settle for second place. To illustrate, it features 2,826 parts, 10 patents, 31 hands, and 85 unique prototypes. And of its 57 complications, 10 are brand new to horology. These features can be classified into four different categories: astronomy, calendar, striking time, and chronograph.

With so many features, you would expect it to be larger than normal. Indeed, it measures 98mm in diameter, 50.55mm in thickness, and almost 1kg in weight. The truth is, you’ll likely keep this in your bag rather than in your pocket due to its size and weight.

Recommended Pocket Watches

One misconception you may have is that pocket watches are hard to find. Nothing is further from the truth. In fact, a number of reputable watchmakers are still producing them.

Here is a list of pocket watches from affordable choices to the expensive bunch. And from the old-school design to the modern ones.

Bulova Men’s Front Pocket Watch

1. Bulova Men’s Front Pocket Watch

Why is it good?

The Bulova Men’s Front Pocket Watch is a good blend of vintage and sporty. Its dial is white and features an old-school font. However, its features are definitely high-tech. It is powered by a quartz movement with an eight-hand chronograph which is displayed via the four sub-dials.

As for the sporty side, this pocket watch uses a brown leather strap instead of the usual silver chain. Indeed, this slight modification makes it more comfortable to use. In addition, its stainless steel case is robust enough to protect the whole watch from the elements.

Bulova Men’s Front Pocket Watch Specs:

  • Case: Stainless Steel
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Dimensions: 56mm

Tissot Bridgeport Lepine Mechanical Pocket Watch

2. Tissot Bridgeport Lepine Mechanical Pocket Watch

Why is it good?

The Tissot Bridgeport Lepine Mechanical Pocket Watch gives homage to the brand’s past. True enough, its dial is reminiscent of previous Tissot dress watches. The dial features a pearl white background. Meanwhile, the inner part of the dial bears a subtle pattern that is available in black or white. Furthermore, the Arabic numerals come in art deco font. While the hour and minute hands are coloured in striking metallic blue.

Inside, the movement used is called the ETA 6497. And like any other movement from Tissot, it is reliable, accurate, and has a power reserve of 46 hours. As a final touch, the silver chain ties the whole design together to make it as elegant as possible.

Tissot Bridgeport Lepine Mechanical Pocket Watch Specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: Mechanical
  • Dimensions: 45mm
Baume et Mercier Minute Repeater Pocket Watch
Photo from ablogtowatch.com

3. Baume et Mercier Minute Repeater Pocket Watch

Why is it good?

Released in 2015, the Baume et Mercier Minute Repeater Pocket watch was made to celebrate the brand’s 185th anniversary. While the Swiss brand is known for its mid-range luxury watches, they were not frugal with this one. In fact, the watch is made from 18K red gold.

It is common for wristwatches to draw inspiration from pocket watches. In this case, the opposite is true. This pocket watch was directly influenced by the Baume & Mercier Clifton watch collection. Indeed, the resemblance is uncanny. As if the wristwatch was stripped of its strap.

Staying true to its name, the pocket watch features a five-minute repeater. To the unacquainted, a five-minute repeater chimes the hours along with the five-minute intervals past the hour. While not commonly used today, this feature is a nice novelty to have.

At the back, it features a crystal window where you can view the movement. A nice addition for people who love admiring the complication of a watch.

Baume et Mercier Minute Repeater Pocket Watch Specs:

  • Case: 18K Red gold
  • Movement: Mechanical
  • Dimensions 50mm
Longines Equestrian 18K Gold Pocket Watch Jockey 1878
Photo from lifestyleasia.com

4. Longines Equestrian 18K Gold Pocket Watch Jockey 1878

Why is it good?

The Longines Equestrian 18K Gold Pocket Watch Jockey 1878 is a homage to the Swiss watchmaker’s passion for equestrian racing. It is an exact replica of the first-ever pocket watch with a chronograph complication that Longines ever produced. 

When it comes to aesthetics, the pocket watch’s dial is very traditional. It features slim Roman numerals as its hour markers and a minute tracker on the outer ring in Arabic numerals. Apart from that, it has a sub-dial at 6 o’clock that tells the running seconds. Looking closely, its hands come in a metallic blue hue which is a very nice touch.

What’s more? At the back of the watch is an engraved picture of a horse and an equestrian. It can be opened so that the user can admire the movement inside. Of course, the inside is just as lovely as the outside, as the bespoke movement was exclusively made for Longines.

