Once pocket watches were the domain of the upper classes as most were made from high carat gold. In more recent times the pocket watch was more worn by the masses, and were produced in a lower carat gold and steel and nickel plate, the latter was especially used in the Railway industry.
The first pocket watches seem to have made an appearance in the 15th century, and often worn around the neck. Being that wrist watches in the main were still some distance away, the smaller pocket watches were worn by women, sometimes called a dress watch this being popular in the 19th century, and often these would be enamelled in intricate designs or with pictures on the front and reverse, or just an engine turned pattern with any number of colours being applied. In the early years though they were not very accurate. In the 1520s Peter Henlein furthered the use of pocket watches when he brought his designs to England, being a spring wound design, and this really started the fad for a pocket watch.
The 17th and 18th century saw further development when a minute hand was added. Until then the watches tended to have a hour hand only, time was fairly irrelevant before then, being close to the nearest hour seemed to suffice. Also, the number of wheels increased allowing for less winding during the day, as up to then watches needed to be wound twice.
Then there was an invention of jewels in the movements, and this lessened the amount of wear within the movements, and the addition of very fine oil stopped watches from freezing up.
The Railways needed to issue watches to employees responsible for time keeping. The railroaders pocket watch became a standard issue across the world as obviously it was the correct timings that prevented accidents and disasters in a time when health and safety was not a priority.
Recent years the quartz movement did replace the mechanical movements and whilst pocket watch wearing did decline there has been a revival for the classic pocket watch and prices have been steadily climbing.
In particular there has been more interest in the half hunter and full hunter pocket watch. The latter was invented to protect the glass from damage, but this could be a nuisance if the wearer was on a horse and needed to look at his watch, the half hunter was then invented so the wearer could see the time through a small hole, which was glazed in the middle of the cover. Pocket watches would also be attached to chains, and from these would hang perhaps a key (for key wound watches) a fob with a seal engraved at the base, or a crest, and some may have other small charms. Also these chains were called Alberts, named after Prince Albert, and one end would have a connection clasp called a swivel, the other a T- bar, this would go through the button hole. A double would allow the wearer to place the watch in the pocket of a waistcoat, the other end for a seal, key, or possible a compass.
We have many more pocket watches in our online store at Vintage Tom so please feel free to browse our shop www.vintagetom.co.uk