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~ Collecting 19th and 20th Century

Pocket Watches ~
Table of Content

1. Introduction02
2. History of the pocket watch...03
3. How to wear pocket watches.....06
4. How to collect pocket watches..................................................................07
5. Time management in the collection of pocket watches.............................................12
6. Online collection of 19th and 20th century pocket watches....14
7. Online collection of pocket watch chains......................................................................38
8. Dating methods..40
9. The National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors44
10. Pocket watches events......45
11. Bibliography................................................................................................47

1. Introduction
When it comes to collecting, people will collect anything from bottle caps and
matchboxes to incredibly expensive pieces of art or jewellery. Few people know that
watches have long ago become a valued and popular type of jewellery. The type of watch
you wear tells everything about you. It doesnt matter what clothes you wear or how you
cut your hair, the watch will tell if you are distinguished or not.
Collecting pocket watches will definitely prove to be challenging and fascinating at the
same time. It is something that everyone can do since there are plenty of pocket watches
to choose from, in terms of price, appearance and functionality.
Collecting pocket watches is similar to collecting stamps in a manner of speaking. If you
think about it, pocket watches do not take up much space and it can be started with little
money. In time you can add more and more watches to your collection and make it a
fascinating one.
Pocket watches are a great asset. They keep their value over time and thus they can be
efficiently and lucratively traded. Sure, the prices may vary slightly, as is the case with all
collectibles. But if you have a gold pocket watch for example, that watch will always be
valuable simply because it is made from a valuable metal.
There are several advantages to collecting pocket watches. The main one is the fact that
forgery is extremely rare. The technical cost of producing a convincing fake is far too
great for anyone to tackle. Consequently you will almost never run into a fake.

2. History of the pocket watch

Portable timekeeping was not a feasible idea prior to 1600. The main cause was driving
power. The timepieces of the day were driven by weights, making portable timekeeping
impractical at least.
The year 1524 is the birth year of the pocket watch. This is when Peter Henlein created
the first pocket watch. He was paid 15 florins for it.
In 1548 other watches were crafted. Their origin is believed to be German or French.
Swiss and English pocket watches did not come out until around 1575.
Initially steel was the metal chosen to fabricate the movements of the watches, but it was
soon replaced by brass. Brass is easier to work with, more resistant to corrosion and
handles friction better. The first movements were straight verge movements, with no
balance springs, and were incredibly inaccurate.
Between 1600 and 1675 watches became so ornate that they resembled jewelry pieces.
The cases were of gilt metal or precious metal, and were engraved, jeweled, pierced and
In 1620 the cases were fitted with glass crystal as opposed to metal opaque covers.
In 1625, because of the Puritan movement, unornamented watches became popular in
After 1660 only women would wear pocket watches with numerous adornments and
exuberant shapes.
In 1675 the first spiral balance spring was used. This meant that pocket watches were
now more accurate than ever before (down to fractions of a minute).
It was now discovered that the position of the watch had an effect on its accuracy. The
watch would gain or lose time depending on the pendant and face positions. The accuracy
of the watches was also influenced by changes in temperature, which affected the spring.
A minute hand and a dial subdivided into minutes was added due to the increase in time
keeping accuracy. The face convention was to have the hours marked in Roman numerals
and the minutes in Arabic numbers. A fourth wheel was also added so that the watch
could be wound once a day instead of every 12 hours.
Charles II of England introduced long waistcoats in 1675. According to the fashion of the
day, men would put their watch in the pocket of the waistcoat (until now the watches
were worn in a manner similar to a pendant).

