Why Do You Sell Watches or Clocks You Collect?

Ethan Lipsig

Gold Member
Jan 8, 2006
Pasadena, CA
I've spent the day going through my catalog of the 290 pocket watches I have sold or otherwise disposed of. I'd love to hear your reflections on your disposition of watches or clocks that have passed through your collection into others' hands.

The time will come to soon when I or my heirs will have to dispose of my collection. To date, I have disposed of pocket watches only for these reasons:
  1. 24.8% (72 Watches) Sold Because I No Longer Collect that Type: For example, although I never have been a railroad watch collector, I did buy perhaps a dozen in my early days of collecting. I sold them in due course.
  2. 16.2% (47 Watches) Sold Because of Issues with the Case, Dial, or Movement
  3. 15.5% (45 Watches) Sold Because They No Longer Met My Standards: As my collecting has matured, my standards have grown more stringent.
  4. 13.4% (39 Watches) Returned to the Seller Because of Misrepresentations or Serious Issues: Some of these were very special watches that I really would have loved to keep but for serious issues, e.g., not working.
  5. 12.1% (35 Watches) Sold Because The Cost of Servicing Makes Inexpensive Watches Cost-Prohibitive: I insist that all my watches be in good running order. Because I do not have any watchmaking skills, I have my watches professionally serviced. It normally makes no sense to me to own inexpensive watches because it often costs more to service them than they are worth. When that became apparent I disposed of nearly all my inexpensive watches.
  6. 6.6% (19 Watches) Sold Because I Had or Bought a Better Example
  7. 5.5% (16 Watches) Sold Because They Had Gold-Filled Cases: I dislike gold-filled cases. I presently only have two in collection of approximately 410 pocket watches. With those exceptions, I've sold every other gold-filled watch I owned.
  8. 2.8% (8 Watches) Sold as a Favor to the Buyer: For example, I sold a wonderful 18k Howard at cost back to a collector from whose collection it had mistakenly been auctioned off by Bonhams. Another example was finding a relative of the original owner of a V&C and selling the family heirloom back to her at cost.
  9. 1.7% (5 Watches) Given to Other Collectors: Several were very nice watches, e.g., solid 18k.
  10. 1.4% (4 Watches) Stolen or Lost in the Mail: Thankfully the seller or insurer reimbursed me for all losses.

Bernhard J.

NAWCC Member
Jan 10, 2022
Berlin, Germany
Wow, so many watches sold :D. I have sold less than 30 watches since my collector "career", i.e. about 4 decades.

Most, because the did not longer meet my standards. A few because I at some junction decided to concentrate of English watches more consequently.

With respect to the first reason, I failed in a few cases. I had offered a Longines with 19A movement and silver case on eBay (1.-- auction), one of my first watches. One screw was missing in the movement (lever bridge) and this annoyed me since long. Two days before auction end not a single bid, so I stopped the auction. And bought a 19A movement instead and replaced the lever bridge together with both screws. Testing on the timer revealed really good function. I will now keep it, and like it not less than my other watches of higher value. Or in case of a very special Zenith wristwatch (black dial, screwed early military case). Looking at it with the intention of making photos for sale, I decided otherwise, will now give it a service instead and keep it. Or my Bright & Sons (Lange movement) in a silver case. I had offered it for a very reasonable price when I bought a Bright & Sons Lange movement watch in a 18K case. And after serious interest did not turn up, decided to keep it as well. And purchased an archive extract for documentation purposes. So, these three cases resulted not in a sales income, but in further costs and efforts instead *lol*.

With respect to the second reason, I also was not really consequent. While I did indeed sell about 5 German and Swiss watches of better makes (e.g. Lange, JJ), I at the same time bought 3 American watches and excused this by telling myselfe that I need a few examples for my sub-collection of selected non-English watches.

All my watches except of two work well and I will attend to these two rather than selling them. Since I can handle most issues myself (and not only by "bodging", like in the shimming thread), this is part of the hobby.

