It might seem a bit crazy but pocket watches can be addicting, yes it is true!
The genius and craftsmanship to accurately track time on the go is nothing short of amazing; the pocket watch is truly the scientific instrument of the day. Pocket Watches were a incredible advancement from the clock tower in the town square or the clock in the watchmaker’s shop. Just think during the mid 19th century coal driven steam engines drove miles of pulleys and belts delivering power to these newly invented precision machines which created the finest gears, screws and accurate precision parts never before accomplished; creating these finest of pocket watches to accurately track time anywhere.
Teams of scientists, inventors and mathematicians developed, refined and improved the art and science of timekeeping. Each watch company worked to invent and develop the next new innovation in alloys and technology for added accuracy and life. This makes for an endless study of advancements and accomplishments by these newly formed watch companies.
The major motivating factor behind the extreme accuracy of the pocket watch and the necessity to accurately track time was for the railroads. With as many as 500 independent railroads with some operating as little as 80 miles of track, accurate time keeping was a necessity. Just after the Civil War, the railroads expanded to transporting more than just mail and cargo, but included passenger trains also. The railroads joined the east coast to the west coast together at an alarming rate to accommodate this countries rapid growth.
The story begins in Kipton Ohio April 1891 when two trains collide, one a passenger train and the other a mail train. With a tremendous loss of life both Engineers and six Mail Employees with no passengers injured. With this loss of life and property the U.S. Government Department of the Interior commissioned Webb C. Ball to initiate a standard for time keeping by which the railroad companies would comply. This “Railroad Standard” was introduced in 1894 and increased the quality of the American Pocket Watch being manufactured. Each pocket watch of the day turned out to be each an individual work of art each with it’s own character. From the sound of the movement ticking to the inside view of the movements with it’s jeweled setting and gold (in most cases) gears rotating with precision not seen before, just a wonder to watch in action. To think by the 1860’s the American Watch Companies had created the scientific instrument of the day able to keep incredibly accurate time.
This is again my warning be aware that collecting the American Pocket Watch can create an addiction! These timepieces are again truly magnificent works of Horologic History, Railroad History and American History truly marvels of invention. Once the study starts and you hold in your hand that first pocket watch ticking beware, that is where the addiction starts. Before you know it you might just be looking for that next pocket watch, so do not say I did not warn you! The watch is one of the few gentlemen’s accouterments or accessories that are still being collecting to this day, very few men own just one watch. So once started on this path of exploration of the American Pocket Watch please remember this warning, collecting pocket watches can be addicting!
Addicted… The Pocket Watch Guy