After 1690 almost all watch manufacturers used a four-wheel train and six-leaf pinion.
Watchmakers Facio de Duillier and P. and J. Debaufre developed methods for using
jewels as bearings in 1704. This practice did not quite catch on, and in 1715 it was still
rarely used.
After 1725 one could find a rather large diamond end stone mounted in the cock.
Watch makers started paying more attention to lubrication after the turn of the century.
Sully discovered in 1715 that forming a small sink around each hole would retain the oil,
due to its surface tension. This was not usually found in watches before 1750.
In those days pocket watches had plain, pair shaped cases made of gold or silver. The
dials were mainly champlev, but were slowly replaced by white enamel dials with block
Before 1750 the watch makers name would never appear on the dials.
John Harrison, in 1761 made a clock that was sufficiently accurate to be used to measure
longitude during a sea voyage. Unfortunately the time piece was too complicated to
significantly contribute to horology.
The pocket chronometer was a readily available accurate watch by 1800.
Another hand was now added, the seconds hand.
After 1800 dials in four-color gold became popular. This type of watch usually had
lustrous gold hands.
Perrelet devised a self-winding watch in 1770 and from 1780 they were produced by
In 1775 the French started to make sleek, thinner watches. Consequently the pair cases
started to become less and less popular.
The lever watch was the most popular pocket watch by 1850 in England. By 1860 the
design of the lever had changed from a straight-sided design to a curved one.
By using a three-quarter or half plate movement pocket watches were becoming thinner
and thinner.
In 1814 Massey first used a push/pump winder.
In 1838 Audemars devised winding and hand setting through the pendant.

In 1844 Nicole designed the first true chronograph. Only in 1862 the contemporary three
push system would be used.
Up to 1840 pocket watches were all hand-finished. This meant that parts from one clock
would not fit another clock (they were not interchangeable).
In the 1850s the Americans were the first to start volume production of pocket watches.
In 1880 the Swiss started volume production of cylinder and lever watches.
Guillaume produced in 1900 an alloy that when used with brass in a cut, compensated
balance virtually eliminated middle temperature error. This made watches even more
In the 1900s the pocket watches became so small that they could be worn on the wrist
(making them wrist watches). By 1930, the ratio of wrist watches to pocket watches was
about 50:1
After World War II in 1945, production of pocket watches was at an all time low.
After 1945 thanks to standardization and technical improvements, watches became
waterproof, shockproof, and able to function in extremes of pressure, vacuum and
In 1952 the battery-powered watch entered the market.
By the 1970s electronic watches were more popular than ever. Mechanical watches
would have been forgotten of not for the Italians and their nostalgia.

3. How to wear pocket watches

When it comes to wearing something classic, nothing surpasses a pocket watch. By
wearing a pocket watch you are showing distinction, especially if you are wearing an
antique or vintage pocket watch.
When it comes to wearing a pocket watch, the first step is selecting a pocket watch to
wear. The ideal pocket watch should be a balance between simplicity and
ostentatiousness. The watch should be pleasing to the eye and have an adequate design.
As a rule of thumb you should avoid plating. This is because plating tends to peel off
after a while.
It is advisable to have engravings on your pocket watch, but keep things discreet. You do
not want to start a conversation on the subject every time you pull out your watch. You
may want to get a watch chain that is made of the same material as the watch itself.
Doing other wise may come off tacky. Your best bet is to go for a gold or silver watch
and chain. Although these are soft metals, they cope very well. Brass is also a good
option, but remember that it needs polishing regularly.
Note that pocket watches should be worn opposite your natural handedness. If worn
properly, you should be able to write and look at the time simultaneously. Since most
people are right-handed, pocket watches are usually worn on the left side.
In an ideal situation, you will want to wear your pocket watch with a vest. Vests normally
have a pocket especially designed to accommodate a pocket watch.
There are other ways of wearing a pocket watch:
- Place the watch in the pocket of your pants (the small pocket found on jeans is ideal)
and attach the chain to your belt.
- Women can wear pocket watches as a pendant.
There are also several types of pocket watch chains to choose from.
- Belt Clip Chains;
- Button Hole Chains;
- Double Albert Chains;
- Fob Chains;
- Garment Clip Chains;
- Ladies Slide Chains;
- Large Spring Ring Chains;
- Small Spring Ring Chains;
- T Bar Chains;
- Watch Pins.

