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Best Pocket Watches That Are Timeless Classics

A pocket watch is a cool, yet subtle way to demonstrate both sophistication and style.

Beyond simply making a statement, a fine pocket watch should be made from quality material, have a crystal that won’t easily scratch, all while accurately keeping time.

Not only will we review some of the most popular and highly sought after pocket watches currently on the market, but we will also go over a few key considerations that you should think about before making a purchase, essential care instructions so your pocket watch will look beautiful for years, along with answering a few common questions many men had when it comes to finding the perfect pocket watch for them.

Let’s get started:

Tl;dr – The Best Pocket Watches

Pocket WatchBest For
Tissot Savonnette Pocket WatchOverall
Hamilton 992B Railroad Pocket WatchVintage Pocket Watch
Stuhrling Vintage Mechanical Pocket WatchGift Giving
Charles-Hubert Pocket WatchSkeleton Design

5 Tips for Buying a Pocket Watch

When buying a pocket watch, consider the following:

1. Case Material

You will find that pocket watch cases are commonly made from any of the following metals: stainless steel, titanium, gold, silver, and more.

If you are looking for a pocket watch that appreciates in value, then those relying on classic metals such as gold or silver will be a safe investment. If you want a durable pocket watch, consider a hard metal such as stainless steel or titanium.

2. Watch Crystal

Watch crystals (sometimes referred to as the window or lens) come in three primary varieties.  Here’s what you need to know about each:

  • Sapphire: One of the hardest minerals according to the Mohs scale (9 out of 10), a sapphire window will resist scratches and scuffs. Sapphire is a luxury crystal only found in pocket watches that cost several hundred dollars. If you are looking for an heirloom piece that will retain its window clarity for years – go with sapphire.
  • Mineral Glass: Found in moderately priced pocket watches, mineral glass is affordable and can resist most scuffs and scratches.
  • Acrylic: This material should be avoided as it can get scratched rather easily. The only instance where an acrylic window may make sense is with costume or novelty pocket watches. 

3. Open Face vs. Hunter Case (Closed Case)

Pocket watches come with two different case types – open face and hunter case.

Open Face: This pocket watch has no protective cover over the crystal – making it much easier to see the time at a quick glance. The open-face design was popularized by the trainmen of the late 1800s and early 1900s as they could track the time of the inbound and outbound trains in an efficient manner.

Hunter Case: This case originated in England and was used by men during famous fox chases. The hunter case provides protection of the crystal and must be pressed along the side in order to be opened like a clamshell. The hunter case is available in two varieties: full and half hunter. 

4. Brands

Here are a few of the widely recognized brands that have or still do make pocket watches:

CompanyFoundedLocationCountry
Elgin1863Elgin, ILUSA
Danbury1969Norwalk, CTUSA
Geneva1974New York, NYUSA
Waltham1850Waltham, MAUSA
Patek Philippe1839Plan-les-OuatesSwitzerland
Tissot1853Le LocleSwitzerland
Bulova1875New York, NYUSA
Hamilton1892Lancaster, PAUSA

5. Jewels

When reviewing pocket watches, particularly antique ones, you will often see the mention of the number of jewels on the pocket watch – usually either 17 or 26 jewels.

While it may sound both elegant and expensive, the jewels within pocket watches are there to serve a functional purpose in reducing friction between the movement mechanisms in mechanical watches (source). They carry with them no additional value for the pocket watch itself. The only exception to this would be pocket watches made in the 1800s.

Nearly all modern pocket watches use synthetic ruby or sapphire, whereas old antique pocket watches may (but not always) use real ruby, diamond, or garnet.

Best Pocket Watches Reviewed

1. Best Overall: Tissot Savonnette Pocket Watch

Swiss watchmaker Tissot is one of the few highly regarded modern watch companies that still make a pocket watches.  Unlike so many that have streamlined their product catalog, Tissot offers a variety of pocket watches including this Savonnette pocket watch.

