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InebriatedGnome

Buying My First Pocket Watch

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Hello everyone--this is my first post here; I hope you're having an awesome day, or at least one with really good tea :D

I've wanted a pocket watch for years; there's just something about watching a mechanical movement that mesmerises me completely. So, having done some research, the logical choice seemed like a skeleton-faced/double hunter watch. The issue is that reviews of such things are few and far between, and any modern pocket watch under £180 doesn't seem to have any knowledgable comments attached to its product pages. Much of what I've read by way of customer 'reviews' is people who bought watches as gifts for someone; the buyers seem happy to talk about how great a piece looks in every shade of floral gushing possible--but only a couple of comments even mention its timekeeping ability.

I've heard vintage watches are better-built, or at least more accurate, than today's mechanical watches, but the lack of actual information about modern pocket watches has left me wedged uncomfortably over the fence. If you've had any experience with makes like Woodford, Charles Hubert, Royal London and so on, I'd really appreciate your thoughts on them. Are they durable and accurate? Are more expensive ones--say £175 as opposed to £40--going to retain their accuracy for longer, or am I just paying for the finish? Is the watch going to last, or would I be much better off going for a vintage pocket watch? I know railroad watches are fine timepieces when properly maintained, but ideally I'd like something that lets me see the movement. I like skeleton faces, solid ones and anything in between, but a double-hunter style would be great. I've already searched the forum for threads like this, and couldn't find anything comparing vintage watches to modern ones along with recommendations.

If you've managed to put up with me long enough to read that, I salute you, and thank you profusely. Any recommendations you have are welcome--it's just really great being part of a community that's so knowledgable about things like this, instead of having to make my choices in the dark.

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Greetings, drunk bearded man with a red pointy hat, stuck at the bottom of the garden under the rosebush!

Welcome to our forum.

To answer a few of your questions...

The skeleton pocketwatch is REALLY a modern thing. To find a vintage skeleton watch (they were called "salesman's watches") is pretty hard.

Keep in mind that these days, pocketwatches are NOT TIMEPIECES. THEY ARE SHOWPIECES. They're designed to be seen, shown off, look pretty and cute...but keep time? I wouldn't trust them so much. Why do you think they have skeleton watches? To show off.

You have to understand: Pocketwatches MADE today are designed to be showpieces. Whether or not they actually KEEP TIME is irrelevant. They're mostly cheap showthings.

Vintage watches were made to keep time reliably because that was all you had to use, and so it had to WORK properly.

That's not to say that all modern watches are junk, or that all vintage/antique watches are amazing. It's just a general view, but it's something to keep in mind.

Let's say you pay X dollars/pounds/Aztec cocoa-beans for a watch. What are you buying?

Modern watches are showpieces for the most part. But that doesn't mean they're junk. For enough money, you can buy a modern pocketwatch that keeps great time. But most of the modern watches you find, are gonna be the cheap-to-midrange things. Gold-plated trinkets. Which is fine, if you ignore the fact that gold-plating will barely last six months if you use the watch regularly. Just as then, and now, quality costs money. Companies like Breuget, Tissot and Patek Philippe DO produce beautiful mechanical pocketwatches, but they cost in the thousands of dollars. What you're after, is likely to be the cheaper, gold-plated things. They might keep good time, but the quality on the case, on the crystal, on most other things, won't be there. Sooner or later, the gold will wear off, or the silver will wear off, or the nickel will wear off. The only way you could prevent this is to handle the watch with skills of an advanced telepathist.

A vintage watch that you're buying will have the money going into a decent gold-filled case. Gold-filling takes a long time to wear away. I have a cheap gold-filled case that's 110 years old, it looks brand new. The money spent on a vintage watch of assured quality will go towards something that was quality-tested and machined to keep the best possible time of its day. Why? Because back then, such things mattered, just as they don't matter with modern pocketwatches, because not as many people rely on them to keep accurate time.

If you WANT a hunter-case watch with a skeletonised case with a good movement that will keep good time...Yeah you can buy one. Hell, I could even FIND you one on eBay right now. But you have to understand that these days, things aren't made to last like they were back then. It might look pretty for a few months, but if it's a gold watch, the gold won't last like on a vintage watch. The cases aren't made the same way as vintage cases. They don't have the same tightness of machining and so-forth.

It's a trade-off.

Modern is easier to find, generally cheaper, but there are more quality issues.

Vintage may be harder to find, more expensive, but the fact that the watch has lasted 60, 70, 80, 100, 120, 130 years...is a testament to its quality and longevity.