4. How to collect pocket watches

Before we start talking about how to collect pocket watches, I would like to talk to you
about a very serious matter regarding the watch-collecting world. There are people out
there that only think about the profit they can make by purchasing antique or vintage
pocket watches. They purchase pocket watches not to add them to their collection, or to
resell them for a profit, but to take them apart and sell the components separately.
Hundreds and thousands of antique, irreplaceable pocket watches are destroyed in this
This is especially true of the American railroad grade watches. It is also worth
mentioning that this phenomenon occurs mainly on the major Internet auction sites. The
rate at which pocket watches are destroyed is alarming. We live in a capitalistic society
and greed omnipresent, but these people are pushing things to the extreme. Thanks to
their greed original pocket watches are harder and harder to come by. In my opinion this
is having a devastating effect on horology, history, and watch collecting as a hobby.
Collecting antique and vintage pocket watches is not an easy task. You will need to put in
the time and effort if you want to have a complete collection. Not to mention the money some pieces go for a few hundred pounds while other pieces go for over a thousand
pounds. It all depends on how rare the piece is or how valuable the case of the watch is.
Other pieces are virtually impossible to find because of their rarity. It goes without saying
that the rarer a piece is, the more money you will have to spend in order to acquire it
(assuming of course that the owner will actually want to sell it).
The first step that you must take if you want to start a pocket watch collection is to start
acquiring pocket watches. You may find some antique pocket watches in your
grandfathers desk or you may have some that have been handed down in your family
from generation to generation. But if you truly want to start a collection then you must
realize that the majority of the clocks in your collection will have to be purchased. When
you buy an antique pocket watch you must not think only of getting a bargain. Buying
antique pocket watches is not about that, it is about paying a fair and reasonable price for
a particular watch that will give you pleasure to own.
Here are a few tips meant to aid you in your collecting endeavor:
Information is vital and that is why you should gather as much information as
Make up your mind about the type of pocket watch you would like to add to your
Prices may vary, so it is worthwhile to look around.
Numerous online sites sell pocket watches, so it could prove useful to visit them
and see the range of products available and the prices these items go for.

Do not discard any of the papers that accompany the watch. They may prove to be
valuable someday, especially if those papers attest the fact that your watch is quite
If a pocket watch is part of a limited edition, it does not necessarily mean that it is
also valuable. To how many items is that edition limited? Was it limited to a few
dozens or a few millions? It pays to be informed.
If you have a particularly valuable watch, you might want to think about ensuring
it. You ensure your car, dont you? Well then why not ensure your watch too,
especially if its value is considerable.
The watch you want to purchase, has it ever been repaired? If so, who repaired it?
If it has been repaired by a specialist, then you have the guarantee that he did a
proper job and the watch will not breakdown too soon.
If you want to buy something because you like that particular item, then by all
means go ahead. But if you buy it as an investment, do your homework first and
think twice before spending your hard earned money.
Unless you are an expert, do not attempt to fix the watch yourself.
You may come across forgeries, so pay attention.
You will protect your pocket watch from excess wear if you push down on the
crown when closing the cover.
If you are a novice collector then you should take it slow. You are well advised to
stick to one or two themes at first.
You never know when you could stumble upon a great pocket watch, so attending
estate sales, flea markets, auctions and yard sales may prove worthwhile.
You are well advised to network with other pocket watch collectors and even
dealers. This is a great source of information that you can use to build up your
Watch movements may have from 120 to 600 parts. You should service and oil
your pocket watch regularly.
Pocket watch collecting has its fair share of advantages and disadvantages. Lets see what
they are.
Advantages of collecting antique and vintage pocket watches:
One main advantage is the fact that there are plenty of antique watches to choose
from. Take the American manufacturers Elgin and Waltham for example: they
produced well over one million pieces. Not to mention that those pocket watches
were built to last and many of them are still around and still working t\like they

The prices attached to antique pocket watches vary considerably. Some are quite
cheap and affordable, while others are incredibly expensive. This means that you
can start a collection even if you do not have much money to spend.
The quality of antique pocket watches is amazing. The workmanship of a 1900s
pocket watch is superior to most modern watches that are currently on the market.
Even though your antique pocket watch is older that your granddaddy, in terms of
accuracy it can keep the pace with any modern watch. Did you know that the
American railroad allowed wristwatches as a replacement to pocket watches only
in 1950 (thats only a bit over five decades ago)? This speaks volume about how
accurate pocket watches were.
When you buy an antique pocket watch you do not only buy a great quality watch,
you also buy a part of history. To some this is the greatest advantage that comes
with starting a pocket watch collection.
Disadvantages of collecting antique and vintage pocket watches:
Although they still look incredibly good, pocket watches can prove to be
troublesome when it comes to wearing them. Modern clothing simply does not
take into consideration the fact that you might want to wear a pocket watch.
Wearing pocket watches in a day to day basis may result in damage to your
watch. This is because pocket watches do not have shockproof movements and
waterproof cases.
If you want your pocket watch to keep going, you need to service it regularly.
There are three main themes that you can build your pocket watch collection on:
1. Technical:
Escapements: cylinder, anchor, chronometer, duplex, comma, pin-pallet, etc. also
details, such as Breguet spiral, cylindrical spiral, fine regulation, and so on.
Complexities: centre seconds, chronographs, split seconds, dead second, calendar
(simple and everlasting), moon phases, equation, sunrise/sunset, etc.
Striking trains: 1/4-repetition, minute repetition, self striking, music, etc.
Technical refinements: 8-day movements, 24-hour dials, multiple time zones,
tourbillon, power reserve indication, alarm, jaquemarts, "bras en l'air", serious and less
serious animated pictures, visible escapement, false pendulums, skeleton watches,
sector watches, blind-mens watches, mystery watches.

