The History of the Pocket Watch

by Gregory Burton

Did you know that the pocket watch has been a symbol of affluence from as early as the 16th century? Even today, the pocket watch still offers a certain level of class and prestige and are highly sought after by distinguished gentlemen and ladies worldwide. Learn more about the history of the pocket watch and how it has become such an integral part of fashion over the decades.

The First Pocket Watch

The first pocket watch was invented by a German watchmaker named Peter Henlein in 1510. By utilizing the recent advancements in mainsprings, Peter was able to create a smaller watch design that was not possible before. This first model was much smaller than any other timepieces and was compact enough to be worn. However, it was not yet worn inside the pocket at this time, but rather as a pendant on a chain around the neck. In fact, the first models were rather awkward and boxy in shape and did not fit inside a pocket. It wasn’t until after it was redesigned in the 17th century that the watch would be technically called the “pocket watch”.

Height of Popularity

The “pocket watch” was coined by Charles II of England who introduced us to waistcoats and started placing the watch inside his pocket. And soon enough the pocket watch was considered a status piece in Europe and as far as North America. Nearly every esteemed gentleman either owned or wanted their own pocket watch during this time. The popularity of the watch rose even more in the 18th century when they started to include more elaborate features such as intricate designs with diamonds and jewels. This made the pocket watch quite an expensive luxury item that was only afforded by the elite.

The Decline and Resurgence

As standardized watch parts were produced in the 1800s, the pocket watch would finally become available to the general public. As you can imagine, they were very popular for decades. It wasn’t until wristwatches entered the market during the war that the pocket watch would start to lose its popularity. But it didn’t last long. It made a serious comeback in the 1950s and 1970s when three-piece suits came back into fashion.

Although the smartphone has replaced most watches today, the pocket watch is still seen as a status piece that has never lost its prized reputation.

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