Pocket watches have been around for centuries. It was the portable timepiece before wristwatches became mainstream mid-20th century. Despite wristwatches dominating the market, pocket watches have never died out. As a matter of fact, it seems to have gained a foothold in a niche market. It’s not exactly surprising because nothing can quite replace the classiness of the pocket watch. People, like yours truly, are simply fascinated by this intricate piece of gadget.
The advent of smartwatches got people thinking. If there’s a smart version of wristwatches, why not a smart version of pocket watches? Is smart pocket watch that a thing? Where can I buy one? How should I wear one stylishly? And these are some of the questions we aim to answer in this guide.
A pocket watch is a portable timepiece designed to be carried in a pocket. Before wristwatches become popular in the mid-20th century, pocket watches used to be the standard timepiece for men. Now, a smart pocket watch is a technologically-advanced descendant of the traditional pocket watch. It can do much more than just tell time. You can use it to make calls, check messages, and in some cases, capture videos. Other features may include heart rate tracking, sleep pattern tracking. It’s like a smartwatch with a chain instead of a strap.
A device can only be a smart pocket watch when makes you think of a traditional pocket watch when you see it. So while you keep your smartphone in the pocket and you use it to tell time, your smartphone is not a smart pocket watch.
The thing about smart pocket watches is that it is a very niche product. It is just not as popular as its wrist-clinging cousin, the smart wristwatch. So there isn’t a lot of information available online. There are no reliable sources that tell you who invented the first smart pocket watch and what does the watch look like.
In my research, I found that in the early 2010s, Tokyo Flash released several pocket watches under its Kisai brand that feature a touch-screen LED display. No, I’m not talking about the OLED or AMOLED technologies often spotted in smartphones. I’m talking about a few color blocks on the face of the watch that represents time and other presumably important information. While these watches are pretty cool, they just don’t have the features you typically expect from a smart wearable.
One of the first smart pocket watches was an Apple Watch and it was created in 2015. You can’t buy it now nor can you buy it from Apple if you had a time travel machine that takes you back to mid-2010s. Why? Because the first smart pocket watch was custom-made.
The smartwatch was featured in American fashion designer Tom Ford’s Spring 2016 collection for menswear in London. The strap of the watch was replaced with a chain and fob.
Tom Ford's pocket iWatch. pic.twitter.com/VwU8JSI5k6
— Matthew Schneier (@MatthewSchneier) June 15, 2015
Three months earlier, the Monohm Runcible was actually revealed in MWC 2015 (2 to 5 March 2015) before the custom Apple pocket watch was spotted in London. But since Monohm didn’t really market them as a watch and it lacks the classic fob, I don’t think it deserves to be the first.
While Tom Ford’s customized Apple pocket watch was a brave and creative idea, I believe the first smart pocket watch could be a Moto 360. On 21 March 2015, Russell Holly published an article on Android Central. In which he documented the steps he took to convert his Moto 360 smartwatch into a pocket watch. He even shared the design of the adapter he used on Thingiverse. I have a feeling someone could have done something similar earlier but as of now, this is the earliest record of a smart pocket watch I manage to find. And so there you have it, the first smart pocket watch is a customized Moto 360.
Smart pocket watches are rare. Here are some famous examples of pocket smartwatches that made it to the news.
The first smart pocket watch to grace the fashion runway. Customized by American filmmaker and fashion design icon Tom Ford for his Spring 2016 collection fashion show. The strap of the watch was removed and a chain was attached to watch itself. The transformation rendered the heart rate tracking feature useless, but it brought a sense of fashionability and gave the original Apple Watch a classical spin.
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Runcible is a smart pocket device that is made of sustainably sourced wood and upgradable electronics. It’s like a round smartphone but smaller. Monohm hasn’t really marketed it as a pocket watch but the size of it can definitely make the cut as a larger pocket watch. The team behind Runcible ran a pretty successful Indiegogo campaign in 2016, raising close to $300k. Unfortunately, the project ultimately failed and the product was never delivered to the supporters of the campaign.
