How to Buy an Antique Watch Fob

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How to Buy an Antique Watch Fob

Antique watch fobs are the ideal complement to an antique pocket watch. In Victorian times, these two pieces were keys to carrying a pocket watch with style and distinction, and these pieces are now highly valued by antique collectors all across the world. Finding a watch fob is an interesting task, as it can either help complete a pocket watch or start a unique collection. This guide informs potential buyers on the history of the watch fob, allowing for a better grasp of what is important to know before purchasing one of their very own. Starting with the history of fob watches and learning a bit about their style and make, buyers can understand exactly how these pieces are priced and why. Learning exactly how to wear a watch fob is also an important factor to consider with this fashionable piece.

History of Antique Watch Fobs

Portable watches first began to be seen in the 16th century, and as the years progressed, these watches began to closely resemble the modern pocket watch. As the pocket watch rose in popularity, certain styles and fashions began to influence the wearing of these timepieces. For instance, the introduction of the waistcoat in the Victorian Era led directly to the concept of storing one’s watch in the breast pocket. To make retrieving a pocket watch a simpler endeavour, the watch fob was invented. This piece usually resembled a medal or crest that would anchor the pocket watch to a waistcoat through the use of a chain or ribbon. The watch fob quickly gained in popularity and soon became a fashion statement itself, with many people turning their watch fob into a personal statement or even political allegiance. The watch fob continues to be used well into the 20th century and saw a rise in popularity on the American south.

Discover Antique Watch Fobs

The watch fob is the ideal accessory to any antique pocket watch.. The purpose of the watch fob is to not only allow for easy access to one’s timepiece whilst keeping it safe, but also to serve as a decorative ornament that should enhance the watch. The watch fob seeks to add a sense of style to an otherwise mundane item. In Victorian times watch fobs became important symbols that could identify anyone as a member of a fraternal organisation, or even serve as advertising for certain stores and brands. Today these pieces serve more of a nostalgic or sentimental nod to a bygone era, which many collectors find interesting. The watch fob also solves the problem of digging through one’s pocket to find a valued timepiece. Using a chain or ribbon, the watch fob not only secures the watch in place, but also provides easy access to the chain. For anyone who considers their pocket watch to be an important part of their wardrobe or personal style, the watch fob is a useful and stylish addition. It is important to note that antique watch fobs are considered those that are 100 years old or older, as opposed to an earlier watch fob that may actually be considered a vintage item instead.

Materials for Antique Watch Fobs

Watch fobs were made in a variety of materials, all of which provide their own unique advantages. Watch fobs were of such great variety in the Victorian Era that a good collector can find one made of almost any material. The most common examples are:



Brass and Nickel

When the connection between the watch and fob is made of leather, the most common material for a watch fob is brass or nickel. These inexpensive yet strong metals go well with the leather straps that became popular in the late Victorian Era.


Silver used for watch fobs was rarely sterling, though many antique pieces claim to be such. Instead makers often used coin silver, which was a much lower mix.


Gold fobs are extremely rare, but do exist. These fobs often bear the marking of a royal house or upper class family.


Many fobs are decorated and shaped with enamel. This glass-like material is delicate, but also produced many interesting shapes.

Types of Antique Watch Fobs

Though a great many kinds of watch fobs were produced in the Victorian Era, they can almost all be broken down into three main styles. These styles fit in with most antique pocket watches and chains.





These fobs would often bear the initials of the wearer or perhaps carry a state seal or family crest.

· Simple design that does not overwhelm the watch itself.


These fobs would carry the symbol for organisations such as unions, clubs and even military groups.

· Interesting pieces of history.


These fobs could present anything from local banks to political parties.

· Interesting historical pieces for many old fashioned organisations.

Typical Features of Antique Watch Fobs

Antique watch fobs have a number of interesting features that can appeal to a prospective buyer. Some of the most important to keep in mind are:

1.  The chain

A watch fob may also include a unique chain that matches the style of the fob. This can help create a sense of symmetry and style.

2.  Pin, free-hanging or clasp

Watch fobs often have a clasp that can attach them to a waistcoat or jacket, some can even pin into a coat. Some, on the other hand, simply hang from a pocket, serving as an easy handle to pull.

3.  Historical significance

The personalisation of watch fobs from the Victorian Era has led to many pieces having some amount of historical importance, be it from a family seal of the owner, to an organisation it once represented.

How to Wear an Antique Watch Fob

A watch fob is an interesting addition to any outfit, but learning the correct way to wear a fob is paramount. First make sure your watch fob, chain and pocket watch are all of a similar style. Some wearers also match their watch fob to their cufflinks. Place the pocket watch inside a jacket pocket and gently hang the chain out in a ‘U’ shape attaching the fob to the jacket’s pocket. This creates a simple, yet impressive look that still allows easy access to the pocket watch. There are many other ways to wear a watch fob, depending on the owner, and their outfit, as well as the pocket watch that accompanies them.

Popular Antique Watch Fob Manufacturers

The same companies that have created some of the most memorable pocket watches in the past few hundred years often produced watch fobs. Many other companies and organisations created their own watch fobs, with most being easily identified through a marking. Some of the most famous examples include:

  • George Graham
  • Elgin
  • Waltham
  • Josiah Emery
  • Ball
  • Hampden
  • Hamilton
  • Howard

Accessories and Add-ons for an Antique Watch Fob

Like anything else, the watch fob has a few interesting accessories that can help to maintain, or display it. Some of the more interesting additions are:

  • Watch chains – Similar to a watch fob, it differs in that it is made of linked metal chains.
  • Polishing cloths – Similar to cloth used to clean glasses without scratching.
  • Polish – Depending on the type of metal used for the fob.
  • Display cases – Perfect for storing unused or delicate pieces.

Finding Antique Watch Fobs on eBay

Once you determine the type of watch fob you want to purchase, visit the Jewellery and Watches  portal on eBay, click on 'Vintage & Antique Jewellery'then sub-category 'Watch Fobs' and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for Antique Watch Fobs on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for antique watch fobs.. For example, to find an antique silver watch fob, type ‘Antique Silver Watch Fob’ into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for antique solid silver pocket watches with keywords. If you can’t find the exact watch fob you want, try shopping eBay Stores..


Watch fobs are an interesting mix of historical function and charm. There are a wide range of different types and styles of watch fobs that have been crafted through the generations, and potential buyers should be aware of several factors before purchasing a watch fob. It is important to recognize what constitutes and defines an item as antique and how to recognize an antique watch fob. Being aware of the history and style of antique watch fobs can also help purchasers in gaining a better understanding of the many types of watch fobs available. Understanding the many different styles and materials are keys to finding a watch fob that is the ideal match for any watch, outfit or collection. Once you have collected this information, you can buy an antique watch fob safely and securely on eBay.

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