Longines Equestrian 18K Gold Pocket Watch Jockey 1878 Specs:

  • Case: 18K rose gold
  • Movement: Mechanical
  • Dimensions: 55mm

Gotham Silver-Tone Mechanical Pocket Watch

5. Gotham Silver-Tone Mechanical Pocket Watch

Why is it good?

Among the pocket watches listed here, the Gotham Silver-Tone Mechanical Pocket Watch is one of the most elegant. It has an antique style that makes it look like a part of a lord or king’s ensemble.

Its case is made of brass with floral patterns on either side. Meanwhile, the front side features a small round window in the middle. Through this window, you can catch a glimpse of the movement and the hands. Furthermore, you can still read the time without opening the case as Roman numerals are engraved around the window. Lastly, both the front and back covers can be opened to expose a 17-jewel mechanical movement. 

Gotham Silver-Tone Mechanical Pocket Watch Specs:

  • Case: Brass
  • Movement: Mechanical
  • Dimensions: 47mm

Patek Philippe 973J Pocket Watch

6. Patek Philippe 973J Pocket Watch

Why is it good?

Patek Philippe is certainly as good with pocket watches as they are with wristwatches. Indeed, the Patek Philippe 973J Pocket Watch is living proof of that.

Like its other watches, it is made with only the finest material — 18K yellow gold. In fact, its accompanying chain is also made with the coveted metal. It also bears the brand’s signature elegant design. Case in point, its dial is white with slim Roman numerals as hour markers.

Another feature of this pocket watch is that it is not only resistant to water. It is also resistant to both humidity and dust. With this in mind, you wouldn’t have to worry about its durability and robustness.

Patek Philippe 973J Pocket Watch Specs:

  • Case: 18K Yellow Gold
  • Movement: Mechanical
  • Dimensions: 44mm
Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260, Pocket Watches
Photo from Vacheron Constantin

7. Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260

Why is it good?

A list of pocket watches would not be complete without the Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260. In fact, some might say that this is the king of all pocket watches! As mentioned above, this timekeeper currently holds the record of the most complicated watch in the world. In fact, it has a total of 57 watch complications!

Among its many features are a Gregorian perpetual calendar, leap year display, alarm functions, and star charts. Of course, these are only a small percentage of what the pocket watch can do. The only downside to having this many features is the size. The Ref. 57260 spans more than double the average pocket watch to make all its features fit in the case.

And when you thought you’ve seen it all, this watch will still manage to surprise you. Here’s another thing that will blow your mind. All of its 28,000 parts were completely hand-decorated by a single Master Watchmaker. Additionally, they used techniques like circular graining, bevelling, and “Côtes de Genève” decoration to achieve the watch’s elegance.

Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260 Specs:

  • Case: 18K White gold
  • Movement: Mechanical
  • Dimensions: 98mm

Mudder Steampunk Mechanical Skeleton Pocket Watch

8. Mudder Steampunk Mechanical Skeleton Pocket Watch

Why is it good?

If steampunk is what you want, look no further than the Mudder Steampunk Mechanical Skeleton Pocket Watch. Indeed, its design is like no other.

Diverting from the usual round case, this one comes in an octagon shape embossed with intricate details. Both the case and chain come in a black colour. Meanwhile, the hands and the movement are metallic-blue. This gives the illusion that the watch is glowing.

Despite its complicated design, the watch is very easy to use. In fact, you simply have to just pull the crown and turn it clockwise to adjust the time. The vintage aura of this pocket watch makes it a perfect fit for those who want to make a statement.

Mudder Steampunk Mechanical Skeleton Pocket Watch Specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: Mechanical
  • Dimensions: 47mm

Frederique Constant Manufacture Pocket Watch

9. Frederique Constant Manufacture Pocket Watch

Why is it good?

Swiss watch brand Frederique Constant revives tradition with their very own Manufacture Pocket Watch. Like their wristwatches, this one has an elegant style that is suited for formal events.

Under the hood, it uses the new in-house FC-700 calibre. This high-performance movement was completely manufactured in the Frederique Constant Ateliers at Plan-les-Ouates. It has a total of 18 jewels and can power the watch for up to 42 hours.

In terms of aesthetic, it boasts the brand’s signature style. Particularly, a guilloche-patterned white dial with hand-applied Roman numeral markers and black indexes. Lastly, its caseback is smooth to give users the option to make it more personal with an engraving.

