Vintage Lapel Watches

by Dotty Stringfield

I had never given much thought to lapel watches until my good friend Cynthia Fore Miller started a collection. You do know that you have a collection if you have more than 2 or 3 similar items! Since Cynthia had gathered a "large" collection of 8 watches, I decided that others might enjoy the beauty and creativity that went into their design.

Since Cynthia's "large" collection only had 8 watches, I've asked others to donate pictures of interesting lapel watches they own. If you have some you think would make good additions to this gallery, please send pictures of the front and back to me at

A Bit of Watch History

The first watches appear to have been made during the early 1500's, but were not reliable at keeping time. They were more of a status symbol worn by the wealthy. Queen Elizabeth I and members of her court wore watches on chains or ribbons around their necks as fashion accessories. They were usually elaborately decorated or often enclosed in elaborate cases. Some early watch cases were in the form of animals or other objects with the watch hidden inside.

In 1785 George Washington had a watch and chain made for his wife Martha. Also, late in the 1700's watches were often worn suspended from chatelaine pins. Ladies' "pocket" style watches continued to be worn on chains or suspended from "watch pins" through the early 1900's. A 1902 catalog shows ladies' enameled lapel "pocket" style watches on matching enameled fleur-de-lis pins. Enamel ball watches appeared as early as 1915, as did ring watches. The first true lapel watch, meant to be worn upside down, that I found was in a 1915 catalog.

From Carolyn Sunday: All antique watch cases marked "14K" are not necessarily solid gold. Many marked 14K are gold filled and were marked so before regulations were in place about karat marking. The Complete Price Guide To Watches has guides to hallmarks that tell which companies used these hallmarks. Another very good resource is the website of NAWCC - The Association of Watch And Clock Collectors.

Also, from Carolyn Sunday: "The Elgin (courtesy Lee Lowe) and the Lady Elgin (courtesy Lilly, Vittetow) in the album are referred to as 'transitional watches'. The reason that they are looped at the bottom is because they were transitioning between the popularity of the lapel watch up to around 1920, to the coming fashion of the wrist watch. These usually came with wrist strap attachments so that they could be worn both ways. After 1920 many watch manufacturers were stuck with lapel watches that were no longer fashionable, and this was there way of transitioning into the new market of the wrist watch. Typically the straps were grosgrain ribbon with snap fittings at the wrist." Cynthia wrote:

Antique lapel watches caught my attention when I fell in love with one I won in an auction. It is the Bennett lapel watch shown in this collection. With this watch I learned some great facts to know about antique watches per my friend, Carolyn Sunday of, who specializes in antique period jewelry. I learned the watch is an original old Edwardian to Deco transitional piece, circa 1920-1940. The tiny hand at the bottom that counts off seconds is referred to as a subsidiary seconds hand. The crystal is domed glass. The blued steel hands are blued in the same process used to do gun bluing. The watch was in poor shape and did not run, but I had it restored. The oil had leaked into the crystal and it was hard to see the copper colored face.

Antique watch repair is costly so if you want to collect these you must be willing to invest. Parts are hard to come by and also it is difficult to find someone who wants to repair them. This statement is from Carolyn who advised me on the restoration, "One caveat with any vintage watch that you may have restored. It's really important afterwards to faithfully keep it wound up (all the way as far as it will go, not just a few wimpy winds) on a regular basis. That's true for all wind ups, but ESPECIALLY for ladies watches, which are notorious for needing frequent cleanings. Just like an old car, if you let it sit in the garage for months on end without ever 'turning it over', it will not run properly. A watch that just sits after a cleaning with out being wound will eventually start to run erratically, sluggishly, or stop completely. This is because the oil will begin to congeal on the balance and throughout all the moving parts through which the oil circulates. So if you are going to invest in "COA" clean, oil, and adjust, make sure that you faithfully pull it out at least once every couple of weeks and crank that puppy up!"

*Written permission necessary to use information or pictures from this site in any other publications, written or electronic.

