Ever been asked what's your most valuable watch?

musicguy

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It happened today, and I seemingly get the same question(regularly)
whenever I tell someone that I collect American Pocket Watches.
I do understand they are trying to make nice conversation, but they always
end up asking me, "what is your most valuable watch." Sometimes they also ask, "what is
your best one" even my uncle asked me that question recently. I always answer truthfully and say
that I do not collect pocket watches that way. I'm a collector and I like all of my
watches. They cover many different price points, and some that I collect
other collectors don't even care about (and that's fine with me too).




Rob
 

Harvey Mintz

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I was asked that question years ago at a Regional.

My answer: 16 size, 17 Jewel P.S. Bartlet in a 14K case.

Why that one - it's not a particularly hard to find movement?

My answer: because it was my Grandfather's!
 

PatH

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I often get "What is your favorite watch/clock/other horological item?" In some cases, that's tantamount to asking someone which child is their favorite!

I usually say that I really don't have a favorite - which is true - and explain that each one has been acquired for a specific purpose.
  • For watches, generally the purpose is that it shows a missing link that helps build and understand the story of affordable pocket watches in America. Many don't work, but the dial, movement, markings, etc. show variations that all play into the history and contribute to the story.
  • For watch keys, chains, and watch stands/holders, it's not necessarily because of their beauty, rather for a distinction in style or functionality.
  • For clocks, it's generally something unique or unusual, which may include country of origin or purpose.
  • Ephemera and ads are to build the story, including well-known artists who created artwork for, or whose art was used by, the horological manufacturers. Postcards generally include an image of a timepiece, as well as demonstrate different eras, types, artwork, etc. of postcards.
  • Books because they shed more light on the topic at hand. Of course along the way, like these forums, they also open my eyes to a lot of additional horological items that need to follow me home!
 

Jim DuBois

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That is a question I have asked many times, more about clocks than watches, but my reason for doing so is the same, be it clocks, watches, music boxes, cars, or whatever. It invites people to talk about something they may not have already shared. And we can learn from what they like and why they like something etc.

A story I have told previously; we were visiting a collector who predominately collected music boxes. He had many, some of the very best in the world, and the ones I saw were pretty much pristine. His house was out in the woods of southern Indiana. It was quite modest, to be blunt. Clean, very well cared for, but modest. Did I say modest? Well, I asked the question as to what was his favorite. He pulled a very fancy small box out of a drawer and opened it. He had one of these. It shot out perfume when the trigger was pulled. It was allegedly a gift from Czar Nicolas to his wife, Alexandra. Later research suggested it sold at auction in 1948 for $180,000. So, the question is, how did it end up in a nice collection in a $50,000 house in rural Indiana? Without asking about his favorite, would he ever have shared it with me? Doubtful, I was a neophyte collector of cheap clocks, just passing through. And yes, today it would be well into 7 figures, I think. But, what a surprise and an opportunity to hold and inspect such a rare and valuable piece. All for asking about a favorite. One of the best outcomes for me ever.

fabrege pistols.jpg
 

Jerry Treiman

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Asking about one's "most valuable" watch seems crude and uninformed to me, implying that monetary value is the most important factor. Maybe so for an investor, but as Pat has so well expressed, our collectibles have value to us for so many different reasons.

The best response to the question is what Jim has done - deflect the question to discuss one's favorite or most interesting piece. I know that I could certainly speak with more enthusiasm along these lines and perhaps better inspire the questioner to learn more about (or at least better appreciate) horology.
 

Lee Passarella

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All these responses are good ones. Given that "valuable" implies a monetary valuation, "favorite or most interesting" is a useful deflection. But supposing that the person asking the question is genuinely interested in collecting and the hard work, financial outlay, and plain luck required to land a true prize, maybe it would be fair to explain why a piece is the most "important" in your collection, based on historical significance, rarity, or whatever the criterion. I've been collecting for a while now and would still like to know what collectors think is the most important timepiece in their collections.
 
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Jim DuBois

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I don't think I have ever asked about someone's most valuable watch/clock/whatever. Seems a bit presumptuous in my thinking. I stay with favorite as stated above.

