How to choose and wear a pocket watch

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Pocket watches –  By order of the Peaky Blinders
Image source: Peaky Blinders (Episode 1, Series 2) BBC 2

Everyone loves a good British period TV show, so it’s no surprise the gritty crime family drama Peaky Blinders (aired on BBC America and Netflix) has proven extremely popular.

With their stylish tweed, period flat caps, and those snazzy pocket watches, the crime lords of Peaky Blinders certainly look like men who get things done. And while we’re not advocating running your own crime ring, there’s nothing wrong with channeling the confidence of a dapper Edwardian criminal. Picking a classy pocket watch is a great place to start – read on to discover how to choose and wear one with style.

Who were the Peaky Blinders?

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The peaky blinders wear period dress
Image source: Peaky Blinders, (Series 2), BBC2

Tommy and the rest of the Shelby family are pure fiction, but the Peaky Blinders was a real-life criminal gang which terrorized the streets of the city of Birmingham, England during the 1890s.

During the years following World War I, the era in which the TV series is set, a different gang controlled the city. Called the ‘Birmingham Gang’, their leader, Billy Kimber ruled the city with such cold, calculating brutality that, for a time, the Birmingham Gang was the most feared crime organization in the whole of Great Britain.

Peaky Blinders is an undeniably stylized take on what was a pretty sordid criminal enterprise, but their clobber – their suits, hats, coats, and pocket watches – are entirely in keeping with period dress.

Pocket watches

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A period “hunter” pocket watch with flip-down cover
Image source: slonme

A top notch Swiss timepiece from the ‘roaring 20s’ would cost you a small fortune, but you can pick up period pocket watches for a few hundred dollars. For those who prefer the reliability and accuracy of a quartz timepiece, there’s always the option to buy a modern pocket watch – prices begin at about $150.

Tempted to invest in a pocket watch? There are a number of classic designs from which to choose. A hunter pocket watch has a metal cover fitted over the face which you flip back to see the time. A half-hunter incorporates a glass center in the cover. A watch with a lid at the back and at the front is called a double hunter. And finally, open face is exactly that – no cover over the glass.

Single or double Albert?

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One watch chain or two?
Image source: Peaky Blinders (Episode 1, Series 2) BBC 2

In the picture above, you’ll notice that Cillian Murphy who plays Tommy Shelby, wears his watch with a single chain – a single Albert, while Paul Anderson, who plays his brother Arthur, sports a double chain – a double Albert.

At the end of the chain is a t-bar with which to attach your watch to a button hole in your waistcoat – the bonus, should you opt for a double Albert is that you get to attach a trinket to the end of the second chain – a match case, or pocket watch fob for example.

Glamorous tweed

A tweed vest is the best way to display your vintage pocket watch

A tweed vest is the best way to display your vintage pocket watch
Image: Samuel Windsor tweed vests

The Peaky Blinders wear warm tweed because, factory furnaces notwithstanding, Birmingham is a chilly city at the best of times, and during the winter it’s a cold, gray, damp case of pneumonia in waiting.

A naturally breathable fabric, tweed is very comfortable to wear during a fist fight, and the generous cut of period jackets and tweed long coats make movement easy – ideal for running from the law.

True tweed is Harris tweed, a fabric made by local weavers from the fleeces of sheep living on the Island of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, off the coast of Scotland. But there are many other tweeds from which to choose, though traditional hues like warm brown, green or gray always look best.

If you prefer a lighter fabric or smoother finish than tweed, try wearing a standard lounge suit with a pocket watch strung from a contrasting tweed vest.

Criminal luxury

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Wear a velvet jacket with a silver pocket watch and chain
Image source: Samuel Windsor velvet jacket

On the street, the Peaky Blinders let their razor-armored flat caps do the talking, but as they climbed the social pecking order, their choice of evening wear climbed with them. As a man who knows how to mingle with the best, you’ll certainly cut a dash by sporting a velvet jacket or blazer along with a pocket watch.

To achieve the kind of sartorial elegance of which Tommy Shelby would approve, simply slip your t-bar through your middle button hole and slip your pocket watch into your jacket pocket. Alternatively, go for the Humphrey Bogart look by securing your watch chain to your pants waistband and popping the watch into your front pocket.

Are you a pocket watch aficionado? We’d love to hear how you wear your watch and chain. Just head over to our Facebook page and leave us a message.

Posted in Men's Style Guides.

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