Pocket Watch Cases

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  • #48388
    arutha
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 85
    • Total Posts: 1536

    Hi all,
    looking through e-bay there are a lot of caseless pocket watch movements. My question is, if you have the opportunity to buy a nice case is it fairly easy to find a movement to fit it? I understand there are different sized movements and types of cases, key wind, crown wind etc but are they fairly universal or are they made to fit their particular movement?

    #52277
    watchthebear
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 21
    • Total Posts: 77

    I have noticed this also and assumed it is because the cases are worth so much in melt (gold , or silver in some cases) that dealers and investors don’t want to carry this sometimes-volitile commodity as part of their inventory. I think this also is a function of these traveling-shows that have been going throughout the US setting up sites to stage 3-day buying extravaganzas: “we will buy your old gold and silver”. This is a good question , and i have been thinking about salting away some of these movements. My problem is: at what level, or caliber, are they worth buying and saving to put back in cases? A person could have bought hundreds of Elgins and Walthams etc, in the $25 range, said to be working; but, once these are cased is there any market for them? They probably won’t be in original cases. I wonder if a person would have to select the movements, perhaps much more expensive, that will stand the test of the watch buying and collecting public. What say the folks who buy and sell pocket watches on this forum? I think if a person buys the cheap Elgins, Walthams, Hamiltons, and such, they will just end up w/ cheap watches when they case them and try to sell them. Looking foreword to opinions from the forum………take care folks…………..b

    #52278
    arutha
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 85
    • Total Posts: 1536

    I think you have hit the nail on the head, there was a guy at the last BHI auction I went to just buying the gold cased pocket watches. I hope it wasnt the case but have a feeling he was just buying for the gold :(
    I am asking the question as good nickel or plated cases come up now and again and I am not so much worried about the value as just getting good complete watches back together.

    #52279
    willofiam
    Moderator
    • Topics Started: 75
    • Total Posts: 1437

    Hi yall. funny you bring all this up as I have been thinking about it too. I have the same question Paul about putting these type movements into a case, how do you figure that out, since I am so new to the pocket watch I also like the idea of working on something and getting a finished product somehow, brings a larger sense of satisfaction. :D Yesterday I heard a story that some guys in the watch and clock bus. buy out estates. they had recently debated about selling pocket watch cases for the gold value AND DID. I guess the issue ends up being money instead of preserving a historical timepiece and keeping it all original, pretty sad!!!!!! Kind of hypocritical to have a business in restoring and turn to destroying.!!! 😯 I can see others who are not into horology doing this because they just might not know any better, Although I WILL NOT make any excuse for someone in the watch business melting down watch cases that has cash to spare!!!!! I have to understand times are tough, sort like the depression era and the clock tops were used for heat but they were able to still tell time, now the guys who make replicas are keeping busy restoring. MAYBE we should look into learning how to make new cases and in a few years ;) ???? in any CASE, when the madness is over, what will be left???? we should start preparing now!!!! ;) I would think the value of these watches without cases now is fairly low, but if fitted to a different case and preserved that way maybe the values will pick up because there wont be any other choice..????? I dont know, William, oh and have a wonderful day everyone :D

    #52280
    watchthebear
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 21
    • Total Posts: 77

    Hi folks, I’m going to try my question again, in streamlined form. Since there are all these uncased movements, is one better off buying up the less expensive movements (these are most common on ebay right now), or should one select better quality movements; for instance, railroad watches, or 21-23 jewel movements w/ pristine dials, and damaskeened or otherwise decorated bridges? Aso, since i am a total novice, which of these are easier to find cases for? I am referring to any cases that are not solid gold. Is there a lot of interchangeability in the common brands, such as Elgin, Waltham, Howard, etc. ? Now, the biggest question: will these movements, in non-precious metal cases, be attractive to the buying public; both to collect and wear? I have been in and out of the collectibles and precious metals business for 50 years, and one thing is a certainty: the public can love a certain category of items for a year or 5, then they can move on totally leaving that area of collecting behind. Many of these items, as a group, never come back; all that are left w/ value are the very top-grade pieces, maybe the best 5%. would enjoy everyone’s input……….stay well…………….b

    #52281
    Bob Tascione
    Moderator
    • Topics Started: 38
    • Total Posts: 1552

    Hi B,
    Prior to the 1920s most American watches were sold as uncased movements in various sizes ie: 12 size, 16 size etc. A customer would then select a case, often from a range of case manufacturers for that particular size and not for the make of movement. So most (not all) of these cases and movements can be interchanged. It’s my understanding that somewhere around the 1920s things began to change and movement manufacturers began having cases made unique to their movements.

    Matching the case style to the production date of the movement can be done by referring to advertisements and catalogs that circulated during that era.

    I don’t know what movements would be best and most profitable to buy and case for resale. Might be others up here that are actively involved in doing this that can help.

