Pocket Watch Chain Buying Guide

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Pocket Watch Chain Buying Guide

Although pocket watches have been declining in popularity thanks to wristwatches and cellular phones having time displays on them, there are some people who like the convenience of a watch without the hassle of wearing a wristwatch or always carrying around their cell phone. As the name suggests, a pocket watch is designed to be tucked into a pocket, usually either a pants pocket or a vest pocket. A chain connects the watch to either a belt loop or buttonhole so that the wearer does not lose the watch.

When shopping for a pocket watch, prospective buyers should determine if the watch includes a pocket watch chain or not. If not, a pocket watch chain needs to be purchased separately. Pocket watch owners may also find it necessary to purchase replacement pocket watch chains or additional chains for different types of clothing. When shopping for pocket watch chains, buyers should consider several factors, including chain length, finish, and fastener type.

Brief History of the Pocket Watch

Early clocks utilised falling weights to keep track of time. In addition to the weight of early clocks, the fact that they had to remain upright to work made it impossible to make a portable version that could be carried around with an individual. Peter Henlein, a German locksmith, was the first individual to create a watch in the early 1500s. These early watches used a mainspring rather than the weight system used in early clocks, which allowed them to be shifted in any direction without losing track of the correct time. Without the weights, the time-telling devices were much lighter than a standard clock; however, they were still heavier than the modern watches seen today.

The first watches were much larger than the pocket watches and wristwatches known today and they were made of iron, which is quite heavy, so they were fitted with chains and worn around the neck or hanged from a belt. These watches also only had an hour hand, so they were extremely inaccurate.

Birth of the Pocket Watch

Watchmakers switched from iron to brass in the late 16th century, which allowed them to make smaller, lighter models that would fit into a pocket on a jacket or vest. Early pocket watches were made by hand, and many watchmakers produced ornate, custom models, so they were a luxury that only the upper class could afford.

Minute hands began appearing on pocket watches in the late 17th century, which greatly improved the pocket watch’s accuracy, but the devices remained a luxury until the 19th century when Aaron Lufkin Dennison began using interchangeable parts and developed a mass-production technique for manufacturing pocket watches. Dennison and Edward Howard, his partner, created machines that could manufacture the small parts required in a pocket watch and began making factory-made watches during the 1850s. Because factory-made watches were less expensive to produce and did not take as long to build, these new pocket watches were much less expensive than the handmade models.

Decline of the Pocket Watch’s Popularity

Although the pocket watch remained a popular method of telling time for several centuries, wristwatches became more widely used towards the end of the 19th century. Originally, they were only popular among women, who often did not have pockets in their dresses to accommodate a pocket watch; however, soldiers began using the timepieces during World War I because they were easier to wear than pocket watches. Though pocket watches never regained the popularity they experienced in their glory days, they are still used by some individuals today, and families that have antique pocket watches still pass these heirlooms down from generation to generation.

Types of Pocket Watches

Most people are familiar with the hunter style of pocket watch, which features a protective and usually decorative cover over the watch face, but there are also several other styles that are manufactured. Which style of pocket watch an individual prefers depends on his or her personal style as well as how much wear and tear the watch can endure.

Open Face Pocket Watches

As the name suggests, open face pocket watches feature an exposed face with no protective covering. The back of open-face watches is covered to protect the gears and watch mechanisms; however, the front is always exposed. This style makes it easy for individuals to pull the pocket watch from their pocket and quickly determine the time. Although this style provides improved convenience, it also leaves the face of the watch exposed, which could result in scratches or other damage if the owner is not careful with the watch.

Full Hunter Pocket Watches

This style of pocket watch features a hinged cover that keeps the watch face protected when not in use. Individuals who have full hunter pocket watches need to lift the hinged cover to see the face and determine the time. Some full-hunter watches have ornately designed or engraved covers. These covers serve to protect the face of the watch and create a unique piece of wearable art at the same time. The location of the hinge and the clasp that keeps the cover closed vary depending on when the watch was made and which watchmaker made it.

Double Hunter Pocket Watches

Some watchmakers also make a style known as the double hunter, which features a cover on the front and the back of the watch. The back cover is designed to open on a hinge system so individuals can see the inner workings of the pocket watch. This style can also be propped up on a nightstand or other surface and used as a clock when it is not being worn.

