Inscriptions – do they add or detract?
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  1. #1
    Member Hodmandod's Avatar
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    Inscriptions – do they add or detract?

    I searched for previous threads about this but couldn’t see anything this specific (mostly requests for translations) so here goes.


    I wondered what the consensus of opinion was regarding the value or otherwise of watch back inscriptions?

    I assume that purists would want a pristine case back – just the way it left the factory. On the other hand, an original inscription can add a real feeling of “value” as it provides a little provenance or even some direct insight into the original owner.

    Sometimes it may not amount to much; e.g. just a set of initials “W.R.G” but on occasions it can almost tell a story; e.g. on a recent Omega I bought the inscription stated;

    “To J J Seatter from Wife & Family for Father’s Day 1952”

    which, as a Dad, I find poignant.



    Finally, does an inscription lower or possibly increase the financial value of a watch?

    Interested to hear other views.
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  2. #2
    Member Paleotime's Avatar
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    Re: Inscriptions – do they add or detract?

    I think that the conventional wisdom is that in most cases inscriptions are not desirable and negatively impact value. That said - personally I enjoy inscriptions and engraving...Here is one of my favorites...
    Name:  Bulova - 1926 - Rev.jpg
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  3. #3
    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: Inscriptions – do they add or detract?

    Personally, I love them-provided that they are period to the watch(modern inscriptions on an antique watch are a desecration). Inscriptions often can make tracing the provenance of the watch a lot easier, and most old inscriptions were works of art in and of themselves.

    Most of the American watch collectors I talk to regularly share my views.

    To me, a period inscription never hurts the value of a watch, and to the right collector the right inscription can substantially increase the value. Good examples are railroad loaners(watch for fakes!) and railroad retirement inscriptions.

    In less enlightened times of past(as recently as the 80s and 90s) many very good cases were ruined by buffing out the inscription, which almost always leaves an ugly scar on the case(especially gold filled).

    The late Dr. Bill Heilman specialized in collecting presentation watches, and did an incredible amount of research on the watches in his collection. To see some of his watches-with their stories-see these links

    http://www.nawcc-info.org/Heilman/billheilman1.htm

    http://www.nawcc-info.org/Heilman/billheilman2.htm
    Last edited by Ben_hutcherson; February 16th, 2015 at 23:44.
    Member National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
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    Serious collector of American pocket watches-Waltham(and the predecessor companies) is my specialty.

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  5. #4
    Member HOROLOGIST007's Avatar
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    Re: Inscriptions – do they add or detract?

    Quite simply 'they add'
    Anyone who says not, is not a Horologist
    a
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    Member efauser's Avatar
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    Re: Inscriptions – do they add or detract?

    Having just moved from collecting modern watches to collecting vintage, I was staying away from presentation watches. However, I saw one the other day that seemed so perfect for the watch that my mind was instantly changed. It was obviously a gift from parents to their son which, like Hodmandod's example, as a son, I found touching. Now I have to find it again because I didn't bookmark the page it was on.
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  7. #6
    Member DaBaeker's Avatar
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    Re: Inscriptions – do they add or detract?

    I would say it depends on the watch. E.g. An inscription on a watch like an Omega Speedster would most likely detract from value unless it was somehow connected to NASA. Guys don't want anything to interfere with their own space fantasy. But on many ordinary cased watches that would have come with plain unfinished casebooks I would say the impact on value is negligible. And the more valuable the watch is-the less an inscription will affect value. I have a 1937 VC that has an inscription from " Dodge Bros to J....H for regional sales 8.12.39" which I highly doubt would effect value and may even appeal to some collectors as a point of interest. The only time an inscription would really affect what I would want to pay is when the watch in question would normally come with branded/logo/medallion casebook and because it was engraved-had a presentation casebook. THAT would make me want to pay less.
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    Re: Inscriptions – do they add or detract?

    I think it is good that they can put a definite age on a watch which is handy.

    All in all I'm not worried by them as the watch will be on my wrist anyway so nobody can see the inscription, the very same reason I find display backs pointless things that everyone is crazy for nowadays.
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    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: Inscriptions – do they add or detract?

    A while back, I looked at a set of four watches that had all come from the estate of a relatively wealthy local family.

    The oldest watch was from about 1870, and the newest from about 1925. Every one had a full presentation on it, and one watch had two presentations. All told, the watches represented 5 generations of family history-easily seen by looking at the "from" and "to" names on the presentations(and the dates on them).

    It was fascinating, and I'd have bought the whole set in a minute if it hadn't been for the fact that I didn't have $6K to tie up in gold...
    Member National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
    Member, NAWCC Chapter 149. Vice President and Secretary NAWCC Chapter 140. Member, NAWCC Convention Committee.
    Serious collector of American pocket watches-Waltham(and the predecessor companies) is my specialty.

  10. #9
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    Re: Inscriptions – do they add or detract?

    Definitely add.
    Here is an unusual one from 1941- a watch that belonged to John F Kennedy.

    Bulova 1941 -Unknown | myBulova.com
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  11. #10
    Member Literustyfan's Avatar
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    Re: Inscriptions – do they add or detract?

    I personally love them, especially on WWI military watches!

    Name, rank, unit, year and home town all make it MUCH easier to track down the previous owner's military service records so we can see where he and the watch has been.

    This is especially great and adds value to the watch if we find out what battles he possibly fought in for his country.

    When you take the time to track down his movements it makes for a very wonderful story.

    The watch just doesn't tell time anymore when it is inscribed, it becomes a functional historical artifact that allows us to take a step back in time with it's original owner.

    I am working on tracking the movements of a WWI soldier right now as a matter of fact all due to the inscription on the back of his 1917 Waltham military watch.
    Author of "Elgin Trench Watches of the Great War" & "Waltham Trench Watches of the Great War"

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