How to Wear a Pocket Watch – Anytime, Anywhere

There’s more to carrying a pocket watch than stuffing the thing in your pocket. After all, you’re going to have to take it out to see the time. There are also all those strange metal things on the chain such as the T-bars or bolt rings and, quite frankly, they can be a little confusing.

If you’re going to wear a pocket watch, then you should know how to wear one properly (and without it falling on the ground). In this guide, you’ll learn what all those metal pieces are for and how to make a pocket watch look stylish—whether you’re at a fancy party or at the workplace.

 Man Wearing Pocket Watch

All Those Metal Things

Before you can begin deciding what chain will suit you best, you’ll first need to know the differences between all the different ends. Below, you’ll find a list of the different devices that are used for attaching your pocket watch to your person and how to use them.

Pocket Watch Chain Ends

  • Watch Fobs

The term “fob” seems to have a very plastic meaning—that is, it’s interpreted differently by many people. Many dictionaries define it as a short chain or ribbon connected to a watch that hangs out of a pocket. Some people think of it as just the part of the chain that is anchored to your pocket, and others may think of it as the anchor itself.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to define “fob” as the end of the chain, whether it’s connected to an anchor or not. A typical fob is simply passed through a buttonhole and then weighted down in the opposite pocket that the watch is in, usually with a metal object such as a cigar cutter.

This was the original way to ensure your pocket watch doesn’t fall on the ground, but I can’t say it’s the best. It seems a little silly to put a weight in your pocket when you could just attach it to your belt or something. Luckily, that’s what the next few devices are great for.

  • T-Bar Chains

These are chains that have a bar attached in the middle. Because the bar is parallel to the chain and sticks out just a bit, it’s appears like a flattened “T,” hence the name.

T-bars can be treated like buttons by inserting them into one of your coat buttonholes. You can do this from either the inside of your coat or the outside, but the T-bar should end up flat against the fabric.

After attaching the T-bar to your coat, you can simply place the fob in the opposite pocket as the watch or simply let it hang down, assuming there isn’t much chain left to dangle.

  • Belt Loop Slides

This is great for those who don’t want to wear a coat because it attaches directly to your belt. All you need to do is hang the slide over the top of your belt on whichever side you want to put your pocket watch. The chain connecting your pocket watch to your belt should hang on the outside of your pocket.

Unless you have a big watch face or really acute vision, I’d recommend getting a chain long enough to comfortably raise your forearm horizontally. Be sure not to get a chain that’s too long either as it could end up being a nuisance.

  • Bolt Rings

If you don’t want to attach anything to your coat or your belt, then you’ll be happy to hear that this little device hangs directly from your belt loop. It looks like a keychain ring and opens and closes with a spring-loaded mechanism.

After attaching the bolt ring to your belt loop, the chain is treated the same way as the belt loop by hanging it over your pocket. If you want, you can also attach the bolt ring to one of your coat buttonholes for a look much like that of a T-bar chain.

A bolt ring if probably the most secure and simple way to help prevent your pocket watch from falling or getting stolen. Not only is it small and light, but it’s also a closed loop that requires a lever to open.

Choosing the Right Style

Some people think that pocket watches have to be worn with fancy clothes and a top hat and things of that nature, but pocket watches can look great with a t-shirt and jeans. It all depends on what type of watch and chain you have and how you wear it.

  • The Traditional Way

Pocket Watch TraditionalIf you want to sport a pocket watch with a fancier look than jeans, then you may consider taking it all the way and keeping your watch in a waistcoat. Just so we’re clear, a waistcoat is a sleeveless upper-body garment that’s typically worn over a dress shirt and tie and paired with trousers for the classiest look.

To wear a pocket watch, you simply loop the chain through one of the middle buttonholes and anchor the fob in one of the pockets. You can also use a T-bar chain or a bolt ring to secure it to the buttonholes.

You should opt for a more antique looking pocket watch when wearing one with a waistcoat. As for the chain, try a finer one instead of a thicker one.

  • For the Casual Person

Pocket Watch CasualIf you want to wear a pocket watch but don’t want to sport a waistcoat all the time, just put the watch in your pocket. If your watch is small enough, you can even put it in your watch pocket, which is the small rectangular pocket inside the bigger pocket on the right. The pocket was originally designed to be used by cowboys who probably didn’t want to wear a waistcoat while riding a horse.

What you use to keep you pocket watch attached is up to you. You can use a chain, but a leather strap may also look pretty stylish, especially if the color matches that of your belt. You’ll want a chain with a belt loop or a bolt ring if you’re keeping your watch in your pants. I’d aim to get a chain about fourteen inches long to give you enough slack to check the time.

  • When You’re on the Job

Pocket Watch WorkclothesI’m assuming you don’t imagine a collared work shirt, a newsboy cap, and construction boots when you think about a pocket watch. However, when people needed to know the time during their blue-collared job shifts, they kept a pocket watch in the front bib of their overalls.

If you want to adopt this rugged look, just attach the watch chain to the overall buttons or clip it to the hemline. Because the pocket will be bigger than those on pants, the chain will likely hang on the inside, which is probably better for work anyways.

To complete the look, try going for a more heavy chain. A heavier chain is also more durable, which is mandatory for rough environments.

  • Wear It Around Your Neck

Pocket Watch NecklaceWhen women wanted to wear pocket watches back in the day, they had to wear them like necklaces. This is because women didn’t wear waistcoats and necklaces were the next best option. The sizes of the “necklace watches” were smaller than usual to make them as light as possible.

Wearing a pocket watch around your neck isn’t just for women—men can pull it off as well. If you opt for this style, try replacing the chain for a ribbon, which could look great as a necklace.

Clocking in at Maximum Style

Hopefully, you found this guide helpful in how to wear your pocket watch like a pro. Maybe you even learned how to wear it like a casual—or maybe you decided to not wear one at all.

Whatever way you decide, you’ll be making a statement every time you pull it out. As a combination of old and new technology, pocket watches have got potential to stay relevant for decades to come. Yours might even become a family heirloom someday—assuming the next generation doesn’t sell the thing. That said, you better watch it.

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

4 thoughts on “How to Wear a Pocket Watch – Anytime, Anywhere

  1. My brother is a traditional person but he dresses casually. I am really confused about whether I should buy a traditional or casual one. Which one I should prefer?

    1. Hi! Good question. A traditional pocket watch can be a great fit with casual clothes, but it really depends on preference. If your brother prefers traditional watches, then, by all means, get a traditional one.

  2. I’ve always been intrigued by a pocket watch, I have one of my grandads here but have never worn it. I was under the impression that it goes best with a waistcoat and never thought about just wearing it around my neck! Also keeping it in my pocket is a good idea! Thanks for this article I’ve certainly found it useful!

  3. This is a very interesting take on pocket watches. I didn’t know there was such a thing as chain ends, that’s very cool! For myself, I would wear it in my jean pocket or as a necklace. What stood out for me was how regardless of the environment, especially like in a rugged work envrionment, they are still durable enough to carry around. I always had this thought that pocket watches were more so geared towards professionalism, and even when they are, you can wear them at any place, at any time. Thank you for sharing!

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