I did run into a fellow collector at the airport recently. I asked what he had bought recently, and he extended his arm, showing me a very nice mint rare early watch made by a famous maker. He volunteered he paid $600,000 for it at a recent NYC auction house. And he was flying commercial (but first class, of course) wearing that watch. Not being a watch person, I could not fully appreciate the watch but knowing his other collection stuff, I had no cause to question the value of the watch. I went back to my seat near the back restroom and enjoyed my spacious and highly desirable center seat. I don't even wear a watch anymore.
 

bruce linde

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He volunteered he paid $600,000 for it at a recent NYC auction house. And he was flying commercial (but first class, of course) wearing that watch.
someone who can afford a $600k watch can no doubt afford to book a couple of superfluous flights just to rest their arm on a first class armrest to casually display said watch. :)
 

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Jim DuBois

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I don't think there was any casual display going on. He was proud of it. But, it was one of many in his collection, and he showed it to me as a result of my asking if he had bought anything of interest recently. Despite some expensive tastes, he is a pretty much down-to-earth sort. I doubt he showed it to anybody unless it was another collector he knows.

Here is one of his recent clock purchases. When he was asked about one of his cars he was very proud to show us his 49 Ford convertible. Not a word was said about the new Ferrari sitting beside it.

Girandole GB.jpg 12764467_10207323876508004_22226340194674767_o.jpg
 

musicguy

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Interesting thread. The majority of contributors seem to view the question as impertinent and worthy of an offhand or sarcastic answer. I don't, but so what?
I always answer the person asking with respect and talk about a watch
that I think would interest them.


Rob
 
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Clint Geller

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Another version of the "favorite watch" question is: If you could only keep one, which one would you keep? Unless one is planning to punt the question to one's heirs, a collector often needs eventually to wrestle with the question of which watch he would sell first, or which one he would sell last. Both market value and collecting desire enter into those questions. If asked those questions myself, I might be able to produce an answer to the first watch question. The last watch question is too daunting for me to contemplate.

On another thread I produced a list of eight "favorite" watch movements in response to a similar question, but by writing in terms only of movements, I deliberately sidestepped the question of provenances, which would have made the decision close to impossible for me.
 
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topspin

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"What's your most valuable?"
"What's the best one?"
"What's the rarest?"

To me, these all indicate that the person knows nothing about watch collecting, but somehow feels they ought to feign some interest anyway.
Another variation is if they instead excitedly tell you about some random old watch that they once saw or that they happen to have in their possession, but don't actually know what it is. (If they were genuinely interested, then they would have taken the trouble to find out.)

I imagine that collectors of (say) coins, stamps, medals etc face the same problem.

As for how to respond to an inane question, for me that depends on what direction I want the conversation to go in. This in turn depends on who it is, what the situation is, the questioner's tone of voice, etc.
 
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PatH

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Interesting thread. The majority of contributors seem to view the question as impertinent and worthy of an offhand or sarcastic answer. I don't, but so what?
Lee, I think generally what we pay for something is a very personal thing - at least it is for me. It's like asking someone how much they make and is just not something I discuss, but neither do I intend to be rude. If someone wants to discuss the current prices of watches in general, or what makes one watch more valuable or desirable than another, I would definitely try to answer their questions to the best of my knowledge, particularly if they are trying to learn. I guess it comes down to what we're comfortable talking about.
 
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Lee Passarella

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Lee, I think generally what we pay for something is a very personal thing - at least it is for me. It's like asking someone how much they make and is just not something I discuss, but neither do I intend to be rude. If someone wants to discuss the current prices of watches in general, or what makes one watch more valuable or desirable than another, I would definitely try to answer their questions to the best of my knowledge, particularly if they are trying to learn. I guess it comes down to what we're comfortable talking about.
I fully agree, Pat. That's why I suggest (but only suggest) telling an interested party about a watch that a collector thinks of as especially important. I can think of a couple of Forum regulars whose collections are so specialized and focused that I would love to know what, if any, is their favorite watch. My stuff is all over the board, so asking me what my most important watch is might be uninformative. But I'd still have an answer.
 

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I'd like to chip in my $0.02 here since the situations I encounter seem to be vastly different from those stated so far in this thread.

I'm a young enthusiast and so most of my interactions are with people my age give or take. If someone asks me about what I'm wearing it's not usually about cost/value

The other main question I get asked is "What got you into watches?" I'm not sure if this has to do with my age or not but I'm shocked nobody else here has brought this up. I much prefer this question to anything value related since it has some more depth and implied interest. It lets me talk as an enthusiast and avoids any talk of finances which I try and avoid.

This has since become my go-to any time I meet someone else who shares the hobby. It's the most leveling since there's not much wiggle room for someone with a snobby attitude to be snobby or to otherwise distract from the hobby itself. If they collect there is always a reason regardless of financial situation and it quickly divides someone with just a nice /interesting watch vs someone who collects.
 

Clint Geller

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I sometimes share price information with other serious collectors who are friends, and who are "in the hunt" the same as I am. One usually is expected to provide information in order to get information. Reciprocity in information and in other favors builds relationships in collecting and in life.