You can check out more photos of what could have been in this CNET article. Also, check out this hands-on video taken during the Mobile World Congress in 2015.
In Baselworld 2017 (held in Switzerland from March 23 to 30 in 2017), Samsung revealed three concept watches based on its Gear S3 smartwatch released several months earlier. The trio includes a hybrid smartwatch with Swiss-made mechanical movement, a luxury smartwatch with a premium finish, and you guessed it — a smart pocket watch.
The pocket watch was a concept hybrid smartwatch Samsung made based on its latest smartwatch offering in 2017 — the Samsung Gear S3, the predecessor to the Samsung Galaxy Watch. At the annual watch and jewelry exhibition, Samsung revealed not just one but two smart pocket watches, both with distinct colors and characteristics. One in black and another one in silver. Both watches are textured, heavy, and solid. They are slightly thicker than an inch and the diameter is close to 2 inches. The black watch features a compass with see-thru glass on its cover. While the silver watch has a mechanical skeleton watch in its front cover. The watches supposedly have the same feature set as the Samsung Gear S3, including heart rate tracking. But since you won’t be wearing it on your wrist, that may not actually be working.
FrontRow is the best smart pocket watch you can buy from the store today. It isn’t marketed as such but look at the photo below and tell me it doesn’t look like a pocket watch. FrontRow is a wearable camera. It is designed to be worn around your neck like a necklace. With this camera, you can record or live-stream 1080p video in the first-person perspective — it’s like giving your audience a front-row seat. However, it is a very specialized gadget, meaning that you won’t be getting other features like compass use it as a pedometer (step counter).
Having said that, FrontRow is sleek and well-built and if you want a pocket watch that takes POV videos, you simply won’t go wrong with FrontRow.
Pocket watches aren’t super useful and they are definitely not mainstream but you have to admit they’re some really cool gadgets. In today’s world, pocket watches — smart or traditional — just don’t rank that high on the scale of practicality. But sometimes being impractical is what makes it awesome. Sure, practicality can be important. But so are sentiment and aesthetic. And these are areas that a smart pocket watch really shines. It’s a portal to the past and to the future. It connects you to the past — to the days before wristwatches become popular – think Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment. At the same time, its technology makes you look forward to the future — what does the future have in store for us?
So that means you should buy one, right? Well, sure. But buying a smart pocket watch is pretty much a mission impossible. Why? Because there’s no good option for the consumers. It’s close to impossible to buy a smart pocket watch. Besides FrontRow, the watches are either conceptual products (e.g. Samsung Gear 3 pocket watch), custom items that aren’t for sale (Tom Ford Apple Watch). The slightly better alternative is to buy an Apple Watch then swap out the straps.
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We couldn’t find a good pocket watch accessory for smartwatches other than the Apple Watch. So unless you’re good at making stuff, like how the Moto 360 was modified into a pocket watch, you’re out of luck.
For Apple Watch owners, all you need to do to turn your watch into a pocket watch is to buy one of these products and swap out the straps.
Bucardo produces a series of Apple Watch accessories, most notably their gorgeous pendant necklace and pocket watch collections. It’s a little expensive but this is simply the best way to convert your Apple Watch into a stylish pocket watch.
Check out the Bucardo pocket watch collection here.
Silicone is a rugged material that will provide ample protection to your watch. In exchange for the classic metal chain look, you get a quieter, matte appeal. It would probably be weird if you wear it with a suit or waistcoat, but it would look great as part of a sporty and casual look. More on that in the styling tips section below. Another plus for a silicone case is that the material provides good drop protection.
Necklace Adapter / Connector
Another excellent option is to get a pendant adapter. As the name suggests, a pendant adapter transforms your Apple Watch into a pendant. These adapters are designed to slide in where the band goes. On the opposite side is some kind of hook or ring where you can put the chain or necklace. Below are two examples.
This adapter features a monogram with rhinestone design. The chain is platinum-coated and has a clasp on it.
This is a collection of necklaces made of different materials. For example, leather, rasta, pearl, and turquoise.
