The History and Use of Silver Pocket Watch Fob Medals

The History and Use of Silver Pocket Watch Fob Medals

The history of silver pocket watch fob medals goes back past Victorian times to a place where the display of such watches was commonplace. Antique pocket watches are crafted from precious metals such as silver.  Owning an antique pocket watch today, complete with fob medals usually means you are a collector.  Either that or you simply appreciate the fine art associated with such items.

Most people are familiar with pocket watches.  However, not as many know their history or how fob medals developed. It is a time in which fashions for men and women were far more elaborate than what you see today.

What are Watch Fobs or Pocket Watch Fob Medals?

Basically, the fob is the ribbon or short chain that is connected on one end to the watch.  On the other end it is connected to the pocket in which it is kept. It is also true that ‘fob’ may refer to the ornaments or medals displayed on the end of the chain. The fob pocket designed for waistcoats was small and perfectly made for the watch.

You see a vestige of fob pockets on pants today which is usually referred to as a change pocket. Not long ago, such pockets were on waistcoats, a trend that has long since passed.

Many people associate fob medals with the Victorian era when they were most prominent.  However, the history of the pocket watch and use of fob medals goes back to at least 100 years earlier. To understand the history of silver pocket watch fob medals, we must understand the history of the pocket watch.

History of the Pocket Watch

The pocket watch developed as clocks were becoming smaller around the mid-16th century in Europe. At the time, clocks were considered marvels of invention, so their miniaturisation naturally developed to the pocket watch. However, there was a time in which the watches were too big for the pocket.  At this time, they were carried on necklaces or a chain around the neck.

The drum-shaped watches were usually quite elaborate and decorated. Most only featured the hour hand. As technology progressed, watches started appearing in different shapes.  They could resemble resembled books, fruit, insects, crosses, and in some cases skulls which preceded the Death’s Head Watches.

17th Century

By the turn of the 17th century, watches became small enough to be placed in the pocket.  Still the trend of being elaborate works of art did not fade. In fact, it is a large part of the reason why silver pocket watch fob medals were developed. While men carried the watches in their pockets, women still carried them on necklaces as a pendant.

At the time, pocket watches were usually carried in pants pockets or the like. But King Charles II of England changed all that when he introduced waistcoats for men. This meant that pocket watches now had to lose their irregular shape so that they would not tear at important fabrics.  Thus it became the familiar circular shape we see today. But to access the pocket watch from the waistcoat was difficult, so a chain was developed to attach the watch to the coat.

Introduction of Fob Medals

The fob pocket was specifically designed to hold small items such as a pocket watch. By the late 18th century it became fashionable in England to wear a pocket watch and display the chain. Around the time of the Revolutionary War in the colonies, Scottish and English pocket watch chains began featuring more fancy designs and medals for the fob.

In fact, because waistcoats had identical fob pockets on either side, it became common to carry a false watch in the other pocket along with a chain. This was done to provide symmetry and enhance the overall appearance. The use of medals or displays on the chain became common as well. This was a time in which jewellery for men became more elaborate.

Trends

As typical with most trends, the chain became more decorated with medals, seals, and other decorations which started as individual in nature. However, fashion trends usually were picked up when the initial item was seen, so many men started sporting silver pocket watch fob medals from the same manufacturer. The enhanced decorations starts spreading across Europe and soon the royalty and the rich were sporting elaborate fob medals that were only outdone in terms of elaboration by the clothing that they wore.

19th Century

By the turn of the 19th century, the era of jewellery for men of this nature had passed, so the watch fob was reduced to simply the chain. Fob medals were no longer ‘in’, although there were still men who used them as part of their fashion statement. Still, the decor that was included on pocket watches made them highly desirable.

20th Century

The 20th century saw the beginning of the end for silver pocket watches and the use of fob medals. During the First World War, the development of the wristwatch changed everything. While not as fashionable, the wristwatch was far more practical on the battlefield. No longer did you have to pull the watch from a pocket, now a soldier simply had to look at his wrist to see the time. The practical qualities of the wristwatch translated to civilian life after the war and soon swept around the world replacing the pocket watch.

Although Scottish and English silver pocket watches and the fob medals continued to be sold, they were becoming more collector’s items than practical for the modern world. However, this did means that antique silver pocket watches that incorporated enamel from the Victorian era and before were quickly becoming valuable. Yet like many antique items, they continue to be sold and you will still find those who wear them as part of their fashion statement.

Plus their appearance harked back to an earlier, more fashionable time which means that the watches still sell to this day.