I knew one collector, now deceased, who would call other collectors seeking information about this or that watch he recently had purchased, and when these other people compared notes later, they often discovered that they had been given different and conflicting information about the same watch. It left a sour taste in many mouthes. Duplicity is no roadmap for collecting success, so I hope that no new collectors who may be reading this thread go down that road.
 
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DeweyC

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I don't think I have ever asked about someone's most valuable watch/clock/whatever. Seems a bit presumptuous in my thinking. I don't even wear a watch anymore.
Jim,

I don't either. When wearing a pack a WW gets caught when I put it on, and a PW has no place in trail work. I have a pre moon Speedie but I got tired of people commenting on it when I wore it on nights out. It sits in the drawer waiting for the day when my daughter (who writes watch reviews for a blogger) to claim it when she cleans out the house.

And you and I remember the days when the gangs from out of country targeted people at the Orlando shows. (Did you the recent NY TIMES story about the bling preacher robbed at gunpoint during a service?)

As for PWs important to me, it isn't even the movement, It is the inscription on the cases. Some of them are very poignant. One is a GF to Father to son in 1949 for 1907 992. Another is another 1915 parent to son (Did he survive?). Or the photoengraved dial with a wife and CPO from 1895.

For the record, my most important watch to me is my 1970 Constellation chronometer. A superb timekeeper that is a watchmaker's watch and was designed by Tony Simonin while he was at Omega. Problem is today it looks like a women's watch. But my wife and daughter both have the woman's veriosn of this watch.

When people find out I am a watchmaker and ask why I do not wear a watch, I tell them I already have the best timekeeper in my phone. There was a day when everyone needed at least a Timex, But those days are gone.

I get my jollies these days by returning RRG watches to customers who wear them to find they can actually predict USNO time using the daily error rate for their watch. Engineers and physicists are very OCD. :)
 

musicguy

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I have known it for a very long time, but we all collect/ or own
these Watches for completely different reasons. Not only that,
we collect different time periods. companies, qualities, etc etc.
and some don't even collect. My UK watchmaker (that I used once)
does not collect watches at all, but knows more about UK
watches, how they work, how they are made, and their history
than most collectors.

Sometimes I am so into (crazy about) a particular watch that I expect that
others would be as psyched as me about a particular find. This is not always
the case. I have learned that we all find pleasure from this field in different
ways, and it's all good.




Rob
 

musicguy

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I was getting a haircut and I was showing a nice
favorite 17j Appleton Tracy 1892 Model Waltham 18s in a
Fahys 3oz 925/1000 Fine case to my Barber.
There was an older woman sitting nearby who said, "that is exactly
what I want to get my adult son for his birthday". Then she said,
"I will give you $50.00 for it". I said it's worth more than that
to me and she was surprised that I would not sell it to her(incredulous actually).

D113B43D-8F28-48C8-A66B-F77140D97A07.jpeg

Rob
 

Clint Geller

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I was getting a haircut and I was showing a nice
favorite 17j Appleton Tracy 1892 Model Waltham 18s in a
Fahys 3oz 925/1000 Fine case to my Barber.
There was an older woman sitting nearby who said, "that is exactly
what I want to get my adult son for his birthday". Then she said,
"I will give you $50.00 for it". I said it's worth more than that
to me and she was surprised that I would not sell it to her(incredulous actually).

View attachment 720822

Rob
You should have offered her $75 for her diamond wedding ring.

A waiitress in a restaurant once told me that her grandpa had a watch "just like" my Howard helical hairspring experimental. Well, I'm sure both watches had round faces and they both ticked. So sure, they were just alike.
 

musicguy

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Some people feel if it's not Gold than how can it have real value.
Diamonds do have "expected" values. The value of 18s 17j
sterling case (but well used and worn) is subjective.


Rob
 

musicguy

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DeweyC

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I was getting a haircut and I was showing a nice
favorite 17j Appleton Tracy 1892 Model Waltham 18s in a
Fahys 3oz 925/1000 Fine case to my Barber.
There was an older woman sitting nearby who said, "that is exactly
what I want to get my adult son for his birthday". Then she said,
"I will give you $50.00 for it". I said it's worth more than that
to me and she was surprised that I would not sell it to her(incredulous actually).

View attachment 720822

Rob

Years ago we took our 5 year old daughter to Disney after Orlando. We were having dinner at the Floridian and Lauren had hwe well Minnie she slept with since forever. A guy actually came over and asked to buy it for his daughter. There is a world I do not live in and simply have no intererst in. For the record, I said something like, "excuse me, we are having a family dinner." But I did not get mad or acknowledge his rude intrusion. I did hope he felt like a toad.

Like every important physical thing, there are a lot of stories that Minnie was the physical reminder of and is to this day some 30 years later. She STILL has her.
 

