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Vintage Watchstraps

Straps for Vintage Fixed Wire Lug Trench Watches or Officer's Wristwatches



Leather and Silver or Gold Albert or Fob

Copyright © David Boettcher 2005 - 2024 all rights reserved.

The “bow” of a pocket or fob watch is the ring at the top of the “pendant”, the tube that sticks out from the case which carries the crown of a stem wound watch. A chain or strap is often attached to the bow by a metal clip which, over time, can cause severe wear to the bow to the extent that it has to be replaced.

Many pocket watches have had their original bows replaced because they have been worn through. If you have a watch with a hallmarked gold or silver case with a bow that is not made of the same material, then the bow is definitely not original; cases were not allowed to be hallmarked unless every part of the case, including the bow, was made of the same fineness of gold or silver.

My “Bow Saver” design puts only leather into contact with the bow, so that no wear takes place and the bow is saved!

The Bow Saver was designed in response to a customer request. Although this design was created as a short fob strap for a pocket watch carried in the breast pocket of a jacket, the leather strap can be made in almost any length so that it can be used like a traditional long Albert chain.

If you want a metal clip to attach to the bow instead of the leather loop of the Bow Saver, this “Classic Design” can also be made. The fittings are usually sterling silver although nine carat gold fittings can be supplied; see the description further down this page for details.

Please note that Bow Saver and Classic Design Albert fobs are not stock items, they are only made to order.

19 February 2024: A problem with the press means that no new stock or custom orders orders can currently be made.

Background

Short leather Alberts or fobs like this, also called watch guards, have been worn since the late nineteenth or early twentieth century when suits began to be worn without a waistcoat, so there was no waistcoat pocket into which to tuck a watch. They were worn with the watch in the top breast pocket of a jacket with the T-bar through the button hole in the lapel. The standard length of this type of fob is usually shorter than an Albert chain worn with a waistcoat so that it is the right length for a watch carried in a jacket breast pocket. But because mine are made to order, you can have one made to almost whatever length you want.

Wooster with a leather Albert
Bertie Wooster with a leather Albert: click to enlarge
Image courtesy of and © HughLaurie.net

The image here shows Stephen Fry as Jeeves and Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster in “Jeeves and Wooster”, a British TV comedy. Jeeves, on the left, is wearing his pocket watch in his waistcoat pocket in the traditional style, an Albert chain is visible attached to one of the waistcoat button holes. Bertie Wooster on the right of the picture is also wearing a waistcoat, but he has his pocket watch in the breast pocket of his jacket with a leather strap, a fob or Albert, secured to the button hole in the lapel of the jacket.

Traditional Alberts are metal chains with a T-bar at one end that fits into a waistcoat button hole and a clip at the other end that clips onto the bow of a pocket watch. The Albert was named after Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (1819-1861), husband of Britain's Queen Victoria, who in portraits was shown with a conspicuous gold watch chain.

Although an Albert makes it easier to haul a watch out of a pocket, the principal purpose is to prevent the watch from falling to the ground if the owner fumbles when winding it or setting the time, or even when simply checking the time. A pocket watch is a heavy and delicate object which would be damaged if not destroyed by a fall onto a hard surface.

The end of an Albert chain was traditionally fitted with a metal clip to attach it to the bow of a pocket watch. The problem with this is that the clip wears through the bow, and on a gold or silver case this can occur quite rapidly. Many gold and silver pocket watches from the Victorian era have had their bows replaced because of this wear. Sometimes this was done properly with a hallmarked solid gold or silver bow, but often a plated bow has been fitted. This is definitely not original; a watch case with a plated bow would be refused a hallmark at any British assay office.

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"Bow Saver" Design

A leather and sterling silver Albert
A Leather and Sterling Silver "Bow Saver" Albert with T-bar and Additional Clip: Click image to enlarge.
Leather and sterling silver Albert design sketch
Original "Bow Saver" Design Sketch

The traditional metal swivel clip used to attach an Albert to the bow of a pocket watch inevitable causes wear to the bow. This often gets so bad that the bow has to be replaced. Pocket watches from the nineteenth century often have bows that don't match the rest of the watch, made of base metal or not hallmarked. They weren't made like that, the bow had to be made of the same material as the rest of the case. If it wasn't, none of the case could be hallmarked.

My customer's idea was to avoid this wear to his precious pocket watch by having an Albert fob strap where only leather was in contact with the bow, which would not cause any wear.

After a bit of thought I came up with the “Bow Saver” design shown in the sketch and photograph. The leather strap passes through the bow and is fastened with one of my hand made Type GW buckles. This means that only leather is in contact with the bow, which will not cause wear.

The Type GW buckles and the D-ring with the T-bar are all sterling silver, marked with my sponsor's mark and assayed and hallmarked with traditional British hallmarks by the London Assay Office at Goldsmiths' Hall, where gold and silver have been assayed and hallmarked since 1478.

The photograph shows an additional swivel clip attached to the D-ring with the T-bar. The purpose of this is to let you clip the Albert fob to a piece of clothing such as a belt loop if there is no hand button hole for the T-bar. This is described further down the page at Additional Clip.

There are PayPal buttons at the bottom of this page to allow you to place the order for one of these. Please select one of the "Bow Saver" options from the drop down list.

There are two Bow Saver options, "Bow Saver: T-bar Only" for the standard Bow Saver Design as shown in the sketch, or "Bow Saver: T-bar + Clip" to get a clip on the D-ring alongside the T-bar as shown in the photograph.

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Classic Design


Clip: Click image to enlarge

If you want a classic leather Albert fob with a clip at the lower end instead of the Bow Saver feature, then I can also supply these to order.

