Out of all the time-pieces available today, pocket watches may have the most fascinating (and socially mobile) history of development. Originally a novelty item for the very-upper-class, they eventually became a mandatory working-man’s tool and a hallmark of the industrial middle class. The basic pocket-watch construction became familiar in the late 1400s, though they were more often found on a string around the neck than in the actual pocket. These first prototypes were so expensive that only dukes and monarchs could afford to have them made. Naturally, they were covered in precious metals and stones, and though decorative, they weren’t actually very useful for keeping time. Most of the early creations only included hour hands, and even those failed to be consistently accurate.
In the 1500s, European watch-makers began to perfect accurate, mobile clock mechanisms; pocket watches became lighter and more reliable, but like most personal time-pieces, they were still largely relegated to the upper class. Peter Henlein’s spring-action pocket-watch design in 1520 sparked the beginning of the pocket-watch trend, and they have remained popular right up to the present day. Throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, pocket-watches gained a minute hand, and also began to include more gears that allowed the watch to keep better time and be wound less often. Some designs even used gems like rubies as bearings inside the watch to reduce wear and tear on the metal elements.
These improvements made the pocket-watch the ideal timepiece for railroads in America, Britain, and Europe when the Industrial Revolution hit in the nineteenth century. The railroads epitomized the Western world’s new obsession with accurate time; railroads began requiring their employees to carry a certain standard of pocket-watch to ensure that schedules remained on time. In a few short years, the pocket-watch became a symbol for progress, industry, and reliable time-keeping. Ironically, the Industrial Age soon brought along new technologies, and by World War I there were many readily-available timepieces that made pocket-watches seem old-fashioned.
Despite the changing trends, pocket-watches never went entirely out of style. They have remained as a pillar of the world of watches not just because they are meaningful historically, but because they provide a sense of occasion, permanency, and dignity that many of us find appealing in today’s hectic digital world. Pocket-watches make impressive, thoughtful gifts, whether for a holiday gift or to commemorate a special occasion, and the Tick Tock Shop provides many exceptional options for you to choose from.