"What's my watch worth?" is definitely the most common question we are asked and it's one of the hardest to answer. When asked this question I often reply "Would you like to sell it?" When the person says "NO! This watch belonged to my grandfather and it's the only thing I have to remember him by," they have answered their own question. The simple answer is that your watch is worth whatever it is worth to you... and if there's no amount of money you would sell it for, then it's priceless!
The bottom line on vintage watch value is that what a disinterested watch collector or antique dealer might pay for your watch has absolutely no bearing on the special personal value of a well-worn watch that your great-grandfather carried in his pocket every day while working for the railroad. We just don't know how to assign a monetary value to that.
The definitive guide to collector's value of antique and vintage watches is "The Complete Price Guide to Watches" by Shugart, Engle, and Gilbert. This fantastic book has a wealth of information for those interested in learning more about collectible watches and their fair-market values. I highly recommend this book for anyone who has a desire to become more knowledgeable about antique or vintage watches... you will more than save the purchase price of the book the very first time you buy or sell a watch.
You can purchase the book from Amazon by clicking this link or the book image on the right.
What are the main factors that determine the value of an antique watch?
For those with an interest in learning more about how to research the value of your vintage pocket watch, our article "10 Keys to Understanding Antique Pocket Watch Value" can help you understand more about the many factors which can make a huge difference in the buying or selling price of a watch.
How old is my antique watch?
For some of the major American brands for which serial number records are available, dating a watch is as simple as looking up the serial number (the serial number from the movement of the watch, not the serial number from the case). We've listed serial number tables in the Watch Company Histories section of our web site whenever possible. For other watches, an approximate date can only be established by evaluating the style and manufacturing details of the watch.
Is my vintage pocket watch worth repairing?
That's a question that only you can answer. If your watch is a family heirloom that has come down to you through several generations, then it obviously has high sentimental value to you that might make it worth repairing at almost any price. We'd be happy to offer our honest advice during the course of our repair estimate, but whether you proceed with a repair is a decision that only you can make.
Where can I learn more about collecting / buying / selling vintage pocket watches?
We've put together a list of a few of our favorite books on the topic of watch collecting, and have listed them for your convenience on our watch books page. This is a great starting point to learn about the fascinating and rewarding hobby of watch collecting, or to learn the history and/or value of a particular vintage watch. The National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC) is also an excellent resource for those interested in learning more about collecting vintage watches. Contact the NAWCC to see if there is a local chapter in your area.
How do I know if my pocketwatch is gold or gold-plated?
Watch cases can be made from a wide variety of materials. If the watch is gold in color, it could be karat gold ("solid" gold), gold filled or gold plated, or it could be a completely non-gold yellow-colored metal. If the inside of the case says "Guaranteed 20 Years" or "Warranted 10 Years" or anything else that refers to a number of years, then it's almost certainly a gold-filled or gold-plated case. That inscription meant that the plating was guaranteed not to wear off for the prescribed length of time. Karat (solid) gold cases are typically 10K (10/24ths pure) to 18K (18/24ths pure) and usually have a karat stamp on them, or carry a hallmark indicating the quality of gold. Click here to read our complete article on how to tell whether your watch is gold or gold-plated.
If I send you a picture of my vintage watch, can you tell me when it was made and what it's worth?
Sorry, but no we can't. In fact, in order to protect our computers from unwanted viruses, we don't even open unrecognized email attachments from unknown senders. We spend our time fixing watches for our customers, not researching the values and/or histories of watches for people who send us pictures through email. We certainly don't mean to be rude, but we are not 'Antiques Roadshow,' and you really can't imagine how many times we get asked that particular question!
What I'll do is refer you right back here to the Frequently Asked Questions or to the Watch Company Histories pages of our web site where we've done our best to provide you with some useful resources that will help you to establish the age and history of your watch, and some pointers on further researching its value.
Can you tell me where my pocket watch was purchased, who purchased it, and whose initials are on the back?
No, I'm afraid not... but we often get asked those sorts of questions! There are no historical records for the sale of individual watches, so we are not able to tell you anything about your particular watch other than what can be determined from the serial number and date tables we include on many of our Watch Company History pages.