Pocketwatch 101 – Learn about Vintage and Antique Pocket Watches

Vintage Watch Buying Guide

How to Become a Smarter Vintage Watch Buyer (or Seller!)

As you learn more about antique watches, you may find yourself attracted to particular brands or styles, and wearing or carrying a vintage watch for which you have a special appreciation can be a real source of pride and pleasure. Vintage watches are, in our opinion, often undervalued compared to modern, high-end watch brands. The quality and craftsmanship that went into many finely-made mechanical watches is simply not available in modern watches for less than thousands of dollars, yet many vintage watches which exhibit the highest standards of the watchmaker's art can still be found at very reasonable prices... IF you know what to look for.

Detail of Illinois 23-jewel Bunn Special pocket watch movement. Note the jeweled motor-barrel.

Detail of Illinois 23-jewel Bunn Special

pocket watch movement. Note the jeweled


American railroad pocket watches, in particular, were some of the finest mechanical watches ever crafted. High-grade watches from Howard, Hamilton, Elgin, Illinois, Waltham and Ball (just to name a few) can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the finest watch brands in the world. There's just something special about carrying one of these fine old watches in your pocket: that solid feel, the daily ritual of winding and setting the time, and the often amazing performance and accuracy that these 100 year old micro-machines can provide is truly remarkable.

But whether you are an avid collector, a first-time buyer, or just someone who appreciates the timeless beauty of a vintage watch, there are certain factors you should always consider before purchasing ANY vintage watch. Here's our best advice to help you become a smarter vintage watch buyer.

Watch Identification

Proper identification is key to knowing what you are buying. If you don't know what a watch is, or what its "market value" is, then how can you know if you're paying too much for it? In order to accurately determine value, you must first determine who made the watch, and as much information as possible about the model, grade, age, size, quality and unique features of your watch. There is simply no way to be an informed watch buyer if you don't know what you're buying. Click here for our article on watch identification.

Checking the Condition of a Vintage Watch

Assessing the condition of a vintage watch is one of the toughest challenges for the inexperienced watch buyer, but this is one of the most important steps in any purchase. A watch that has been well-treated over the years, with careful handling and regular service, can be in near-new condition and will perform like a new watch. On the other hand, a watch that has been abused, or has been improperly serviced, can have hidden problems which are difficult or impossible to repair. These watches can turn into a real money-pit, often requiring repairs which can exceed the value of the watch. Such watches are to be avoided at all costs!