Half Hunter Pocket Watches

The term half hunter is used to denote pocket watches that have a cover over the face that has either a hole or a crystal embedded in the cover. This allows the user to determine the time even when the cover is closed. Even with the hole or crystal, the cover still provides protection to the face of the watch, but users do not need to take the time to flip the cover open to see what time it is. There is also a double half-hunter style pocket watch that has a cover over the back and a half-hunter style cover over the face of the watch. Most pocket watches that feature this style are antiques.

Pocket Watch Chains

All pocket watches, regardless of the style, have a ring at the top of the watch so that the wearer can connect it to a chain. This allows the wearer to secure the chain to a belt loop or buttonhole so that if the watch falls out of its pocket or the user drops the watch, it is not lost. There are a few different chain styles that users can choose from. Which style a user selects depends on how he or she plans to wear the watch.

Many of the chain styles are available in more than one length, so individuals who prefer a longer chain should be able to find one in just about any style. In addition to chain style and length, there are pocket watch chains made from a variety of metals, including sterling silver, gold, and brass with gold or silver overlay. Prospective buyers can see that solid gold or silver cost quite a bit more than a gold or silver-plated watch chain, but some individuals prefer to incur the additional cost to have a chain made entirely of gold or silver.

Buttonhole Chains

A buttonhole chain has a clasp on one end that connects to the ring on the top of the pocket watch and a toggle bar on the opposite end that fits into a buttonhole on a vest or jacket. The toggle is a flat metal bar that is inserted into the buttonhole and then turned so that the bar cannot slip out of the hole.

Sport Pocket Watch Chains

A sport chain has clasps on both ends of the chain. One end connects to the watch itself, while the other is secured either to a belt loop or around a button. This style is a bit more versatile than the buttonhole style chain because it can be connected to both a belt loop and a button, which means wearers can change up the configuration depending on what they are wearing.

Albert Chains

The Albert chain has increased in popularity in recent years due to its versatility. This chain features a clasp to connect the chain to the watch, a toggle bar to secure the chain and watch to a buttonhole, and a side chain complete with secondary clasp, which allows users to connect an additional device, such as a pocketknife. The double Albert features two additional side chains with clasps so that wearers can connect up to two additional items to the chain.

Shopping for Pocket Watch Chains

Prospective buyers may find a limited selection of pocket watch chains at local jewellery or watch shops; however, shopping online provides an even greater selection of chains, lengths, metals, and brands from which to choose. When browsing the selection of pocket watch chains online, shoppers should make sure to check out the selection offered on eBay. With thousands of sellers posting listings for a variety of items, shoppers are sure to find the perfect pocket watch chain on eBay.

Buying Pocket Watch Chains on eBay

If you are ready to browse through the available listings on eBay, go to the site’s home page and type "pocket watch chains&" into the search box. Once the search results load, you can browse through the listings or narrow down the search results using the various filters on the page, including price, location, and shipping options. If you only want to see a certain style of pocket watch chains or chains made from one specific metal, you could also search on that information. For example, for only Albert style chains, type "Albert pocket watch chains" into the search box.

Before making a purchasing decision, prospective buyers should review each listing carefully and view all of the photos provided by the seller to confirm that they like the chain being sold and that it meets their requirements for length, metal type, and connector type. Shoppers should also take a look at the seller’s return policy before purchasing to determine whether the item can be returned if they do not like it or it is not the right style of chain.


Pocket watches are still in use by a small subset of the population who like the elegance and old-fashioned style a pocket watch represents. Whether buying a brand new pocket watch or refitting an antique pocket watch, it may be necessary to purchase a pocket watch chain that suits the wearer’s needs and desires.

Though the style of chain and which metal finish is chosen is entirely up to the wearer’s personal preferences, most individuals choose a metal finish that matches the finish on the pocket watch. For example, individuals who have a gold or gold-tone watch usually prefer to pair the watch with a gold or gold-plated chain rather than a silver-tone chain. Buyers who are familiar with the various styles of pocket watch chains, as well as the differing lengths and metal finishes, can find the perfect pocket watch chain for themselves or others quickly and easily on eBay.

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