Skip to content

Pocket watches

Types of pocket watches

Traditionally there are two main types of pocket watch, the open-face and the hunter-case.

The open-face pocket watch

An open-faced pocket watch is one in which the case lacks a metal cover to protect the crystal. Typically, an open-faced watch has the stem located at 12:00 and the sub-second dial located at 6:00. Occasionally, a watch movement intended for a hunting case (with the stem at 3:00 and sub-second dial at 6:00) will have an open-faced case. This type of pocket watch is known as a “sidewinder”. After 1908, watches approved for railroad service were required to have open-faced cases with the winding stem at 12:00.

Link to Sir John Bennett open-faced pocket watch.
Sir John Bennett open-faced pocket watch.

The hunter case pocket watch

A hunter-case pocket watch includes a spring-hinged circular metal lid or cover, that closes over the crystal, protecting the watch from dust, damage or debris. The name originated in England where fox hunting gentlemen enjoyed the convenience of being able to open their watch and read the time with one hand, whilst holding the reins of their ‘hunter’ (horse) with the other hand. It is also known as a ‘savonnette’, after the French word for soap (savon) due to its resemblance with a round soap bar.

The majority of antique hunter-case pocket watches have the lid-hinge at the 9 o’clock position and the stem of the watch at the 3 o’clock position. The sub-seconds dial is at the 6 o’clock position as per the open-faced pocket watch.

Link to Criterion full hunter cased pocket watch.
Criterion full hunter cased pocket watch.

Additionally, the half-hunter (or demi-hunter), is a case style in which the outer lid has a glass panel or hole in the centre giving a partial view of the hands. The hours are marked on the outer lid; which means the time can be read without opening the case.

Link to Antique silver Revue half hunter pocket watch.
Half-hunter pocket watch.

Modern pocket watches

Although at Time Worn Watches we are mainly interested in antique timepieces, pocket watches have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. This is partly due to the Steampunk movement which is a science fiction sub-culture embracing the arts and fashions of the Victorian era. Additionally, this is a renewed interest in the charm and tradition of the pocket watch.

There are a couple of variations that are common on modern hunter-case pocket watches. It is not unusual for modern hunter-case pocket watches to have the hinges for the lid at the 06:00 position and the stem at 12:00 as per traditional open-face watches. Additionally, modern pocket watch types can include the double-hunter, where the front and back protective lids open.

Another common type of modern pocket watch is the skeleton.  This will have part of the dial and/or the case-back cut away to show the mechanical movement underneath. Skeleton pocket watches are quite striking and you can actually see the moving parts in action.