Building your watch collection

The strong market for pocket watches is a clear indication that these watches not only retain their high values but have the potential to greatly grow in value when held over time. As with the collecting of any particular category of antique, there are no guarantees when it comes to cashing in on these investments down the line. This is why collecting luxury pocket watches is considered to be a craft designated for a specialized market of consumers that purchases what they like, instead of focusing on gaining investment value with their purchase.

29921When trying to build your pocket watch collection, take note that if a timepiece has someone else’s name, business, or anniversary dates this will not negatively impact its value so long as the engraving is top quality and is done in the style for the period the watch was made. The same is true for monograms where you often find the initials of someone on the shield. Watches that have been expressly made for specific well known individuals or have been owned by celebrities always come at a higher price and should only be considered with appropriate documentation. Ensuring that you properly identify a vintage pocket watch by knowing the manufacturer, the type of movement, the number of jewels, the condition of the movement and dial is essential to determining an estimation of the pocket watch’s value.  

I have not seen counterfeit pocket watches, but I have seen where dials have been changed and the movement placed in a different case where it is being described as original condition.  In the world of luxury wristwatches more counterfeit watches are made than their original counterpart. This can be a nightmare, especially when coming across timepieces in secondary marketplaces. These types of markets are likely to have some timepieces that look cheesy and are obvious fakes, but others can be quite convincing and are hard to distinguish even when held side by side with an authenticated original. The unparalleled craftsmanship of the prestigious companies that create these highly sought after timepieces is truly unique. Sticking with established auction houses and dealers who stand behind their merchandise avoids potentially purchasing any fakes.  A friend of mine the other day showed me his new Rolex Submariner purchase and told be what a great price he got it for.  I was immediately suspicious because he paid less than half its true value.  I pulled out the winding stem to advance the time and noticed that when I rotated the stem clockwise the hands moved counterclockwise.  An authentic Rolex would have had the hands move clockwise.  I explained to him it was a knock-off and worth about $300 and not the $3,500 her paid.  Remember the old adage, if something seems too good to be true it probably is.

Researching watches online can be a valuable timesaver and keep you erring on the side of caution when it comes to deals that seem too good to be true. The ability to zoom in on photos to get clear indications of exact imperfections and even tiny engravings that can sometimes be difficult to see with the naked eye, are available to scrutinize.  If you are uncomfortable attending an antique watch auction there are many high-end auction houses that have websites allowing one the ability to watch the sales online, bid on lots, and make purchases. However, one still has to be careful of not buying a knock-off watch.  I recently received an email from an auction house about an upcoming auction for seized assets by the government.  Many of the items were luxury wristwatches.  I looked at a Presidential model Rolex Date-Just and could tell it was a knock-off.  I wrote to the auction house and explained this to them.  They replied and said that in their offering statement they advise all bidders to inspect the watch they want to buy because the auction house does not have the ability to authenticate any of their watch inventory and that they make no representation as to any watch’s authenticity.  This watch sold, and the buyer has ended up with a fake.


  • Any pointers or general principles for people with an interest in building a pocket watch collection “on a budget”?