The Importance of Fob Watches in Nursing

Nurses all over the world rely on the convenience and usability of the traditional fob watch. While technologies have advanced tenfold, our knowledge of medicine is of a level thought unfathomable just decades ago, the fob watch has withstood the test of time. As they are arguably one of the most essential instruments of the modern nurses uniform, we decided to look further at the fob watch and the important role they have played for nurses both today and the generations before us.

A brief history

For many, the classic antique pocket watch in the form of a fob provides nostalgia for many people. Before the notion of wristwatches, pocket watches were a measure of time that infused itself into modern civilisation for a remarkably long period of time. It was developed in the 16th century, and right up until World War I in the 20th century, it was undeniably the most popular type of portable clock. It was even considered to be a staple part of a gentleman’s wardrobe, with many men using the product as a way of conveying status or class.

It was after World War One when the rise in the popularity of the wristwatch led to the demise of the pocket watch, after almost 400 years in popular culture. Other than use by modern nurses in hospitals, the fashionable yet functional masterpiece is largely forgotten in the 21st century. The item has now become a collectable of sorts, with keen enthusiasts from all over the world hunting for the rarest and most unique vintage fobs available.

The gift that keeps on giving

Their usability in hospitals has largely kept the notion of a fob watch afloat. Digital and electric devices are taking precedence in modern-day time telling, with readings available on phones, computers, microwaves, ovens and tablets to name just a few. One of the possible reasons behind the survival of the fob watch could be its role as a traditional gift to newly qualified nursing professionals. Parents, grandparents and close relatives of the recently qualified nurses will gift a fob watch in recognition of their achievements, be it on graduation or upon the acceptance of their first job. This is seen as a rite-of-passage and was once used to symbolise the move made by young nurses from the family home to the nursing quarters.

There is are a plethora of fob watches available that would be suitable for nurses, some of which can even be engraved. For a truly unique present, browse our extensive range of antique pocket watches for a style that will be the envy of the ward!

How are they worn?

Nurses have traditionally worn a fob watch on the pocket of their tunic or uniform. This style of watch appears to hang upside down, although when read from the nurses perspective, allows them to quickly and accurately see the time.


In some hospitals, a fob watch is a requirement for the nurse, due to reasons concerning hygiene. One current dress code for NHS nurses states that ‘Wristwatches must not be worn, but securely pinned (similar to a fob watch) to the uniform to prevent any hazard to patients’. In an environment where keeping germ-free is of utmost importance, it’s no surprise that fob watches are favoured over the more modern wristwatch alternative, considering how much the nurse uses his or her hands in daily care.