Antique watch keys

Antique watch keys DEFAULT

Antique, Swiss, German, Silver Key Wind, POCKET, WATCH, Felsenburg ca. 1920-1930, Military, Switzerland, Vintage, Mechanical, Old, Rare

Antique, Swiss, German, Silver Key Wind, POCKET, W

How to Determine Pocket Watch Winding-Key Size

"What size winding key fits my vintage pocket watch?"

If you have a key-wind pocket watch and don't have the key to wind it, you'll need to find out what size key you need. To determine what size key is required for winding or setting your vintage pocket watch, you'll need to accurately measure the size of the winding and/or setting square (the square-shaped "shaft" that is either used to wind or set the watch). This measurement must be made accurately, preferably with caliper or micrometer. If you don't know how to find the winding or setting square, you should read our article on how to wind your vintage watch.

Keys (especially modern "reproduction" keys) tend to vary from these precise measurements, so if you think you might need a #5 (for example), you might also want to have a #4 or #6 on hand in case the #5 doesn't quite fit your winding square. Using too large a key will tend to round off the corners on your winding square, and once they are rounded off, you'll no longer be able to wind or set the watch. A key that's too small simply won't fit over the square. The best bet is often to purchase a complete set, as you'll then be able to choose the key(s) that give you the best fit.

Note that key-wind/key-set watches sometimes used the same key for winding and setting, and sometimes used different keys for winding and setting. Be sure to measure both squares if you have a key-wind/key-set watch.

We have full sets of winding keys, similar to those shown below, available on our Watch Accessories page. We also stock single keys in select sizes.

Set of Pocket Watch Winding Keys, from size 00 to size 12

Full Set of Pocket Watch Winding Keys (enlarged), from size 00 to size 12

Most modern keys are marked in Euro sizes

Size of square (mm)English Key SizeEuro Key Size (e.g. Bergeon)

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Antique Watch Keys


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A watch key is a key which has been created to wind a pocket watch. Pocket watches were first made in the 16th century and required a key to keep them running, both to set the time and wind the watch. Key wind pocket watches  remained in use up until the mid 19th century when, in 1842,  Adrien Philippe invented the stem wind watch. It was commercialized by Patek Philippe & Co in the 1850s. These watches required the owner to turn a a little handle on a stem to wind the watch. A later version of a stem wind watch involved a lever which was pulled out and turned, to set the time and wind the watch. Wrist watches replaced pocket watches during WWI. Seiko introduced the first quartz battery powered watch in 1969 and digital watches started to be mass produced in 1975.

watch key silverIMG_6499

So watch keys belong to a period before the 1870s. There was a crossover from the 1850s to the 1870s when both key and stem wind watches were being produced. In fact, there are some patents for various versions of watch keys still being granted towards the end of the 1870s. There is a huge range of different types of watch keys, some very ornate, others very simple metal keys. The difference can be explained by the fact that the very ornate ones were intended to be worn on a watch chain or chatelaine and displayed publicly. The simple plain ones were not meant for pubic display.

watch keys 3IMG_6512

The ornate watch keys were made of gold or silver, with most being gold cased. The two watch keys in the photo at the top of the post have engraved borders and are fairly typical example of this category of watch key. They may have had a matching seal to hang next to on the chain. However, there was another category of ornate watch key which were more striking. Some were in the shape of animals or pistols, while others were set with gemstones, cameos or micro mosaics.

watch key eagleIMG_6498

This gold watch key is a fabulous piece, created in the shape of an eagle’s head, with three sections, each with different types of feathers engraved on it.

These watch keys still look great worn on a Albert chain but around the neck instead of across the stomach.


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