NB: These clips are traditionally called a “swivel clip”, although the clip that I use doesn't actually swivel. This makes it much stronger. Clips that do swivel cannot be soldered because that would destroy the internal spring, so they are pressed together around the swivel joint, which is a point of weakness. The non-swivelling clip that I use is nice and chunky and very secure.

There are PayPal buttons at the bottom of this page to allow you to place the order for one of these. Please select one of the "Classic Design" options from the drop down list.

There are two Classic Design options, either “Classic Design: T-bar + One Clip” for the usual configuration with a T-bar at the top and a clip at the bottom, or “Classic Design: T Bar + 2 Clips” to get an extra clip on the D-ring next to the T-bar, in addition to the clip at the bottom that clips onto the bow of the watch.

The purpose of the extra clip at the top in addition to the T-bar is to let you clip the Albert fob to a piece of clothing such as a belt loop if there is no handy buttonhole for the T-bar. This is described further down the page at Additional Clip.

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Additional Clip

A leather and sterling silver Albert
Leather and Sterling Silver Albert Fob: click to enlarge
A leather and sterling silver Albert
Leather and Sterling Silver Bow Saver Albert with Additional Clip: click to enlarge

I can supply these Alberts with a clip in addition to the T bar. The purpose of this is to let you put the watch in a trouser pocket, or the watch pocket of your "five pocket" jeans, and secure the fob to a belt loop on your trousers. Fitting both a T bar and clip gives greater flexibility on how the Albert can be worn, and is also an interesting talking point. The additional bulk of the clip can make it a little more difficult to thread the T-bar though a small button hole.

The larger picture here shows how one of these fobs looks with the watch in a jacket pocket and the T-bar fastened to the lapel button hole. The jacket pocket is quite deep and in this instance I would have a slightly longer fob so that the weight of the watch is taken by the pocket rather than hanging from the T-bar as shown. This depends on your jacket and watch; to check what length you need, get out the measuring tape!

The smaller picture here shows how one of the more versatile T-bar plus clip can be worn with the watch in the watch pocket of jeans. The clip at the T-bar end is clipped onto a metal keyring style loop that is fixed to a belt loop. This makes it quick to release, but also very secure. I am sure there are other possibilities.

The clips are sterling silver stamped 925, but because of their small size and hollow construction they are not hallmarked. The clip is a little too small to go around a belt loop itself, so a split ring (key ring) is attached to a belt loop for the clip to fasten to. If you buy the extra clip I include a base metal split ring in the price, I can supply a split ring in sterling silver at extra cost.

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Fittings in 9 Carat Gold

Leather and 9 carat gold Alberts
Leather and 9 carat gold Bow Saver Alberts: click to enlarge

Availability

At the moment (1st March 2024) both yellow and rose gold buckles are out of stock and I don't have any immediate plans for making any. If you are interested in a strap or fob with one of these, please let me know.

I can now supply leather Albert fobs with 9 carat gold fittings. The buckles are my Type GW handmade and hallmarked 9 carat gold. The D rings and T-bars are made or sourced specially to order and are not usually hallmarked, although this can be arranged if required.

Rather unusually, two customers ordered Albert fobs with 9 carat yellow gold fittings at almost exactly the same time so I took the opportunity to photograph the two straps together. The one with T-bar only is in Italian dark chestnut leather, the one with the additional clip is in dark brown leather.

For details of my hand made and hallmarked 9 carat gold buckles go to Sterling silver and gold buckles. The 9 carat gold T-bars are slightly smaller than the silver, 32mm long rather than 37mm. There is nothing I can do about this unfortunately, I buy them in as castings and that's how they come.

Because of their cost I don't keep 9 carat gold T-bars and clips in stock, they are bought in when an order is placed and I make the D-ring. These items are not usually hallmarked because fixed costs (e.g. secure postage and Goldsmiths' minimum packet charge) make hallmarking a small number of items expensive, but sometimes it is possible.

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Details: Length etc.

The standard length of the leather part when fitted to the watch in the picture measures 200mm or eight inches. The T-bar and D ring adds about 12mm or half an inch to give the overall length. The strap is 12mm wide.

These leather and sterling silver Alberts are made to order so you can have them in whatever leather colour and length (up to a maximum of 300mm) you want. You can use the "Notes" field of the PayPal button to specify a non standard length.

The Albert in the photograph is made from Italian dark chestnut leather. For details of all the available leather colours go to Leather types and colours.

For details of my hand made sterling silver buckles go to Sterling Silver and Gold Buckles.

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Prices and Ordering

Bow Saver and Classic Albert designs with hallmarked sterling silver fittings and standard T-bars are £60, an additional clip on the T-bar end is an additional £10, plus postage and packaging (p&p) depending on the country of delivery.

Bow Saver and Classic Albert designs with hallmarked 9 carat gold fittings prices for December 2020 are £275, plus p&p using a tracked service of £10 in the UK, £15 overseas. An additional 9 carat gold clip on the T-bar adds around £75. NB: The price will vary if the current price of gold is significantly different from that on the given date.

Because I don't always have 9 carat gold fittings in stock, please contact me to inquire about availability.

For details of all the available leather colours go to Leather types and colours.

Postage & Packing

The cost of Postage and Packing (p&p) is not included in the price of the straps. I make a single charge for p&p, no matter how many straps you order.

The current p&p charges are shown underneath each set of ordering buttons.

Postage & packing must be added to your order, the PayPal “shopping cart”, before checking. If you pay for p&p as a separate order, PayPal charges make it expensive for me.

Please note that Bow Saver and Classic Design Albert fobs are not stock items, they are made to order.

Custom Orders

A problem with the press means that custom orders orders cannot currently be made.

If you have any comments or questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch via my Contact Me page.


Copyright © David Boettcher 2005 - 2024 all rights reserved. This page updated February 2024. W3CMVS. Back to the top of the page.