Thankfully, modern day etiquette is no longer as fussy as the 17th century, and pocket watches are now a stylish and fashionable accessory for both men and women. According to the website AskMen.com, in the Victorian era it was considered poor etiquette for a man to “publicly display his timepiece.” Apparently, it was believed to be poor form for a true gentleman to take into account the passing of time. Though fashion rules are less strict, pocket watch etiquette still exists in today’s society.
Typically, a pocket watch is a round time piece which has a short chain or ribbon attached to it. The attachment is usually referred to as a fob. According to Richard Paige of Timezone.com, the fob is part of the ritual of using a pocket watch. Paige says the attached fob can be functional or decorative, and during the Victorian era, women would take pieces of their own hair and weave them together to create a fob chain to give as a gift to their husbands.
The National Watch and Clock Museum provides extensive information regarding the history of the pocket watch. Originally, pocket watches were miniature versions of clocks designed in Italy in the 15th century. By the 17th century, many countries in Europe--namely England, France and Switzerland--were creating timepieces. Early pocket watches were said to keep poor time until the invention of the balance spring in 1675. This device provided the “minute hand” which is still seen on watches today.
In earlier times, the pocket watch was meant to be used as an accessory for the tailcoat. In the 1920s and 30s, it became more acceptable to wear the pocket watch with day or evening attire. Robert B. Dimmick, who runs the website etiquetteer.com, says the watch fob usually hangs at the other end of the watch chain. The type of clothing you are wearing generally determines the proper way to wear the watch. For example, wearing a waistcoat would mean putting the watch in a pocket on one side of the coat, looping the chain through a center buttonhole and placing the fob into another pocket. Dimmick says with jeans the watch goes into a pocket; the chain is looped through the belt loop and then clipped onto the belt loop.
According to pocketwatchcentral.com, chains are the most popular and easiest way to wear a pocket watch. Chains come in a variety of metals, lengths and designs with different types of hooks used to fasten the chain to the belt loop or a vest pocket. Leather fobs and straps are another option for attaching the pocket watch. Additionally, a leather pocket or pouch which attaches to a belt loop is another elegant way to properly wear the watch.
Today, there appears to be a lot of flexibility in the wearing of a pocket watch when wearing casual attire such as jeans. Etiquetter.com recommends that a gentleman’s jewelry be understated and not too flashy. Whether you are wearing your pocket watch with jeans or a tuxedo, less is more.