Pocket Watches for Athletes, Outdoorsmen and Elegance


Rooster Cogburn would love
this watch.

If you’re the sort of person who never leaves home without a watch on your wrist, let me start out by listing all the things I don’t like about wristwatches.

Wristwatches constantly slip out of place.
Wristwatches make you sweat in an odd place for no reason.
Wristwatch bands are impossible to clean and easily broken.
A wristwatch that’s priced low enough to bang around on the job turns your skin green. Wearing a wristwatch in the sun leaves a white untanned shadow behind.


Dakota’s carabiner watch
includes an LED light.

I’ll stop there. If I wear a wristwatch, I’m constantly fiddling with it, and if I need to check the time it often requires two or three tries to get everything lined up right. Wristwatches are not the greatest idea ever, and sometimes I wonder why we even have them. We started out with something a lot better, and that same item is still available: the pocket watch. Maybe wristwatches caught on because during the era when we had to wind watches regularly, a self-winding wristwatch seemed like a fine idea. Now you can get a pocket watch that doesn’t need winding, if you really hate doing that tiny job. There’s no reason to have a watch shackled to your arm any longer.


Bucasi’s rugged watch needs
a better clip — easy fix.

Whether you even consider an alternative to strapping a timepiece to your arm may depend on what you do for a living and what you do for fun. If you work around electrical wiring or electronic circuits one of the first safety rules you learn is Leave the Jewelry at Home. That includes the wristwatch and wedding ring, because put one of them accidentally in the wrong spot while you’re puzzling out an interesting problem and suddenly you’re wearing a red-hot chunk of metal. Tough to get one of those off very quickly. If you work around machinery, you have the opposite problem. Snag the watch on something moving the other way and you’d better hope that wristband breaks. Usually they do, but at the wrong moment.


Wenger’s Traveler Alarm Watch
builds Swiss Army quality into
everything but the faint alarm.
Did you hear that? Probably not.

Where jewelry is either a safety hazard or automatically short-lived, it’s still a wonderful thing to be able to check the time. A watch built for the pocket or snapped into a handy belt case fulfills that fidgety need. If you wear Levi jeans, you even have a pocket designed especially for this kind of watch, and you’ve probably never used it for anything but storing lint.


The original mechanical
pocket watch — no diodes,
just craftsmanship.

Pocket watches come with open faces or metal covers that snap closed. You can choose watches built to ride loose in your pocket if you work where straps and lanyards are a hazard. If you’re clear of those obstacles you can hook a watch to your belt loop with a lanyard for easy retrieval, or attach one to your vest with a fancy chain if you happen to own a vest. Runners will appreciate a watch that slips out of the way and stays put instead of bouncing on the arm and constantly demanding attention. Carabiner clips let sportsmen snap one to any convenient strap or loop on their pack or hunting and fishing gear. Of course, if you spend enough time outdoors, you don’t really need a watch, but it takes about a week of the good life to shed the habit of checking to see how much time is left. When you eventually do realize you have plenty, the pocket watch sleeps out of sight until needed again.

I seldom go anywhere that requires I get dressed up, but if I did do that, I would regret not having the solid gold pocket watch my grandfather left to me several decades ago. It wasn’t indestructible but it had everything else going for it, and I carried it everywhere I had an excuse to carry it. Eventually it vanished in a house fire, and I miss it about equally as I miss the M-1 Garand bayonet my uncle gave me. A good watch or a good knife are both still the sort of things that last and pass to other generations, accumulating more meaning as years go by.  If they do go out of style, you don’t care. Most of my pocket watches haven’t survived long enough to be heirlooms, succumbing to hard use and bad weather the manufacturers didn’t plan for, but eventually I may slow down enough that one outlasts me. With luck, it’ll be a good one somebody else will enjoy.

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About JTHats

Avid backpacker and outdoorsman with old skills and interests in old ways of doing things; equally fascinated by electronics, from the days of Sputnik, to the Zilog Z80A, to the present day of black box circuitry. Sixty years of experience with growing my own food and living simply. Certified electronics technician, professional woodturner, woodcarver, and graduate of two military survival courses -- Arctic and Jungle.

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