My heirs will have to dispose of my watches and clocks (about 130) and this will then be their problem, not mine. In this respect I have begun to document my watches in a better manner, including estimated (realistic) values, so that heirs need not turn up here in this forum and ask what the heck this is and what it might be worth ;).

Cheers, Bernhard

John Matthews

NAWCC Member
Sep 22, 2015
I commenced my collecting on 18 September, 2015. I have never sold a watch. I have lost one wristwatch in transit.

We all collect watches for different reasons and our collection and activities reflect those reasons. The fact that of the the 400+ items in my collection more than 50% are uncased movements of which at least half are unfinished movements, is an indication that my collecting is not confined to finished working items. I find much pleasure and learn far more from examples that are broken or unfinished, than 'prize' working examples that I don't trust myself to dismantle .


Ethan Lipsig

Gold Member
Jan 8, 2006
Pasadena, CA
We all have different collecting tastes. If I had your horological knowledge, John, or your watchmaking abilities, Bernhard, my collecting tastes, no doubt, would be different. However, we all seem to share at least one habit: none of us have yet sold a watch that met our standards.

For your amusement or dismay, here's a list of the 39 watches that I returned to the seller because of misrepresentations or serious undisclosed issues. I've asterisked the ones that I likely would have later sold for other reasons. Except as noted, all of them are Swiss.
  • Unsigned nickel calendar/moonphase OF watch*
  • Unsigned 18k OF ultra-thin watch probably by Haas Neveux
  • Unsigned platinum and diamond ultra-thin OF
  • Arnold & Lewis 18 OF patent union chronometer (English)
  • Spurious Louis Audemars 14k hunter
  • Audemars Piguet (Black, Starr & Frost PL) 18k ultra-thin
  • Bucherer gold-filled ladies watch*
  • Spurious Cartier red enameled La Captive purse watch
  • Elgin Grade 105 in 18k convertible case (US)
  • Spurious Cartier 18k ultra-thin OF
  • Gubelin 14k OF
  • Guillod 18 ultra-thin OF
  • Haas Neveux 18k and enamel OF
  • Haas Neveux 14k OF
  • Haas Neveux platinum OF
  • Hamilton 400 in 18k Bok case (US)
  • Hamilton 904 ygf OF (US)*
  • Keystone-Howard 10-size 14k OF (US)
  • Illinois Abe Lincoln ygf OF (US)*
  • Illinois Grade 410 ygf OF (US)*
  • Janvier 18k KW (French)
  • Juvenia 18k OF
  • Ed. Koehn 18k OF 5-minute repeater/rattrapante
  • Lecoultre ygf OF*
  • C.H. Meylan platinum OF
  • C.H. Meylan (Cresarrow PL) platinum and diamonds OF
  • Movado-Zenith (Mappin & Webb PL) 18k OF
  • Nonmagnetic Watch Co. 18k minute repeater
  • R. Pennington 18k ruby duplex fusee OF
  • South Bend Grade 431 14k OF (US)
  • Tiffany 18k and enamel OF
  • Touchon 18k OF
  • Touchon 18k & platinum OF
  • Touchon (Tiffany PL) 18k ladies OF
  • Touchon (Tiffany PL) 18k OF
  • Touchon (Tiffany PL) platinum OF
  • Touchon platinum and gold OF
  • Vulcain 18k and enamel OF
  • Waltham Riverside Maximus Model 1900 14k hunter (US)


NAWCC Member
Jan 28, 2010
I have sold a few because I acquired them as not working cheaply and they were really only practice pieces, not meeting the standards of my main collection. Likewise I have given a few away as presents after repairing them. My watchmaking skills are such that I will not work on any of my more valuable watches. On the other hand, I might wear a watch I have repaired whilst out walking the dog in the countryside. It's quite enjoyable to have a watch in my pocket with the the thought "I fixed this" and also to know it is not valuable enough to worry about it unduly. Having said that, I never buy or work on true rubbish because even repaired it's still rubbish. The same applies to my clock collection.
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