2. Brand:
Simply pick a brand that manufactures or better yet manufactured pocket watches
and collect them.
3. Decorative appearance.
According to the form: open-faced or hunter-cased watches;
According to the case: gold, silver, platinum, nickel, steel, wood, etc.
According to the decorations: enamel, Niello, engraved, relief housing, etc
According to style: Art Nouveau, Art Dco, etc.
According to the occasion: marksmens watches, commemorative watches, jubilee
watches, freemasons watches, etc.
One of the easiest methods of purchasing an antique or vintage pocket watch is to simply
go online and buy one from auction sites such as e-bay. It is a simple and convenient way
of getting a good pocket watch. After all, you only need a computer, an internet
connection and some money in your bank account. Buyers and sellers alike should
exercise caution when buying pocket watches from e-bay as there are people that will try
to scam you.
Here are a few scams that you should keep an eye out:
~ Bid Shielding
Lets say that you gave it considerable thought and you decided to sell one of your pocket
watches. You put it up for sale on e-bay and you ask 100 for it (you do not set up a
reserve). A person that has two e-bay accounts can scam you like this. From the first
account he will make a bid of 10. From the second account he will make a bid of 200.
Because you asked 100 for the pocket watch, and you got a bid for 200, you will not
receive additional bids. Just as the auction is about to end, the buyer will cancel his 200
bid, making the 10 bid the winner of the auction. He has just scammed you and got your
100 watch for 10.
There are two ways to combat such a scam:
- First of all put a reserve on any item that you want to sell;
- Put a disclaimer stating that if you suspect the buyer of bid shielding you reserve the
right to back out of the sale.
~ Wholesale List Scam

As a rule of thumb you should always read the fine print. This is exactly what this scam
is about. Lets say that you come across an advertisement on e-bay stating that for a
limited amount of time you can buy a 500 pocket watch for 150. Most people would
hurry and buy. But if you would bother to read the fine print you will see that you are not
purchasing a pocket watch, you are in fact purchasing a wholesale list.
There is one simple and efficient way of combating this type of scam: read the fine print.
~ Bad Check Scam
I think this type of scam is self-explanatory. This is how it goes. When the auction is
over, the buyer will send you a check. You send him the merchandise, in this case the
pocket watch, but when you try to cash in the check, it bounces. You no longer have your
pocket watch, and neither did you get your rightfully deserved money.
There is one simple way of combating this type of scam: cash in the check before sending
out the merchandise. It
~ Spoof e-bay e-mails
This is how this type of scam works. You will receive an e-mail that seems to be from ebay. It may even contain a link to a site that also looks like e-bay. On that site you will be
asked to verify your account information. The person that sent you that e-mail is a
scammer and is trying to attain your personal information. This scam is a form of identity
theft. Usually these scams are so cleverly set up that you may not realize you are being
There is a simple way of combating this type of scam. All you need to do is screen your
e-mails. Be cautious about any suspicious e-mail. You are well advised to report any email or link that you consider suspicious. The people at e-bay will let you know if that
site is legit or not.
You should keep in mind that people are not essentially evil or trying to scam you. Most
of them are just trying to get a good price on the items they are selling or buying. Still, it
is best to exercise caution and use your common sense. Remember that there are good
and even excellent deals out there. But if a deal is too good to be true, chances are that it
is a scam. These scammers make a profit by taking advantage of your ignorance. A well
informed, cautious bidder will never fall for such scams.