What Is A Steampunk Mechanical Pocket Watch? The Comprehensive Guide 2021

What Is a Steampunk Mechanical Pocket Watch?

A mechanical pocket watch`s main feature is being powered by self winding this creates and stores the energy to make the pocket watch tick for a short period of time usually up to a day. This means it does not require a battery and it is that independent reliable functioning that connects to the Steampunk genre and it`s love of all things that work by cog and gears created in the Victorian era.

Therefore the mechanical pocket watch has become a very popular Steampunk accessory that fits into the fantasy, subcultures and costume of Steampunk fans.

As the Steampunk style started gaining its fame during the last years of the 19th century, so did the most typical items that were worn by the people of the Victorian era.

The mechanical pocket watch started as simply a portable clock, but it quickly became a collector’s object as time passed by and designers started to get creative with them hence it`s evolution to a  self winding independently powered device. Authors of fiction literature also frequently mentioned them, such as H.G. Wells in The Time Machine. 

They also can be used by different types of characters for different sorts of cosplays including the time traveler and dirty mechanic persona archetypes and, finally, they can be displayed as fancy ornaments when the owner is not actively using it. We explore everything you need to know about `Steampunk mechanical pocket watches`. 

⦁ How do Steampunk Mechanical Pocket Watches Look?

 Mechanical pocket watches need winding, which means that they don’t have batteries leaving room for the special movement mechanism that supply’s the power to make it tick. The main feature is the crown used to wind it and secondly the mentioned mechanism inside but you cannot see that unless you have a skeleton pocket watch or if you take of the back cover.

The parts of the pocket watch:

-The crown of the pocket watch is used for winding.

-The cover, which in this case is a Half Hunter Cover can be opened to see the movement..

-The latch is what keeps the half-hunter cover closed. The latch release lets you open the case.

-The bow lets you add a chain to the pocket watch, a thread, or clip it to another sort of metallic ring. You can also use it to attach it to a bag or backpack.

-The internal movement mechanism that can be wound

⦁ How does a Mechanical Pocket watch work? 


A mechanical watch is driven by a mainspring which must be wound either periodically by hand or via a self-winding mechanism which means that they don’t have batteries. With most pocket watches running for at least 24 hours on a full wind, as a general rule of thumb, it is sensible to wind your pocket watch at least once per day if it is in regular use. Try to only wind your pocket watch as often as is needed – over winding your watch can cause damage to the spring mechanism.

Externally the crown of the pocket watch is the main feature it helps you manually wind the watch. If you turn the crown clockwise, you will be able to wind it. Once it stops, you have to push the crown again. This is something you have to do daily. This part is also called ‘the winder’.

We are sure that you are aware that the parts inside its mechanisms are intrinsic, complicated and beautiful. See the image below for some insight and to appreciate the whole pocket watch and it`s beauty you need to know how it looks and works within internally. We have already mentioned a couple of times how the self-winding strategy works, so here we will just show the parts of the pocket watch mechanism. 



If you want to know how a disassembled pocket watch would look like, you can click on this video made by Animagraffs. It showcases a meticulously done animation about how Mechanical pocket watches look and work internally. It’s very well done and a very short video (less than 10 minutes!) so you should definitely give it a try.


⦁ Pros and cons of Mechanical Pocket watches


Even if we speak mostly positively about mechanical pocket watches (and with reason) it’s true that for some, they may not be the most appealing ones. Or, to be more precise, they may not be what you are looking for in a determined situation. We have been dropping pros and cons in all the article (and many other articles!) but here we will go right to the point to show you the pros and cons of owning mechanical pocket watches:


-If you like to create and wear costumes of historical characters, this is the best option for you. You’d have to consider this if you specially like the Victorian or Western Steampunk look!

-Works amazingly with Sci-Fi inspired characters, too, like we have shown with the Doctor Who cosplayers.

-As it doesn’t have a battery, there’s no need to worry about having to buy another in the future and having to change it (which is what happens with the Quartz pocket watch). Also, you wouldn’t have to worry about taking it to your local watchmaker to get it changed either, which is something that a lot of people do, as they are not sure of how to change the battery by themselves or would rather have a professional do it instead.

-They work very well as house ornaments when displayed on a pocket watch stand or display window box, as anything that looks like an antiquity can be exposed as house décor and give you good results. It can work as a centrepiece in your living or dining room, or as a pretty object to look at on your night table.


-It might not be the best choice to wear it with modern clothes. It’d be quite difficult to pull off in a serious environment, such as a business meeting. You may want to use it for cosplays, Ren fairs, or any other Steampunk event.