Frederique Constant Manufacture Pocket Watch Specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: Mechanical
  • Dimensions: 45mm 
Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication, Pocket Watches
Photo from celebremagazine.com

10. Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication

Why is it good?

For a time, the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication was the most complicated watch in the world. That was before Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260 took the throne. Despite being usurped, this pocket watch is still a gem. Some connoisseurs even call it the Mona Lisa of watches.

It has a total of 24 watch complications. While it’s not even half of the 57260, do note that the average watch only has 2 to 3 complications. In addition, each and every part of the pocket watch was assembled by hand. The watchmakers did not use any assistance from computers. To watch enthusiasts, this makes the watch a lot more precious.

Speaking of features, it has a minute repeating clockwatch with Westminster chimes, split-seconds chronograph, perpetual calendar, and a celestial chart among others. When you turn it around, the back side features a sky chart. This is a great addition for people who love the stars. Not to mention, it also adds a lot of points for aesthetics.

Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication Specs:

  • Case: Yellow gold
  • Movement: Mechanical
  • Dimensions: 70mm
Omega Olympic Pocket Watch
Photo from omegawatches.com

11. Omega Olympic Pocket Watch 1932

Why is it good?

Omega is trusted by millions of people and organisations. There’s no doubt about that. To commemorate one of their achievements, they introduced the Omega Olympic Pocket Watch 1932. As its name suggests, it is a reissue of the pocket watches that they used during the Los Angeles 1932 Olympic Games.

What’s incredible about this reissue is that its movement is almost an exact replica of the original watch. Indeed, the new ones are equipped with movements made from the unassembled kits that were retrieved from Omega’s headquarters. These kits were said to be in storage since 1932. Of course, these components were tweaked and enhanced by master watchmakers to catch up with the times.

This watch is available in three versions — yellow gold, white gold, and red gold. Of course, all of these variants are of 18K gold. Meanwhile, the dial is made with white enamel that stays true to the 1932 design. Furthermore, the hour markers come in the form of black Arabic numerals.

At 12 o’clock, there’s a 30-minute recorder. While at 6 o’clock is a running seconds register. Lastly, the watch features a central chronograph hand and a split seconds hand.

Omega Olympic Pocket Watch 1932 specs:

  • Case: Yellow, white, and red gold
  • Movement: Mechanical
  • Dimensions: 70mm

Spovan Outdoor Waterproof Pocket Watch

12. Spovan Outdoor Waterproof Pocket Watch

Why is it good?

This one is for the sporty watch enthusiasts. Indeed, the Spovan Outdoor Waterproof Pocket Watch was made to keep up with your demands. Among the list, this is the only pocket watch that is digital.

To illustrate its usefulness, here are some of its features. Firstly, it is water-resistant up to 30 metres. Its other features are barometric pressure sensing and change indication, altimeter, weather forecasting, and thermometer. Aside from those, it can also be a reliable fishing companion. In fact, it can track six fishing places including air pressure, temperature and fishing water depth. 

The Spovan Outdoor Waterproof Pocket Watch is perfect for those who want the sophistication and class of a pocket watch but need the features of a digital watch.

Spovan Outdoor Waterproof Pocket Watch specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: Digital
  • Dimensions: 52mm
IWC Pallweber Pocket Watch
Photo from IWC.com

13. IWC Pallweber Pocket Watch

Why is it good?

To celebrate the brand’s 150th anniversary, they decided to reissue one of their most successful watches. Indeed, it is the so-called Pallweber. But now, they decided to give it a twist. Instead of a wristwatch, they made a pocket watch.

Just one look at it and you’ll see the modern and unique design of the original Pallweber. As you might have noticed, it does not contain any hands. Instead, on the dial are two windows. The top window is for telling the hour while the middle one is for the minutes.

Speaking of movement, it is fitted with one of IWC’s excellent calibres. It is hand-wound and can power the watch for up to 60 hours when fully wound.

Indeed, this watch is perfect for those who are searching for a good mix of tradition and avant-garde.

IWC Pallweber Pocket Watch specs:

  • Case: Red gold
  • Movement: Mechanical
  • Dimensions: 45mm

Final Notes

Pocket watches, despite becoming unpopular, are still nice to own. If you want to take your love for horology a step further, owning one of these gems is a nice idea. Aside from being a sophisticated statement piece, it is also a piece of history that you can put in your pocket. Don’t forget to wear a three-piece suit to match it!

 

Need a few tips on how to style your Emporio Armani watches? Head over to this guide!

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