The Story of Pocket Watches
After the year 2000 the main reason to carry a pocket watch was to tell time and have a pocket knife at the other end of the watch chain .This assumes that every man needs to tell time and have a pocket knife.
Some people collect gold coins as a secure investment. I submit that one is further ahead with a gold, gold filled, or silver pocket watch, which one can use every day. Some prefer paintings seen on the wall, to stocks in a vault .I prefer pocket watches in your hand to coins in a vault.
There were a few pocket watches made for the very rich before the appearance of railroad trains in the 1830s. Remember this was before automobiles, before radios, before kodak’s camera.People rode horses, used kerocene lamps instead of electricity .Ice came from an ice house, and water came from a pump outside ,where the “out house” or bathroom was.
The great train wreck at Kipton, Ohio brought in a commission whereby the 1893 General Railroad Timepiece Standards ( for pocket watches) were adopted in the United States. They were called the RAILROAD WATCH STANDARDS which were:
1.Face size 16 to 18
2. 17 jewels
3. Keep time without losing or gaining 30 seconds per week.
4. Lever set.
5.Fast or slow regulator.
6.Stem wind at the 12 o’clock position .
7. All pocket watches used plain Arabic (or Roman) numbers printed bold and black on a white dial. The hands were bold and black.
In 1893 railroad pocket watch standards were adopted by every railroad in the United States .The rest of the world soon followed. The majority of all pocket watches were open faced or with a Hunter case , which covered both sides.
The gay 1890s through the first World War of 1918 was the golden age of pocket watches .Most were produced in the United States where railroads ran to conquer the American West.
Huge pocket watch companies combined to form the American Watch Company called Waltham. Later Elgin ,Hamilton ,IIlinois , Hampton , and many other pocket watch companies produced thousands of pocket watches which became better and more valuable in gold, gold filled, and silver—all mined from the pioneering west.
Most men’s clothes at this time had a vest with at least two pockets .One for the pocket watch, one for the pocket knife and a chain through the button hole in the middle ,connecting both. All pants had a small pocket watch slit on the right side .Even ladies began to have smaller pocket watches around their necks or pinned to their collars.
What could have stopped the pocket watch bonanza?,,,,,.Wrist watches . It is said that during World War 1 in 1918 a German officer strapped a small pocket watch to this wrist with a leather strap. This arrangement freed both hands and proved to be most useful. However, as ladies were the only ones to have small pocket watches, wrist watches were viewed as “effeminate”.
By the 1920s all major American watch companies were producing some wrist watches .By 1935 over 85 percent of the watches being produced were wrist watches .In the early 30s Rolex introduced the first waterproof and self winding wrist watch .Thus , it was the wrist watch that replaced the pocket watch.
By 2015 most pocket watches were stem wound and were over 100 years old ,and were collectors items. No antique store, no jewelry shop , no watch shop even had an antique pocket watch for sale. Collectors had some, and one in five families still had their great grandfather’s watch in the bank vault. As far as the public was concerned the pocket watch had disappeared.
Never be without a pocket watch at dinner. If you take yours out to see it, the whole table will want to see it. It brings back a grand by gone era of the gay 1880s and 90s. Today almost no one has seen a pocket watch for 100 years.
Keep your pocket watch open on your bureau every day; and take it to the office, and out for dinner .Even if you have a wrist watch, you will need the beauty of your pocket watch and the utulity your pocket knife.
John Allen Franciscus