DeanT

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"How much?" is very much a watch person question...clock collectors are more discrete. LOL
 
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musicguy

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Jim DuBois

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I notice I have offered what some might consider conflicting comments on this thread. I commented I have never asked about "most valuable" times. That is true IIRC. What I have asked many times is "what is your favorite," and that has worked for me. Sometimes folks will say I don't have a favorite and then show me 2 or 3 or 4 items they consider candidates to be their favorite. That is a pretty good result for inquiring minds. And of course, there is always the "what item did you acquire first?" Or, "do you have any family pieces?" Most of these will prompt a lot of discussions, which is what we are looking for, is it not? Good stories, education, ideas about areas of collecting interest, and even connections to unrelated areas of interest.

A story I have told a number of times was discovering one of our clock-collecting friends who collected and restored Army tanks. He had 60+ of them at the time. Mentioning that to a fellow collector, non clock type, resulted in "gee, I know a fellow with 160 tracked vehicles, including a Scud missile launcher!" Both fellows were telling true stories, my uncovering it all a result of me asking the first tracked vehicle collector, "what other things do you collect?" True stories. If you want to know more about those two collections PM me.
 

musicguy

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I notice I have offered what some might consider conflicting comments on this thread
Just so you know I was talking about non-PW collectors who ask some of these questions :)
I don't mind at all if another collector asks me that similar question.
I still may answer cryptically but it's different.

Rob
 

bruce linde

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If someone has no idea why a piece is worth what it's worth than the question and the answer or pretty much meaningless. I've been taking great joy in giving friends tours of my little (in air quotes) clock museum.... which gives me a chance share some great/rare pieces, explain why a certain clock is special, the significance of an escapement, how old it is, condition vs age, etc.

once we've covered that, discussing how much it cost and what it took to get it here from Switzerland or across the country becomes much more interesting. It's also fun to share with them other peoples' collecting styles… the acquirer/hoarders, the ones who have one of every model of a certain company, the ones who try to lowball you, shipping/restorer/dealer/auction stories, and even mentions of clocks i don't own... as they are now interested and getting a taste of how deep and varied the waters run.

Also… I am reminded of my previous partner, who (when i started collecting) always used to tell me "don't buy that $200 clock ... you should fund your IRA". She would spend the same amount on fancy restaurant dinners in San Francisco… loud fancy high end restaurants with annoying waiters where it was too hard to hear any conversation ("isn't this fun?!?" answer: no :) ). i would reply that the next day she wouldn't have anything but a memory, whereas I would have a clock, and the pleasure and education of the next six months of servicing it and learning about it and enjoying it on my wall… and then bonus years on top of that... and that i had already funded my IRA. :)

everyone has different passions... the trick is to find enough overlap in styles and taste to allow genuine connection and sharing.
 

Clint Geller

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My reply is usually to say that I collect pocket watches and not wristwatches. People who wear wristwatches want others to see how much they spent. Those who wear pocket watches prefer to hide it in their pocket...
If one has a heavy gold chain leading to that pocket, one can hardly be said to be hiding the watch. Many pocket watch collectors enjoy showing a little bling too now and then, and the auction prices realized seem to reflect that reality. A heavy 18K watch chain sold at J&H not long ago for around $8,000. I also doubt that pocket watch collectors spend big bucks on massive box-hinged multicolored gold cases to hide them under a bushel all the time. I don't especially like box-hinged cases or multicolor gold cases, but I do greatly appreciate hefty and nicely preserved and engraved gold cases. American Watch Company grade Walthams are one of two major themes of my collection, and most such movements originally were cased in gold. Similarly, pocket watches presented to Civil War military officers, another major interest of mine, are also almost always gold. Do I like the bling factor too? I'd be lying if I said I didn't. One just needs to work a little harder to be ostentatious about a pocket watch than one does to show off a wristwatch. The most effective way to call attention to a pocket watch is to carry it in the pocket of a vest attached to a gold or silver chain, though I have seen heavy gold chains leading into pants pockets too. It is no coincidence that most pocket watch collectors I know really like watch chains. We have an active thread on watch chains running here concurrently with this one.
 
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James Wrobel

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The question posed here is "What's your most valuable watch?", to which the answer is not necessarily an amount. I guess I wouldn't mind explaining to someone who was interested enough to ask what pieces in my collection are the most important.

jjw
 

Jerry Treiman

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I guess I wouldn't mind explaining to someone who was interested enough to ask what pieces in my collection are the most important.
"Most important" is even more subjective than most valuable, but could certainly be more fun to try to explain why it is important to oneself .... at least until your victim's eyes glaze over. zzz
 

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