"Lost time," said Ben Franklin, "is never found again." Unless it's permanently tattooed on your wrist, ankle or shoulder blade, that is. A pocket watch tattoo always refers to time passing and that can mean a celebration, a triumph, an absence or a regret.
Commemorate someone you love with a tableau of hearts and skull, banners with the name and maybe even the birth and death dates, and a pocket watch as a reminder of the time you spent together. If the hands of the timepiece are fixed at the moment of loss, the watch also tells of a tale interrupted, time together that was all too short.
Dedicate the upper back at one shoulder, a calf or part of a full sleeve to an elaborate pocket watch tattoo that honors your dead or departed. You need some room for the details of such a complex tat to show clearly.
Inspirational and Spiritual Symbols
Soften the austerity of a plain mechanical pocket watch with a complement of feathers, curling ribbon banner and fanned-out veined leaves. A watch compartmentalized into segments delineated by Roman numerals may be precisely, symmetrically detailed, nestled into a ribbon banner instead of a coiled chain. Add a feather fob - two or more eagle or other large, ceremonial feathers, hanging like a fob from the stem - and a small spray of leaves.
Feathers are always a symbol of spiritual communication and, in Native American culture, were awarded for acts of selflessness and bravery. Leaves are symbols of renewal and time passing. A pocket watch-feather-leaf design may signify a life lived with courage, a willingness to grow, change and be transformed, a quality of endurance and a dedication to the spiritual or sacred. Blank ribbon banners always look like they're waiting for a word or two. Use yours to add an inspiring word that sums up your deepest motivation: Courage; Hope; Perseverance; Truth; Honor.
Place a compact, all-black pocket watch tat on the inside of your wrist, an ankle or the top of the foot, in the small curve of your lower back. If your heritage is Native American, consider adding a word in your indigenous language to describe a quality important to you.
All in Good Time
A no-nonsense traditional pocket watch with old-fashioned Roman numerals is a throwback to an earlier time. Its spare black lines are more industrial than Victorian, so it blends handsomely with tribal tattoos and could be incorporated into a larger tribal shoulder, back, full sleeve or leg.
One positive attribute of a pocket watch is the intimate link with rhythmic ticking, like the beating of a heart. Your time ink might remind you to honor the emotional side of your life, to draw meaning from the past - or your own inherited past, to keep track of events as they unfold and responsibilities as you accept them. A portable pocket watch signifies someone who shows up on time, your reliable, mature self who makes every minute of life count.
Beat the Clock
Life is a race against the clock. Successful careers demand superior performance in a contest. You can't stop time, or slow it down. But you can keep track of it. A stopwatch pocket watch tattoo signals your competitive nature, the accomplishment of great things in record time, or a rueful acknowledgment that the clock is always ticking.
The spare black outline of a classic stopwatch may be rendered in miniature to sit perfectly on an inner wrist, the back of the neck, behind an ear, or on an ankle. Fix the hands of the clock at important dates or moments for you - a private code only you understand. Add an engraved monogram to make it even more personal.
A melting clock is hallucinatory and dreamlike, an evocation of the Surreal artist whose "The Persistence of Memory" made him a global art sensation at 28. Salvador Dali would never confirm his intent for the disintegrating timepieces in his work, but a melting pocket watch tattoo will communicate a graphic message to anyone who sees yours.
Feature the spectacular image where it can easily be admired - on a forearm, rounded over a shoulder, sliding down a thigh or over a foot. Your visually arresting ink might be a lament for the time seeping out of your days, a notation on the inevitability of death, a marker of the meltdown of a dream, or the end of a significant passage in your life. Prepare an answer in advance for the inevitable questions about what your dissolving pocket watch means. Surely, you can make up something more convincing than Dali, who said his unmistakable watches resembled melting cheese.