-You have to remember to wind it every single day of course, and to do it correctly. However, it’s very easy to find the instructions that tell you how to wind it. Disregard this point if your watch is an automatic mechanical pocket watch, as that would mean that it’s self-winding and doesn’t require you to adjust it every day.

⦁ What’s the origin of the Steampunk Mechanical Pocket Watch?

The mechanical aesthetic of Steampunk pocket watches is inspired by the pocket watches that were popularized during the Victorian era, as we have mentioned before, which occupies a huge portion of the nineteenth century. The original inspiration in the Steampunk aesthetic also includes America’s Far West and the French Belle Époque, too, but we will refer to it as mostly ‘Victorian’ in this article.

The typical ‘cogs and gears’ look is also inspired by the clockwork of big timepieces such as those that could be seen in houses of wealthy people, and the industrial machinery whose popularity took off during these years. Understandably so, the citizens of these modern industrial times needed to find a way to know the time without having to go back to their places, and that’s partly the reason of why pocket watches became a thing. Sounds pretty reasonable, right?

However, not everyone could afford these, and that’s absolutely expected. People that belonged to middle classes (such as doctors and lawyers) could get to buy a decent one one, though they obviously were just functional objects for them, as something fancier could have meant a couple of extra pounds on the final prize, which most of the time wasn’t an option.

Meanwhile, people of higher classes had pocket watches with embedded jewellery, engraved initials and even photographs of loved ones, which was not something that everyone could afford (that’s the essential definition of exclusivity). In summary, people of the working middle class saw them as a mere timepiece, while rich people saw them as objects of design.

To be more precise with this point, there’s a video that came out last year, made by Watchfinder & Co, in which you can see 3 examples of gorgeous (and very, VERY expensive) pocket watches. This video will absolutely blow your mind, trust us! And as you are here, subscribe to their channel, too. Give them some love!

.The History Of The Steampunk Mechanical Pocket Watch


To start with, the word steampunk comes from a phrase coined by American author K.W. Jeter in his 1987 novel “Morlock Night.” This book is loosely based on H.G. Wells 1895 novel, “The Time Machine.”

“The Time Machine” is a novel that takes place in Victorian London where a group of travelers from a dinner party travels into the future using a time-traveling device. This means that although they wear Victorian costumes, they are way ahead of their times as far as technology goes. Hence the term steampunk was born.

Here is a quote from the author himself:

‘‘When I wrote Morlock Night I hadn’t traveled to England. Before I wrote Infernal Devices, I managed to get to London and I could see all the things I got wrong, of course, but gratifyingly there were at least a few things I got right. In terms of influence, I’ve always been a stodgy old person (even when I was young) and so I read a lot of Victorian literature. Not just the obvious stuff, Dickens, and that sort of thing, but the more obscure people, like George Gissing. He was a literary writer, a friend of H. G. Wells

As far as the steampunk mechanical watch goes, these characters would all have had them. Ironically, to record the passage of time as they went into the future.

*Special Note

Morlocks are the creatures that live in the future of the H.G. Wells time machine novel. They are the main fictional antagonists that cause most of the problems for Victorian time travelers.

The pocket watch emerged somewhere around the sixteenth century. (Ironically, it was a large clock worn around the neck and not placed in the pocket at all.) These timepieces didn’t even have a minute hand, but oddly enough, the face of this clock was exposed. Skipping ahead, the next place pocket watches appeared was the American Railway Association in the mid the mid-nineteenth century. These pocket timepieces were used by rail workers to keep trains on a schedule – so they wouldn’t crash into each other.

Sadly enough, the popularity of the pocket watch declined after World War I, when consumers started wearing wristwatches.

And it wasn’t until the 1980’s that the pocket watch was revived. This is largely due to Screaming Lord Hutch, a London musician who also wore steampunk fashions and ironically ran for parliament many times.


The Contemporary Steampunk Pocket Watch



You can make the steampunk mechanical pocket watch even more modern. Did you know that all jeans, to this day, come with what is called a watch pocket? It all started with Levi’s – when they decided to put a watch packet in their jeans. This was in the 1800s. Long after the original pocket watch was invented in the 1500s.

And to this day, the watch pocket is still on the right-hand side of all modern jeans. So, you can put your steampunk mechanical pocket watch into the place that was made for it. Then you can pull it out at any time when you want to make a statement about your choice of timepieces.

⦁ How can I wear a Steampunk Mechanical Pocket Watch? 

