Pocket watches are the quintessential vintage time-teller – at least, as far as anything wearable goes. Strapping a sundial to your wrist might seem a bit too eccentric; wearing a Greek water clock is another matter entirely.
Nearly all the mechanical genius that goes into watchmaking can trace its genesis to pocket watches. Hell, the first instance of them was way back in the 16th century, many years before Abraham Louis Breguet decided one would look nice under his cuff. They were large, bulky and often extraordinarily beautiful. Some still are.
There are still plenty of mechanical hangups left over from pocket watches too; unless it’s multi-axis, gyroscopic or on some kind of angle (Greubel Forsey suggest about 30 degrees) a tourbillon is useless in a wristwatch. That’s because, where a wristwatch tends to lie flat on your wrist, pocket watches stand upright in your pocket.
Said pocket should of course be that of a waistcoat. It just seems wrong to try rocking a railway standard timekeeper (one that was accurate enough to run whole train timetables on) without looking a little like a conductor yourself. That means that, should England Manager Gareth Southgate have stirred your sartorial need for a tailored vest of your own, you’d best start looking for a timekeeper to match.
Ebay is your best friend for sourcing a proper vintage piece. Walthams are everywhere and are very decent pieces for the very low hundreds you need to spend on one. You can also get a few vintage Hamiltons, Omegas and the like too, along with a few strange and unusual military watches, all very well priced. You’ll still pay out the nose for a vintage Patek, but what else would you expect?
Oh and as a side note, if you come across the words hunter and half-hunter, don’t imagine they were taken on a shoot. Hunter simply means it has hinged covers from and back; half-hunter just hinges at the back.
Options become far more limited if you want something new. There are some seriously cool pocket watches out there, but at the highest of the high end. Each year Patek release a handful of new versions and Vacheron Constantin’s Patrimony pocket watch is particularly stunning if you like pure classicism.
At the more modern end of the spectrum is Panerai, whose DLC-clad, skeletonised masterpiece of modern manufacturing, complete with a unique chain, is like nothing else out there. If that’s a bit OTT (it should be) Baume et Mercier’s Clifton pocket watch is a cool, asymmetrical take on the formula.
Really though, the only one that you could consider an accessory rather than an investment is Tissot. At around £400, it’s a decent enough timekeeper, with the kind of minimal design that any faux Georgian dandy can appreciate. You could of course go the other way entirely and try for Backes & Strauss’ diamond-clad, tourbillon-fitted Beau Brummell but that might be a bit more of a stretch.