By 1st Sgt. Koepp
A proper pocket watch chain is just as important as the pocket watch. Unfortunately, finding proper chains can be sometimes be a real challenge. The ones that come with modern pocket watches are not period correct. The type of straight chain with what looks like a belt clip on the other end is designed for the modern user.
You can find pocket watch chains on Ebay, but you can also make your own. Chains and charms that were attached to them reflected the owner's style and personality. Making your own is inexpensive and gives you an opportunity to express your historical personality. The first photo shows my watch and chain. I, like others in our company are Freemasons and express this through my watch and chain. The pocket watch isn't technically period correct but the Masonic emblem is the style of the period. More importantly, this illustrates the three main parts of a watch chain. You have a chain to the watch that is about 9 or so inches for a single pocket wear, a 1.5 to 2" chain to the t-bar or toggle that goes to the buttonhole, and another same size chain to the charm.
Antique watch chains have parts that are pretty much unique unto themselves. The "dog clip" that clips the chain to the watch and the triple ring that attaches the chains together, are parts I haven't seen elsewhere in jewelry making. Let's jump in to the construction details and I can share with you how I work around these.
First, you'll want to visit a local craft store and check out the jewelry section. If you're at Michael's, don't forget your coupons! I recommend by starting with choosing a chain. I recommend starting out with a simple chain in either silver, gold, or copper. I chose antique brass for this example and finding the spring clips I needed was really difficult. In fact, I had to use a "lobster claw" clip for the charm chain rather than a 6 or 9mm spring clip. Once you have your chain, find a pack of "jump chains" that fits with the style. The jump chains will hold the three chains together and will attach your chains to the proper spring clips. Ideally, you'd already have your pocket watch with you to help you chose the large spring clip that will clip to the pocket watch. If not, a 12mm should cover most sizes. Lastly, you'd also hopefully have a charm chosen, but if not, chose a spring clip about 6 or 9mm to attach the chain to the charm. If it doesn't end up big enough, that okay, just put a jump ring on the charm and the ring will easily fit into the spring clip. Then you'll need to chose a toggle to hold everything in your vest's buttonhole. Toggles are typically used for bracelets and sometimes necklaces. They come in 2 piece sets. You'll have a bar toggle that will serve as the t-bar and a loop. You won't need the loop, but be sure to choose a toggle big enough that it won't fall easily out of your button hole. Before you leave, you may want to pick up some small, smooth jaw needle nose pliers and a pair of diagonal side cuts, if you don't have any.
Once home, all you have to do is cut your lengths of chain. My original has two lengths, one at 9" and 2 pieces at 1.5". Join them all with a single jump ring in the middle. Attach the toggle to the upper short chain with a jump ring. On the charm ring, attach the small spring clip with a jump ring. Finally, attach the large spring clip with a jump ring and clip on your pocket watch. Congratulations, you've made your very own simple pocket watch chain. This example is just a spring board for future creativity. You can see on my antique chain, that three different types of chains were used. You can certainly do that, too. One other thing you can do is to use longer lengths of chain. If you do a Google image search for pocket watch chains, you'll see the other common way of wearing a chain was to go from one pocket to the other with the charm hanging from the buttonhole. This is certainly a higher fashion way of rocking a pocket watch.
If you are looking for the correct pocket watch swivel clasps, you can find them on places like Etsy or Ebay. They usually run about $8-10. My above example is just to show what you can make with easily found craft store items.