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Victorian Fab: Pocket Watch Chains and Fobs

The Victorian Age in America was an interesting time for fashion and culture.  Women in corsets, men in top hats and cummerbunds, all rushing about to the next social call.  Time was of the importance, for both social etiquette and for fashion.  Pocket watches were all the rage.  To recreate this time-honoured look, one must learn the range of designs available to those who lived in the Victorian Age.  The pocket watch chain accessories to follow are the perfect touch for any Victorian costume or period piece production.

Single watch chain with fob


The popularity of pocket watches is probably a reflection the reign of Queen Victoria and the heavy British cultural influence on America in the 1800s and early 1900s.  A staple of an Englishman's wardrobe, the watches soon caught on in America as well.  The three-piece suit was popular in England and always included a vest; the suit jacket had inside pockets, perfect for keeping a watch.  The watch was attached to a watch chain: one end had a clip to be clipped to the watch itself, and the other a T-bar which would be inserted into a button hole of the vest. 

Sometimes there was an extra chain, or fob, that would hang down out of the button hole, sometimes with a small charm attached.

Double Albert Watch ChainPrince Albert (Queen Victoria's husband) was a particular fan of pocket watches, and he started a few trends regarding watch chains.  Albert favored wearing his watch chain visibly, secured with a T-bar to his vest buttonhole, with the excess length of the chain draped across his vest.

His other impressive contribution to pocket watch style was the Double Albert watch chain, a new look entirely: two equal lengths of chain hung from a central T-bar.  One chain would clip to the watch, and the other might hold the watch key (used to wind the watch up), and then placed in the opposite watch pocket.   In this way, the chain became a prominant accessory, across the whole lower body.

Once watches could be wound automatically and keys became obsolete, men could use the second chain on their double albert to hold other accessories, like compasses, pocket knives, cigar cutters, or match cases. 

Another design of watch chain that became popular was the spring-ring or ring-clip watch chain.  These are generally longer than T-bar chains as they are meant to be worn with the watch clipped to one end and placed in the pocket of one's trousers, and the other end clipped to a belt loop. 

This style was particularly popular with railroad workersSpring Ring Watch Chain, and this is the reason why most modern jeans still have that extra pocket within the larger side pocket: this was originally designed to be the watch pocket!


Pocket watches remained popular until about World War I, when wristwatches became a necessary war convenience for soldiers, and then became the norm for men and women.  Nevertheless, pocket watches are a fascinating accessory with an exciting history.  They remain popular collectors' items, and are an important part of costumes that tip-off audiences as to the time period and setting of a movie or play.  Stay punctual, and visit our website for a large selection of vintage watch chains, watch fobs, and watch bands:

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Reader Comments (7)

Your use of photos from films to illustrate what you were talking about was brilliant! I bet there are numerous watch chain/fob examples in the new movie The Young Victoria. This is a beautiful look actually and should become fashion once again. It really makes a man's outfit look "complete." Also, I have to say I'm glad to know what that little pocket is for in jeans! Thanks for all the info.

March 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWendy

@ Wendy,

Thanks for your kind words! I will check out some screencaps from "The Young Victoria" to see if you're right-- great tip, thank you!

Molly, Jewelry

May 23, 2010 | Registered CommenterJewelry Jealousy

The information among your blog is strictly wonderful, and your blog structure is Simple kind. It is not dazzled. So great. watches iwc|

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJesile

I wonder if ever pocket watch chains and fobs will really ever come back into style. Punks have pretty much adopted the idea with their chained wallets and what not. But it's all bit too rugged for my personal taste.

Luc Jenson
Vintage Cowboy Shirt

October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLuc Jenson

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