The general theme to a fake pocket watch was for the manufacturer to add a name similar, but not exactly the same as a reputable maker. So for example, a watch marked "Hampton Watch Co" would fool the layperson into thinking that he had a genuine Hampden, another is "Rockville Watch Co", which is derived from the Rockford Watch Co. Another method was to use initials only, which for the layperson would make spotting a fake almost impossible.
Most of the fake pocket watches were produced before 1871, after which time life became increasingly more difficult for the forger because of a law passed by the US Congress, which made it compulsory for all watch mechanisms to have the country of origin engraved in the mechanism. However, forgers tried to circumvent the new law by making the country name (usually Swiss) extremely small, making it difficult to read. They also tried to hide the name in a highly engraved area somewhere on the mechanism - again, making it harder to spot.
Over the next 15 years from 1871, the quality of these fakes increased. They were being produced in greater quantities than ever but found it harder to compete as pocket watch prices came down. Eventually it became too difficult to get away with faking the better makers, and fake pocket watches were almost non-existent after about 1910.
The point of this article is not to make you aware that fakes should be avoided - on the contrary, fake watches are a separate collector’s item and are now beginning to take on real value themselves. So be on the lookout for fakes. Below are a few pointers to look out for should you decide to start your own collection.
This is by no means a sure fire way to spot a fake, but is a good starting point. When buying these make sure that the seller knows he is selling a fake - otherwise he will be asking far too much.
The pictures on the right are of a late 18th Century continental verge in gold pair cases. It has a full plate gilt movement with signed gilt dust cover. Pierced and engraved masked cock, garnet end stone, silver regulator disc. Plain three arm gilt balance, blue steel spiral hairspring. Verge escapement with screw adjustments for depth and centre. Signed white enamel dial with Roman numerals, gilt hands. Plain gold pair cases, maker's mark "JC".
Although signed for a London maker this watch is undoubtedly of continental origin, probably Swiss. As it does not bear English hallmarks it was most likely a "fake" produced to deceive the buyer who thought he was purchasing superior London workmanship. Worth about US$1300.
All images reproduced with the kind permission of Pieces of Time