Pocket watches – time to grab a bargain03 December 2021 Thirty or 40 years ago to be a ‘watch collector’ was to collect antique pocket watches. Today it is the vintage branded mechanical wristwatch that has become the ultimate male accessory.
Pocket watches sit in a tricky space in horological collecting. The history of these portable watches spans more four centuries and a timeframe that includes moments of great horological innovation and remarkable workmanship. However, in contrast to the red-hot trade in vintage and modern wristwatches, the market for antique pocket watches appears very low key. Time to grab a bargain?
If you are considering purchasing a heirloom or a quirky gift, the timing is definitely right. Most antique and vintage gold and silver pocket watches – whether a full or half hunter or an open face watch – have a comparatively low financial value. Many are priced very sensibly at auction, typically close to their bullion value.
It is only the smaller percentage of pocket watches that have something that sets them apart which appeal to the more serious and dedicated collecting audience. This means watches that are elevated above the norm by date, maker, case decoration, the sophistication of the movement, provenance, condition or likely a combination of these factors.
Complications, any feature of a mechanical timepiece beyond the display of hours, minutes and seconds, are key. With some pocket watches you are looking at the genesis of horological complications now seen in high value wristwatches today and this is slowly being more recognised. Add a chronograph, an automaton, a moon phase, an alarm or a repeater and the watch begins to stand out – and tells a better story.
The following selection of watches explores a range of styles, period and makers coming up for sale at a broad range of price points.