The Steampunk Pocket Watch: A Timeless Classic

The march of technology continues, and many people have shifted away from analog to digital watches as a result. When it comes to convenience and functionality, we can't blame you.

Digital watches are the way to go. With the advent of smartwatches, you now have a mini-computer attached to your wrist.

That said, if you're looking for a timepiece that's stylish, sophisticated, and a veritable work of art, then consider purchasing a steampunk pocket watch. These accessories transition from a night on the town to Black Rock City's Playa as fast as you can slather on some sunscreen. 

Steampunk marks the spot where the past and present collide. This concept has inspired countless gadgets, mixing elements from the past and present. With that in mind, let's take a look at the steampunk pocket watch for men and why it's an accessory that'll never go out of style. 

Wearables Now and Then

Back in 2014, when wearable computers in the form of watches first hit the market, many people had their doubts. Critics declared smartwatches the final straw in information overload. After all, what's more bothersome than Tweets on your wrist?

Nonetheless, smartwatches have now become a standard part of daily existence for many. These watches keep track of their wearer's steps, send them a constant stream of notifications, and keep them perpetually connected to the action online.

They aren't the first wearables, however. That distinction goes to the pocket watch. 

By the Middle Ages, clocks had started to transform everyday life. Over time, they replaced church bells, which sounded the hours, keeping villagers attuned with the pace of the day. Instead, individuals became increasingly dependent on timepieces. 

Peter Henlein invented the first pocket watch in 1510 in Nuremberg, Germany, around the same time Italians were also crafting miniature portable clocks. These pocket watch prototypes would end up transforming Europe.

A Matter of Time

Although we take watches for granted today, having a precise means of tracking the time revolutionized the world. It allowed scientists and astronomers to conduct time-sensitive experiments.

It permitted local officials to know when to close the polls during elections. It allowed employers to track their workers' time and punctuality. 

Owning a pocket watch became a cultural marker, one that distinguished its owner as steadfast and reliable. It represented professionalism in its most conspicuous form.

Pocket watches remained a rarefied commodity owned by the rich for centuries. Over time, advances in technology made them sleeker and more stylish. By the 18th century, watchmakers crafted jewels into bearings, elevating timepieces to the level of ornate jewelry.

World Wars and Wristwatches

By the 19th century, pocket watches were at the height of their popularity, made more affordable by advances in manufacturing that accompanied the Industrial Revolution. The transformation from the pocket watch to the wristwatch, however, was a matter of military necessity.

Although wristwatches existed before the 20th century, it took World War I to make them popular. Soldiers needed a way to quickly access the time without having to fumble around for a timepiece.

After all, accurate timekeeping was essential on the battlefield, and bombardments were too difficult to time with pocket watches. By 1939 and the start of World War II, wristwatches were a standard accessory on and off the battlefield. 

More Than a Timepiece 

Despite the transition to wristwatches, however, men throughout the 1940s and 50s still relied on pocket watches as the perfect accessory for suits. During the 1970s and 80s, when there was a resurgence in popularity of the three-piece suit, pocket watches also enjoyed a new heyday.

Today, with a renewed interest in cosplay and all things steampunk, pocket watches are back and better than ever. They've withstood the test of history, transforming into more than a timepiece along the way. Elegant, impeccably crafted, and discrete, they are considered art.

More than an accurate way of timekeeping, wearing a pocket watch and chain is a mark of distinction, worn by those with discerning taste and a sense of historical whimsy. 

Wearing such a timepiece will draw attention to you without fail. So, be prepared for well-meaning questions as well as admiration. No matter the type of event or mood, this accessory always remains the perfect choice. 

Why a Steampunk Pocket Watch for Men

A well-crafted steampunk watch enhances your personality. It shows that you're a connoisseur of fine things. It also lets people know you have an appreciation for the past.

These are one-of-a-kind pieces not easily reproduced in a factory. A great deal of effort goes into each one, making them a valuable investment.

Although much has changed since Henlein invented the first pocket watch in the 16th century, they remain a marker of wealth and class. So, when you wear one today, you imbue yourself with an air of mystery and affluence. 

Yet, despite their associations with wealth, they prove surprisingly affordable. (That can remain our little secret, though.) 

The craftsmanship and materials that go into quality pieces are of the highest standards. For example, look for one that has a coating to prevent oxidation of the materials. This coating will make it even more durable than a wristwatch. 

You should also double-check that your timepiece is waterproof. That said, many models come with a metal shield, which also helps to keep out water and dust. (You'll need it if dust bathing at Burning Man's on your bucket list.)

Since you keep it in your pocket, this also cuts down on damage to your watch. 

The combination of Victorian stylings and cutting-edge technology makes pocket watches the ultimate steampunk symbol. No wonder they're such an essential aspect of steampunk movie fare from the Wild Wild West (1999) to Van Helsing (2004).

