Pocket watches may not have the level of popularity they once did. There’s little doubt that they’ve become pretty aggressively eclipsed by the rise of wristwatches, but pocket watches are coming back into style after decades of dormancy. If you want to put together a unique professional look that will put all eyes on you, a great pocket watch is one of the best ways to tie an outfit together.
But the long lack of popularity means that general consumers aren’t often as savvy about the ins and outs of a pocket watch like they are with a more traditional wristwatch. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you’re looking for the best pocket watch. Our guide will help you know exactly what to look for.
TL;DR - 10 Best Pocket Watches:
- LYMFHCH Black Pocket Watch
- Stuhrling Special Reserve 6053.33113
- Powshop Classic Smooth Vintage Pocket Watch
- WIOR Classic Smooth Vintage Pocket Watch
- Mudder Vintage Roman Numerals Scale Quartz Pocket Watch
- ALIENWOLF Train Copper Dangle Pendant Quartz Pocket Watch
- BOSHIYA Fullmetal Alchemist Pocket Watch
- ManChDa Mechanical Roman Numerals Dial Skeleton Pocket Watch
- Gotham Men’s Silver-Tone Ultra Thin Railroad Open Face Quartz Pocket
- Charles-Hubert, Paris Mechanical Pocket
1. LYMFHCH Black Pocket Watch
A pocket watch is one of the classiest gifts you can give. While these were once a popular choice for retirement gifts, this LYMFHCH pocket watch already comes with an engraving that makes it the perfect choice for a son on their birthday, anniversary, or graduation. And with a price tag of only $10, you can give a sentimental gift without having to dig into your savings.
It makes use of a precise quartz movement that you can trust to keep the time reliably and a responsive button that makes setting the time a simple process. It also stands out from the traditional gold and silver designs that feature prominently in lieu of a black zinc alloy.
2. Stuhrling Special Reserve 6053.33113
Stuhrling has a reputation for delivering unique designs and quality movements at prices that are affordable, and that's a trend they're continuing with this pocket watch. The Special Reserve 6053.33113 is unique in quite a few ways. The most obvious is the skeleton window built right into the middle of the watch face.
The ability to see the gears turn is one of the best features you could imagine for someone who's interested in the inner workings of a watch, but just as important is the hand winding mechanism. That means that you never have to worry about a battery going bad, and it results in a design that's fully manual.
3. Powshop Classic Smooth Vintage Pocket Watch
The LYMFHCH is a great pocket watch at an affordable price, but the specificity of the engraving means it's going to have a somewhat limited audience. For the same $10 price point, you can get this Powshop pocket watch with a vintage design.
Everything from the elegant Roman numerals that mark each hour to the gleaming silver case reflect a time long past, but the precision quartz movement here is undoubtedly modern to its core.
This classic pocket watch comes with both a sturdy 14.5 inch stainless steel chain and a gift box, so it's one of the best choices you'll find if you're looking to give a special gift.
4. WIOR Classic Smooth Vintage Pocket Watch
Not quite sold on the style of the Powshop Classic? Fortunately, it's not your only choice. This pocket watch from WIOR is priced comparably, and it's equally comparable in terms of durability, performance, and aesthetics.
There's a smooth sense of polish to the case, and it employs a similarly high-quality Japanese quartz movement to keep on ticking. This pocket watch comes with a 14 inch stainless steel chain. That means that you can focus your attention on looks.
There are four styles to choose from when buying this watch - with varying color and font patterns - but all of them exude an elegance that recalls the Roaring 20s.
5. Mudder Vintage Roman Numerals Scale Quartz Pocket Watch
While every single pocket watch on our list comes with its own unique flair, none set themselves apart in terms of aesthetics as ably as the Mudder Vintage. The case itself is a work of art, with bold numerals resembling something you might find in the ancient buildings of Rome and a surrounding of thick and ornate engraving.
It's a distinct choice that minimizes the space for the clock itself but creates an incredibly bold impression. It's certainly surprising to see such a unique design on a pocket watch that retails for less than $15. It even comes with a cleaning cloth and gift case for displaying it in front of guests.
6. ALIENWOLF Train Copper Dangle Pendant Quartz Pocket Watch
Alienwolf may sound more like a company that designs accessories for gamers than a watch manufacturer, but they've created a pocket watch we simply fell in love with. Designed to look like a train watch from over a century ago, this dangle pendant pocket watch is much smaller than the traditional model, allowing it to work as either a pocket watch or a pendant if you prefer.
The steampunk engraving on the exterior is expressive and adds a unique and whimsical sense of identity to this pocket watch. And the dirt cheap price means that it's even a suitable choice to give to a loved one as a gift.
7. BOSHIYA Fullmetal Alchemist Pocket Watch
Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the most popular anime of all time, but even if you aren't acquainted with the series, this pocket watch themed off the show is at least worth your consideration. The engraved picture of a dragon on the exterior's case looks pretty cool by any measure, and you can easily pick up this pocket watch for less than $20.
You'll have three different designs to choose from, but the face features an equally cool design. The bold iconography looks great even outside of the mythology of the series, and an independent second hand allows for more precise timekeeping.
