Information for New Pocket Watch Collectors
Are you fairly new to the fascinating field of collecting antique or vintage pocket watches? You are not alone. We get requests from potential customers, as well as returning customers, frequently for ideas that we feel are most important when collecting pocket watches. What should you research before buying? What other things are important to consider before making a purchase?
- Decide on a budget and try to stick to it initially.
- Try to pick out a brand name that is well known. Remember, down the road your watch may need service or parts. Best to stick with the larger name brands like Elgin, Waltham, Hamilton, Hampden, Rockford, South Bend, Howard, Illinois or Ball. Some of the Swiss major names are ok, shy away from obscure manufacturers that have no information about them on the web.
- Try to select jeweled watches because generally speaking they are well engineered and can be worked on. Some of the cheaper watches with jewel counts below 7 jewels, or no jewels, were not good precision timepieces to begin with.
- Consider the quality of the precious materials used in a potential watch. Ask questions about the quality of the metals used in the movement and case. Higher quality watches will have diamond,ruby or sapphire jewels at many of the moving parts to reduce friction and wear. Nickel or gold washed (gilt) movements are of higher quality than brass or steel. Gold train wheels and raised gold jewel settings usually indicate a higher quality watch. Case material of platinum, solid gold, gold filled metal and silver are usually an indication of quality in a timepiece.
- Consider the amount of workmanship that went into the building of the watch. Smooth, well polished, burr free parts, blueing of screws, and fancy damaskeening are qualities that are desirable in a good timepiece. It takes longer to polish and bevel screws, engrave various parts, turn out a fancy well fitted case, or a fancy dial.
- Examine the condition of the watch for heavy use or abuse as indicated by worn gold edges or major brassing, heavy scratches, large dents, ill fitting lids on the case, etc. Just remember, that a "mint" watch or one that shows no use whatsoever, is going to cost a premium. If you allow for normal wear, many affordable, but quality timepieces may fall into your budget. Most watch dials that were made of porcelain over copper, are going to have minor hairlines, but its best to shy away from dials with large cracks, chips or other major flaws.
As you make a few purchases, you will get better at spotting the higher quality, but sometimes inexpensive pocket watches.
- Most important is deal with a company that has the expertise and will take the time to answer your questions. Will they be able to service the watch you buy? Have they serviced it, so that it should give you years of satisfaction before needing repairs? Will they guarantee your satisfaction and do they have a written return policy? Many reputable antique watch dealers will allow their returning customers to "upgrade" their watch at any time for a higher quality timepiece.
- Make sure you have a good place to keep your watch out of dust, sun, and moisture. A good display with a glass front or dome will keep your watch safe and allow you to view it when you are not wearing it. Above all enjoy your antique or vintage timepiece!
Remember to have your watch serviced every few years of use, so that the oils don't dry up inside, causing excessive friction and wear. Keep your watches away from extreme heat or cold or moisture. Clean them with a good quality polish cloth occasionally.When collecting it is good to remember that gold plated items have much less gold content; it often wears off in normal handling and wearing sooner than gold filled items. A gold filled item will always be worth more than the similar item that is plated.