How to know if a vintage (Waltham) pocket watch is in the original case?
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Thread: How to know if a vintage (Waltham) pocket watch is in the original case?

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  1. #1
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    How to know if a vintage (Waltham) pocket watch is in the original case?

    Greetings!

    Just starting out collecting Waltham pocket watches and learning a tremendous amount already. One thing I have read is that the value of a watch and it's desirability is increased if the watch is in the original case. I also understand from reading that many (most?) customers purchased movement and case separately depending upon their needs and budget. Furthermore, movements appear to have been put in cases not made by the same maker as the movement. So...

    My question is: how do you know if a movement is in it's ORIGINAL case? Thank you in advance!

    P.S. I searched the forum for this question and could not find any mention of. If I overlooked it, I apologize! ~ DocOpera

  2. #2
    Member Dan S's Avatar
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    Re: How to know if a vintage (Waltham) pocket watch is in the original case?

    You will need to post photos, since it takes a fair amount of expertise to determine originality on a case-by-case basis (no pun intended). Experts can often tell if a given case dates to the same era as a movement.
    -- Dan (formerly known as @badbackdan)
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    Thanks for the reply. I recently purchased my first 3 Walthams and will post photos when they arrive in a couple days.

    Follow-up question, though... are there any reference works (books or websites) that list the types of cases that would have been available for any given Waltham pocket watch?

    ~ DocOpera

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    Re: How to know if a vintage (Waltham) pocket watch is in the original case?

    If the watch is from the 19th Century, chances are you will never know which case was the original to the watch.

    While Waltham did case a limited number of watches at the factory, most were cased at a watchmaker/jeweler. Waltham did not make the cases that they cased in the factory, they contracted to a supplier (something they and other watch companies still did when they started casing them at the factory in the 20th century.)

    Most people went to a watchmaker and picked out a dial, hands, movement and case and the watchmaker put them all together and the customer picked it up.

    I am sure most watchmakers had some watches put together for customers that needed one asap.

    We don't give values here on this forum but I will say that a pocket watch is valued on its movement (a high grade railroad movement is worth more then a 7 jewel wonder)

    Yes there was a lot of solid gold cased watches but I think most of the old size 18s ones were ether real silver or a nickel derivative called Ore Silver, Sliverode, Silveride etc The nickel cases are very durable.

    There are ways to tell if a case is not original. If you get a open face watch with the pendent(crown) at 3 o'clock then chances are it was recased from a gold hunter(closed) case. These watches are called sidewinders

    Post pics when you can
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    Re: How to know if a vintage (Waltham) pocket watch is in the original case?

    First and most simple thing to look for is where the case screws cut into the case. They create a half circle on the edge. Depending on the age of the watch and repeated removal for service will do a lot of cutting in one spot. If you see other half circle marks on the edge where the case screws hold the movement in, then you can be 95% sure the case is not classified as original or there is greater doubt that it is.

    This rule though is not flawless. Hamilton models could sometimes have the same screw placement for the case screws. I believe the 950B and 992B have the same placement for example. Multiple grades of the same models too can have the same screw placement. So there are exceptions.

    Other indicators would require you to be more familiar with what cases were produced in what era. Some companies, like Chicago became Crescent, were in and out of business in certain years so that helps to know if a case is of the right age.

    It is also possible that a watch gets recased in a new case long ago due to damage to the old one. Yet another grey area. So in response to your question, the most common thing is the screw marks. After that you can dig deep into ads and other places to research if it is much of a concern.
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    Re: How to know if a vintage (Waltham) pocket watch is in the original case?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeyforce View Post
    There are ways to tell if a case is not original. If you get a open face watch with the pendent(crown) at 3 o'clock then chances are it was recased from a gold hunter(closed) case. These watches are called sidewinders
    Being that jobbers did many watches and you could chose the case, there was no rule saying you could not request a hunter in an open face case. I have a Rockford 540 21j HC in an OF case on the way. No additional screw marks. 25 year gf swing out case. So a decent case with rather large fancy initials on the back. I don't believe the 540 was sold as a complete watch. It does fall to 1900 for the date and that was still well within the time to have a watch cased as you wanted.

    Add to that the fact that the 540 is a RR grade hunter, the rules on some RR lines would have accepted it as it was an open face case and of the proper grade and quality to meet requirements. Not saying it was used as a RR watch but it could explain why it would be OF cased. Another possibility is that someone did not want to have issues with case springs, case cover wear through at the latch, not quick reading, etc.... There can be many reasons for a sidewinder other than a gold case getting scrapped. It is a watch by watch basis.
    Last edited by thoth; June 26th, 2018 at 04:19.
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    Re: How to know if a vintage (Waltham) pocket watch is in the original case?

    Here is an example of an 1877 Waltham PS Bartlett in the original case...

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    Re: How to know if a vintage (Waltham) pocket watch is in the original case?

    1883 Illinois Model 2 (Transitional) in an open face coin silver case.....original.

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  10. #9
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    Re: How to know if a vintage (Waltham) pocket watch is in the original case?

    Very helpful! Thank you for the replies and photos!

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