8. ManChDa Mechanical Roman Numerals Dial Skeleton Pocket Watch
There are a lot of good looking pocket watches on our list, but the most arresting may very well be this model from ManChDa. Like the Stuhrling, a skeleton window provides you with an inside look at this watch's guts, but it stands apart from that model through the bold use of contrasting colors and the dramatic design of everything from the gears themselves to the ManChDa logo have a dramatic sense of flair.
And since this is a self-winding pocket watch, you don't have to worry about your battery ever running out. And the use of acrylic instead of glass to cover the face is designed to keep you safe.
9. Gotham Men’s Silver-Tone Ultra Thin Railroad Open Face Quartz Pocket
While there are a lot of elaborate pocket watches on our list, sometimes simpler is better. This pocket watch from Gotham has taken that notion to heart. This watch is all about simplistic design, sporting bright and easy to read numbers in both standard and military time and a smooth silver face.
It might not be the most elaborate pocket watch we've ever seen, but it's easily the cleanest and most reliable. The brass case is soft enough for you to engrave a special message in it, and the watch hands themselves are simply designed but incredibly easy to adjust. It even comes with a lifetime warranty.
10. Charles-Hubert, Paris Mechanical Pocket
If you want a vintage look without having to hunt down an actual vintage pocket watch, Charles Hubert can deliver the next best thing. All of their watches are built with a keen eye towards antique sensibilities, and the Paris is no different in that regard. The mechanical movement is constructed from 17 jewels - and like many other models on our list, it features a skeleton window.
The brass design is further coated in a layer of chrome to amplify both the aesthetics and the sturdiness of this pocket watch. The Charles-Hubert Paris is also one of the few pocket watches on our list to use a Swiss movement, and the Swiss standards are the most celebrated in the world.
Pocket Watch Buyer’s Guide
We’ve written a lot of guides about the best watches in various categories here at HotRate, but pocket watches occupy something of a unique space. As a less practical choice than more traditional wristwatches, a pocket watch finds more of its value in serving as a fashion symbol than as a proper timekeeping piece. As a result, aesthetics will pay a much bigger role in what you can define as the best watch. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only factor to consider. We’ll look at the features and components below so that you can shop for the perfect pocket watch with confidence.
A Brief History of Pocket Watches
Chances are that you haven’t seen a lot of your contemporaries carry or store pocket watches, but they were the primary means of telling time for hundreds of years. Comparatively heavier watches that were worn around the neck gave way to more modestly sized watches that people could wear in their pocket. Pocket watches, once designed as an accessory for women, eventually became a part of every gentleman’s wardrobe. In 1675, waistcoats featuring pockets you could use to store or display pocket watches were introduced by King Charles II.
Once seen as luxury items only available to the best and brightest, American manufacturing made these items far more affordable in the mid 19th century. The ability to practically display time and the fact that wearers could store them in their pockets made these watches less an elegant status symbol and more a practical means of keeping time, particularly in the railroad industry (where being punctual was more than just best practice and instead a complete necessity).
Pocket watches would continue to be the best and most popular choice for keeping time until the era of World War I, when a watch you could wear on your wrist was developed as a more practical alternative to them. Today, the mechanical pocket watch is less popular, but they still find a place on store display shelves. While pocket watches are typically the purview of collectors, they’re increasingly becoming more vogue as a turn towards anachronistic fashion symbols become increasingly more popular.
For that reason, you need to ask yourself what you’ll be using your pocket watch for. Is it an elegant collectors item you plan on featuring on a display shelf, something to be worn at formal occasions, or an actual, practical alternative to a more traditional wrist watch? Once you decide that, you can much more easily narrow down your results and focus on the features that matter the most to you.
When pocket watches were first introduced, they all made use of manual winding movements. Like a wind up doll, all you do is twist a stem at the top of the watch to keep it running on manual power. This often needed to be accomplished every 24 or 48 hours. But as watches with batteries started to be developed, the mechanical pocket watch became less prevalent. A quartz movement in a watch indicates that your pocket watch is going to operate on battery power. Investing in a quartz movement watch provides you with a more reliable experience.
A quartz watch battery can usually last two years or more, and you don’t have to do anything to keep it running. A mechanical pocket watch movement needs to be continually wound, but this type of pocket watch has a more vintage quality that’s especially great for collectors and those who only want to wear their mechanical pocket watch on a special occasion. If you’re going to be using your pocket watch regularly, a quartz battery power watch is probably the best choice. Otherwise, there’s something incredibly appealing about the classical look and feel of a pocket watch with a mechanical movement.
In terms of where your movement is produced, that’s not something you need to worry too much about. Japanese and Swiss movements are both popular. And while the latter has a reputation as the best in the world, watches featuring either Japanese or Swiss movements should meet your needs.
While there are a lot of pocket watches on the market for ten bucks or less, that doesn’t mean that they’re all made to the same high-quality standards. The materials that make up your pocket watch should be one of the biggest considerations when shopping for features.
