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POCKET WATCHES - CASE STYLES

Many early pocket-watches have the sought-after pair cases in which there is an outer case and an inner case. The original idea was for the plain outer case to protect the often more decorative and delicate inner case. As English watches became plainer in style, the inner case was just as plain as the outer, but conservatism, and perhaps the idea of conspicuous consumption, maintained the pair case. They were still made (in ever decreasing numbers) until at least the last part of the 19th century.

The more normal type of pocket watch case is the open faced case. At first these had a pendant and bow for suspending the watch from a chain, and were wound by opening the back cover. Inside the back cover there was a dust cover, usually removable by operating a steel slide; the dust cover had a hole in it through which the watch could be wound using a key. Usually the hands were set with a key by raising the hinged bezel and glass and turning the hands with the key, using the square central post.

Later, especially in Swiss watches, the dust cover or cuvette was attached to the watch by a hinge so that it could not be lost. A better method of hand setting was devised whereby the hands were set with the key through a second hole in the cuvette, so that damage to the dial and hands was less likely, and there was less risk of dust getting into the movement.

With the coming of stem winding at the end of the nineteenth century the separate cuvette was made redundant but once again British conservatism triumphed over common sense, and many watches continued to be made with this totally unnecessary additional cover.

A common and very popular kind of case is the Hunter, properly called a Hunting Case watch, in which the glass is protected with a hinged front cover which flies up on pressing a button in the stem, or with later stem wind watches by pressing in the winding button itself. The name presumably came about from the need for more protection for your watch when you were riding in a fox hunt.

It is said that Napoleon Bonapart became impatient with the act of raising the cover of his hunter watch and made a small hole in the middle of it with his knife, thus devising the first ever half hunter or demi hunter watch.