Lapel Watches from the collection of Cynthia Fore Miller.

Dorson's Sailfish Lapel Watch marked "DO"


Imperial Watch hanging
from an unmarked Sailfish brooch


Dorson's DO Creations case
holding a Cort Swiss watch

Bulova Floral Lapel Watch


Akron Lapel Watch


Bennett Lapel Watch


Dorsons Imperial Lapel Watch
"DO" mark for Dorson's by David Ornstein


Forem Quartz Watch
Mother-of-Pearl Face


Dorson's Lapel Watch

Cort Lapel Watch c. 1940

Watch is also free-standing

Hilton Lapel Watch c. 1940

Watch is also free-standing

Lapel Watches from other friends of RCJ.

Bucherer Enamel Lapel Watch
Courtesy RC Antiques at Ruby Lane


Courtesy RC Antiques at Ruby Lane

Croton El Watch hanging
from a Carl Art brooch

Courtesy Sandy Lisnak

Gotham Lapel Watch
Courtesy Sande Kattau.

Dorson's DO Creations case
holding a Lion Watch Co. works
Courtesy Christia


Benson Electra Lapel Watch
Courtesy Elaine Kula

Bird Watch
marked West Germany, Medana
Courtesy Lorna Breshears

Watch face
marked Neiman Marcus, Swiss
Probably made of Eloxal

Croton Lapel Watch c. 1930-1940
Courtesy Carolyn Sunday

Guilloché Enamel back

Crawford Sterling Lapel Watch c. 1940
Courtesy Robin Deutsch

Marked Crawford Watch Co.

Elgin Watch hanging
from a "watch pin"
Courtesy Lee Lowe

The loop at the bottom would allow the watch to be worn upsidedown

Lady Elgin Lapel Watch
"Watch Pin" marked "916.6" for Russian Silver
Mark dates the pin only to 1896 to 1920

Courtesy Lilly Vittetow
The watch was her grandmother's.

EVKOB Lapel Watch
Courtesy Elizabeth Watson

Courtesy Lilly Vittetow
The watch was her grandmother's.

Louvic Lapel Watch
Courtesy Illusion Jewels

Louvic is a generic Swiss watch company name

Face marked Leora; works marked Helbros Watch Co.

Courtesy Carrie Pollack

Geneva Lapel Watch
Courtesy Carrie Pollack

Emerson Lapel Watch
Courtesy Carrie Pollack

Gotham Lapel Watch
17 jewels; Sterling; 925

Courtesy Adrienne Shivers

Greyhound Lapel Watch
Bucherer Lucerne Swiss-- all marcasites

Back- "C.B."; 925
Courtesy Adrienne Shivers

Rare EMKA Lapel Watch
17 jewels; 925, "METALL"

Back of watch marked "METALL"
Courtesy Adrienne Shivers

EMKA Lapel Watch
Courtesy Marlaine Hysell

Purchased in antique store in Curacao, Netherland Antilles in 1985

Gotham Watch
Courtesy Jo Sullenger

Marks on back
EZP (a line drawing of a crown)18K 0.750

C. F. Tissot & Sons Ladies Lapel Watch
Courtesy Elaine Kula

c. 1855, hangs from black enamel/diamond watch pin

Courtesy Pam Kirch


Courtesy Eva Roldan
1960's Sheffield


Face marked Leora
Courtesy Chewchewluver


Marked Misalla
Courtesy Shirley VanOverbake


Marked Gotham;
dorsons 1/2 12K GF
Courtesy JoAnn Crampton



Time Telling Through the Ages by Harry C. Brearley c. 1919
Vintage catalogs on Morning Glory Antiques website - owner Jane Clarke

Researching Costume Jewelry Home      More Jewelry Designer Articles

Copyright 1997 to present, Illusion All Rights Reserved.

Background courtesy Pat Hamm of Granny's Jewelry Box

Vintage Costume Jewelry