Absolute Beginner

Thread: Absolute Beginner

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  1. #1

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    Question Absolute Beginner

    My mother has given me my father's collection of pocket watches which belonged to both his mother and father's families. My father died 6 years ago at the age of 80. In some instances my grandfather (who died in 1959) had attached notes to them with what information he knew about the source of the watches within the family. I have no tools (other than a Leatherman) for getting into the watch movements. Even for those I can get into, I see no dates, except those included in engraved inscriptions. On e-bay the antique pocket watches are listed with a date--where'd they find it? Maybe my magnifier isn't good enough?

    I've listed the 8 pocket watches on my profile. There are two Elgins, and I don't know how to get into their movements to do research--I see seams but no hinges.

    I think the most interesting of the lot is a "Time Study" Swiss Jeanneret watch. Another has no makers marks on it, but the tag from my grandfather says he earned the watch selling Larkin soap. Any ideas on who would have made it? Again, I see no obvious way to open the back and see the movement. When he graduated high school in 1908 (per inscription) he was given a pocket watch from the Rockford Watch Co. with Bristol movement, and all kinds of marks on the movement and the case interior. This must have been his favorite, as it still has a picture of my grandmother taken at about the time of their marriage, post WWI.

    Unfortunately one of the pocket watches was sent to my father by a vindictive nephew-in-law, who just tossed it into an envelope and mailed it. It is still bright gold, but the crystal was ruined and the hinge on the front of the case was broken. It belonged to my great grandfather, who died in 1927. It is a rather small Hampden, and some one hand-etched "c. 10/12/49" in it. Surely they don't mean 1849? It has a Dueber Diadem movement, and many marks and numbers. It's a pretty watch, and it is too bad more care wasn't taken in its handling.

    What I'd really like to know is, does anyone know of a knowledgeable appraiser in the Pacific Northwest? I understand their value may be minimal, especially in today's market, but if there is something I should insure, I'd like to know it.

    As stated, I'm an absolute beginner with this topic, but I'm a collector of all kinds of stuff (certain genera of garden plants, Depression Glass, Hall China, pink flamingos, botanical prints, garden-themed costume jewlery--I collect a strange assortment), and this may be the start of yet another collection. Having said that, I would probably get rid of the watches having little value, just to thin the herd and learn something along the way.

    Enjoy your gardens,
    LindaB

  2. #2
    Member Shangas's Avatar
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    Re: Absolute Beginner

    Hey Linda,

    Watches from good American manufacturers, such as Elgin, Waltham, Hamilton etc, all have serial-numbers engraved on the MOVEMENTS (mechanics of the watch). These serial-numbers are used to date when the watch was made. Every watch has one (If they're made by a good company) and there are databases online which can help you find out how old your watch is.

    Remember - Age does NOT equal value. Just because the watch was made in say, 1875, doesn't mean it's worth five hundred bucks. Condition, rarity and of course, how well the watch WORKS, will determine how much you will get for it.

    Watches with gold cases (anywhere between 12-18kt gold) are considerably more valuable. As I understand it, there aren't many watches with gold cases left anymore, due to such cases being melted down for their gold-content during times like the Depression (1929-1939). If you have such a watch with a case like that (it's usually marked somewhere what the gold-content is), then hold onto it.

    Watch-cases open in varying ways. If you can find a seam on the caseback, but no lip or hinges, then the caseback probably unscrews - like the lid of a jar. If you can find a seam and a lip but no hinge, then the caseback is probably friction-fitted onto the case. A bit of tapping and levering with something like a small flathead screwdriver will get the lid off. If you see a set of hinges, a seam and a lip, then it's a hinged-back case. Simply pry the case open where the lip is. You might need the screwdriver again for this, just in case. Some watches have an additional inner dust-cover for added protection. This will need to be removed as well.

    There are other ways to get into movements, but I don't have the link with me right now that says what they all are.
    "Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest...nothing has more individuality save, perhaps, watches and bootlaces."

    - Sherlock Holmes.

    'The Yellow Face'.

  3. #3
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    Re: Absolute Beginner

    Make a thirty dollar investment and purchase the current issue of " The Complete Price Guide To Watches" (it's published yearly). It's not perfect, but is probably the best single source of info on antique and vintage watches out there. Carried by Amazon and all the major book sellers.

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  5. #4
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Absolute Beginner

    Welcome to the forum. We are at your service as far as ID of any of your watches goes. For that we need serial numbers off the movement., or a good picture of the movement will help us.
    Here is the link Shangas was talking about , from our sub-forum - opening a pocket watch case.

    https://forums.watchuseek.com/showthread.php?t=158603

    We do not do valuations here for reasons we outline in our sticky notes. However unless you have a lot of solid gold watch cases, chances are you don't have to worry about insurance. Old does not equal valuable, as Shangas has already posted.
    We always recommend you just store the watches away and give them to other family members sometime in future. That is how I got my grandfather's pocket watch 40 year after his death.

    There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson. ~ Victor Hugo

  6. #5
    Member Eeeb's Avatar
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    Re: Absolute Beginner

    I notice most of us have tried to find the watch pictures in your profile... I don't see them!

    There is a sticky note (posts at the top of the forum) in the photography forum on how to post pictures. Get an account on photobucket or the like and it is fairly easy.

    Sounds like you have a nice collection. You are lucky to have the notes!
    "Forever is composed of nows." - Emily Dickinson

    "The watch has to be surrounded by a history.
    You need more than just a great design. You need to create an atmosphere around the product.
    Who is the company behind it? Why are they using this material?
    People need to be able to identify the watch with themselves. It's based on emotion." - Ralph Furter

    ...that's just my opinion and I've been wrong before and will be again and might be now!

  7. #6
    Member Shangas's Avatar
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    Re: Absolute Beginner

    Thanks, Ray. That was indeed the link! I couldn't find it earlier when I wanted to add it to my post.
    "Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest...nothing has more individuality save, perhaps, watches and bootlaces."

    - Sherlock Holmes.

    'The Yellow Face'.

  8. #7

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    Re: Absolute Beginner

    Thanks, all of you, for your replies. I had some fun noodling around on google last night, into the wee hours, and found some interesting stuff. There is a site run by a bottle collector (one "Digger Odell") with tons of information about Larkin Soap, and the pocket watch my Grandfather earned by selling their soap is probably a Seth Thomas, and when I get the back off the sucker I'll know the year, but probably 1906-1907. This site actually had a catalog page with pictures of some of the watches a person could earn.

    The Beha Lickert & Co watch is indeed English, they made their own movements as well as cases, and the only reference to this jeweler I found was a link to a genealogical site of some one looking for a relative who had worked for them. This watch has the paper label still inside the back cover, but no date on that.

    Couldn't find much on the "Time Study" pocket watch, but it has Jeanneret marks and serial numbers.

    I feel badly for the little Hampden Diadem watch, the one sent in an envelope and missing its crystal. I'm wondering why my great grandfather carried a lady's watch?!? Was he perhaps of petite stature? ;) Maybe my grandfather (the owner's son-in-law) misunderstood whose it was.

    So much research to do, so little time! I'll take a few images to post this afternoon, but my digital camera is rudimentary, as are my skills with it.

    I'd still like a recommendation of a jewelry/watch appraiser in the greater Portland area (or further afield if necessary) who could physically examine the watches with more knowing eyes than mine, although I will buy the book one of you recommended (and thanks for the tip).

    Thanks again, everyone!
    Enjoy your gardens,
    LindaB

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