a watch with replaced parts

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  1. #1
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    a watch with replaced parts

    Hi Folks, my question relates specifically [for me] to American pocket watches from say 1890 to 1960 but probably includes all watches that would be considered 'collectible'.

    I see many parts for sale and I wonder 1) how can you tell if a watch has had parts replaced [covers, crystal, hands and movement]? And, 2) how does this affect the value as a collectible watch? How can a buyer tell if a watch is original or has some/lots of parts replaced? Or perhaps this isn't an issue?

    I'm new to this and while I have browsed the forums here I have not run across a thread about this. If there is, please point the way. If there are good resources on the 'net I'd love to know.

    Thanks,
    Ralph

  2. #2
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    Re: a watch with replaced parts

    Quote Originally Posted by jazzereh View Post
    I see many parts for sale and I wonder 1) how can you tell if a watch has had parts replaced [covers, crystal, hands and movement]? And, 2) how does this affect the value as a collectible watch? How can a buyer tell if a watch is original or has some/lots of parts replaced? Or perhaps this isn't an issue?
    1) Sometimes you can tell visually, sometimes you cannot. Some brands have special marks to look for on certain components that help.

    2) It matters to some people. Most people can tolerate some replacements as long as they are suitable, as wear is expected on vintage watches. If the replacements are obvious, they usually reduce the value. The trends of making wristwatches out of pocket watches and "modding" watches counters this logic, but purchasers of those items are typically not vintage collectors.

  3. #3
    Member AbslomRob's Avatar
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    Re: a watch with replaced parts

    Old Waltham and Elgin pocket watches will actually have the last few numbers of the serial engraved on virtually all the main parts; right down the mainspring barrel and cover on the really old ones. Of course, that was a lot easier when the average watch was 16 and 18 size. And of course, many of the watches from that era had unique damasking that makes it tricky to try to swap parts from one to another.

    Beyond that, you can only look for clues like abnormal wearing or corrossion differences. Fundamentally, if you can tell, it'll lower the value.

    It would be considered normal to replace things like the mainspring, balance staffs, jewels, and pivots over the life a watch, becuase these are the things that break. You wouldn't expect the tires on a Model T to be original, or the headlights. And you wouldn't be <surprised> if parts of the engine had been replaced, but you'd likely pay more if you knew they hadn't been. Its the "Knowing" that's tricky, 'cause without things like serial numbers to check, you're taking the sellers word for it.
    My growing collection of "affordable" vintages: http://www.abslomrob.com

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  5. #4
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    Re: a watch with replaced parts

    Kind of figured that would be the case, guys, thanks. I guess it does boil down somewhat to why a person buys a watch - to wear/use or just look at.

    Given this, do old mechanisms get put in 'newish' cases? For example, if I were to buy the mechanism of an old 18S Elgin and find a case from about the same vintage, or newer that fits, would this be common?

    I see that many cases have thier own serial numbers and it bears no resemblance to the number of the mechanism. So this would be like a manufacturer simply buying a case to put the watch in. In my research I see that this has been done where a watch may have been put in a replacement hunter case at some point well after manufacturing when the original case was not hunter style.

    I guess in part that what I'm asking is how far can someone go in changing parts and how would a buyer know?

    Thanks again. I'm new to this and I find I have lots of questions as I browse various sites and learn stuff but this forum is great for info.
    Ralph

  6. #5
    Member AbslomRob's Avatar
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    Re: a watch with replaced parts

    In the early days (pre '20s) pocket watches were typically sold independently of the cases. And many of the cases were gold-filled (usually a layer of brass or some other cheap metal with gold soldered to both sides and rolled flat). This gold would wear off over time, and the case iteself would be subject to dings and dents, prompting some owners to switch cases after a while. This was especially true of Railroad watches (which tended to see heavy use).

    The same logic would come into play if you had (for instance) a good quality case with a cheap or broken movment; you'd preserve the case and just put a new movement in it.

    Inventory was another factor; Gruen, for example, made thousands of special, high grade movments that sat in inventory for years before they were cased up and sold.

    In other words, it wouldn't be uncommon to see cases substantially younger or substantially older then the movement.

    As with the parts, collectors tend to "prefer" watches that are in their "original" case, but that can be a difficult thing to ascertain. If you can demonstrate it (via original sales receipt, etc), it'll put the value up a lot. If it can be demonstrated that it isn't (usually by checking for screw marks or a deep understanding of the case and movement) then it'll put the price down a bit.
    My growing collection of "affordable" vintages: http://www.abslomrob.com

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