Uh, are these pocket watches or wrist watches?

Chicago

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May 8, 2007
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I was surfing ebay late one night and noticed an auction that was recently listed with a low buy it now price.
It was for two old "pocket watches" with kind of a bad picture. There weren't any measurements of any kind and from what I gathered, they were being sold by someone who wasn't a "watch" seller.

Since I am learning how to work on watches and a number of people have told me to start with pocket watches since they can be a bit less frustrating than wristwatches, I bought them to practice on.

They showed up today, and aren't really what I had expected.
They are very, very small and have loops at the bottom that reminds me of an early Gruen wristwatch I've seen

(Early Gruen wristwatch)
oldgruenwatch.gif

Here is a photo of the watches in question
cutriouswatches.gif

So, are these just small womens sized pocket watches, or are they early wristwatches?
I think I paid under $20 for them. Both are complete, one ticks when shaken and the other is missing a crown.


 

Cary Hurt

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Tom is correct, in that these were sold as wristwatches, likely in the 1915-1925 period. They were sold as "convertible" watches, because unlike true wristwatches of the period with fixed wire lugs, the loops at the top and bottom of the case allowed for several different methods of wearing the watch. These were often sold as sets including early expansion bracelets, neck chains, for wearing the watch as a pendant, and chatelaine style fobs, for wearing as a pin.

The Gruen watch that you pictured shows a common adaptation, that being the findings that hold the ends of the ribbon band. These fittings were available as a separate accessory, snapping onto the loops and allowing one of these watches to be worn as a wristwatch quickly and easily.

For what it's worth,

Cary
 

Don Dahlberg

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As the others have said, the answer to your question is "yes". They are both early wristwatches and pendant watches for watch chains or watch pins.

Here is a similar watch from the Hamilton 1921 catalog.

Don
 

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Chicago

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Thanks for clearing that up! :clap:

A couple more questions.

1) Will replacing the missing crown be possible, or is it a lost cause?

2) Assuming I want to set these up as wristwatches, does it require special "brackets" as seen in the Gruen picture in order to be accurate, or was there another way to set these up as wristwatches (cord-loop type bands?)

3) When cleaning these, is there anything special I should be aware of?
 

Cary Hurt

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Antique style crowns are still available, or you can adapt an old stock crown.

The clip-on findings are only needed to fit the watch with a ribbon band. The appropriate expansion bracelet (as shown in Don's Hamilton illustration) fits directly to the loops. Modern cord bracelets could be used with the addition of a simple ring.

Cleaning should be straight forward, as these should be simple 7 to 15 jewel lever escapement watches. The porcelain dialed one might be a cylinder escapement, but I doubt it. Be careful not to lose any parts during disassembly, because it is often difficult to identify the base movement on these old pieces. Replacement of lost or worn parts then becomes a "needle in a haystack" venture.

Regards,

Cary
 

Chicago

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OK, so, to select the proper replacement crown, do I need a thread pitch gauge?

Also, does anyone know where the properly styled expansion bracelets can be purchased, or are they a "ya-gotta-get-lucky" kind of thing?

And last question- would you say that $20 was a fair price to pay?

(again, thanks for all the help here...)
 

Cary Hurt

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First you will need to ascertain whether the stem is present. If it is, then you should need only a crown. You would probably have better luck sifting through a bulk assortment of old crowns, although the professional way to do it would be to order a Borel or Bergeon crown gauge which will measure not only the tap size, but also the diameter of the crown, the depth of the needed recess, the internal diameter needed to clear the case tube, and the needed length of the crown tube.

As to the bracelets, they do appear occasionally, and might even still be in production, though I don't know of anyone retailing them. There are more modern styles available with claw type attachments that can be easily fitted to these watches.

And as you know, we avoid overt discussions of price, but the value of the watch should ultimately be what it's worth to you. I find in my own collecting that price and worth don't necessarily coincide. I have some pieces, particularly collectible ones, that I have probably overpaid for, and others that I underpaid for, usually because no one else wants them. They still make me happy, and that's how I measure their worth. If you are intending to try reselling these, I can tell you that they aren't very collectible as watches or popular as wearable jewelry, so don't expect to come out financially ahead on this venture. If you like them, or can use them to learn valuable lessons, then I think you've gotten a bargain.

Regards,

Cary
 

Chicago

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Cary, thanks so much for all your help. You've been a huge assistance here.

Cary said:
And as you know, we avoid overt discussions of price

I actually didn't know that (I am kinda new).

Might I inquire as to the reasoning behind this rule?
I'll most definitely abide by it, but I can't seem to decipher the logic behind it.

 

Cary Hurt

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It's actually pretty simple. There are just too many variables and contingencies involved in the offering of values, which could then be taken as appraisals. All of us who answer questions on the board are volunteers, but the board itself is owned and controlled by the NAWCC. If I were to offer a value, then you would be able to refer to it as an NAWCC endorsed appraisal, at least by inference.

Since I'm not a certified appraiser of any sort, my 20 years of market experience and ten years of eBay trading are just things to reinforce my opinion, and my opinion is worth no more than anyone else's. In regards to online auctions, what I know to be a realistic assessment is often way off the mark when the final hammer falls. With all the possibilities, the NAWCC can't be seen as approving of my (or anyone's) appraisals, or even as the vehicle for delivering them.

Additionally, there is the sad fact that some would (and have) use the ability to offer values to pump up a sale, or to try to keep down the price of something that they wish to buy. All I would have to do would be to offer a highly positive or negative opinion of a certain clock or watch, and some (perhaps many) potential bidders would be influenced. It's definitely unethical, probably actionable, and perhaps illegal.

Finally, if we were to give valuations, it would likely end up as all we would have time to do. I get three or four e-mails per week along the lines of "I have my grandmother's watch. What's it worth?". I can only imagine the number of such requests that would come in if this board were willing to offer answers.

It's just in the NAWCC's best interest to "just say no" regarding explicit valuations. You can't escape the fact that money is involved in our hobby, but we can avoid being directly involved in the discussion.

Hope this helps,

Cary
 

Don Dahlberg

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Actually the main reason we do not discuss value is that NAWCC is a tax-exempt non-profit organization. It is against the law for us to offer prices on antiques and could cost us our tax exempt status. This has been made very clear to us by both the US and state (Pennsylvania) governments. I am not a lawyer, but I believe that it is considered unfair competition against those who appraise clocks and watches for a living, many of whom are our own members. I understand that only auction schools can offer value, because this is part of their training process.

The reason that Cary gave are also very important and sufficient for us to refrain from valuing items.

Don
 

Chicago

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FWIW, it absolutely is not "against the law" for NAWCC to offer free appraisals while under the blanket of a non-profit. Whatever state and/or Federal people told you that are wrong. PBS is a non-profit orginization, yet I watch Antiques Roadshow every week.

The only way it could violate non-profit status is of appraisals were being done for a fee, then the profits disseminated to shareholders, officers, members or the like. To simply do it as a service to members or the public wouldn't violate any precepts governing a 501(c)(3).

I'm not suggesting that NAWCC get into the business of free appraisals, but whoever said that it was "against the law" for a non-profit to do so is out-in-left-field wrong.
 

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