Craig Duling serves as CEO of the San Francisco company Heritage Management Services, Inc., and devotes time to philanthropic endeavors. In addition, Craig Duling has studied and collected antique pocket watches for four decades. He shares his love of pocket watches and their history on his website HeritagePocketWatch.com, where readers will find advice on collecting and appraising watches, as well as articles on their history.
With Smithsonian magazine calling the pocket watch the “first wearable tech game changer” in the world, the importance of the pocket watch to human civilization is readily apparent. The precise origins of the pocket watch may be lost in history, although medieval people were familiar with mechanical clockworks. Renaissance-era portraits show men holding watches of various types suspended from ribbons or chains, in an era where simple mainspring technology flourished.
Some authorities believe the pocket watch was invented by Italian makers in the 15th century. Many others point to Peter Henlein, the Nuremberg watchmaker and creator of a single-hand device early in the 16th century. In any case, both men and women were using portable watches in the 1500s. The earliest models were egg-shaped and bulky, but they were soon replaced by flatter case shapes.
King Charles II of England is said to have popularized the securing of pocket watches by chains. When he introduced the wearing of waistcoats in the late 17th century, he provided men with a fashionable way to carry their pocket watches.