Posted 7 years ago
Before a pocket watch was wound by turning the crown or the time set by pushing the crown in or pulling it out, and turning the crown until the hands were set at the proper time, pocket watches had to have a "key" to wind the watch and to set the time. You had to open the back cover, exposing the movement to accomplish this task. Some pocket watches had two post on the movement, one to set the time & one to wind the watch. Others only had one post (as the one pictured above) that was for winding the watch. To set the watch, you opened the front of the watch exposing the dial, and there was a square post in the center holding the hour & minute hands. You placed the key on the center post and turned it until the hands were set at the proper time.
There were some watches, like the one pictured, that had a "hidden key". You would unscrew the crown, and the other end of the crown stem, was the key. This will be a separate posting I will make at a later date.
These keys were made in 14 different sizes, numbered 00, 0, and 1-12, (smallest to largest), to fit the various sizes of post used on the movements. There were some fancy keys, gold ones, ones with precious stones, advertising ones, ones with a ratcheting handle to make it easier & faster, plain keys, and then there was my favorite, the pocket watch key fashioned in the style of a firearm.
In the center of my small collection pictured above is the "holy grail" of my collection. A #5 size pocket watch key fashioned after a "Lefaucheux Pinfire Revolver". Many years ago while collecting small 2mm pinfire pistols, I heard of a small pocket watch key, that resembled a 12mm pinfire revolver. That was all it took, and the hunt was on. In 1983 a book "The Pinfire System" was published, and there was a photo of one in there. The hunt intensified. In the mid-late 1990's, (I believe), there was a photo of different pocket watch keys with a revolver like mine in the photo (see photo #4 above) in the Complete Price Guide to Watches . It wasn't until 2004-05 that I saw one advertised on eBay and it was located in the United Kingdom. After approximately 30 years of searching, I won the bid and wear it proudly on a watch chain with my key-wind watches.
You can have your fancy, hi-tech, Apple watches. I'll stick with my 150+ year old key-wind watches!!!
Thanks for looking,