This post was updated on August 2019
Even though most people now use their phones to tell time, watches remain a fashion statement for men and women. We may not use our old watches for their original function anymore, but we hold on to them for sentimental and aesthetic value. What you may not realize, however, is that your old watch could be worth a substantial amount of money.
Antique watches like pocket watches may not be practical anymore, but in addition to being neat to look at, they can also be traded for cash. If you’re looking to declutter your home of your old watches, this is something to consider.
If you are stuck wondering “what’s the worth of my old watch,” with the help of Muzeum’s expertise, you can get some answers. As gold and silver buyers, we are happy to appraise your watch.
That said, there are some ways that you can start to gauge the value of your old watches before you come in:
According to the manager of Muzeum, Max Smirnov, when it comes to your old watches, "Just because it's old doesn't mean it's valuable." That said, paired with other factors, your watch’s age can make all the difference.
If you want to identify the age of your old watches, look for their serial numbers – this number is typically on the back of the watch. The serial number on a watch will help you match it to the date it was made, as well as its manufacturer. This is another essential factor in determining the value of your watch. You can use a reference chart to match your serial number to this information.
That said, some old watches like Swiss or European watches don’t have any serial numbers — this can make it difficult to identify their age. Fortunately, there are other ways to find this information. For example, you can estimate the age of a switch pocket watch based on the style of its movement, and how it is constructed.
You can also determine the value of old watches based on the materials they are made of. This can include jewel count, plating or any layers of valuable metals. After all, a lot of old watches were made with precious metals that have only gone up in value over time.
For example, some antique pocket watches have gold plating or gold layers, while others have a high jewel count.
To be clear, a jewel count does not reference the type of jewels you are thinking of. A watch’s jewel count indicates the number of functional jewels found within the watch. These are used in watches as the bearings for the wheel trains and in high wear parts such as the escape lever. The higher the jewel count of your old watch, the higher it’s value. A 17 jewel watch is considered to be fully-jewelled.
Historically, rubies were most commonly used as the functional jewels in antique watches due to the fact that they are hard and wear down slowly. This reduces friction and streamlines the process of watchmaking.
Jewel bearings were made of natural jewels from when they were invented in 1704, up until the 20th century when Auguste Verneuil discovered a more cost-effective method – using synthetic corundum. This made watches less valuable, but cheaper to make.
That said, watches with the jewels you may be thinking about are also valuable in their own right – but you may not find them on your old watches.
If you’re able to determine the jewel count of a watch, it can give you a better idea of what your old watches may be worth. At one point, manufacturers actually printed a watch’s jewel count on its face – a practice that has been long defunct.
When the jewel count isn’t explicitly indicated, determining a watch’s jewel count can be quite tricky to the average eye. In these situations, it’s a good idea to consult an appraiser like Muzeum. Not only will we help you identify your piece’s jewel count, but we will explain to you in detail the role it plays in determining the value of old watches.
Even though many collectors want old watches not to wear but to hold on to, they are unlikely to buy one that is not in working condition. If they do, it will likely be at a lower price tag.
To determine the value of your old watches, test them out first to make sure they are working — you can do this by holding your watch up to your ear. If the ticking of your watch is clean and smooth with a faint metallic ring, it is likely still operating. If it sounds like something is dragging, however, your old watch may be close to its breaking point.
Another indicator of the working condition of a watch is the motion of its balance wheel. Does it look straight and true, or is there a “wobble” in its motion? Any wobble could be a sign of a bent or broken balance pivot, an "out of true" balance, or damage to the balance jewels.
Of course, old watches should be in pristine condition to maximize their value. Look for any dings, scratches, or markings that could bruise a watch’s resale price. Be careful about doing any polishing yourself in case you do more harm than good.
What you may not realize is that, according to Smirnov, engravings can decrease the value of old watches. A watch with a personal message engraved makes a great gift, but it doesn’t necessarily help its resale value. That is unless the timepiece was a gift from or owned by a famous figure — but you'll need paperwork to confirm the authenticity of the collectible in that case.
According to GQ, hand engravings “100% affect” the resale value of an old watch. These engravings run very deep, and while you can change the back of a new watch to cover an engraving, the same can’t be said for old watches.
Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond novels, once said that "A gentleman's choice of timepiece says as much about him as does his Savile Row suit,”
That said, what does a valuable pocket watch look like exactly? An extreme example is that of the Breguet number 160, a pocket watch manufactured in 1827 for Marie Antoinette. This extravagant timepiece features a full perpetual calendar, a jumping hour hand, 23 complications and 823 parts. This beautiful timepiece is encased in 18-karat gold and sapphires adorn every working surface. Its value is estimated at $36 million.
Old watches can very well be brand name — they just may not be from the brand names you recognize. Some brands like Longines have been in operation since 1832 – and these watches just increase in value over time as they are no longer made and there are fewer in circulation.
Another example is Omega, who has been making watches since 1848. Look at the back of your old watches to see if the manufacturers are indicated. If not, you can also use the serial number to identify this information.
When assessing the brands of old watches also consider the value of brand names that are now defunct but are still worth a pretty penny. For example, Hamilton and Elgin are two high-value brands that stopped producing watches in the 60s.
At Muzeum, we are experienced in valuing old watches. Will help you evaluate your old timepieces and pocket watches in order to determine their value. If the item proves to be of value, we will happily take it off of your hands for a fair price.
We do evaluations for a number of items besides watches as well, including antiques, collectables, and silver and gold coins. Our prices for gold are based on market values, and we are transparent about the way we evaluate your old coins, bullions, and jewellery. When you visit us, we use professional tools to weigh and test the purity of your gold, and everything is done right in front of you.
If you’re looking to sell gold in Toronto or any other valuable items, then come to Muzeum! Our customers are welcomed guests who are always treated with respect and courtesy.
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