Seeking Advice on reliable timekeeper

Thread: Seeking Advice on reliable timekeeper

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  1. #1
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    Seeking Advice on reliable timekeeper

    Hello all,

    After a frustrating amount of research I turn to you for advice. I am a poor college student seeking a pocket watch out of an appreciation for their character and an interest in analog devices of all sorts but my search has been met with a disproportionate amount of difficulty. Please understand, most vintage watches are beyond my means to afford and I have watched 14 separate bid attempts on various Elgins, Hamiltons, Walthams, and other watches of proven pedigree slip far into the hundreds before the auction closes. Besides the monetary issue, I am reluctant to carry a vintage item for fear of not being able to care for it as well as it deserves. So I ask this, would any of you care to share your knowledge of the mediocre? I have found that while huge amounts of published knowledge exists confirming the already established abilities of the greats of the pocket watch world, phrases such as "all right" or "not bad" are rare indeed. All I ask for is reasonably accurate timekeeping ability and a hunter case for protection. Perhaps this post will guide others such as myself, and if I have failed to find this information already written, please guide me to it and I apologize for wasting your time.

    Thank you,

    Blanche

  2. #2
    Zenith Forum Co-moderator
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    Re: Seeking Advice on reliable timekeeper

    First of all, welcome to Watchuseek. I hope that we can help you with a little more than conclusions such as "Forget it!". Still, my first reaction when reading your post was, I'm sorry to have to say, "Ouch!". I fully sympathise with your financial situation - I was also once a poor college student! - but you may well find that you are trying to unite conflicting interests.

    From the watches you mention, I imagine that you are in the US. The first thing I would say is that, at your sort of cash, you should be looking at silver case watches - gold has an inherent value (never mind the movement inside or the brand on the dial) which will probably exceed your funding. Although Hamilton, Waltham and Elgin are the most prestigious, there must be less well known but still high quality stuff in the US that should meet your requirements. The main problem with old watches is that you are invariably looking at a service once you get the watch and this may well amout to 100$ alone.

    Remember that there are also modern pocket watches going reasonably cheap (stainless steel or gold plated case rather than silver to keep costs down). In the end, although the nostalgia factor isn't there, it may be cheaper in the long run.

    While I am writing this, I am wearing my Zenith silver PW from the late twenties which I got off eBay for a little under 200 Euros (in Europe). It is in near pristine condition. Such bargains are available - you may just have to wait a little longer for it to work for you.

    Good luck,

    Hartmut Richter

  3. #3
    Member trim's Avatar
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    Re: Seeking Advice on reliable timekeeper

    A viable alternative is a hunter cased russian pocket watch. They are very cheap and were reasonably modern, but robust mechanical movements. I think you can get them in good condition for 25-40 US$.

    I have also picked up good Walthams and Elgins for little money - the bargains do exist, patience is your best ally. In general, if you are after a high grade watch, you will ultimately have to stump up the cash. There is nothing wrong with a solid 7J Waltham/Elgin in a good case with nice hands and dial, for a little more cash you can get a decent but mid grade 15J. These of course can be purchased quite reasonably.
    Last edited by trim; January 23rd, 2011 at 21:52.

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  5. #4
    Member Marrick's Avatar
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    Re: Seeking Advice on reliable timekeeper

    You could go Russian - as trim said seconds before I posted this!

    This Molnia'70 CCCP Hi Grade Hunter Watch Perfect Serviced on eBay (end time 23-Jan-11 21:00:39 GMT)

    will have finished by the time you read this. But its serviced (one or two of us have bought from this guy) and probably cheap enough - even with shipping.
    Last edited by Marrick; January 23rd, 2011 at 21:52. Reason: trim got in first
    Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects."

    Will Rogers (1879 - 1935)


    Please don't PM me to ask for a valuation - I won't attempt one.

  6. #5
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    Re: Seeking Advice on reliable timekeeper

    Hello all,

    Thank you all for your advice and sympathy. I have seen those Soviet Molnia/Molnija (The spelling seems flexible) watches around at a reasonable price, thank you for the recommendation. I had heard some disparaging remarks concerning Soviet watches, perhaps it was just in comparison to the high grade watches, but they referred to them in company with brands such as Anker and Arnex as junk and something to be avoided. I'll be sure to take such hearsay with a grain of salt and consider the speaker's perspective. And yes, I had considered that the gold case was inevitably increasing the price, but most available non-gold cases were of the questionable brands. Perhaps I'm a bit unrefined but I like the look and feel of steel personally .

