Pocket Watch Chains and Fobs: An Overview

  • Men's T-bar Style Vest Pocket Watch Chains
  • Men's Slide Style Vest Pocket Watch Chains
  • Men's Standard Pocket Watch Chains
  • Ladies' Slide (Lorgnette) Pocket Watch Chains
  • Miscellaneous Pocket Watch Chains
  • Fobs for Pocket Watch Chains or Straps
  • Although our primary interests in terms of buying, selling, trading, and collecting are antique and vintage pocket watches and jewelry (particularly American Indian jewelry), we do pick up a large number of watch chains and fobs. We have had to reorganize, and now have 6 pages that we hope you, the customer, will find easy to navigate. Below is a brief description of the types of chains on each page along with appropriate hyperlink. Note that, regardless of the comments below, the wearer is free to use the chain in any way he or she wants, as has been the case for well over 100 years.

    Men's T-bar Style Vest Pocket Watch Chains This type of chain has T-bar on one end that goes into a button hole, commonly in a vest. The opposite end is a swivel that attaches to the bow of a pocket watch, said watch usually kept in vest pocket. Some T-bar chains have a short "drop chain" attached to the main chain near the T-bar end. A fob is commonly attached to the drop chain and allowed to hang out where it is visible.

    Men's Slide Style Vest Pocket Watch Chains This type of chain also has a T-bar on one end that goes into a button hole, or a spring ring that accomplishes the same purpose. The opposite end is a swivel that attaches to the bow of a pocket watch, which is usually kept in vest pocket. This type of chain has an ornamented slide that "slides" up and down the chain or chains, if multiple parallel chains are present. Some of these chains will have a separate drop chain for a fob, or in some cases, there will be provision for a fob to be attached directly to a loop on the slide.

    Men's Standard Pocket Watch Chains In this category I am grouping all men's chains that don't have a T-bar or slide or a drop chain. These chains have a spring ring on one end that can go in a vest pocket hole, or in many cases, around a belt loop if the user keeps a watch in the coin pocket of a pair of trousers. The other end is a swivel end that attaches to the pocket watch bow.

    Ladies' Slide (Lorgnette) Pocket Watch Chains The antique catalogues call long slide chains for ladies' watches (or lockets, or pendants) "Lorgnette" or "Guard" chains, but most people we know tend to simply call these "Slide chains". Typically, these are very long (up to 48" or even more) and are worn as necklaces. The slide is commonly ornamented with engraving and/or seed pearls and/or opals or other precious or semi-precious gems. A swivel holds the watch or pendant. My understanding is that in most cases, the chain was pinned to a woman's clothing to prevent the watch or pendant from swinging loose and banging around. These chains have become very popular in recent years and are still being worn.

    Miscellaneous Pocket Watch Chains I'm using this category for various styles of chains that don't classify into the categories above. Examples include belt chains, which have a rectangular loop on one end that a belt goes through, short vest chains with mesh or ribbons, and anything else.

    Fobs for Pocket Watch Chains or Straps Many people confuse chains and fobs. They are not the same. Chains are, well, chains, with links. Many fobs are ornamental pieces with a small loop at one end that can be attached to a chain or in many cases, worn as pendants. These types of fobs can be purely ornamental, with engraving and gemstones, or the owner's initials. They can also signify membership to various fraternal organizations such as the Masons or Odd Fellows, or the early labor unions, such as the Workers of the World. Railroad-related fobs, such as B of LF & E, of course are very popular with collectors of railroad watches.

    Some fobs have a long narrow slot at the top and are attached to a leather strap that also runs through the pocket watch bow. These often have advertising themes related to heavy equipment, firearms, tools, and so on. I suspect many of these were given out free by salesmen because that was a common practice as late as the early 1970s when I worked in construction. Collectors need to be a little careful when buying this type of fob - some have been extensively reproduced. As a general rule, we do not sell reproduction items on this site. If we do, we always identify the item as a reproduction.

    Using Chains and Fobs

    I check the ends of all of my chains to make sure the swivel closes properly and that none of the links are about to break. Nevertheless, almost any watch chain can be broken, or the swivel pulled loose from the bow, or the bow pulled loose from the pendant, if enough force is applied. So, please make it a habit to NEVER suspend a watch, unsupported, by the chain. Please use the chain to pull the watch part way out of your pocket, then grasp the watch firmly around the pendant with the thumb and forefinger, and hold the watch that way, not by the chain. Please trust my experince on this matter!

    For men's chains I normally indicate the maximum pocket watch size that I think should be used with a specific chain. I consider 10 size up to 18 size watches to be men's watches.
    For ladies' chains, I don't normally give a watch size, but I consider 6 size and smaller watches to be ladies'.

    Chain Materials

    Fob Materials

    Links to Items for Sale:

  • Fine Timepieces (overview)
  • Antique and Vintage Pocket Watches
  • Railroad Grade Pocket Watches
  • Solid Gold Pocket Watches
  • Pocket Watch Chains and Fobs: An Overview
  • Vintage Wrist Watches
  • Military Watches, Chronometers, Deck Watches
  • Antique and Vintage Jewelry
  • Silver Jewelry
  • Bags/Purses & Misc.
  • Quilts and Table Runners
  • Vintage Navajo Rugs and Blankets
  • H's Art Therapy

  • More about Lar and Heather

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    Revised 10/6/11