Gentleman's Watches and Fobs

"We have been exactly a quarter of an hour here," said Edmund, taking out his watch. "Oh! do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch." -Mansfield Park

Gentleman's Watches in the 18th and 19th Centuries

In 1675, Charles II of England introduced long waistcoats. As this became the fashion, men's watches began to be worn in the pockets of the waistcoat instead of pendant style from the neck. In 1704, English watchmakers Facio de Duillier and P. and J. Debaufre developed a method for using jewels as bearings. Though in 1715, this practice was still rare, byabout 1725 it was common to find a fairly large diamond endstone mounted in the time piece. The most common watches of the early 1700's had pair cases in gold or silver, both of which were plain. Dials were mainly champlevé, but were slowly replaced by white enamel dials with block numbers. The earliest enamel dials were somewhat dull and pitted, but those made after 1725 they are smooth and polished. The markings on the face included bold Arabic numerals for the hours. Most of the minute markings had disappeared or made very small, and at 15-minute intervals. However, by the end of the eighteenth century the markings on the faces became much lighter and more elegant. The maker's name never appeared on the dials before 1750. By 1775, champlevé was rare. In English watches the hands were usually of the beetle and poker style, although the hour hand sometimes had a tulip pattern. The hands were usually made of black steel, although better class watches had blued hands. English watches had the hour and minute hand, while Continental watches of the same period tended to only have the hour hand. The watches were wound by opening a hinged back to reveal a second fixed bottom pierced with a winding hole to accommodate the key. By 1800, the pocket chronometer was a readily available accurate watch. With the newer, more accurate escapements, other changes occurred to timepieces. A seconds hand was added to the watches. Jewelling was more extensively used, with some extremely large jewels being placed on the visible plate. Dials were usually of white enamel. Roman and Arabic numbers were both used, but Roman numerals were more common. After 1800 dials in four-colour gold became popular. Pocket watches were all hand made works of art owned only by the wealthy until the 1840's when inexpensive machined parts became widely available. Watch fobs were worn attached to the watch chain. A fob might be a seal or merely decorative. Dandies wore large numbers of fobs. The watch key served the mechanical purpose of winding the watch but were also suspended from the watch chain and and treated decoratively.


'Gentleman's Watches' is reprinted with permission Sharon Wagoner, Curator of The Georgian Index. Visit their site for a historical tour through Regency London.

1 comment

Those rest watches are really nice. Each of them has a different way of telling the time. I prefer those rest watches that are made out of leather handle not the ones made with iron cause the once made with iron hut the skin and leave a scar. I really love watches. Thanks for this article

precious August 07, 2020

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