Antique Pocket Watch Identification

How to value Pocket Watch?

by Ayesha Ghazanfar on Dec 10, 2020

How to value Pocket Watch?

The works of watchmakers of past centuries, which are in great abundance today on the antique market, are put up for sale for various reasons - whether it is the uselessness of grandfather's clocks, dusty in the attic, or the need to change the direction of a developing collection. But one way or another, the monetary equivalent of antique pocket watches for the owners who part with them, as well as the amounts requested for these entertaining micro-mechanics in many antique shops, often do not correspond to the true value of the watch. At the same time, not every lover of antiquity possesses special knowledge in the field of watchmaking and, as a result, exceptional discernment in matters of acquiring antique watches.

How to value Pocket Watch?

You must focus on the following points:

Consider a Pocket Watch as an object of art

First of all, it should be noted that some vintage pocket watches and early are of great artistic value, so they should be considered and appreciated more as an object of art (in comparison with the exceptional external design, magnificent finish, and exquisite decorative style in which the case, dial, and hands, etc., the technical features of such watches are sometimes insignificant).

Clarify who is the Manufacturers

In order to establish the historical value of watches, it is necessary to clarify exactly when they were made, where. By whom they were created (it may also be a masterpiece of an unknown master, who independently built miniature designs in single copies).

If we are talking about models of mass production available in almost any specialized store. XIX - 1st half. XX centuries, the brand of the manufacturer, the total number of watches produced by this company, and the circulation of this model are important here. No less important is information about the first owners of the watch, which sometimes can be gleaned, for example, from the surviving accompanying and/or payment documents, as well as donations on the case back or watch case.

Degree Of Complexity

The next step in evaluating vintage pocket watches is the degree of complexity.

The most interesting movements are equipped with several additional devices at once (for example, a moon phase indicator - a built-in calendar device; a repeater - a special mechanism designed to indicate the time using sounds of different tonality; and a chronograph - an additional mechanism that measures specified time intervals).

To assess the condition of antique watches (both watches as a whole, and cases and mechanisms separately), 4 main categories are used:

  • very poor condition; 
  • bad condition; 
  • good working condition
  • or collectible (perfect) condition. 

At the same time, special attention is paid to considering the possibility (and feasibility!) Of repairing or restoring watches, that is, bringing them to an ideal collection condition by cleaning, lubricating, polishing, applying special coatings, and replacing, restoring, or manufacturing lost parts (restoration is carried out only in rare specialized workshops).

So, for example, the condition of the most common watch collecting items today can be defined as poor working or very poor. And if in the first case, it is still possible to make repairs or even to significantly increase the price of the watch, the restoration, in the second case, watches are valued no more than spare parts (and their gold or silver case is like scrap): the restoration of such watches is much more expensive than purchasing exactly the same ones in good condition.

Condition Of A Pocket Watch

By the way, contrary to popular belief, the condition of a pocket watch or a wristwatch (accuracy, absence of defects and malfunctions, the safety of accompanying documents, original case, vest chain and, if the watch is not wound with the help of the crown, then the winding key, etc.)  in the assessment is more significant than the name of the metals from which they are made, as well as the size of their precious cases. According to experts, the difference in the cost of identical watches (of the same brand and series) in collectible and very poor condition is up to 95%.

How to value Pocket Watch?


Broken Enamel Dial

The most serious damage to an antique pocket watch is considered to be a broken enamel dial.

If the master or the owner of the watch does not have exactly the same (spare) one, then this defect rarely needs to be corrected. Restoration of an enamel dial is a very long, extremely difficult, and very expensive procedure (the cost of work can often exceed the market value of the watch itself, given in order). It is carried out only in exceptional cases.

Therefore, it makes sense to buy a watch with a broken dial only if an interesting mechanism is installed in it - with complex functions or a good brand (for example, Breguet or Patek Philippe).

Dents and other traces

Dents and other traces of deformation of the case also sharply reduce the value of antique watches, and this is also associated with high costs of restoration. It should be borne in mind here that the elimination of deep scratches from the surface of the case covers with a pattern (guilloche) by means of ordinary polishing will not be able to increase the value of the watch, as it will lead to the loss of the pattern.

With a close examination of the state of the mechanism, the degree of wear of the parts, the safety of stones, the condition of the screws, as well as the absence of dirt, rust, and oxidation traces are assessed. At the same time, restoration of lost parts of mechanisms (even rare ones), as well as crowns, hands, and glasses of antique watches is carried out by restorers quite often, and in most cases, the manufacture and installation of new parts that do not differ from the original is a very expedient solution. Thus, the final assessment of each separately taken antique pocket or wristwatch is a combination of many, not only the above but also other important aspects (for example, regarding counterfeits). Therefore, when choosing a watch, it is better to use an experienced collector or professional advice from an expert.

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