How to wear an antique pocket watch

Last updated on March 23, 2022

An antique pocket watch is the perfect men’s accessory to add an element of class and sophistication to an outfit. Typically, a pocket watch would be worn with a three-piece suit in a formal setting. However, today we live in a more casual world where the opportunity to dress in formal wear is far less common than in the early 20th century. In this post, we will explore the ways in which an antique pocket watch can be worn with a range of formal and casual wear.

Single Albert, Birmingham 1897.
Single Albert, Birmingham 1897.

The three-piece suit

The three-piece suit is the ultimate in sartorial elegance and is typically worn at formal occasions, such as weddings, race days and balls. It consists of trousers, a jacket and a waistcoat where the pocket watch would typically be worn. The watch would be secured to the waistcoat by an Albert chain with a t-bar that slips through a buttonhole. The pocket watch itself sits in the waistcoat pocket. If you are right-handed, the watch should go in your left vest pocket, and vice versa. This allows you to draw the watch while leaving your dominant hand free. The three-piece suit is the traditional outfit to accessorise with an antique pocket watch.

Single Albert with drop.
Single Albert with drop.

There are two options with the Albert watch chain, a single or a double. The single has one chain, which may or may not include a drop. A drop is a short secondary chain that can be used to carry a fob. A double Albert chain consists of two joined chains each of which goes into a separate waistcoat pocket. One of the chains will secure the pocket watch and the other will carry a watch fob or another small token, which weighs down the chain and keeps it in the pocket. In addition, to watch fobs, other options could include a small pocketknife or a cigar cutter. Antique Albert chains are typically 20 to 30cm in length.

Double Albert with drop.
Double Albert with drop.

How to wear a pocket watch with jeans and a vest

It’s not every day that the opportunity arises to wear a three-piece suit. However, antique pocket watches can be worn in more casual settings. Obviously, a line has to be drawn somewhere and I, for one, would certainly never wear a pocket watch with shorts and a t-shirt. A smart addition to jeans and a jacket is a vest. The pocket watch is secured to the vest in exactly the same way as in the waistcoat of a three-piece suit.  

Double Albert watch chain, Birmingham 1898.
Double Albert watch chain, Birmingham 1898.

How to wear a pocket watch without a vest

This is not something that I would consider, but it can be done. Personally, I think it is too casual for a pocket watch minus the vest and jacket. However, there are a couple of options for securing the pocket watch to your outfit. The first is the belt bar, which has a metal clip at the end of the chain. The clip slides onto your belt which allows you to securely drop your watch into your pocket for a classic look. Typically, jeans come with 5 pockets. The watch can be placed in either of the large front pockets or into the smaller coin or watch pocket that is tucked into the left front pocket.

Harry Le Moine pocket watch.
Harry Le Moine pocket watch.

The other option is the bolt ring which has a spring-loaded bolt that opens and closes the ring. The bolt ring can be attached to a buttonhole in your shirt for a look similar to an Albert chain. Alternatively, it can be used to attach to a jacket or blazer. The bolt ring attaches to a buttonhole on your lapel and the watch slips into the pocket. However, there is another option, that can be used in any of the ways suggested above, which is a chain made of leather. This provides a more casual and modern look.

Author, Jason. Time Worn Watches.

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