Love Is Eternal
Find a skilled illustrator to ink a pocket watch and rose in full bloom on your chest, forearm, lower back, or hip. What blooms fades, but time, like true love, is infinite, so paint your flowering timepiece in full color, with a red rose, gold watch and chain, and purple, green or bronzed leaves.
The rose and pocket watch is entirely a romantic image but, as a tattoo, it works for both men and women. Solo, it's a simple statement that your heart has been given for all time. Worked into a full sleeve, upper leg or back tat, the rich symbolism embellishes the rest of the story your ink tells.
Time flies and you can't hold it. However, you can stop time on your own skin. A pocket watch tat with wings is jam-packed with symbolism - and pretty unmistakable. Its specific meaning in the context of your life is determined by you. Is it an exultation at an important milestone reached, or a sign of mourning for what time takes from each of us? Angel-like wings, a burst of stars, and a ribbon banner could be a commemorative tat for a loved one who is gone. Consider adding the name of your lost love to the banner. The same image can celebrate the birth of a new soul - a baby tat with the tiny cherub's name and birthdate on the banner.
Place the winged watch on your inner arm, the back of the calf, one side of your chest, or centered on your upper back just below your neck. Add some color to the art with shading and your favorite tint - but limit the color to shades of one major hue so the impact of the illustration isn't diluted.
A Wealth of Time
A rich, full life has an abundance of time, no shortage of vivid adventure, and too much of everything to measure in moments. Declare your symbolic affluence with a full-color illustration of an ornate gold pocket watch on your arm or leg. Use solid black to outline the image, and warm colors - rose-golds, red, oranges, deep pinks - to color it in. This tat should pop, not fade discreetly into a gradually graying blur.
A round watch with a curving chain naturally seems at home on the curve of an arm, a shoulder, a foot. It is also distinct enough for a chest tat, a delicate wrist tat with the chain curling around like a bracelet, or an ankle or foot tat with a winding chain around the ankle. You can't get too fancy or filigreed with this one. Your ornate gold pocket watch is a case of "If you've got it, flaunt it."
Wisdom of Time
Dedicate your back to a work of art that symbolizes a transformative experience in your life. A vivid explosion of giant sunflowers, an ascending dragonfly, and a shadowed pocket watch and chain tells a story the size of a novel. Dragonflies signify self-realization, change, renewal, and living in the moment. Sunflowers stand for loyalty, longevity, long life, immortality, and good fortune.
In Greek mythology, a sunflower is Clytie, a water nymph who becomes a flower grieving the loss of her love. A dragonfly is a nymph for most of its life, transforming into a winged creature which moves and sees in all directions, instantly shifts from hovering to 45 m.p.h, and lives a brief, beautiful life. The prominent pocket watch clocks time, frozen and passing. Together these elements tell of a momentous love remembered but overcome, a desire to live fully in the moment, the transformative power of time. Ink a forever story on your back in graceful symbols, colored with deep meaning for you.
Waistcoat and Pocket Watch
That White Rabbit could be anyone on a school or work morning, an image from a beloved childhood book, or you feeling harassed in your day-late-and-dollar-short life. He was a very cool dude, though, and so will you be with a White Rabbit illustration, captured at the very moment when he pulls out his pocket watch and hooks Alice into tearing after him on a great adventure.
Give careful consideration to the gallery space for a beautiful piece of black-and-white ink - a generous expanse of skin displays the entire picture and allows every detail to shine. The pocket-watch-consulting rabbit will pause for satisfying scrutiny on your shoulder, upper arm, rounded calf, inner arm or upper back. Ink him onto your ribs for an impressively large version.
You might want this token from the illustrated Alice for the sheer pleasure of the beautiful pen and ink. Or your ink could signal the persistent time shortages in your own busy life; a predilection for encountering pontificating caterpillars, homicidal ruling monarchs, vanishing felines and Seriously Rushed Rabbits; a lifelong jones for reading children's classics.
The pocket-watch-wielding lagomorph is a metaphor for the symbolic significance of your own relationship to time.