Pocket watches are making a big comeback, with wearers and collectors snapping up these timepieces as much for their antique artistic value as their wearability and functionality. 'People who are into pocket watches are at the forefront of a new impulse, so I would say this is a watch for people who are extremely independent and follow their own instincts without much concern about what everyone else is doing,' says Richard Mille, founder of the eponymous luxury watch company. The brand placed significant emphasis on developing its pocket watch, the RM 020 (HK$3.13 million), focusing on its practicality and versatility. It took 18 months of work to ensure the chain was light and easily detachable. The attachment mechanism alone comprises more than 47 parts made of Grade 5 titanium. 'With such details in place, it means you can wear and use the RM 020 with jeans or a jacket. It is very flexible. The RM 020 can be a part of a horological experience in quite a different way than a wrist watch,' Mille says. The RM 020 has a tourbillon escapement, first invented for pocket watches in the 19th century, and is driven by a double winding barrel that can supply up to 10 days of power reserve. 'Pocket watches are bold statements; you take notice when someone takes a pocket watch out of their pocket. 'The gesture of looking at the time on such a watch has something very elegant about it and, as a fashionable object, a pocket watch is visually strong as well. It can really become a part of one's external visual identity,' Mille says. Auction houses have also seen the pocket-watch market flourish, fuelled predominately by mainland buyers. Julien Schaerer, watch director at auction house Antiquorum, has seen the market grow by up to 150 per cent in the past few years. 'China is undoubtedly the most active market in terms of growing and spending right now. 'Part of this growth can be attributed to the increased knowledge of Chinese collectors, their new wealth and an interest in the past,' he says. Of particular interest to collectors are heavily enamelled pieces from the 1750s to 1900s, often with depictions of characters or floral patterns. 'Collectors are not buying pocket watches for their complications. They see them more as pieces of art. It mostly boils down to the quality of the enamel and the condition of the piece,' Schaerer says. Brand value is also not as important because many of the antique pocket-watch brands simply do not exist any more. Instead, mainland collectors are big on historical timepieces intended for the Chinese market. A pair of enamel pocket watches auctioned by Antiquorum in 2008 were from the 19th century and had been presented by King George III to a Chinese emperor. The large mirror-image watches were in gold, painted on enamel and set in pearl, with special three-tone blued-steel movements. They sold for HK$16 million. The pocket watch revival is, however, unlikely to trigger watchmakers to produce such timepieces in any significant volume due to the dearth of skilled craftsmen and the time-consuming nature of the work. Brands that have moved into the pocket-watch space typically produce only in small quantities or for special occasions. Chopard, for example, launched the L.U.C Louis-Ulysse - The Tribute (HK$320,000), a historically inspired timepiece with modern overtones, to celebrate its 150th anniversary this year. Limited to 150 pieces, it can also be worn as a wrist watch, bridging the gap between tradition and modernity, says Roland Buser, Chopard's managing director in Hong Kong. The Tribute also houses the new L.U.C EHG pocket-watch movement, a proprietary movement developed specially by Chopard for the Geneva Watchmaking School. The watch is crafted in white gold and features satin brushed and polished finishes. The 49.6mm case is also water resistant to 30 metres.