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Monday, June 13, 2011

History of Pocket Watches

Pocket watches were manufactured as early as the sixteenth century. They were first worn around the neck, and were quite large, because of the size of the spring-driven mechanism, which required a cylindrical case.


By the 19th century, watches became smaller, and were commonly carried in the pocket, by both men and women. Because they were considered luxury items, only ladies and gentlemen of means could afford them, but toward the latter half of the century, with the advent of railroads, personal timepieces became more common, and grew to be an indispensable item for railroad engineers.

The first time that men wore wrist watches was about the time of WW I, when field officers wore them as a matter of convenience. Before that, wrist watches were considered a feminine item, even though women wore pocket watches around their necks just as men did, before the advent of wrist watches.

I have a ladies' watch, an heirloom from a 19th century relative. It resembles a man's pocket watch, with a gold chain for wearing around the neck. The design on the cover is feminine, but I'm guessing, from what little I learned about the wearer, that she never thought of the watch as anything other than what it was, a practical item to tell her when to take the roast from the oven.

10 comments:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Joyce,

A very interesting discussion. My husband has always been fascinated by clocks of all kinds. He inherited a fine pocket watch which had once belonged to his grandfather. I love Antiques Roadshow and they often show pocket watches and clocks which have been passed down within families. It's a nice part of our heritage.

Rebbie Macintyre said...

Thank you for another fascinating post, Joyce. Your historical research talent is formidable! I always a learn a new, interesting tidbit.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Jacqueline: I didn't know women had lage watches, like a man's pocket watch, until I saw that one of my grandmother's. I know, clocks, or timepieces of any kind, are fascinating. Thanks for stopping by.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Rebbie: Glad you stopped by. I find most of these "tidbits" while I should be writing. I put them in OneNote to use for research, or to blog about later. Thanks for the comment.

Gerri Bowen said...

That was interesting, Joyce.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I have my grandmothers watch. My Dad wanted to put it under glass so now it sits beautifully on my bookshelf. I remember seeing her with it around her neck. It is smaller than a pocket watch so I imagine it was a treasure to her. I know it is to me. :)

I saw a movie years ago about the man who supposedly built the first clocks out of wood. I think it would be so interesting to see research done on him. It's the little things that make life interesting...

Angelique Armae said...

What a great post. I don't think I've ever read one on Pocket Watches before, so I was glad to see the info.

J. H. Bográn said...

I've always loved pocket watches, also Jazz music, even fedora hats. I think I was born a few decades too late. ;-)
I tried not to mention this, but I couldn´t resist. Watches were worn around the neck? And I thought Flavor Flav was ridiculous, but he was just wearing his big neck watch retro style. Way retro. :-)

Cait London said...

Interesting. I inherited one, too, but thought that the long chain was to drape from a pocket.

WATCHZILLA said...

Great Article.