The adapter is different from the previous adapter. Instead of a ring, this adapter features a lobster clasp — so you can use it to hook on to anything to can grab onto.
Pocket Watch Chain
In my opinion, the necklace adapters and the necklaces that come with it work decently. But one thing to pay attention to is that sometimes these necklaces don’t come with a hook or clasp, that means you can’t just clasp and unclasp your pocket watch. To attach the watch to a belt loop, you will have to tie a simple knot around it.
A better option is to get yourself one of these pocket watch chains. It does increase the project budget significantly but you do get the classic look in return.
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How to match your outfit with a smart pocket watch?
Say you own a smart pocket watch, how can you wear it in ways that make your overall look more appealing? How to wear a smart pocket watch in style? Despite looking and feeling similar to the classical pocket watch, styling a pocket smartwatch turns out to be slightly different because of its flat, sleek watch face and the material it’s made of. Here are some simple tips that will help you look your best when planning an outfit that includes the smart pocket watch.
The most important tip is perhaps this — match the material of the case and chain with the formality or particular style of your outfit. So every material has a certain affinity. What does that mean? It means that some materials look formal, while some have an inherent sporty or casual look.
Material & Formality
For example, your silicone case is going to look odd on a formal outfit. It won’t even work for smart casual outfits. Why? Because silicone has a distinctly bold and matte look to it. A sleek smartwatch in the silicone case gives it a look that is casual, sporty, and rugged. It’s like wearing a pair of Crocs with a suit — it’s bizarre. This material is perfect for sports, casual, or street outfits. A custom pocket Apple Watch in a matte black case on a leather cord is going to look amazing on a hooded street outfit.
For formal outfits, metallics and leather are the only stylish options. However, since a leather case that looks formal is hard to come by, I’d say stick to metallics. Whether it’s made of real metal doesn’t really matter, what’s important is that it has that metallic shine. Ideally, you should match the metallics in your outfit. It establishes some kind of coherence when your belt buckle and watch chain both look silver.
In general, as you go from formal to casual on the formality scale, the more fashion liberty you get. There’s a certain expectation with formalwear and you can’t really push the boundary that much without destroying the look deemed formal by the society. You have a lot more freedom on the casual or street side of the spectrum. That means silicone, metal, leather, and just about any other materials can look good and coherent on a casual outfit.
By the way, check out this useful guide for more information on how to wear a pocket watch.
There are two key points in wearing a pocket watch whether it’s a formal or casual outfit. You need an anchor to tie or hook the chain to and a pocket to store it. And if you can, make sure there’s a big enough gap between the pocket and the anchor point so that the chain can drape. Below are some ideas on how to wear a pocket watch with different casual wear and accessories.
Hoodie and Jeans – attach the chain to a belt loop. Keep the watch in your hoodie pocket. The chain and the hoodie should contrast each other. If your hoodie is black, don’t wear a black leather cord.
Button-down shirt – keep the watch in your shirt pocket. Attach the chain to one of your buttons / buttonhole. Make sure that the chain is not too heavy. Otherwise, it will create this weird wrinkle on your shirt and that’s not stylish. Although a pocketed t-shirt or collar shirt is similar to a button-down shirt, there’s just no way it could work because 1. the material usually isn’t sturdy enough and 2. there’s nowhere to anchor the watch.
Jeans – attach the chain to one of the belt loops. Keep the watch in the fob pocket if it can fit or else in a front pocket. Never put in the back pocket, you might sit on it by accident — and also that looks very weird.
Backpack – keep the watch in the side pocket so you can take it out to check the time easily. Make sure the chain is long enough for you to do this. Ideally, you want to tie the watch to a fixed point on your backpack, but the closest pull tab could do the trick too.
If you’re wearing your pocket watch to a job interview, I suggest that you wear it on your pants or backpack.
With that, we’re wrapping up our comprehensive smart pocket watch guide. What are you planning to do? Do you own a smart pocket watch already? Are you planning to make one from your smart wristwatch? How do you plan on wearing it?
This article was originally published on Urban Men Outfits.
See all fashion tip articles.