The first component you should consider is the body of the watch itself. The most common choice, as is the case with more traditional wristwatches, is stainless steel. Stainless steel is a great choice for a pocket watch design because it’s sturdy and smooth while still giving off a look of elegance. The highly polished design makes them one of the best all around materials for a case.
But modern pocket watches are just as likely to be constructed from brass. Brass isn’t quite as durable as stainless steel, but it does tend to be cheaper, and it lends a unique aesthetic to a pocket watch that you wouldn’t find with stainless steel. And the fact that it’s a softer metal means that it’s a great choice for engraving. If you want to leave a message for that special someone in your life, brass is one of the best ways to go. Many cheaper pocket watches are made from alloys. They typically split the difference between brass and stainless steel in terms of durability, but the quality of the metals the alloy is made from can have a pretty sizable impact on the durability and hardness of a watch.
You should arguably be paying even more attention to the materials that are protecting the dial of your pocket watch. After all, a cracked glass cover will leave a more dramatic impression than a scratch or two on the surface of the case. The absolute top material to look for is sapphire crystal. Sapphire crystal is incredibly hard, and it’s unlikely to crack even under the roughest of circumstances. One step down is Hardlex. Whereas sapphire crystal is very resistant to scratches and cracking, Hardlex offers top shelf cracking resistance but isn’t that resistant to scratching.
Far more common (and less expensive) than sapphire crystal is a more traditional mineral crystal cover. These will usually be enough for all but the roughest of pocket watch owners, and they’re perfectly fine for all but the most expensive pocket watches on the market. Some of the cheaper models use plastic instead of glass, and while that lends a more haphazard feel to a watch, it helps manufacturers keep prices significantly lower.
One of the main reasons that modern users keep pocket watches on their belt is that they just happen to look cool. If you want to make a statement at your party, there’s no better choice than a pocket watch. And given that wristwatches generally offer a whole lot more versatility than a pocket watch, we generally recommend that you make aesthetics your top priority.
Personal taste is going to play the biggest role here. Most pocket watches opt for a more elegant design. Gold and silver dominate the designs, and you’ll often find an off white dial accented by calligraphic markers and hands. Roman numerals are more popular in older timepieces, and many reflect the look and feel of traditional railroad watches. We personally have a fondness for mechanical skeleton dial watches since they really put the mechanical movement at the heart of the pocket watch front and center.
If you go shopping for a pocket watch, you’ll find there’s a surprising amount of variation in the types offered. But for the most part, this type of timepiece can be broken down into two categories: hunter case and open face models.
Open face models are pretty self explanatory. Typified by models like the Gotham men’s timepiece above, these have no covering for the face. Instead, they resemble a basic wristwatch with the wrist strap removed. That doesn’t mean they can’t be elaborate. Gold accompaniments and Roman numerals are still common with these types of watches. And while the lack of a cover means that the face is more prone to damage, you also don’t have to worry about ever replacing the clasp that opens or closes the pocket watch.
There’s a bit more complexity once you start factoring in hunter pocket watches. A hunter case pocket watch comes in two primary forms. A full hunter case covers the watch face completely, and you have to flip open the case to read the time. That allows for the manufacturer to include more elaborate flourishes and engravings, and these finely crafted watches are often some of the most beautiful around. Half hunter cases are pretty cool too though. They still use a protective case, but a viewing window allows you to read the time even when they’re closed.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Best Pocket Watches to Collect?
Among collectors, vintage and antique models tend to dominate the market. While there are a lot of cheaper pocket watches designed to look like collectors items, the thrill of the hobby typically involves chasing down rare and unique pieces. Mechanical skeleton pocket watch models are some of the most treasured for collectors because the skeleton dial really gives you a glimpse into the timepiece’s inner workings. But if you’re interested in collecting pocket watches, we suggest you forget what’s popular and instead pay attention to the pocket watches you find most interesting.
When Did Pocket Watches Go Out of Style?
Pocket watches were the dominant form of timepieces for centuries, but they finally got outpaced by wristwatches in the wake of World War I. The convenience that wristwatches offered made them a far more practical choice. But as watches become less a necessity and more a fashion accessory, pocket watches are coming back into style.
Are Pocket Watches Still in Style?
Slowly but surely, pocket watches are starting to come back in style. While they don’t have a whole lot of practical purpose for a lot of customers, their bespoke style and vintage appeal is making them increasingly in fashion. Investing in a pocket watch is a great way to give off your own sense of style without deviating too much from the norm.
What is the Difference Between a Half Hunter and Full Hunter Pocket Watch?
A hunter pocket watch is defined by the fact that the case can be closed to protect the face within, but the difference between half and full models is that the former provides a window that lets you read the time whenever you want, while the latter completely conceals the face of the watch when closed.
Whether you’re looking for modern white dial pocket watches for men or elaborate vintage pieces to fill out your collection, we think you’ll find something to love in our assortment of the best models. We hope you’re happy with our guide, and we encourage you to come back to HotRate whenever you’re trying to find everyday premium products without having to spend a fortune. Our digital product guides get right to the heart.If you liked our article on pocket watches, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.