  7. #6
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    Re: Seeking Advice on reliable timekeeper

    Blanche, where are you located? My local vintage shop has about 5, 12S 17 Jewel American pocket watches, for from $35 to $50 dollars he also has a Swiss with a later Unitas movement in the same price range. I also know someone that wll do a service for $50 and replace the mainspring (likely) for $20. Bottom line you would be looking at about $125. If that's affordable.you would be getting a good solid middle grade watch.

  8. #7
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    Re: Seeking Advice on reliable timekeeper

    Hey Mike,

    I'm in New York sad to say. I appreciate the offer though. I poked around the local antique shops, flea markets, watchmakers, etc but found nothing affordable or appealing. I'm giving a Molnija a try. My fears dispelled they turned out to look very nice and very affordable. Picked a freshly serviced one up for about $50 all told with the shipping from Southern Russia. Thanks again!

  9. #8
    Zenith Forum Co-moderator
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    Re: Seeking Advice on reliable timekeeper

    Well, a fair number of the russian movements are "pinched" off the Swiss - the Russians bought the rights to and machinery for existing Swiss movements after the Swiss were no longer interested. This one is an old Cortebert pocket watch calibre, other examples are the Adolf Schild wrist alarm calibre 1475 (Poljot 2612) and Valjoux 7734 (Poljot 3313) chronograph movement. As such, the design is first class. The finish (including tolerance limits on parts) tends to be inferior so that accuracy is often not comparable to the Swiss counterparts. However, the reliability is on a par. And the prices are somewhat lower.....

    Hartmut Richter

  10. #9
    Member Shangas's Avatar
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    Re: Seeking Advice on reliable timekeeper

    Hi Blanche,

    Pocket watches are lovely. They seem to come running to me, crying for cuddles...and I adopt them and take them in and wear them.

    As as a student like you and with limited funds, like you, I should tell you this - Do not bother trying to buy a pocketwatch online. It's not worth it. They're often far too expensive.

    And yet...I have five vintage pocket watches, ranging from entry-grade to top-quality railroad timepieces.

    If you want to get a vintage pocket watch for daily use, I suggest searching flea-markets or small antiques markets. There, you can often find great bargains on great watches. They are often a lot cheaper than what you can buy online or at big, fancy antiques shops (where the prices skyrocket). The catch is that the watches WILL be unserviced and you'll have to pay for the servicing of the watch before you use it (but you'd have to do that if you bought the watch online anyway).

    Let me give you a few examples...

    For $140 (down from $180, because I was a regular and trusted customer), I purchased this from one of the jewellery-dealers at my local flea-market:




    It's a 1918 Elgin with a 15-jewel, 16size movement.

    This is a good, mid-range watch. Once I had it serviced, it kept excellent time. And I mean...excellent time. I just took it on a three-week holiday around Europe and despite changing three timezones, it only lost about one minute (that's not an exaggeration).

    So don't give up, you CAN get nice pocket-watches for good money. If you want more advice or help, feel free to keep asking. We'll answer anything at all.
    "Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest...nothing has more individuality save, perhaps, watches and bootlaces."

    - Sherlock Holmes.

    'The Yellow Face'.

  11. #10
    Member noodlenoggin's Avatar
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    Re: Seeking Advice on reliable timekeeper

    If I could chime in... I'm in much the same situation. I dearly love vintage wristwatches, but don't have serious cash to throw at the hobby. If there aren't any finds in the local shops and markets, and you do have to hit that particular online auction site, there are tactics. One is to watch a LOT of auctions, and expect 85% of them to climb out of sight long before the auction end. Of the remaining 15%, make sure to look at them an hour or so before the end, and if they're in your price region, bid. Bid anywhere from a couple hours before the end, up to 15 seconds before the end. Of that 15%, 95% will be sniped or bid out of sight in the last 10 seconds. But remember...you only need to win *one.* Additionally, look for auctions that end at unpopular times -- like early Sunday morning. I just won a Swiss Elgin that runs for $15, shipped to my door, by waiting, watching, biding my time, and bidding at 7am on Sunday.

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