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Cool Guide for How to wear a pocket watch in 2023

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Now, I know what you’re thinking – a pocket watch? Do people still wear those?? 

YES! And they’re pretty fashionable, too. Paired with the right attire (and mannerisms), you might be able to come off as authentic rather than pretentious. Sure, these were commonly used decades ago, but today, we have iPhones, Daytonas, and Smart TVs telling us the time; why the need for something so impractical? Because it’s fun. 

And when it comes to things that are purely fun, people will always feel the need to point, judge, mock, or evoke any other malicious intent. So, how do we avoid that as best we can? How do you wear a pocket watch correctly? Well, pocket watches are usually worn on the end of the chain but can be worn in different ways depending on who you engage with. Let’s dive into your Peaky Blinders fantasies and see what’s what… 

The History of Pocket Watches

The first recorded pocket watch was designed by a German watchmaker named Peter Henlein in 1510. Pocket watches were mostly worn by men and only those who could afford this incredible piece of technology, but later on more and more people were exposed to these timepieces – which were not incredibly accurate, by the way. Because of the way a watch rotor is winded (and works) the pocket watch was never fully wound at all times, and would therefore lose quite a lot of time.

Spherical Table Watch (Melanchthon's Watch) - Made by Peter Henlein 1530 - How to Wear a Pocket Watch Article
Spherical Table Watch (Melanchthon’s Watch) – Made by Peter Henlein 1530 – Source

Not a great way to track your business day… In fact, these were offered in different styles to what we have today, seeing as the dominant hand (the hour hand) was often the only hand. This type of watch certainly had its limitations, and therefore, the wristwatch soon took over as the prominent timepiece for the masses. 

However, if you’re going for a more old-fashioned formal look or perhaps trying to look a bit past century, then a pocket watch paired with a cigar cutter in your front pocket would not go amiss. 

How to Wear a Pocket Watch? 

First, let’s take a look at how people used to wear pocket watches. As mentioned, in the beginning, this was often only worn on a special occasions or with formal wear, seeing as very few people could actually afford these timepieces.

Early ‘pocket watches’ were often not even worn the traditional way (in a pocket) but rather around the neck. These objects were large, cumbersome, and quite heavy, meaning that around the neck, they were incredibly uncomfortable… so, as technology progressed, so did the wearing style. 

Rapper Flavor Flav still enjoys rocking his on the neck - Source
Rapper Flavor Flav still enjoys rocking his on the neck – Source

Seeing as this piece of equipment had to be carried with you all over the place, the designers and engineers soon learned that making these small enough to fit into a suit jacket breast pocket or at the end of a chain around your belt would be optimal.

And so, that is how people ended up wearing these in the 16th century. Finding accurate images or data of this is harder than it seems, and while I joked about this earlier, movies and series like Peaky Blinders do give you a good idea of how they used to be worn. 

How to Wear a Pocket Watch - Different styles
Different ways of wearing a pocket watch – Source

In your pants pocket? They sure did. 

Around your trouser belt loop? Absolutely. 

In your waistcoat pocket? A perfectly discreet manner, yes. 

What about within a blazer jacket at a summer wedding? Hot, but yes. 

As you can see, the men’s pocket watch was worn in every single manner imaginable – which leads me to the large part of the question. 

How do you wear a pocket watch today? 

Well, firstly, you’ll need to actually find a watch. No more casual look here. You’ll probably be hopping on Chrono24 and finding a vintage Patek that fits your wallet to dress up in the most classic ways. As you should – since this is probably the biggest factor around wearing a pocket watch. The rest of you. 

You’re about to invest in something you will never ever need and you’ll rarely end up using, so you better make sure the rest of you is also fitting the bill. A 3-piece suit will do, or just about anything you would classify as a formal ensemble. You would not be able to rock a pocket watch with a T-Shirt and jeans. From there, you might need to start thinking of ways to attach the watch to you.

How to wear a pocket watch - Waist Coat
Pocket Watch in Waist Coat – Source

A wallet chain, check. 

At the end of this chain around the top of your pants, check. 

In the left pocket of your full three-piece suit, check. 

In your side pocket, check. 

Essentially, there is no ‘wrong’ way of wearing a pocket watch when looking at the placing of the watch on your body. It’s for you to choose and show some personality with. Keep in mind that some of these might bring complications and other factors you might not be thinking about. So, the best option is to actually try the different styles and see what suits you best.

Cate Blanchett wore an IWC limited-edition pocket watch to a Cannes Film Festival red carpet event in 2018
Cate Blanchett wore an IWC limited-edition pocket watch to a Cannes Film Festival red carpet event in 2018 – Sarah Stewart/Alamy Live News – Source

Personally, I had to wear one for a party once on the end of a chain in my vest pocket, and it wasn’t too bad. However, the chain did make a noise; it did add weight, and it was harder to see the watch face from time to time. Also, the glass could scratch if you were careless. That said, the chances that it would be stolen are far less. 

In the popular Peaky Blinders, the watch is worn on a chain from a breast pocket hanging outside. This is all perfectly fine, however, does put you at risk of (looking like a badass) but also theft. With a long chain (needed for tall gents like myself), you would be an open target, and you could lose your piece of time without even thinking about it. Also, you could hook into other objects or people, all putting you at risk of more and more trouble. 

Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders wearing his pocket watch
Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders wearing his pocket watch – Source

Perhaps the most seamless is to keep it in the small pocket on the inside of your blazer or jacket. That said, you would be running into winding issues, and not everyone wears a jacket at a formal event. So, we’re back to the pants. Then you could either pop it into the pocket and risk it falling out, or you pop it onto a chain hanging from your belt slide chains off the side. And then you are still at risk of theft and hooking into things. Bummer. 

This is why it might be best for you to simply go out and try different styles. Not only should you be sure of how to wear it, but you might also want to take things like mass and chain length into consideration when making your decision, seeing as these will absolutely influence your decision. Lastly, consider the shape and size. If the watch is way too large for your hand chances are it’s too large for your pocket as well. So, you need a smaller watch for your formal occasions – fitting. 

But rising above all is your attire. Your decorative chain and $10,000 piece of fashion is going to clash awfully against a pair of VANS – even though I love VANS, I have to be honest. These watches have to fit you and your look, so, don’t go chasing after something you really are not. Be you. If you’re a T-Shirt and VANS type of guy, a Casio Illuminator is perfectly fine. Again, don’t buy something just for a look if you don’t already have the look… 


In conclusion, these pieces of history need to fit the bill and environment they are in. There are about a billion ways you could wear these, and the only wrong way is to wear them with cheap of informal clothes. You will not be able to pull off the look. You will not look ‘stealth wealth’, and you will certainly only look like a poser or someone that doesn’t understand fashion. 

Of course, I’m sitting in sweatpants and a T-shirt writing this, so what do I know? If you want to rock your pocket watch with a T-Shirt, then go right ahead! I won’t judge you, but others might. 

You might find it hard to actually find a place to store the watch on your person if you do not have fancy clothes on, seeing as these were often worn in pockets we only find with formal clothes. So, take that with a grain of salt. Lastly, polish up, make those chains and cases shine, and make sure you get your bloody best pommy accent right as you whip out that bad boy. 

Tinder, here I come! 

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