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Unstrapped: 10 Best Pocket Watches

We’re guilty of falling into the trap of referring to watches or timepieces of any sort that predate digital clocks and smartphones as being purely utilitarian. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Watches were and always have been as much about men’s fashion and style as they have been about the practical need to know what time it is. Anyone who doubts as much need only look at the history of the pocket watch.

First introduced in the 16th century, pocket watches – or what would become the pocket watch – were more smallish clocks than anything else. They were often styled to be worn on clothing or around a person’s neck, were largish in diameter, and featured wild decorations. It wasn’t until the popularization of the waistcoat by Charles the II in the early 1600s that consumers started to abandon their large, goofy watches and begin looking for thinner, rounder timepieces that they could put in their pockets. For the next 300 years, watches mostly remained in the pockets. And as the style stood static, interior movements, time-keeping mechanisms, and affordability were what began to improve. It wasn’t really until WWI that pocket watches began to fall out of style. Soldiers who fought in the trenches took to strapping their pocket watches to their wrists – a fashion that women had taken to doing some time before. When they came back home, they brought the new style with it.

Pocket watches never really recovered after WWI. The image of a soldier with a watch on his wrist became domesticated, normalized, and incredibly popular. Even James Bond’s watches were worn on the wrist. As a result – you simply won’t find many pocket watches on the market anymore. Here and there you’ll come across a few affordable ones from brands you, nor anyone else, has heard of. For the most part though, this antiquated style has been kept afloat by legacy Swiss watch brands who use the pocket watch as a showcase for their most wild and limited movements. And their price? Shockingly expensive even for the watch world. For those who are looking to actually buy themselves a pocket watch to use, we’d almost rather suggest you look to buy vintage watches rather than any of the below. But if you’re looking to see what the best of the best look like when it comes to pocket watches, we’ve got you covered here in our rundown of the top pocket watches on the market today.

Bulova Men’s Pocket Watch

If you’re looking for a solid, reliable, and accurate pocket watch that is (relatively) more affordable than others on the market – this pick from Bulova is well worth consideration. It features a large face, and a stainless steel case with clasp that covers up the monochromatic dial. That dial displays Arabic numerals, a date window, and three hands that are driven by a Quartz movement.

Movement: Quartz
Diameter: 50mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel

Purchase: $236

Tissot Bridgeport Lepine Mechanical

Pocket watches are undeniably old-school. So much so, in fact, that we’re pretty sure they predate that term by at least a few centuries. Tissot’s Bridgeport Lepine leans into this fact with its smaller size, and retro dial. While the face, small seconds subdial, and Arabic numerals are certainly special, what really pops out in this timepiece are the hands that travel around the watch. They boast a striking blue that Tissot claims can only be achieved using a special heating method.

Movement: ETA 6497 Mechanical Movement
Diameter: 36.6mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel With Rose Gold PVD Coating

Purchase: $675

Patek Philippe 972/1J

Patek Philippe releasing this open-faced pocket watch is akin to Ford re-releasing an old Mustang from the mid-to-late 1960s. More an homage to the classic build than an exhibition of what they’re currently capable of, the watch features a manual winding movement with a 36 hour power reserve that drives two hands around a white opaline dial with printed gold Arabic numerals, and a small seconds hand around a subdial located at 6.

Movement: Manual Winding LEP PS IRM
Diameter: 44mm
Case Material: Yellow Gold

Purchase: $40,000+

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Pocket Watch

Essentially a dress watch hung by a leather strap rather than sporting a couple of lugs along the top and bottom of the face, this manual winding pocket watch boasts a clean, mature look to it. The metal dial features indices without numerals along the face, and a pair of thin hands that are driven by a movement with a 65 hour power reserve.

Movement: Manual Winding Caliber 4400
Diameter: 43mm
Case Material: 18K Pink Gold

Purchase: $44,700

Piaget Altiplano Pocket Watch

Limited to just 26 pieces, this pocket watch from Piaget is a version of their famous Altiplano – a reference that made waves in the late 1950s due to its incredibly thin case and clean, blue dial. This pocket watch is similarly blue and thin – but is free of a band or set of lugs, sporting only a single blue leather strap

Movement: Automatic Mechanical 1200P Grey
Diameter: 50mm
Case Material: White Gold

Purchase: $61,000

Officine Panerai Pocket Watch 3 Days Oro Bianco

Another limited release, this watch from Italian brand Panerai sets the company’s distinctive dial in a white gold case. The Super-Luminova painted hands are drive around that dial thanks to a hand wound movement with a three-day power reserve. The power indicator is found at the back of the timepiece underneath a white-gold clasp which opens to reveal a sapphire crystal caseback. Unlike their dive watches, this one is not meant to be submerged more than 50 meters.

Movement: Hand-wound p.2001/10 Caliber
Diameter: 50mm
Case Material: White Gold

Purchase: $65,300

Omega Olympic Pocket Watch 1932

After the movement kits for this pocket watch were uncovered at the Omega headquarters in Biel, Switzerland where it had been resting since 1932 – it was apparent to everyone at Omega that it needed to be re-released to the public. The caseback of this watch is stamped with the olympic rings, and opens up to reveal a manual winding 3889 movement that drives the four hands which travel around the main dial, and the two smaller hands that traverse the circumference of both the subdials. An incredibly attractive and limited watch.

Movement: Omega 3889
Diameter: 70mm
Case Material: White Gold

Purchase: $109,000+

Cartier Mysterious Double Tourbillon Pocket Watch

As much an advertisement for the luxury watch brand’s technical prowess as it is a stunning piece for dropping in one’s pocket, this Mysterious Double Tourbillon from Cartier is an incredibly unique grab. As its name suggests, the primary appeal of the pocket watch is its special Double Tourbillon movement. Located at 3 o’clock, the tourbillon travels around the interior circle once every 5 minutes and rotates on its own axis once per minute, helping drive the rhodiumized steel hands.

Movement: Manual Winding Caliber 9454 MC
Diameter: 55mm
Case Material: White Gold

Purchase: $338,000+

Audemars Piguet Classique Pocket Watch

A few winds of this pocket watch’s crown will set an incredibly capable movement into action powering not only four hands along the watch’s face, but a chronograph movement, subdials that track the date, small seconds, day, month, and moonphase. Not bad for a throwback.

Movement: Manual Wind Manufacture Calibre 2860
Diameter: 52mm
Case Material: 18K Pink Gold

Purchase: $900,000+

Breguet No.5 Pocket Watch

Less of a timepiece for wearing than a museum-quality reproduction, the No. 5 pocket watch from Brugeut is a faithful recreation of the very watch made by Abraham-Louis Berguet between 1794 and 1815. The perpetual movement features a 60-hour power reserve and drives a moon phase indicator, a pair of hands that travel along a face featuring roman murals, and a small seconds subdial.

Movement: Self Winding
Diameter: 54mm
Case Material: 18K Yellow Gold

Purchase: $1.8 Million

18 Best Men's Dress Watches

Looking for something on the more formal end that you can wear on your wrist rather than put in your pocket? Take a look at our rundown of some of the best dress watches for men.