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Pocket Watch Appraisals

How Much is My Pocket Watch Worth?

That is a difficult question to answer! 

First of all, if the pocket watch you are trying to appraise is a family heirloom, then it is one-of-a kind and should be worth more than a few dollars to you. We suggest you keep it and pass it on as a remembrance of your loved ones.  Are you looking to insure the watch, or are you just curious? Did you pick up a neat pocket watch at a yard sale or flea market and figure you might be able to turn it into next week's groceries or a new TV!  If it is a mechanical pocket watch it may have some value. If it is a quartz pocket watch it will have little or no value.

Suppose you decide to figure out how much the pocket watch is worth yourself. You could sell it at auction, but that has its dangers.  What about an appraisal? Actually, an appraisal may not really be worth too much.  The appraised value is seldom what a watch will bring at auction. When someone really is making an offer to buy, then that is a "real" appraisal. But suppose you do not want to sell your watch to find out what it is worth.

You say, I can go to the web and find out how much my car is worth, why can't I find out how much my watch is worth? Well, it is much harder, but you can search the web for similar items and see what they are selling for. eBay is a fairly good market, but often common watches go dirt cheap these days at auction. That is why dealers buy a lot of watches at auction!!  Or, you can buy a price guide like the one put out by Shugart every year and try to find your watch in the guide. Most people have watched the Antiques Road Show and have seen people bring in watches that the expert appraisers said were worth thousands of dollars. Wow, you may say, I have an old watch in my drawer that I got from Uncle Charlie, so I may be able to retire early!! The problem is that unless your Uncle Charlie was a Vanderbilt or Rockerfeller, his watch is likely pretty common. The expensive watches were the fancy Swiss watches that chime the hour, quarter hour, minute, etc, were 18 Karat solid gold, were made by Patek Phillippe or another prestige maker and likely cost thousands and thousands of dollars when new back in the 1920's before the bottom fell out.

Selling a watch and getting a good price is difficult because you must find the person who really wants to buy your watch. But suppose you don't feel like investing the time to appraise your watch yourself!!! If you have a very desirable watch, an appraisal from someone who handles a lot of similar merchandise may be needed. Very desirable watches are high grade railroad watches, deck watches, chronometers, prestige watches by famous makers, very early American watches, repeaters that chime the hours and minutes, etc. You know your watch is beautiful to look at, has a highly-finished highly-jeweled movement, has complications like a moon phase or calendar, or is karat gold. Then it is a sure bet that it is worth more than $50, which is sort of what the average vintage watch that is working seems to sell for on eBay.

The best method of appraising a watch is to have it examined first hand. In order to make an appraisal, the appraiser must have knowledge of the market and of the product, when it was made, who made it, and its history. As noted earlier, guide books are helpful, but they are only a "guide." They are often way too high or way too low as prices change as new information is uncovered or when "fads" arise. There are several types of appraisals. There are appraisals for insurance or replacement value - typically high. Then there is high retail, which is what you would expect to pay at the expensive watch shops in "high rent districts, average retail, and low retail. Dealers must make a little money to stay in business, so they typically pay low retail. However, many collectors love to pay even less than dealers! Auction prices vary all over the spectrum, so auction prices are not always a good indication of the "value" of a watch. Basically, someone must be willing to part with their money to buy your watch, and you must also be willing to sell it to them at a price they will pay.

The value of a vintage or antique watch depends on several factors: CONDITION and DEMAND being two very important factors. Demand depends on supply. If your watch is common and easy to find, a buyer can pass on your watch and just wait until another one turns up. For example, if you go to an internet auction and find 10 identical watches for sale consistently, then you may not be in a hurry to buy. But, if your watch is desirable and rare, then you can literally set the price, or let bidders set the price in an auction (but not at any auction, only an auction with the right bidders). Now consider condition. No one would be proud of a watch with a dented worn out case, a chipped dial, and a rusty movement that would not run. It would only be good for maybe a few spare parts. So, a mint (like new) watch may bring $200 while a watch that has been used for years and years and years (and shows it age) may be worth only $10 - $20, or less if very common. Also, a watch needs to be running and KEEPING TIME to bring top price. It may cost $100 - $200 to repair a watch.

For many pocket watches the maker of the movement did not always sign the dial - sometimes a local jeweler would have his name put on the movement and dial. These are called "Private Label" brands. There are literally thousands of these types of watches out in the public with no way of finding information on them. Also, the serial number, case size, case material, diameter of the dial, or if an American pocket watch, the movement size must be known. Note that American pocket watches are usually easier to appraise than foreign watches. Also, note condition is VERY, VERY important as a mint, or seldom used watch may be worth 10 times or more than a "well used" watch. So, how much wear your case has, if the movement is running, is keeping time, if the movement is rusty, the condition of the dial (big dial chips or hairlines can ruin the value of a watch) and crystal, etc. are all factors in determing a watch's value. The more information known, the better the appraisal.

We at Pocket Watch Central do not sell antique or vintage pocket watches and cannot give you an appraisal. All of our products are new merchandise from modern watch brands.

To find someone who can give you an appraisal try this Google search link: Pocket Watch Appriasals