World War I soldiers, rather than carrying impractical pocket watches on fobs, found it much more convenient to wear pocket watches attached to their wrists via leather straps. Pocket watches were made to go on the wrist via two methods: watches were slipped into leather pouches that were strapped to the wrist, or wire lugs were attached to the case to take a strap. Either way, it gave the soldiers much quicker access to the time.
Naturally wrist watches have come a long way since then changing from modified pocket watches to those designed to be worn on the wrist to begin with. There is still some appeal, however, in those classic roots of the pocket watch. They fill a specific purpose and show a spark of ingenuity in taking an existing product and modifying it to solve a problem. We have talked about converting pocket watches to wristwatches once before, but The DoughBoy Watch Company (DBWC) wants to do things a bit differently and take watch owners back in time and give them a piece of that early wristwatch history.
Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The DoughBoy Watch Company was started at the beginning of 2013 as a way to bring these pieces back to life. Tom, the founder of DBWC, uses vintage pocket watches that he finds at flea markets, auctions, estate sales and the like. Not just any pocket watch will do: there are certain characteristics that will make a good trench watch conversion, which is why he prefers not to take in personal watches for modification.
The conversion process begins with diagnosing the watch to identify any current issues as well as research into the timepiece to identify year, name and any other details. The watch is modified to accept a strap based upon the case style and shape. All the cases go through ultrasonic cleaning after conversion and are then dried and reassembled. Watches are timed to ensure they are working properly before they go into the testing phase. The watches are worn for at least three days to make sure they can stand up to the wears of modern day. Not counting wear time it takes about ten hours to convert a pocket watch.
The straps used vary depending on the watch, and what will fit its specific look and style. If the buyer prefers a more modern strap those are available as an option. Right now, straps are purchased and modified to fit Tom’s needs, however for a more personal appearance a custom, handmade leather strap, made right in the DoughBoy workshop, will soon be available as a purchase option.
When asked, Tom had a hard time pinning down a favorite piece. “I have a pretty strong bond with the watches that come into my shop. That’s one of the reasons why each one gets a name, after all each one has a lot of character. You have to remember that a lot of people spent a whole lot of time putting this together. There’s a rush when you just found a 90 year old watch, turn the crown, and are just astounded that it is still working. They just don’t make things like that anymore.”
Given that each creation is made from a found timepiece, it truly makes them one of a kind pieces, which any watch collector can appreciate. Prices for the watches vary, starting at around $500 and up to give you a trench watch of your own. Watches can be purchased straight from their website as well as a limited collection on UrbanDaddy. Each is a unique piece that will give the owner a sense of time travel on their wrist back to the earliest days of the wristwatch. For more information check out The DoughBoy Watch Company on Facebook, Instagram or their website.
by James Enloe