Thursday, March 28, 2013

It's About Time (part 2)

My last post touched on the history of the pocket watch. If you’re thinking of buying one for yourself, make sure you read this first.

To find a pocket watch you’ll love for years to come:  
1.      Choose a quality movement.
Even the plainest pocket watch has jewels in its mechanism. And a watch’s jewel count is a good predictor of how well it will run. Look for a watch whose movement contains at least 15 jewels (and more if possible).

2.      Choose a case type.
Pocket watch cases come in three main varieties. 

A hunter case has a lid that protects the watch face and must be flipped or screwed open to reveal the time. 
A demi-hunter case has a lid with a small circular cut-out that lets you tell time even while the case is closed. 

And with an open case watch, the crystal and watch face are always exposed to view. 

3.       Choose a case material. 
        You don’t have to be rich to own a really cool timepiece. They made vintage watch cases in a
        range of different metals, including:
·         Solid gold (10k, 14k, 18k)
·         Gold-filled or gold-plated brass.
·         Solid sterling or coin silver
·         Silver-tone nickel alloys (with names like Nickeloid, Silverine, Oresilver, and German Silver)

4.       Choose details that reflect your personal style. 
        Do you prefer Arabic or Roman numerals? A white face or a metallic one? A plain or engraved
         metal case?

Found the ultimate pocket watch? Now comes the fun part: deciding how to wear it! will show you how.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

It's About Time (Part 1)

There’s something about a pocket watch that’s a little bit magical. And that includes the history of this amazing device.

In the 16th century, most people still used the sun to gauge the hour. While there might be a clock in a public square, few private citizens owned one. Then, in 1504, German clockmaker Peter Henlein took mechanical timekeeping to the next level. He made it portable for the first time in history by inventing the pocket watch.   

For the next three hundred years, pocket watches were the ultimate status symbols. They were certainly inaccurate by today’s standards; like clocks of the period, the earliest pocket watches had to be wound twice a day with a key! Still, their intricate movements were cutting-edge technology in their day. Pocket watch cases, which jewelers crafted separately, could be miniature works of art. Only the wealthy could afford these precious yet practical objects.   

English gold filigree pocket watch, 17th century
Fast-forward to America in the late 1800s. Two events were about to transform the world of pocket watches. The first was mass production, which made them affordable for many more people. The second was a fatal Cleveland-area train wreck. The culprit: an engineer’s inaccurate watch. As a result of the crash, American railroads set the country’s first universal timekeeping standards. The improved railroad pocket watches were an instant hit, and not just with railroad employees. Many companies made them, including Elgin, Waltham, and Hamilton. With their clean, almost modern design, they are popular with watch lover and collectors alike.

American railroad pocket watch by Waltham
A vintage pocket watch is more than a piece of history or another way to tell time. It’s a fashion statement, like the cut of your jeans. And it's definitely a conversation piece 

Next Week: How to choose a vintage pocket watch and wear it with style