Buying Pocket Watches

So what should you look for when buying Pocket Watches? - Buying an antique pocket watch is not all about getting a bargain - it's about paying a fair and reasonable price for a particular watch that will give you pleasure to own. With this in mind I have put together this short checklist so that you can make your first pocket watch buy with a little more confidence. It is by no means meant to be a definitive guide, but merely a guide to assist you with your purchase.

While some sellers are at pains to describe their pocket watch in great detail, others may not - and indeed may disguise certain relevant facts about the watch in order to sell. Most sales these days are conducted on the Internet, eBay being the obvious example, but many have set up shop with their own web site. For these sites, look closely at the photos, are they clear, show all relevant markings, defects? Also, what is their returns policy and what guarantees do you have? Another, often ignored aspect of online sales is shipping costs - in some cases as much as 20% of the watch value.

Where information is missing - deliberately or through genuine lack of knowledge - it is up to you to get it before parting with your cash and committing to the pocket watch buy.

So here is my buying pocket watches list - use it carefully and it will help you with your pocket watch purchases - it may even clinch you a bargain!

What, Whom, How:

  • Who is the maker?
  • What is the age of the pocket watch, get this by looking up the serial number and use a good guide book to get the age. The guide book will tell you the rarity factor and give a (very) rough guide as to the price you might pay.
  • Is the pocket watch picture(s) of the actual watch being sold? If not, why not? Always see what you are going to pay for.
  • Is the pocket watch original? This may be a hard one to really get an answer for, but the more original it is the more valuable it will be.
  • Does the seller have any information about the watch with regards to any repairs?
  • What work (if any) has been done on the watch? (maybe unrelated to repairs, e.g, cleaning)
  • Does the seller know of any mechanical problems with the watch? Important - Does the watch run, and for how long, when placed in several different positions? (i.e, face up, face down or vertical)
  • Who did the work? - Useful to get an idea of repair costs.
  • What is the pocket watch case made of?
  • Is there any wear on the case - especially relevant to Gold Filled cases.
  • Does the seller know anything about the history of the pocket watch? (On October 5th 2005, someone paid £400,000 for a pocket watch carried by Admiral Horatio Nelson when he was killed in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805) - Associated Press

Other general questions

  • What guarantees come with the watch?
  • Will it be possible to return the watch to the seller and under what conditions?
  • What are shipping, insurance and packing costs?

I've kept this list deliberately short in order not to confuse you too much. There is a list as long as your arm of questions that you could ask when buying pocket watches - but you will probably just annoy the seller and lose what could have been a good pocket watch buy! So use this sparingly and hopefully you can buy with a little more confidence - good buying!

The Ball Pocket Watch Co

The Elgin Pocket Watch Co

The Hamilton Pocket Watch Co

The Hampden Pocket Watch Co

The Illinois Pocket Watch Co

The Ingersoll Watch Company

The Howard Pocket Watch Company

Waltham Pocket Watch

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