Which pocket watches are best?

Why use a pocket watch when you can check the time with your pocket phone? Why wear a Rolex when a smartwatch has more functionality and costs significantly less?

Luxury. Elegance. Decadence.

Pocket watches signal to the world that you understand the difference between fashion and function and choose fashion. Don’t pull out an ugly pocket watch and ruin the effect — use the Tissot Savonnette Pocket Watch. It’s made in Switzerland, comes with an equally elegant chain and is water- and scratch-resistant.

What to know before you buy a pocket watch

Types

There are a few main types of pocket watch.

  • Traditional watches are closed-faced. They are usually made from, or coated in, gold or silver. Their designs are usually flat and solid to allow for personalized engraving or come pre-engraved.
  • Railroad watches adhere to a strict set of rules that ensure perfect accuracy to avoid collision with other trains. They are open-faced, size 16 or 18, use a minimum of 17 gear bearings and are adjusted to work in temperatures between 34-100 degrees.
  • Skeleton watches proudly display their complex weave of gears. This type is commonly combined with others.
  • Unisex watches honor the feminine origins of the pocket watch by being styled for use by either sex, as opposed to the majority male-centric designs today.

Dimensions

A pocket watch has two dimensions of note: the movement and the diameter of the case.

  • “Size” in a pocket watch’s product description refers to the movement, the “engine” of the watch that moves its hands. It can be as small as 000000 or as large as 25-plus. A larger size typically makes for a more accurate watch. 
  • Diameter: The diameter of the case doesn’t need to match the movement, so this measurement depends entirely on fashion.

Power source

Pocket watches are powered either mechanically or with quartz.

  • Mechanical watches power their gears using a spring. This spring must be wound by hand roughly once every day.
  • Quartz watches use a quartz crystal and a battery. The battery sends a signal to the crystal, causing it to vibrate. This vibration is converted to an electrical signal that tells a motor to turn the gears. These watches have fewer parts than mechanical models. 

Face

Pocket watches have either closed- or open-faced designs. Until the late 1800s, closed faces were all that were made, so the watch face was best protected. A train wreck in the late 1800s — caused by the conductor’s inability to open his watch and stick to the schedule — led to the necessity of open faces for railroad watches. Today, it’s usually just a matter of style, as trains use more advanced time-keeping methods and both face types use high-durability materials.

What to look for in a quality pocket watch

Material

Beyond the face, pocket watch materials are split between the case and the gears.

  • Cases are made from metals. Stainless steel is common for its strength and affordability. Bronze, silver and gold anodized metal are also commonly used but can be expensive.
  • Gears must be made of non-magnetic metals. Otherwise, any electronic object could generate a magnetic field in the watch, causing it to stop functioning.

Style

Pocket watch styles can be split between the case and face.

  • Case styles are the most varied. Open- or close-faced, used materials, engraving and painted-on designs are the most common factors in styling.
  • Face styles are more focused. It usually comes down to the color of the face, what numerals are used and whether it’s skeleton or not.

How much you can expect to spend on a pocket watch

You can find a pocket watch for less than $20, but the most elegant designs start around $100 and can cost thousands. Reasonable pocket watches are available for $50-$100. 

Pocket watch FAQ

Do I need to wear a pocket watch on a chain?

A. Not at all, though that is the fashion. It’s also functional, letting you pull your watch out easily rather than fumbling in your pocket for it. Most pocket watches come with matching chains, making it easy to experiment with your style and needs and find what works best for you.

How do I maintain a pocket watch?

A. It’s relatively simple. Mechanical watches need winding and the gears need the occasional drop of watch oil to stay lubricated. Repairing a pocket watch is intricate and complex, done only by hobbyists or experienced (and expensive) professionals. Keep your watch well maintained to avoid the hassle of repairs.

What’s the best pocket watch to buy?

Top pocket watch 

Tissot Savonnette Pocket Watch

Tissot Savonnette Pocket Watch

What you need to know: This Swiss pocket watch is elegant and effective.

What you’ll love: It comes with a matching chain, uses quartz power and includes a battery. The watch’s exterior and chain are made from high-quality stainless steel. The face covering, or “crystal,” is made of scratch- and shatter-resistant hesalite acrylic. The watch is water-resistant to 30 meters, or just under 100 feet.

What you should consider: It’s a little on the high-cost side. The design is simple and doesn’t leave much room for engraving. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Top pocket watch for the money

Speidel Classic Brushed Satin Engravable Pocket Watch

Speidel Classic Brushed Satin Engravable Pocket Watch

What you need to know: This budget option is rife with personalization opportunities. 

What you’ll love: It’s available in black or silver exterior and black or blue interior colors. The exterior is flat and unadorned for easy personalization. Pictures can easily be added to the interior. It uses quartz power and includes a battery. It has a 30-day money back guarantee.

What you should consider: It contains nickel, a potential allergen. Some consumers were unhappy with the quality of materials used, especially on the chain, which is quick to break.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Stuhrling Original Mens Vintage Mechanical Pocket Watch

Stuhrling Original Men’s Vintage Mechanical Pocket Watch

What you need to know: This open-faced watch is stylish and functional.

What you’ll love: It’s available in a variety of colors and designs. It includes a chain. The back of the watch has a kickstand for display and easy reading. It’s mechanically powered. The proprietary Krysterna crystal material is scratch-resistant and the backing is stainless steel.

What you should consider: It needs to be wound once a day. Some gold versions had their finish worn away quickly, turning silver. Some consumers reported it to be overly delicate.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Jordan Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

 

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