Pocket Watch History and Information

Here at Engraved Gifts Online we supply a wide range of Pocket Watches and Fob Watches, all of which can be engraved with your own personalised message.

A pocket watch (or fob watch) is a watch that is made to be carried in a pocket, as opposed to a wristwatch.  Pocket watches were the most common type of watch from their development in the 16th century until wristwatches became popular after World War 1.  Pocket watches generally have an attached chain to allow them to be secured to a waistcoat, lapel or belt loop, and prevent them from being dropped. Watches were sometimes mounted on a short leather strap or fob, when a long chain would have been cumbersome or likely to catch on things. This fob could also provide a protective flap over their face.

A hunter-case pocket watch is the kind with a spring-hinged circular metal lid or cover, that closes over the watch-dial and crystal, protecting them from dust, scratches and other damage or debris. The majority of traditional hunter-case watches have the lid-hinges at the 9 o'clock position and the stem, crown and bow of the watch at the 3 o'clock position. Modern hunter-case pocket watches often have the hinges for the lid at the 6 o'clock position and the stem, crown and bow at the 12 o'clock position, as with open-face watches.

A full hunter pocket watch has one opening cover (the front cover).  A double hunter pocketwatch has both the front and back covers opening, normally used for skeleton mechanical pocket watches where the movement can be seen from both sides.

There is an intermediate type, known as the half-hunter pocket watch, in which the front cover has a glass panel in the centre giving a view of the hands. The hours are marked on the outer lid itself; thus with this type of case one can tell the time without opening the lid.

The watch was first created in the 16th century, initially in spherical or cylindrical cases, when the spring driven clock was invented. These watches were at first quite big and boxy and were worn around the neck. It was not for another century that it became common to wear a watch in a pocket.

Until the second half of the 18th century, watches were luxury items.  By the end of the century, however, watches (while still largely hand-made) were becoming more common; special cheap watches were made for sale to sailors, with crude but colourful paintings of maritime scenes on the dials.

Up to the 1720s, almost all watch movements were based on the verge escapement, which had been developed for large public clocks in the 14th century. This type of escapement involved a high degree of friction and did not include any kind of jewelling to protect the contacting surfaces from wear. As a result, a verge watch could rarely achieve any high standard of accuracy.  The first widely-used improvement was the cylinder escapement, developed early in the 18th century and applied by the English maker George Graham. Then, towards the end of the century, the lever escapement (invented by Thomas Mudge in 1759) was put into limited production by a handful of watch makers. With this, a domestic watch could keep time to within a minute a day. Lever watches became common after about 1820, and this type is still used in most mechanical watches today.

Broadly speaking, the French were the leading watchmakers of the 17th century, the English of the 18th and early 19th, the Americans of the later 19th and early 20th, and the Swiss thereafter.

Early watches only had an hour hand, the minute hand appearing in the late 17th century.

All of our personalised Pocket Watches and Fob Watches of course can be engraved with your own message, making the ideal personalised engraved gift for a birthday, retirement or other special occasion.

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