Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Good Ladies' Watch

19th century French chatelaine (Wikimedia)
Pocket watches were traditionally the preserve of gentlemen, and given as presents by fathers to sons. My grandfather's father gave him his gold pocket watch when he was starting out as a young stenographer around 1916.

But did you know that ladies had their version of pocket watches, too? They were popular presents for ladies young and old: watches were not only practical, but incredibly beautiful and decorative, too. But a lady did not wear her watch on a pocket chain and stuck in a waistcoat pocket, as gentlemen did. Her watch would be part of the Victorian lady's version of a waist pack (but far more elegant, of course) known as a chatelaine.

A chatelaine is, at its simplest, a sort of belt hook with chains hanging off of it. But the hook was usually gilded and bejeweled in the most elaborate style, like a piece of jewellery. And from its chains you could hang all sorts of useful things. The earliest chatelaines simply held a bunch of keys - those that the mistress of the house (la ch√Ętelaine, in French) wore at her waist while she went about her daily jobs.

1887 advertisement
What did a lady wear on a Victorian-era chatelaine? All sorts of things: scissors, a purse, thimbles, keys, a vinaigrette [scent bottle] - and of course, a beautiful watch. Godey's Lady's Book notes in 1874 that the pieces were usually "gilt, silver, steel or oxidized to match the chains" and included "purses of various shapes, memorandum books, scent bottles with vinaigrette...small writing boxes, card cases, handkerchief-holders, fans, thimble cases, and silver paper knives...[and] watches [that are] octogon-shaped." [Godey's Lady's Book, Vol. 88, p 293]

Chatelaine watches were popular gifts for ladies in the late 19th century, and they were often made of gold or silver, set with gems and very fancifully decorated. Puck, a New York humor magazine, published a story in 1891 whose heroine longed for such a gift:

...a nice little gold chatelaine watch, with my monogram on the back, and I'll wear it when that mean Simpson girl is around, the horrid hussy [Vol. 10, Issue 303]

Invicta Watches are as elegant and beautiful as vintage chatelaine watches, and make ideal gifts for any woman who likes to keep track of time while also wearing a lovely fashion accessory. What a nice way to multi-task, wouldn't you say? And a wristwatch is as fashionable as a chatelaine watch carried about in the company of scissors and scent bottles, but is also much lighter  and more comfortable - an excellent thing, especially in the heat of summer.

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