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If I might recommend, I own a skeleton Rotary watch, picked it up a while back. Here's how it looks:

cezOq.jpg

The back is also see-through, but I don't have a pic. Now, I've used this watch in boiler conditions on and off for 6 months, temperatures up to 70°C, just in overalls as a carry watch. Haven't had an issue with it sofar, single wind runs for a few days, no noticable time lost. Another advantage is, so long as you get them to service it once every 3 years, it comes with a lifetime guarantee. Not a bad deal, got mine for £119.99. So good modern skeletons ARE out there, good hunting.

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I cannot comment on Woodford pocket watches, but I have one of there rare automatic wristwatches.

The finish is excellent and it keeps time to within +5 seconds a day.

a4.jpg

a97.jpg

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Shangas--thanks for that; I'm very new to this, and you've brought me down to earth a little with your post :notworthy:

If you could recommend a vintage watch--without a hunter case/skeleton face--that keeps good time, I'd be much obliged. Thanks.

Regox, I'm checking out Rotary now, along with eBay for vintage watches.

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I have a Royal London quartz pocket watch and it seems to me just fine and excellent value.

I am now looking for a modern mechanical pocket watch and am considering the Bernex Open face watch BN22201. This has the Unitas 6498 movement which has been around since the 1950s. Couldn't I expect it to have similar accuracy and reliability to vintage pocket watches?

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I have several pocket watches in my collection, ranging from a workmans iron cased watch to an elaborately decorated showpiece. I have bought from the dreaded Ebay (buy the seller is advised) and from the forum. I've never had a watch that was not described as it was. I have a couple well in excess of 100 years old which keep time as well as my Valjoux chronograph (and that is good!).

It's horses for courses.

Enjoy,

mike

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Interesting thread this!

I too have looked at, picked up and put down vintage pocket watches with trepidation. Fear of the unknown, mainly because I know little, and have read the cost of service or repairs outweighs the value.

However, the value is sometimes in the look and craftsmanship? Food for even more thought.......

mike

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I've an old but not really vintage "Services" pocket Watch, just a chromed case, but timekeeping is excellent, within 40 seconds or so a day. That I can live with :yes: I do notice that when I use/wear the watch for say a week, even this time-keeping improves, I presume because the watch "likes" being kept wound and tended, being in different positions and moving around in my waistcoat pocket - - well mechanical watches have "soul" don't they :lol:

This would have been a relatively cheap watch in it's day - - but I also have a Quartz modern PW that keeps time to the usual Q accuracy, and is available from Chinasian sources on the bay for about the price of a beer -------> NO "soul" though! :nono:

Shangas gives good advice, and he wears PW's daily as a part of his normal life, I'm not sure if he even has a wristwatch never mind wears one. A nice vintage Gold Filled PW with a good movement will always be a thing of beauty and satisfaction, but like a good vintage car is not likely to be top investment, it should be serviced and tended to correctly for best results.

:weed: :oldman:

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Unfortunately, I know nothing of the brands you have mentioned, but have to agree with all the above comments....modern quartz will keep good time, look very shiny and will be available in skeleton versions, functional, but as Mel said...no soul...and any 'gold plating' will wear through very quickly, if in constant use. Here's a cheap 'Chinasian' Ouyi...around £30. Unbelievably, this has a 17 jewel mechanical movement and is still fairly accurate, though I bought this (from another member) as a learning aid to see the layout of the parts. I have never worn this one.

Watchpics014-1.jpg

Watchpics019-1.jpg

Personally, I would look to one of the better known American PWs for a first foray. Waltham, Elgin, Hamilton et al. These can be picked up fairly reasonably from the bay, or look in antique shops/jewellers for a bargain. Go for a nice gold filled case, and you should find something for around the £100-£200 mark. With a clean and service most can be regulated to be as accurate as possible...not bad for timepieces 100 years old...here are a couple of mine to give you an example...all run to acceptable standards.

1908 Waltham full hunter in a 14ct GF case...

RogersWatchPictures005.jpg

RogersWatchPictures004.jpg

1938 Hamilton in a green gold case.

Hamiltonpics015.jpg

Hamiltonpics038.jpg

Hope this will give you a bit of an insight and spur you on!