Deconstructing the Pocket Watch

As you shop for the right timepiece for your wardrobe, you should have a firm understanding of the various components that go into a great wearable. They include the:

  • Dial
  • Case
  • Fob
  • Albert chain
  • Pendant
  • Crown
  • Stem

When you're able to identify each of these mechanisms in a pocket watch, you can have a well-informed conversation with a watchmaker or jeweler before making a purchase. So, let's dive into what each of these terms refers to. 

The Elements of a Great Pocket Watch

On the front of the watch, you'll find the dial, which displays the time. There's also the case. Made of hard, durable metal, it protects the dial and the watch's entire mechanism. Watchmakers craft cases from a variety of metals. 

They include:

  • Gold
  • Platinum
  • Silver
  • Titanium
  • Brass
  • Nickel
  • Stainless steel

The fob refers to a leather strap, ribbon, or tiny chain that holds a pocket watch. They sometimes contain decorative elements. This leather strap or ribbon attaches the pocket watch to the chain. 

An Albert chain connects a watch to a piece of clothing that you're wearing, such as trousers, a jacket, or a waistcoat. In other words, you don't need to wear a three-piece suit to sport a pocket watch. 

The pendant is the metal hook to which the chain or fob attaches, and it sits above the crown. What's the crown? The textured knob that protrudes from the case. Attached to the stem, you can pull the crown out to set the time or wind it. 

Now that you better understand the components of a pocket watch, let's talk about other considerations as you move forward with a purchase.

Antique or Modern?

Some people want to go all-in with a vintage pocket watch with plenty of history. A real antique timepiece's value comes from a variety of factors, including its condition, age, and quality and type of construction. As a result, prices can vary greatly. 

As you examine a used watch, pay special attention to the dial. Do you see any blemishes or scratches? Are there any visible missing parts or dents? 

Pocket watches are often more expensive to repair than you might imagine. So, it's essential to look for flaws and red flags upfront.

Many vintage watches also have monograms or unique engravings. These can make a watch even more valuable.

That said, you should request official appraisal papers before making any purchase. We also recommend having the watch insured post-purchase since it's an irreplaceable item. 

If you're not ready to commit to an antique timepiece or can't find one that suits your style, then consider looking at more contemporary designs. Modern pieces come in many fashionable styles and just about every shape, size, and color that you can imagine. 

If you choose to go this route, make sure that the watch you'd like to purchase is of a sturdy build. Avoid any pieces that contain plastic parts or look shoddy. 

That said, the benefits of purchasing a well-constructed modern pocket watch are many. You can rest assured the watch keeps accurate time (unlike some outdated antiques featuring obsolete technology). You won't have to settle for wear and tear from a previous owner, either. 

Quartz or Mechanical?

Besides whether to go antique or contemporary, you'll also need to weigh the quartz or mechanical question. Quartz watches contain a crystal that gets charged through vibration. The crystal, in turn, powers the battery that runs the piece. 

Mechanical watches are wind up pieces. As a result, they require more time and effort since you'll have to remember to wind them every couple of days. Since mechanical movements power it, however, it doesn't require a battery. 

That said, many people don't have the patience for them. If remembering to wind up your pocket watch regularly isn't high on your to-do list, then a quartz version remains the better option. 

Types of Pocket Watches to Consider

You'll find pocket watches in a variety of different types. They include watches that are:

  • Open-faced
  • Half hunter
  • Full hunter
  • Double hunter
  • Double half hunter

Open-faced watches don't come with a cover. This type of watch was never prevalent in the 18th or 19th centuries because of their tendency to get damaged. Many collectors today enjoy collecting them, however, for their classy look and one-step timekeeping.

Half hunter watches contain a case on the front with a glass opening in the middle half that makes it possible to tell the time without the extra step of opening the watch. They represent an excellent combination of practicality and protection. 

Full hunter timepieces contain a protective case without the window. So, to read these pieces, you must open the case. This construction protects the watch, and it allows space for artistic embellishments on the case's surface. 

Double hunter watches include protective cases on both sides of the watch. That way, you can open the front to check the dial OR open the back to observe the watch's mechanics at work. 

Finally, there's the double half hunter, which is similar to the double hunter but with one modification. Both sides of the case contain a glass window. That way, you get a sneak peek without having to open either side. 

Rocking a Pocket Watch Steampunk-Style

In the 19th century, men wore pocket watches to sophisticated events requiring formal vests. These vests included pockets perfect for storing watches. Today's man, however, doesn't often find himself in the situation of wearing a formal vest. What to do?

Pants pockets offer a fantastic alternative for your steampunk pocket watch as long as they're not too tight. (Pocket watches are good at slipping out of tight trouser pockets.) 

If your watch has a clip, you can also attach it to a belt loop. We've even seen men attach them to backpacks or portable water bottles. Innovative placement proves an excellent option, especially if you've got a watch that contains a compass. 

Ready for more steampunk inspiration? Check out my post on how to look like a steampunk man


I am an active techno nerd that loves music, E-bikes, and cool new technology and like to share my insight to help people learn about the latest in the technology world.

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