Half duplex nerd

Paul tries pocketwatches

Posted on 23 Dec 2005.

Yesterday, after an epic shipping adventure involving ebay, paypal, UPS and several phone calls, my new toy arrived:

Helbros pocketwatch

(Link to is the ebay seller who sold it to me.)

Bad news first - it's not really a moonphase. And it doesn't have a seconds hand. That's a hairspring window, not a tourbillon.

Then again, it was $40USD. So I'm inclined to cut it some slack. I had wanted to check out pocket watches, but since I am pretty sure that it'll be a passing fad, I didn't want to spend much money on one. You can easily find vintage Elgin and Hamiltons on ebay, but I decided to get one new so that it wouldn't require immediate maintenance. (Finding someone to work on a mechanical clock is not easy!) As with my skeletonized watch, cheap and Chinese is the answer.

Pros and cons

The hairspring and balance wheel are visible, and you can see most of the pallet fork oscillating as well. It's quite fun to watch, pun intended. The two subdials are both 24hr indicators, of different sorts. The one on the left just has all 24 hours printed on it, with a simple hand pointer. The one on the right rotates at the same speed, but is printed with a day/night sort of thing. It looks like a moonphase until you look closely; this is the sort of corner-cutting you expect from cheep-and-cheerful gear. A moonphase (28-day cycle) is more complicated; if you have that the watch usually has day/date as well.

As with the skeletonized wristwatch, the display is busy and not instantly readable. Not bad, just not the instant read of a dive-style watch.

It comes with a pocket chain, pocketknife and integrate desk stand. It's kinda cool to stand it up on your desk and watch the works of the balance.

The works are pretty quiet; you have to hold it up to your ear to hear the tick-tock. It looks like 5 or 6 beats per second. 17 jewels, no printing on the back, side winder stem, not waterproof.

Accuracy is hard to measure without a second hand; I've had it a couple of days and the error is not yet visible.

Helbros is an old brand; I'm guessing that (along with others) it was bought by a Chinese company to give them instant credibility.


A perfectly reasonable, and very affordable, pocketwatch. Pocketwatches are, of course, an absurd affectation in this day and age. If you get one, it's probably just for enjoyment and odd occasions. I kind of like how it changes your sense of time - when you have to remove the watch from your pocket to look, it's a bit different than just glancing at your wrist.


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