One of the most popularized sorts of characters inside the Steampunk community are those that frequently work with heavy machinery or use scientific knowledge for their own creative purposes. One classic example of this would be time travellers, who were very loved during the last decade due to the reboot of the Doctor Who series. A case that shows what we are talking about can be seen in this picture:

Here, you can see avsie2014’s cosplay of the Eight doctor from the most recent version of the Doctor Who series. Not only the cosplayer is rocking the trench coat, but also you can absolutely see the silver chain of the pocket watch hanging in front of that beautiful vest. Overall, this outfit is a huge success.

Another archetypal characters that you can see wearing mechanical pocket watches would be engineers, airship pilots, and mechanical workers, just to name a few. Here we will show you some pictures to illustrate what we are talking about.

A Victorian gentleman wearing a full leather-looking attire, with a hat that has golden goggles and a golden pocket watch hanging from his shirt. The cane with the golden handle is an absolute plus. Note that this gentleman is wearing the ‘typical’ Steampunk colour palette, which essentially consists of auburn colours: orange, brown, gold. It’s not terribly expensive and it can look hella good on anyone.

Or, you can always look like a mad engineer, like the model in the picture above. The crazy photoshop over his eye that makes it look like he’s configuring his pocket watch virtually makes it be really awesome. The bronze pocket watch matches very well with that vibrant orange vest, too. The black (presumably long) trench coat seems like the perfect fit for this gentleman too, as well as with the first cosplayer.

⦁ What about Quartz pocket watches? Differences between a Quartz pocket watch and a Mechanical pocket watch



As we mentioned in previous articles, the Quartz pocket watch has the core of a quartz crystal inside its mechanisms. It’s one of the most used pocket watches nowadays, and can be used with modern outfits without a problem.

That would be one of the differences with the mechanical pocket watch: it’s not as easily usable with modern clothing as the other one.

What respects to its insides, the quartz pocket watch doesn’t have a self-winding mechanism: it has an electronic oscillator that helps it keep the time correctly.

For this point, we will like to show you two things:

First, a video made by the lovely PeterBuddy, who uploaded a very helpful video that taught a lot of people how to change the battery of his pocket watch. A lot of users in the comments showed him a lot of love and were being very thankful, so if you are finding yourself in this situation, you should absolutely follow his steps:


Second, we are aware that most people may see quartz pocket watches as having a rather simple design. However, that’s far from the truth. Not because they are more modern than the mechanical pocket watches it means that they have to be boring! Pinterest user Iris8300 has quite a display of quartz pocket watches for you to see. Here’s the board:

You are more than welcome to see other user’s collections of pocket watches on Pinterest, too!


⦁ Presence In Media: Steampunk Inspired Literature and Movies/Tv Shows

As we often say, there are quite a few popular mentions of pocket watches in media, whether we are talking about books, tv shows, or movies. What’s more, they are not always mentioned just because they work as a decorative touch for the main characters. We will show you what are talking about in a second. Watch out, as there might be spoilers if you are reading these books!
In this article, we will quote the great British author Agatha Christie (the “Queen of Mystery”) who has amazed millions with her detective novels, particularly the ones starring the lovable and short-sized detective, Hercules Poirot. Even if we are not going to quote that here, we want to mention that the Belgian detective himself is a proud owner of a fancy pocket watch.

Now, let’s start illustrating our point:

The first quote that we are going to address is related to one of the most famous books that she wrote, Murder on the Orient Express. This a story that involves someone getting murdered inside one of the fanciest train services that ever existed in Europe. The pocket watch that takes place here is directly involved as a piece of evidence. Here’s the quote:

““Then it is a clue.”
“Oh! decidedly. And again, dropped most conveniently. A masculine clue, this time, you note! One cannot complain of having no clues in this case. There are clues here in abundance. By the way, what have you done with the weapon?”
“There was no sign of any weapon. The murderer must have taken it away with him.” “I wonder why,” mused Poirot. “Ah!” The doctor had been delicately exploring the pyjama pockets of the dead man.
“I overlooked this,” he said. “I unbuttoned the jacket and threw it straight back.” From the breast pocket he brought out a gold watch. The case was dented savagely, and the hands pointed to a quarter past one. “You see?” cried Constantine eagerly.
“This gives us the hour of the crime. It agrees with my calculations. Between midnight and two in the morning is what I said, and probably about one o’clock, though it is difficult to be exact in these matters.
Eh bien, here is confirmation. A quarter past one. That was the hour of the crime.””
You’d have to keep on reading the book to find out what’s the fate of this pocket watch, and what’s the specific role that it plays in the plot.
Moving on, here’s another mention of a pocket watch, but this time it’s from another novel of hers, The Seven Dials Mystery (look at the cover!):

“This, then, was Alfred’s mysterious Russian gentleman, the proprietor of the club, the sinister Mr. Mosgorovsky. Bundle’s heart beat faster with excitement. So little did she resemble her father that at this minute she fairly gloried in the extreme discomfort of her position.

