Antique Pocket Watches » About


This site contains materials for amateurs and collectors of old pocket watches.

It is believed that the first in the history of the pocket watch (the famous “Nuremberg egg”) were invented in 1510 by German master Peter Henlein. Although at the time no one carried watches in his pocket. They hung them on a chain that was worn around the neck. Watches had a spherical shape. So it will be more correct English term “pendant watches” or “Onion Watch”.
Nuremberg egg watch

Pocket watches are a source of pride and the ultimate dream of every person in the 16-18 centuries. These watches were used mainly as a luxury item, since the time they showed was often incorrect, because they did not have glass protecting the dial. Instead, a simple leather bag was used, where the watch was placed, and the hands, constantly hooking on this bag, were knocked down and eventually showed at the wrong time. The dial protecting glass appeared only in the 19th century, and pocket watches by this time had already ceased to be a luxury item.
A man with pocket watch
By 1600, the center for the manufacture of pocket watches moved from South Germany to France. Production focused in Paris, Blois and Lyon. Although in the 1st half of the 17th century, Geneva and London become the centers of the watch-making.
The pocket watches first models poorly showed the exact time and were generally used as expensive jewelry. Gold, silver or gold-plated steel was used for the production of the case; the case was decorated with rock crystal and precious stones or enameled.

At the beginning of the 17th century, limited to the use of opaque and translucent enamels for decorative decoration of the whole case or individual parts. In 1630, Puten’s master from Blois perfected the method of painting with paints on a white enamel background, which led to the creation of the school of enamel masters from Blois.

Masters specialized in painting with exquisite flowers or painting on spiritual subjects. The watch case was round with an oval cross-section, like a salad bowl form. The inner surface of the case was also enameled.

Most of the pocket watches began in the 17th century had a flat metal oval-shaped case with elongated lateral sides and a slightly convex lid. On the outer, and sometimes on the inner surface of the lid, a drawing on a mythological plot or allegorical figures with a revival ornament was engraved. The metal dial had a narrow circle with divisions, fixed on an engraved plate with small sides that reached the edge of the case. The watch had only one hour hand, brass or blued steel. The arrow was solid, figured, with several faces.

Already by 1600, watches of various shapes appeared – in the form of a book, a flower, a bird, and even a skull. Puritan watches were simple English watches, which differed from the fancifully decorated watches created by people from France in London in the early 17th century. The watch had a flat oval case without any ornaments with a convex cover, typical for this period. Silver or gilded brass was used to manufacture the hull.

In 1675, for a pocket watch began to use a balance-spiral. As a result, a watch became more accurate, dividing by minutes on the dial and a minute hand appeared.

When around the year 1675 a pocket watch with two cases appeared, this meant a further increase in the share of goldsmiths and “case workers” in the manufacture of watches. This second outer case, which was usually decorated with the English technique “repousse”, i.e. squeezing the most often floral and sometimes figured ornaments, had to guard the watch case along with its decorative design. Sometimes this second case was made so perfectly that the watchmaker still needed the next third case made of dyed hard leather, which was also decorated around the circumference with gold or silver pins. Instead of ordinary skin, fish skin is sometimes used for this. For this, turtle leather, ornamented with silver, or a case made of shark leather or its imitation, was highly valued.

Familiar pocket watch view: a round case with a lid, which protects the dial pocket watch on a chain (Breguet) acquired in the XVII century. It was then that was invented clockwork compact size, allowing the clock to fit in a pocket and to be carried with them every day.

But the real pocket they were only in the XVIII century. Men imposingly fetched his silver or gold pocket watch with the battle and saw the time. It was a very aristocratic and points to the solvency of their owner, because it was quite expensive to buy a pocket watch.
Henry-Capt model
It is interesting to take into account the fact that until the middle of the XIX century the majority of the pocket watch had a key that the square hole at the time of the plant was connected to the shaft of the drum, and the rest of the time was kept on a chain next to the clock.

Golg antique pocket watchIn the XIX century the fashion became a new kind of pocket watches – Hunter. Hunter watch were flat, round, with a mandatory cap, and they lived happily until today. Pocket watches are differed into “Hunter” (French version – “Savonette”) and “Lepine” – the presence or absence of the flip cover on the dial. In this classification is quite rational justification.

In the middle of the XIX century, a separate crown was replaced by the crown, and pocket watches were formed two types of mechanism: “Lepine” and “Savonette”. They are fundamentally different system remontoir. In “Lepine” winding shaft is in line with the transfer of second wheel, and it was “Savonette” perpendicular. Thus, in a classic “pickpocket” with a side second hand at “6 o’clock” crown “Lepin” should be in the upper part of the case, at the level of “12 hours”, while the “Savonette” – side, a mark “3 hours.” This difference is defined by the following factor: “Lepine” inherit pendant-timepieces past, it was protected only by glass, while “Savonette” had protective metal top cover, which made it possible to make the clock more robust and practical. Hence, in fact, it takes its name watches, which can be translated as “a piece of soap.” “Savonette” became the prototype of later watches.

Half-hunter form watch

There is another kind of case for this type of mechanism – the so-called “Half-Hunter”. It had a small window in the cover itself – it allows you to see the time without opening the watch. Protected “Gunther” were typical of German watchmaking – for example, that they were famous Glashütte workshops. French watchmakers were accustomed to delicate fragile “Lepine.”

In the mid-20s of the XVIII century in many cases they also put dustproof bags, which protected the mechanisms in the case from contamination. In the second half of the same century, the cases were partially changed, because the winding tetrahedron was moved from the dial to the base of the watch. The thickness of watches has decreased, especially watches manufactured in France, Germany, Switzerland; also changed the method of fastening the mechanism in the case. Initially, the mechanism was released from the case near the suspension (near the suspension neck). In a new way, the mechanism in the case was firmly fixed with screw clips around the base circumference.

The introduction of flat clocks in the second half of the XVIII century gradually led in the continental countries of Europe to a decrease in interest in watches with two or more cases. Double and triple cases have retained their popularity only for some time in England, which conservatively adhered to the original concept with a massive mechanism, in which local watchmakers made some of their new technical discoveries. However, since the end of the 20s of the last century, production of double and triple cases for watches ceased in England, and gradually there began to appear watches with two or three covers, which remained in this form with the most high-quality and expensive watches until our century were replaced by a wristwatch. However, the value of watches was then primarily in how artistic they were made and what material they were made of.

In addition to these methods of decorating watches, which include recently and guilloche, i.e. mechanical pattern engraving of regular wavy, round or ellipsoid lines, then the use of clear hot-drying varnish and the placement of diamonds in watches, we find in some English clocks of the late 16th century. painted cases covered with a thin transparent layer of horn-like substance. These substances were supposed to replace the enamel cases with a pattern. Finally, as the thickness of the pocket watches decreased, watchmakers began to gradually switch to the use of flat thin glasses.

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