What makes the Savonnette so special is that it effortlessly balances between both being an affordable pocket watch while still carrying on the Tissot legacy.

The compromises made in this pocket watch include the reliance on a mineral crystal and a Swiss quartz movement.

These compromises make for a much more affordable price tag that is well within reach for many.

With a 48.5 mm round case design, it should fill out your palm nicely while also carrying a bit of heft.  Made from stainless steel, the watch will naturally resist water and never have rust build up along the edges – making it a potential pocket watch to pass down from one generation to the next (although quartz still hasn’t proven itself given that it’s a rather new invention).

One unique feature within this pocket watch has to do with the face.  With roman numeral markings along with a date view at the 6 o’clock mark, you should have all the critical information at just a glance.

While the mineral crystal isn’t nearly as hard as sapphire found in some of the higher-end watches available, the hunter case will fully protect the window when not in use.

Overall it’s a great value and great quality, especially from Tissot.

Type: Swiss quartz

Pros

  • Beautiful Swiss made time piece
  • Affordable considering the craftsmanship
  • Hunter case offers added protection

Cons

  • Compromises on both crystal and movement

What You Need To Know

If you are looking for a nice pocket watch but don’t want to spend a fortune, this is one of the best modern offerings out there. The Swiss craftsmanship is second to none.

2. Best As A Family Heirloom: Hamilton 992B Railroad Pocket Watch

The Hamilton 992B was one of the most popular brands of watches used by the trainmen in the early-to-mid 20th century.

Made in Lancaster, PA by the Hamilton Watch Company, it truly is a remarkable timekeeping piece.

While the 992B pictured above is by far one of their most notable models, Hamilton made a variety of other pocket watches which include the following:

While their roots were once based here in the United States, they are now part of Swatch (you can learn more about their history here).

But back to the Hamilton 992B and what makes it so special.

Most notably, the American craftsmanship.  Widely considered to be among the finest jewelry that this country has ever produced, the Hamilton 992B Railway Special gave the watch owner a clear and easy-to-read view of the time.

But what makes this watch even more special is when the back case is removed.  There you can see an intricate view of the inner workings of how this pocket watch operates.

Needless to say, it worked well for the trainmen at that time.

Of course, with the adoption of the wristwatch, the Hamilton 992B eventually fell out of style.

If you want to learn more about the history of this unique pocket watch, we recommend checking out this page – it was by far the greatest resource we came across when learning about the Hamilton 992B.

When searching sites like eBay, you can routinely find this watch still available for a few hundred dollars (prices naturally vary greatly depending on both watch condition and time of year).

While absent of any sort of waterproof protection or sapphire window, it is a beautiful watch that deserves to be passed down from one generation to the next.

Type: Mechanical hand-wind

Pros

  • Rich in history and accurate time keeping
  • Elegant design showcases fine American craftsmanship
  • Mechanical design will work for generations
  • Great choice if buying for a pocket watch collection

Cons

  • Must be serviced regularly at a jewelry store
  • Lack of any hunter case exposes the mineral window
  • Watch chain must often be purchased separately

What You Need To Know

If you want a family heirloom pocket watch, the Hamilton 992B is rich with history, especially if you live in the USA. It’s one of the last great pocket watches ever made.

3. Best For Gift Giving: Stuhrling Vintage Mechanical Pocket Watch

If you’re looking for a classic vintage pocket watch to keep you on time, then the Stuhrling watch may be what you are looking for. Featuring a skeleton dial and roman numerals around the edges, it is a beautiful watch.

Whether you are giving it as a gift or simply buying it for yourself, the 23K gold presents itself incredibly well.

To help keep the cost much lower, Stuhrling relies on their own proprietary Krysterna crystal on both the front and backside of the watch.

While absent of any traditional hunter case (so you will have to be careful), the crystal should still be strong enough to resist some surface scratches and scuffs.

Given that this is a mechanical pocket watch, it doesn’t rely on a battery and will need to be wound about once a day.