The Russian remained for some minutes standing by the table, stroking his beard. Then he drew a watch from his pocket and glanced at the time. Nodding his head as though satisfied, he again thrust his hand into his pocket and, pulling out something that Bundle could not see, he moved out of the line of vision.”


.Movies That Feature The Steampunk Lifestyle

Although you may or may not see steampunk mechanical watches closeup in a movie or a television show, these watches are an integral part of the characters’ costumes. This includes the watches that they wore on chains or kept in their pockets. They also carried other types of modern technology that were usually hidden somewhere in the period pieces they wore. And while these characters may have worn Victorian clothing, they also had technology that was way ahead of its time.

A notable example of one of these television shows is the Avengers, whose characters always carried a steampunk mechanical pocket watch to solve a crime. And if you are a fan of any television shows where men wear bowlers and cravats – and the women wear corsets, top hats, and bustles – then you are in good company.

That’s what makes these movies and television shows more interesting. Think about it this way. The steampunk movement was also influenced by the Industrial Revolution. And the Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain in the 18th Century. This is probably where the idea for steampunk was born. If you think about it, it all makes sense. People who worked in factories probably still wore the clothing of the day.

As well, the most infamous steampunk music video is the one that the band “The Smashing Pumpkins” made for their hit song “Tonight, Tonight.”
In it, the Victorian characters go to the moon in a dirigible and then go down to the bottom of the sea to encounter a giant octopus. All in the Victorian clothing of that era.

So, as you can see, steampunk fashions and watches are also in style for popular bands.


Moving on, we can also absolutely talk about pocket watches and its appearance in movies. If you have been reading us for a while, you know that there’s a ton of characters that show off their pocket watches. We always try to show you different examples that we find online, so if you feel like watching a movie that features a pocket watch look, you’d have plenty to choose from.

The first movie that we are going to address is Wild Wild West (1999). Will Smith pulls off a fantastic look, with a gorgeous pocket watch chain matched with all-black cowboy clothes. The golden chain even matches his belt buckle. Even if it’s not frequently referenced, the Western Steampunk genre definitely deserves more love. The picture below explains exactly why.

On the other hand, (but kinda going back to the detective vibe, though not in the serious way you’d expect), the comical movie Sherlock Holmes (1999) starring Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock also has its own collection of fun outfits. Of course, the detective here is looking at a silver pocket watch, and it looks like it has a double hunter cover.

As you can see, there are endless examples of pocket watches in media, and we will keep on showing you more and more.

⦁ How the Steampunk mechanical pocket watch complements the ‘Skeleton pocket watch style’?


Skeleton pocket watches sing a slightly different tune. They consist of a pocket watch without a full-frontal cover, which means that the owner will be able to see the clockwork interior of the watch without having to completely open it.

Skeleton pocket watches simply bare all their cogs and mechanisms through a open casing window a permanent reminder of the beauty of cogs and gears. a mechanical pocket watch does not have that intention but certainly has the assets to pull it off. You can see that perfectly in one of the most famous Skeleton pocket watches, the Mount Royal, which is shown in the following picture:

The special winding mechanism of a mechanical pocket watch can go unseen which is a travesty in the Steampunk world. This is where the skeleton pocket watch style comes into play it is open so the special mechanical mechanism can be on show. A great partnership of styles and the main reason alot of Steampunk fans buy a `skeleton mechanical pocket watch` rather than the mechanical pocket watch on it`s own.

So, did you enjoy our article? Hopefully you got a very clear visual about mechanical pocket watches and other variants that you may come across while looking them up on the Internet. At the end, choosing one ends up being a matter of taste and elegancy, but also financial responsibility.

Don’t feel pressured to spend more than you are comfortable with, as we can assure you that you will find a mechanical pocket watch that will make you feel fantastic. If you are cosplaying a character that you created, just make sure that it matches their aesthetic correctly. If you want an ornament for your house, find something that has the same colours as the walls of your place.

We advise when you can get a mechanical pocket watch buy one with a warranty available in case of malfunction so it can be fixed in the future this is so you do not get any nasty surprises that can not be rectified. Gents like to be prepared for what ever can take place on his adventure.

Essentially, you will have to research anything you may consider helpful and, in no time, you will find one that’s right for you!

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