What to do with Broken Antique Watches?
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  1. #1
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    What to do with Broken Antique Watches?

    I go to flea markets several times a week. Although I'm not a collector, I buy antique pocket watches whenever I can get them for a good price (or, if they're silver, below melt value). So I have a good collection of German, Swiss, and English pocket watches, along with a couple of American ones. Most of them have broken movements, or don't keep time well. I know that it's very expensive to get a watch serviced, so I just have them lying around, collecting dust. Are they even worth anything, or are they just decorative items at this point?
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    Re: What to do with Broken Antique Watches?

    Forgot to mention: Any idea on how much watch cases weigh without the movements? I estimate melt value when I buy them. I'd love a better idea so I know how much to pay.

  3. #3
    Moderator Public Forum John MS's Avatar
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    Re: What to do with Broken Antique Watches?

    You need to evaluate each watch individually to determine if there is any collector value. Look through closed Ebay auctions for similar watches in comparable condition. There are as you have found a lot of dead watches available for purchase. Chances are the meltdown value if any was reflected in the sellers price. But establishing metal content and weighing the cases by themselves is the only way I know of to get a better estimate of metal value.
    Last edited by John MS; 1 Week Ago at 12:52.

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    Re: What to do with Broken Antique Watches?

    You could bundle them up and sell them at a flea market.

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    Re: What to do with Broken Antique Watches?

    Quote Originally Posted by John MS View Post
    You need to evaluate each watch individually to determine if there is any collector value. Look through closed Ebay auctions for similar watches in comparable condition. There are as you have found a lot of dead watches available for purchase. Chances are the meltdown value if any was reflected in the sellers price. But establishing metal content and weighing the cases by themselves is the only way I know of to determine metal value.
    Thanks. Do you think it's safe to pay about 2-4 euros for base-metal pocket watches and 4-8 euros for silver ones?

    Like, I bought this 1916-dated British silver 45mm one for 6.75 euros a few days ago, so I figure that as long as it's heavier than 17 grams, I'm in the clear... but I don't know enough about watches to know if it's actually worth more than what I paid. The case movement is marked Andre Mathey, but the case is stamped MS. I don't plan to melt these cases down (that would be an injustice in my mind), but I just like to know that my money is well spent.

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    Re: What to do with Broken Antique Watches?

    Quote Originally Posted by GreatScott View Post
    You could bundle them up and sell them at a flea market.

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    If I sell at flea markets here, I'll probably get the same amount I paid for them, unfortunately.

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    Re: What to do with Broken Antique Watches?

    Quote Originally Posted by Barn Owl View Post
    If I sell at flea markets here, I'll probably get the same amount I paid for them, unfortunately.
    Broken or not properly working pocket watches, even if antique, aren‘t an investment. Buy them because you like them, don‘t buy them if you want to make money out of them.

    Thread moved to the more suitable forum. Newbies are kindly invited to familiarize with our fora prior to posting.
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  9. #8
    Moderator Public Forum John MS's Avatar
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    Re: What to do with Broken Antique Watches?

    Quote Originally Posted by Barn Owl View Post
    Thanks. Do you think it's safe to pay about 2-4 euros for base-metal pocket watches and 4-8 euros for silver ones?

    Like, I bought this 1916-dated British silver 45mm one for 6.75 euros a few days ago, so I figure that as long as it's heavier than 17 grams, I'm in the clear... but I don't know enough about watches to know if it's actually worth more than what I paid. The case movement is marked Andre Mathey, but the case is stamped MS. I don't plan to melt these cases down (that would be an injustice in my mind), but I just like to know that my money is well spent.
    Early on I bought several worn non-working pocket watches for very reasonable prices. After learning more about pocket watch history and repair I came to the conclusion that most non-working and heavily worn pocket watches were not worth the time to rescue. I would do better paying more for a watch with an interesting movement in a nice original case.
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  10. #9
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    Re: What to do with Broken Antique Watches?

    Oh guys what are you talking about. I get stomach ache and I feel sick. You show a nice hand engraved silver case. At the first sight probably a swiss one around 1900 for the english market. I guess a ladys one with simple cylinder escapement and 6 or 10 rubies. Therefore nothing special with collectors worth nowadys but a lovey ithem. You need to find a nice old village watchmaker. Still in the 1950 ties they repair it daily but nowadays hard to find. If the dial is okay you have a nice present and a bid value because these cases are quite popular. Even if ladies watches get little attention. Pocket watch collectors note them still more than wrist watch collectors......

    THis are all thoughts that are running through my brain when I see a pocket watch on a market. Than I decide if it interesting to me and take a further view or not. I might be right or wrong with my assumption but the key is: KNOWLEDGE and Liveblood. I never bought in my live a silver pocket watch and know nearly the fine silver content in gram...please buy them if you like them. Try to find a watchmaker far away from the brightly lit noble jewelery shops or battery changers. This is the most difficult challange. So the advice to pay a bid more for better working watches is another good way.
    If this is too complicated try to find a serous collector in your surrounding. He might help you to sort them and make for ebay or simular platforms nice coherend bundels. I think you won't lose money. We always search spareparts and not everyone can know everything about pocket watches. Just last mounth I bought a quite expensive bundle of 12 broken watches because I wanted one hotelsiver (Argentan) watch, 6 jewels and pin lever no gildet movement in not running condition with chips and a broken dial ....but I'm happy. The rest goes to a friend who had repaired my target. When I took her to the last meeting some wristwatch friends asked me what I wanted with this ugly low quality scrap while two swiss pocket watch collectors congratulated me on the find. So KNOWLEDGE and of course personal interest is the only key. A hobby is something to burn money and not to make it. Otherwise I would recommend you to learn about shares, fonds,bullion and such stuff

    Regards Silke
    Last edited by SilkeN; 1 Week Ago at 21:29.
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  11. #10
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    Re: What to do with Broken Antique Watches?

    My thoughts:

    1. You can't save them all. Concentrate on unusual(ly beautiful) cases

    2. If the watch is from the time before mass manufacture due to machinery (before late 1900s if European, pre-1870ish if American), it is not really possible to repair if something is broken, except at great expense. After that, it's down to having the knowledge of exactly what movement you are dealing with and finding replacement parts - or it's once again back to shelling out the $$$ to having them made up.

    3. The purists would cringe at mariages (replacing a broken movement in a beautiful case with a working one, not necessarily of the right type but only of the right size). If you are happy with it - and there is no right or wrong on this, just personal taste and choice! - there are plenty of orphaned movements out there to buy and put into a beautiful case with broken movement.

    4. It hardly matters whether the watch is broken or not if you aren't going to use it. A beautiful case/dial/hands combination with defunct movement may be worth getting if you enjoy it as an ornament or a representative specimen in a certain collection.

    Good luck!

    Hartmut Richter

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