    Hope this helps B,
    Bob

    #52282
    watchthebear
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 21
    • Total Posts: 77

    Hi folks, thanks all for the help. Bob, I have a couple questions: are those catalogues etc. available on the internet? Next, I don’t think I asked my question right. I wasn’t thinking in terms of profitability, it would take a crystal ball to know what is going to go up, and what is going to be ignored. I am trying to match my abilities (estimated, when i have done a lot more work) w/ some sort of endeavor. Pocket watches seem to be the right area. There is an old saying, both in collectibles and jewelry, as well as the financial markets: “always buy quality”. My goal is to buy non-working movements; repair them, case them, and sell them to support my new hobby/habit. Of course , there will be movements that I can’t get running. So, I was trying to get your insight as to what “quality” might be at the various price levels that obtain. I am totally w/out experience here. At, say, the $30 level for non-working but nice movements, are there certain brands that would be best to stick w/? same w/ $50 pieces, same w/ $100 pieces. I know this information about a good many things, but not watches. In my unsophisticated view Elgin sounds good, but I may be way off the mark. perhaps a professional such as you or others on this forum might be able to give me insight on the quality of the movements/brands, instead of the name-recognition. I know I could do this by just study–total immersion, but I don’t, realistically, have that kind of time remaining. Add to that, damage to the part of the brain that is used for remembering pieces of information–saving them for making a “mental catalogue”, and I find myself asking for some help. A few pushes in the right direction would help me from learning the tried and true way: seeing what succeeds and what fails. Anyway, I seem to be writing a book now, so, any help would be appreciated. thanks all for your responses……….take care and stay well…………..b

    #52283
    Bob Tascione
    Moderator
    • Topics Started: 38
    • Total Posts: 1552

    Hi B,
    Yes you should be able to find quite a few catalogs online if you put the manufacturers name and then watch advertisments or vintage watch advertisments etc. in Google ie: “Elgin watch advertisements”.

    I really wish I could help you with your other question but I’m not up on what grades or models of different American watch manufacturers would be your best choice and I don’t follow the different movement prices at all. It’s been quite a few years since I regularly bought and sold watches and when I did they were certain types of European watches that needed quite a bit of restoration work before I would resell them. I did sell some American watches from my site for a little while but again that was only for a short period of time and is not something I know much about.

    My recommendation though would be to choose one manufacturer first and learn all you can about grades, models, history, prices and demand of that particular brand before moving on to other manufacturers. Parts for Elgin, Waltham and other biggies are more plentiful and that may be something to consider when choosing.

    Concerning what quality to choose…that’s also a tough one as many highly collectible watches can have lower quality movements while some high quality watches may not be that collectable at all. I will say though that higher quality movements are usually more repair friendly and will most likely cut down on returns due to performance failure.

    There are also the very high grade highly collectible Railroad watches where the profit margins are generally small. Knowing as much as possible about these watches before entering this competive market is crucial as one mistake will easily eat up any potential profit.

    Highly collectible watches generally means buyers are highly knowlegable collectors willing to pay prices only within a tight price range leaving little if any margin for error whereas selling into a market that buys a watch purely for its ascetic appeal will often allow for a much more open and broad selling price range.

    What I’ve said here I believe also holds true for wrist watches in many cases. An example would be Rolex. Very small profit margin and VERY little room for error. Profits are made through volumn sales. In contrast there are low quality Character watches that can sometimes be picked up at flea markets for next to nothing and after a little cleaning can command high prices. Also vintage watches sold at the retail level rather than the collectors level can prove quite profitable.

    Lot’s to choose from I know but it really boils down to what fills your requirements and especially what suits your interests. If I decided to buy and sell into the Rolex market I would most likely go broke in no time at all. The competition is ruthless and they know their stuff! Whereas going into say the ladies vintage market would probably be much easier as collectibility is low while aesthetics is extremely important.

    I know your interest is in pocket watches and that I’ve touched on lots of stuff here. I sited wrist watches just to make the point that if your interests lie with the collectible market then you will need to learn learn learn everything you can about what you decide to deal in. That’s why starting with and specializing in only one brand is so helpful.

    Hope this helps B,
    Enjoy,
    Bob

    #52284
    arutha
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 85
    • Total Posts: 1536

    Bob answered a similar question for me a little while back but it must have been via an e-mail when I was having problems with the forum. He told me to stick with the american movements as he stated in an earlier post on this thread they can be fitted to a lot of american cases, you will run into trouble trying to case english or some swiss movements as they could be all different sizes. If you are not looking to make a profit and are doing this for your own enjoyment then I would stick with any of the good american brands, Waltham, Elgin etc. If now for example you type “waltham pocket watch” into e-bay, let it do the search and then look down the left hand side columns you will see “Completed listings”. Click on this and it will show you every watham pocket watch that completed its sale on e-bay in the past month. This is a great place to start for getting an idea of how much to pay for a working or non working movement. You can do the same for elgin etc. I know Bob doesnt buy pocket watches too much these days as I have asked him the same question myself on what to buy, he will tell you the best movements to get but will have no idea on the prices as he doesnt keep up with them now. As he states in his video the 3/4 plate movements are a little tricky to do and so too the half plate as you have to try and get all the gears into place in one go. Try and stick with the more modern movements like the type you see him service in the video and you wont go far wrong.
    I hope this has been some help towards answering your question.
    Paul.

    #52285
    watchthebear
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 21
    • Total Posts: 77

    Good afternoon folks (PDT), yes Paul, your post was of great help, as was Bob’s. Your’s dove-tailed nicely w/ his, plus you provided me w/ the useful information about Ebay. Your advice to avoid the 3/4 and 1/2 plate movements is well-taken. I needed someone to hit me over the head w/ it–gently. I have had nothing but grief trying to take them apart, w/out disaster; and absolutely no success at trying to reassemble them. Just a pile of what I see they like to call “steampunk”. Thanks again. I will take your and Bob’s posts and cut and paste them to a page on my desktop so i can have them as reminders to stay on course. take care and stay well all………….b

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