Type: Mechanical hand-wind

Pros

  • Glass front and back allow you to see the interworkings
  • Roman numeral dial gives it a vintage feel
  • 23K gold case is beautiful
  • One of the best watches under $100

Cons

  • Great for formal use, but perhaps not as a heirloom

What You Need To Know

If you are looking for a new pocket watch that is elegant and antique-looking, then the Sturhling makes a great choice. This mechanical skeleton pocket watch is both affordable and beautiful – makes as a great gift.

4. Best Skeleton Design: Charles-Hubert Pocket Watch (Classic Collection)

The Charles-Hubert Paris pocket watch is similar to the Stuhrling, though perhaps a bit more ornate. It features a skeleton face and a small inner dial. The back is also clear, allowing you to view all the elegant and intricate gears as the watch keeps time.

This classic railroad-style watch has an open face design which allows you to easily check the time in an efficient manner.  Made from brass, this watch is incredibly durable.

In addition to the watch, Charles-Hubert does also includes a steel chain with a clip (not pictured) and a navy blue and black gift box.

While the movement of this watch is listed as Swiss Automatic, it is a classic mechanical pocket watch that must be hand-wound daily.

As is the case with all watches from the Classic Collection, Charles-Hubert offers a lifetime warranty on the movement of the watch.

Customers love how heavy this watch is in their hand. It’s got a nice feel to it; but is not too heavy that it weighs down your pocket.

Type: Mechanical hand-wind

Pros

  • Skeleton dial provides view access of the inner workings
  • Movement backed by a lifetime warranty
  • Beautiful blue dials contrast nicely against the gears

Cons

  • Made from brass and may tarnish over time

What You Need To Know

The perfect pocket watch from the Classic Collection beautifully showcases Charles-Hubert’s craftsmanship. The skeletal dial is a conversation starter and one that you will want to keep looking at.

5. Best Digital: findTime Digital Pocket Watch

This pocket watch is an interesting piece because instead of the standard analog dial, it is a digital pocket watch. This allows the pocket watch to have numerous other functions like a barometer, thermometer, and even an altimeter. Essentially, if you find yourself outdoors often and want a few more functions rather than simple timekeeping, then this digital pocket watch is a great choice.

With a built in water-resistance of 30M (100′), it can withstand getting wet without losing complete functionality.

To further lend to the ruggedness of this digital pocket watch, it relies a on thick and smooth silver chrome case that will fit well into the palm of your hand.

Unlike other pocket watches that are clad with a stainless steel chain, this pocket watch relies on a synthetic necklace.

Given that it’s made from a metal alloy rather than something a bit more lightweight, many men have said that it is a bit heavy.

If you aren’t completely sold on the one dimension of a pocket watch and are looking for greater value in the form of additional functionality, then this digital pocket watch is a great selection.

Type: Digital

Pros

  • Highly functional digital pocket watch
  • Made from a smooth chrome case giving it added ruggedness
  • Water resistant body should do well when outdoors

Cons

  • It’s a bit heavy when compared to others

What You Need To Know

If you find yourself outdoors often and want a functional time-keeping piece that is also a barometer, thermometer, and even an altimeter, then this digital pocket watch is a great pick. Perfect for men who love Swiss-army type products, this watch does a bit of everything.

6. SIBOSUN Antique Skeleton Mechanical Pocket Watch

Fully embracing both the mechanical and skeleton design, this pocket watch by SIBOSUN is the ultimate conversation starter when it comes to pocket watches.

Completely transparent on both the front and back, it gives you an inside look through the skeleton dial as to how a pocket watch truly works.

Unlike so many other pocket watches priced under $200, this pocket watch relies on mechanical movement that must be wound daily (about 10 to 15 times) in order to keep accurate time.

Rather than having a hunter case like many others, this pocket watch is an open case – evoking the same style as the classic railroad pocket watches (almost touching on steampunk design as well).

However, it’s not without its faults.

Most notably will be the time markings.

