How to wear a pocket watch with flair

Peaky Blinders has catapulted the pocket watch back into fashion
Image source: Peaky Blinders (Episode 1, Series 2) BBC 2

Thanks to the BBC’s hit TV series, Peaky Blinders, pocket watches are back in fashion. In fact, they’re so popular in Birmingham where the 1920s Midlands gangland drama is set, that local jewellers are running out of the classic timepieces. If you like the look, here’s everything you need to know about pocket watches and how to wear one with flair.

Peaky Blinders


The suits, jackets, hats and acres of tweed featured in the series are all true to the time
Image source: Peaky Blinders, (Series 2), BBC2

Tommy Selby and co. may be fictional, but the Peaky Blinders were a real gang which operated in Birmingham in the 1890s. They are in fact based on the ‘Birmingham Boys’, headed up by the much feared Billy Kimber which ruled the roost during the years after the First World War.

While it’s unlikely that either gang used razors stitched into the brims of their caps to blind opponents, both gangs were certainly renowned for their brutality – the ‘Birmingham Boys’ gang is said to have been the most feared gang in the country.

The TV series is, of course, a highly stylised portrayal of the period and the people, but the look is undeniable – and realistic. The suits, jackets and pocket watches Tommy, Arthur and family wear are perfectly in sync with the time.

What types of pocket watches are there?


A vintage “hunter” pocket watch has a full cover to protect the face
Image source: slonme

A period timepiece from the 1920s costs from around £120 and upwards – a top notch Swiss version will cost a bomb. But if the charms of a vintage mechanical watch are lost on you, there are modern equivalents. Today, quartz pocket watches come in at a relatively affordable £50 or so and keep excellent time.

As for style – choose whichever floats your boat:

  • An open watch has no cover over the glass watch face
  • A hunter’s face is encased within a metal cover which you’ll have to flip back to see the time
  • A half-hunter has a metal cover with a glass covered-hole in the middle to allow you to see the time without opening the watch
  • A double hunter has an opening cover on the back as-well-as the front

Should you choose a single or double Albert chain?


Do you prefer the Single Albert or the Double Albert chain?
Image source: Peaky Blinders (Episode 1, Series 2) BBC 2

Take a look at Tommy Shelby, played by Cillian Murphy and you’ll notice he usually wears his pocket watch suspended from a single chain, in the left pocket of his waistcoat. This is an example of the “Single Albert”.

Arthur, played by Paul Anderson, however, sometimes sports what’s called a “Double Albert” – which is to say he wears a double chain with the watch in one pocket and a fob in the other.

You can go for whichever version you like. In both cases, the watch chain features a t-bar which fits through a buttonhole to secure it. You might even like to hang a fob from the t-bar itself – typically this would be some sort of medallion, perhaps with your initials engraved.

Wearing a Double Albert gives you the option of adding a useful trinket to the end of the extra chain – if you’d like to ape the hedonistic excesses of the roaring twenties, perhaps give a champagne swizzler a try?

How to wear your pocket watch with a waistcoat


A tweed waistcoat, as part of a two- or three-piece suit, is the ideal way to show off a pocket watch
Image source: Samuel Windsor tweed waistcoats

The Blinders wear their pocket watches with acres of tweed – not only was the tough, warm material perfectly suited to the days before central heating, it’s also breathable and the generous cuts of the era made fighting a lot easier. Hopefully you won’t be indulging in fisticuffs, but you’ll still be looking for a tweed three-piece suit. A waistcoat is the ultimate place to wear your pocket watch.

Though Harris tweed is your go-to option, any three-piece suit will make your pocket watch shine. Alternatively, try wearing your two-piece lounge suit with a contrasting tweed waistcoat under. Go for warm brown hues to wear with a gold pocket watch. Greys, blues and greens suit silver watches and chains.

How to wear your pocket watch with a jacket

Striking green velvet jacket from Samuel Windsor

A silver pocket watch would work well with this striking green velvet jacket
Image source: Samuel Windsor velvet jackets

While the Shelbys tend to do their blazing with shotguns, rifles, revolvers and anything else that goes bang, you can do it by wearing your snazzy pocket watch correctly. If you’re wearing it with a jacket rather than a waistcoat, simply thread the t-bar of your single Albert chain through your jacket’s lapel button hole, and pop the watch into the breast pocket. Alternatively, put the t-bar through the middle button hole of a three button jacket, and put the watch either front pocket.

No jacket? Not to worry – it’s not quite true to the style and epoch of Peaky Blinders, but Humphrey Bogart wore his pocket watch secured by a chain to the waistband of his lounge suit trousers – the watch, unsurprisingly in his pocket.

Do you wear a pocket watch? We’d love to hear your tips for making the look work for you. Do drop us a line over on our Facebook page.

Posted in How To - Style, Men's style guides.