Buying a vintage pocket watch..what to do,look for?

Thread: Buying a vintage pocket watch..what to do,look for?

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  1. #1
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    Buying a vintage pocket watch..what to do,look for?

    Hi all

    I am new to the forum and the world of vintage watches, pocket and movement´s.

    I am seeking a vintage, 1880´s-pre 1940´s, vintage English pocket watch, with a English movement.

    But, what do look for? I am seeking a high end movement, showing the time.
    I do not need the name of a famus maker on it, it is the movement I seek.

    What movement are good, more easy to repair and so one?
    Some say a key wind fusee.....some say a pish stem winding one, some a cylinder and so one.

    Hope some can help me

    All help is good to me
    Thanks for looing

    Cheers
    Vegard_dino

  2. #2
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Buying a vintage pocket watch..what to do,look for?

    Thanks for posting. I'm not an expert but I'll try to answer.
    The golden age of the English lever was probably from 1830-1880. These are by and large keywind, full plate movements although some 3/4 plate movements are out there. The English watch industry suffered severely after 1880 because of American and Swiss manufactured movements. The English never really got into factory manufacture in the 1870s and 1880s and their industry declined irreversably as a result.
    You'll find many late 19th century English cased Swiss and American movements. In the 20th century there are some English made movements like Smiths but they are not as common as Swiss or US made ones and not of the highest quality although decent watches.
    The mid 19th century English levers are sturdy and fairly reliable but they are going to be expensive to service and repair. Standardized parts are not available, so if something is worn out it's necessary to cannibalize another watch or make a part. Many watchmakers don't like working on fusees so make sure you know one who does. "Easy to repair" and "English lever" rarely are spoken or written in the same context.
    If I were to buy one of these, it would be from a recognized watch shop who has serviced it and knows how to fix it.
    If you are in the UK or "the colonies" maybe it's easier. Not in Canada though as the US dominated the market here after 1870.
    Last edited by Ray MacDonald; October 12th, 2008 at 17:34.

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

  3. #3
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    Re: Buying a vintage pocket watch..what to do,look for?

    Hi Ray

    Thank you for helping me with good information.


    I do seek a English pocket watch, with a English movement coz it is NOT a swiss one. Yes, maybe I am crazy, but "all" is seeking, buying swiss watches and forgeting what was made in England and also Germany.

    Well, hope I am not saying things that hurt members here!!!!

    But, are the old English movement not the way to go for a watch that will be used 1-2-3 times a week?

    Cheers
    Vegard_dino

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  5. #4
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Buying a vintage pocket watch..what to do,look for?

    Are you forgetting that between 1860 and 1950 the Americans made some of the finest pocket watches in the world? There are millions still out there. Nothing better for ease of fixing and availability of parts.

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

  6. #5
    Member Shangas's Avatar
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    Re: Buying a vintage pocket watch..what to do,look for?

    Regardless of what country made the watch or how old it is, Ray is correct. One thing you *MUST* think about is how easily the watch can be repaired, because you will have to have it repaired or at least serviced if or when you buy it. Buying a watch from a major European (Patek Philippe) or American (Waltham, Hamilton, Elgin etc) manufacturer will make the watch easier to look after because it'll be (theorhetically) easier to repair.
    "Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest...nothing has more individuality save, perhaps, watches and bootlaces."

    - Sherlock Holmes.

    'The Yellow Face'.

  7. #6
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Buying a vintage pocket watch..what to do,look for?

    Yes and it goes without saying that if I lived in Switzerland I would not be deciding to look elsewhere for a pocket watch. Too many good Swiss ones out there, plus I'm sure parts and technical knowledge would be readily at hand.
    I'm hoping JohnF and Hartmut can make some comments here when they wake up tomorrow.

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

  8. #7
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: Buying a vintage pocket watch..what to do,look for?

    Hi -

    Oddly enough Ray, I'm still up. Going to sleep soon, though.

    If the OP is serious about getting the "best" movement "just" to tell the time, then there is really only one serious contender: any of the official railroad movements. These are arguably the single most accurate wearable watches ever made. For sheer parts availability, of course, any Elgin would be a basic good choice.

    Railroad quality watches are, of course, not cheap: Shugart shows the Elgin made BW Raymond Pennsylvania Railroad watch, one of the earliest of its kind, to sell at over $3000 on average, and over $6000 for one in perfect shape. This is a tad extreme, the result of being one of the very first railroad watches.

    The key is finding a railroad-grade movement. These are the movements that met or exceeded the most exacting wearable watch criteria out there. I use the word wearable deliberately: maritime chronometers had even more exacting requirements, but the movements are significantly larger and they were usually mounted on a gimballing system to keep the watch in the same position at all times to reduce gravitational effects.

    The Swiss came along much later, and while they certainly have made excellent pocket watches, they simply do not compare to the American watches. The Swiss didn't try to compete there: they competed where they are now the dominant force, in wrist watches.

    JohnF

    PS: one of my secret desires is to find a horribly battered small calibre railroad grade watch whose dial and movement are pristine and to make a mariage out of it in order to have a unique and highly accurate wrist watch...
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  9. #8
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    Re: Buying a vintage pocket watch..what to do,look for?

    Hi all and thanks for good information.

    I was looking for a English made watch and movement coz I did not know what I do now.

    When you say it will be hard to keep it running, repair and so one, I better stay away from them.

    A Amarican watch has not been on my mind, sorry
    But, now it is, among with swiss made to.
    I was also seeking a movement made from a smaler, more unknow maker. But, thinking about where to get that repaired, must be even harder.

    I understand that a watch made from a larger, more known maker, will make it easyer for me, to find someone who can repair, service it and so one.

    Well, know I know a bit more about watches and movement´s, and what to look for.

    Have a good day all

    Cheers
    Vegard_dino

  10. #9
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    Re: Buying a vintage pocket watch..what to do,look for?

    This is in reply to JohnF's post, why on earth did you quote the price of a very expensive and rare BW Raymond when the average price of common BWRs is perhaps one tenth of your quote.

    My recommendation for a good quality American pocket watch would be any of the RR grade pocket watches such as the Illinois Bunn and Bunn Special, the Waltham Vanguard or Crescent Street, the already mentioned Elgin BWRaymonds and the Hamilton 992 and 992Bs. All these are fairly common and can be obtained for prices in the 3-4 hundred dollar range.

    If you don't want to spend as much a 17 jewel watch from any of the above mentioned makers plus Hampden will be good watches. These are the big five of American manufacturers.

  11. #10
    Member Shangas's Avatar
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    Re: Buying a vintage pocket watch..what to do,look for?

    From what I've seen on online stores, an actual railroad watch by a major American manufacturer (such as Hamilton or Waltham, lever-set, 18-size, 21 jewels, you know the drill), costs something close to a small fortune. I think the cheapest I saw was about $600. They make damn good watches, I'm sure but I think to go after one as a first watch sounds rather tricky. Perhaps go for a non-RR watch from a good American maker.

    By the way, just for my own education, are hunter-case watches more prone to damage and harder to repair than open-face ones, because of the extra mechanism such as the springs and catches and hinges? And were hunter-case watches ever made with the winding-stem at 12 and a subdial at 6 (with the hinges for the lid also at 6?) It seems like 90% of them were made with the stem at 3, but I've seen a few with an 'open-faced' orientation.
    "Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest...nothing has more individuality save, perhaps, watches and bootlaces."

    - Sherlock Holmes.

    'The Yellow Face'.

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