Unlike railroad pocket watches and even those prior to the 19th century, this pocket watch has very minimal time markings on the face.

Given that it’s fully skeleton dial, the simple line-markings rather than Roman Numerals or Arabic numbers will slow down its efficiency when checking the time.

Another compromise on the design is the crystal.

It’s made from acrylic.

Making this a costume purchase rather than an heirloom piece that you can pass down to future generations.

Flaws aside, it still is a great little pocket watch that is affordably priced.  The mechanical skeleton design is great for those looking to get their very first pocket watch.

Type: Mechanical hand-wind

Pros

  • This skeleton dial provides one of the best unobstructed views of the gears at work
  • The open face design on both the front and back is rarely found in pocket watches
  • Great pick for the money
  • Borders on steampunk design

Cons

  • Acrylic crystal makes this ideal for casual use

What You Need To Know

If you want a skeleton pocket watch yet don’t want to put out several hundred dollars, then this watch is a great alternative.

7. Best Steampunk Design: Steampunk Pocket Watch

Like the dragon pocket watch we reviewed, this is another one with roman numerals and an interesting color palette. However, instead of browns and golds, this one is black and blue. The case is intricately designed with swirls and gears evoking a steampunk style that will be sure to turn a few heads.

It comes with a long chain with a clip, so you can safely store it in your pocket without fear of it coming loose.

It uses mechanical movement to remain precise for several hours between winding, making it great for those that want that antique feel.

If you are doing a bit of cosplay or you simply love the steampunk style that is found in so many video games like Final Fantasy or Cyberpunk, it does a great job at blending those lines.

Type: Mechanical hand-wind

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Great for casual use
  • Steampunk design will generate conversations

Cons

  • Compromising components

What You Need To Know

This is the perfect steampunk pocket watch. With a mix of both modern and antique design aesthetics, it functions well as a casual time-keeping piece.

8. Carrie Hughes Mechanical Skeleton Pocket Watch

This handsomely crafted watch has got to be one of the most intricate watches on this list. The case is phenomenal; it features a carving of a Chinese lung dragon alongside a fiery phoenix, all surrounded by clouds engraved in an Oriental style.

Where there is no metal, the watch can be seen clearly underneath, and when you open it up, a fantastic gold and brown color scheme makes for a beautiful frame around the golden gears that make this watch run.

The hands are very fine, with the hour hand being more ornate than the minute hand. Roman numerals in a deep rose gold decorate the outside, set upon what appears to be wood.

This is an ideal gift for yourself or someone you love; it’s positively phenomenal and incredibly cheap.

Type: Mechanical hand-wind

Pros

  • Great costume or casual pocket watch that will strike a conversation
  • Mechanical movement
  • Cheap price

Cons

  • Highly compromising components allow for a lower price

What You Need To Know

The unique hunter-style case features a dragon and phoenix that will be sure to start a conversation or two. At an affordable price, it makes for a great casual piece.

9. Mudder Vintage Pocket Watch

Protected behind a hunter case, the Mudder vintage pocket watch is the perfect little costume companion to take with you when outdoors.

While sure, it’s a quartz pocket watch that has an acrylic crystal, it functions well for simply keeping time.

With the oversized Arabic numbers coupled with the larger hour, minute, and second hands, you can easily get the precise time when simply flipping this case open.

Whether you are purchasing this as a conversation starter, costume design, or as a unique gift, it presents extremely well given the price.

Type: Japanese Quartz

Pros

  • Vintage-inspired look gives it a antique and classic style
  • Affordable
  • Hunter case protects the fragile crystal

Cons

  • It’s not an heirloom piece like others reviewed

What You Need To Know

If you want a simple quartz movement pocket watch that will complement your style, then this pocket watch by Mudder makes a fine choice.

About Adam

As the lead editor of Tools of Men, Adam is an expert in all things men's grooming and style. When you don't find him reading up on the latest style trends, he likes to go jogging, attempt to distinguish the differences between IPAs, and play sports with his kids.

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