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Antique Pocket Watch





"That’s when I spied the old box and soon discovered its contents: Daddy’s antique pocket watch. 'He wanted you to have it,' my mother said, as I rubbed my thumb over the raised image of the deer and pushed opened the cover. 'I know, mama,' I replied without looking up. 'I’d like that very much. I’ll treasure it always.'"






Antique Pocket Watch
by Dr. John W. Luton
Associate Professor
Mass Communication
Elizabeth City State University
Elizabeth City, NC

Daddy’s Antique Pocket Watch

Anyone who knows me is well aware of my passion for clocks and watches of all sizes and assortments. As my wife will attest – if it ticks, I’ll probably love it! I like all the clocks that we have scattered throughout our home, but one is my favorite. I keep it in a little flattened paper box in the back of my sock drawer. I don’t intend to part with it for as long as I live. It’s an antique pocket watch that was given to me by my father.

Daddy’s Antique Pocket Watch: Battered but still ticking

One of my father’s prized possessions, the antique pocket watch isn’t very valuable – at least not in the monetary sense. But, I wouldn’t sell it for any price. The watch is about the usual size and still has part of a chain attached to its casing. I don’t know what happened to the rest of the chain. I guess Daddy probably broke it by pulling it in and out of his pocket. Without its protective chain to secure it to Daddy’s belt loop, a couple of cracks soon appeared in the crystal, blurring a couple of the Roman numerals.

Daddy’s Antique Pocket Watch: A Reminder of the Brevity of Life

The raised image of a buck still adorns the cover of Daddy’s antique pocket watch. I remember thinking that the deer looked like he was about to run away from a threat of some kind. The deer’s stance seems symbolic: the sudden, inexorable encroachment of time. Time waits for no one and chases all. I wonder if that’s what the designer of the antique pocket watch had in mind when the deer was chosen as the cover’s decoration.

Once, when I was about four years old, I had a very disturbing dream. My family had gathered at the home of my aunt. At first, I didn’t understand why, but later I understood that my father wasn’t present. In the dream, my uncle came to me and handed me Daddy’s pocket watch. “He always wanted you to have his antique pocket watch,” my uncle said sadly as he placed the timepiece in my hand. I immediately awoke.

I ran frantically down a long hall toward the light that was glowing in the kitchen. My father, always an early riser, was eating breakfast. When he saw my tears, he welcomed me into his arms and allowed me to sit with him as he calmed me and continued to eat his breakfast. I can still remember the smell of bacon frying in the pan.

My Antique Pocket Watch

In what seemed like only a few short years later, I found myself once again in a somber family gathering -- much like the one in my dream. Again, my father was absent from the group, but it was no dream. The paramedics worked valiantly to save Daddy’s life, but their efforts were futile. I’ll never forget how the grandfather clock struck four times as we received the news. My mother asked me to still the clock’s chime. She couldn’t bear to hear it that morning. I honored her request, but the pain almost overwhelmed me. That was one of the most poignant moments of my life.

A short time after his death, I was looking at some old pictures Daddy kept in his sock drawer. That’s when I spied the old box and soon discovered its contents: Daddy’s antique pocket watch.

“He wanted you to have it,” my mother said, as I rubbed my thumb over the raised image of the deer and pushed opened the cover. “I know, mama,” I replied without looking up. “I’d like that very much. I’ll treasure it always.”

An Antique Pocket Watch Becomes an Heirloom.

I take the old antique pocket watch out of the drawer and look at from time to time. I also like to wind it up and watch it run. The deer still looks as frightened as he did the first time Daddy showed me the cover. And the hands of time keep on sailing past the blurry Roman numerals. I always think of my father whenever I look at the old watch. An antique pocket watch has an almost magical power to trigger memories that I thought were long forgotten.

After I’ve looked at the watch for a few moments, I always place it back in the box that barely protects it from an avalanche of socks. Daddy would like that. I can hardly wait until my grandson’s just a little bit older. I’ll tell him all about Daddy’s antique pocket watch and I’ll point out all its features. More importantly, I’ll tell him about the man whose memory the hands of time could never erase. And then, one day, I’ll give it to him. I’ll tell him to keep it in his sock drawer. There’s just no better place for an antique pocket watch.

Shopping for someone special?

Give the gift of time – an Antique Pocket Watch!

For beautiful pictures of antique pocket watches (pre-1730 to post-1940) and other timepieces, visit the following sites:

Antique pocket watches make great gifts. Check more PulseMed sites for other great gift ideas:

  • Fred Meyer Jeweler offers diamonds and other gemstones, famous watch brands such as Omega, Movado and Gucci – and more!


Growing up in northeastern North Carolina, John Luton marveled as his father told stories about his childhood and World War II adventures. Bluebird in Belgium relates those wonderful stories.

Dr. Luton teaches world literature and mass communication at Elizabeth City State University. The Lutons have three grown children.

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