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have to disagree with shangas that pocket watches are "show peices", although he is entitled to his opinion of course.

who these days in going to be impressed by an ordinary gold pocket watch when a top end phone costs a fortune and does so much.

he does have a very good point about the gold filled as opposed to the gold plated cases though, if the watch is going to see regular use rather than sit as a collectors piece.

they are timepieces like any other - there simply is a range of quality and functionality to consider.

i do flip watches quite a bit, but in the core of my little collection is a mondaine savonnette. will be wearing it most of this weekend in fact.

ok its quartz and steel cased - but it is very functional, quartz accurate, convenient, robust & very easy to read in most light conditions with or without me specs on.

have the odd vintage mechanical pocket watch in from time to time - not gold, usually half hunter, and normally quite inexpensive ( for what you are getting ) and perfectly usable. i dont mind a few seconds a day drift, also i dont mind a bit of wabi. they are more fun than anything modern i have found so far and really quite cheap.

just one parting pearl though, might be an idea to buy or borrow a cheap pocket watch and carry it for a week to see if its actually your thing.

i know it took me a while to get into wearing one.

left or right pocket? (which you should clear of keys and loose change) or belt pouch ( :thumbsdown: ) what chain length/type? which clothes have the right pockets etc etc.

if you are already a waiscoat and chain/fob sort of bloke than this is redundant, but you may not be.

i don't do waistcoats (not since the 80's anyway) wear mine on a 9" chain from belt to right pocket - the biggest thing for me was getting into the habit of keeping my keys in the other pocket :huh:

pocket watches are great, go knock yourself out :yes:

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I have the open face version of the Mondaine pocket watch - really elegant I think.

If I'm not wearing a jacket, I carry it in my shirt pocket. It's not very heavy - certainly lighter than a mobile phone!

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Thanks loads for taking the time to reply; it's always great being able to talk to knowledgable people.

@Rotundus--I'm planning on carrying it in a pants pocket, with a chain attached to a belt loop. I did realise that the pocket would need to be empty, but hadn't thought it out too well--thanks for making it clear. Love your name, by the way.

I've found a lot of variety on eBay, and am currently looking for a reputable pocket watch seller--I won't be making the purchase for about a month, so all I can do for the moment is find someone who appears trustworthy. Definitely going for a mechanical movement, and I was delighted to find a lot of gold-filled and solid cases for sale at well under $100. I'll probably end up going over that price if the piece is coming from a reliable source, of course, but the idea of a solid case is incredibly appealing nevertheless.

There's a lot of very interesting stuff out there, and I'll certainly be posting anything that seems worthwhile on this forum. That way, I might have a better idea of what to look for in terms of models, makes and so on when it's time to actually buy a watch. Planning on learning a bit more about movements as well, since I have some time off right now; they've always fascinated me and I'd really like to know what's making the watches tick before I own one.

Once again, I can't thank all of you enough for helping me out here.

Edited by InebriatedGnome

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have to disagree with shangas that pocket watches are "show peices", although he is entitled to his opinion of course.

who these days in going to be impressed by an ordinary gold pocket watch when a top end phone costs a fortune and does so much.

he does have a very good point about the gold filled as opposed to the gold plated cases though, if the watch is going to see regular use rather than sit as a collectors piece.

You misunderstand what I mean by a 'showpiece'.

I don't necessarily mean that it's something to flaunt around and show off and try to impress anyone with. I meant that these days, pocketwatches are made to be novelty items. Not to be taken seriously. They're cheaply made for the most part, and not designed to last. They're a temporary thing to buy, whirl around, and then chuck out, just like everything else made today.

This is different from when pocketwatches were in their prime, and they were bought for a specific purpose and used for that purpose. They were status symbols and important tools. Unlike today.

That said, I stand by what I said in my first post: Gold filled will be MUCH better quality than gold-plated. And if it's a modern watch, you can bet it'll be gold-plated. I know from PLENTY of experience that gold-plating does NOT last. You can handle the watch with the finest Egyptian cotton gloves, and the plating would still rub off inside of 12 months.

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have to disagree with shangas that pocket watches are "show peices", although he is entitled to his opinion of course.

who these days in going to be impressed by an ordinary gold pocket watch when a top end phone costs a fortune and does so much.

he does have a very good point about the gold filled as opposed to the gold plated cases though, if the watch is going to see regular use rather than sit as a collectors piece.

You misunderstand what I mean by a 'showpiece'.

I don't necessarily mean that it's something to flaunt around and show off and try to impress anyone with. I meant that these days, pocketwatches are made to be novelty items. Not to be taken seriously. They're cheaply made for the most part, and not designed to last. They're a temporary thing to buy, whirl around, and then chuck out, just like everything else made today.

This is different from when pocketwatches were in their prime, and they were bought for a specific purpose and used for that purpose. They were status symbols and important tools. Unlike today.

That said, I stand by what I said in my first post: Gold filled will be MUCH better quality than gold-plated. And if it's a modern watch, you can bet it'll be gold-plated. I know from PLENTY of experience that gold-plating does NOT last. You can handle the watch with the finest Egyptian cotton gloves, and the plating would still rub off inside of 12 months.

ok, don't totally disagree with you about most bottom end modern pocket watches. :lol:

i was by the way agreeing with you about gold filled as opposed to plated :thumbup:

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I know sfa about pocket watches, but InebriatedGnome has to be one of the best user names on here.

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