We took a look at the Cadmore online auction, which is fast approaching and has some interesting watches on offer.
A 2010 Panerai Luminor with box and papers is worth a look, especially if you can get it for about £2600-£3200, as it is in mint condition. A new one is about five grand, so with the auction fees on top a final cost of £3600 isn’t too bad. If you like pocket watches there are several on offer and the silver Kendal and Dent, with a hefty 48mm case size is a good buy if you can get it for under £60 – assuming it works. There is no description on the auction website, so we don’t know.
An 18ct gold Rolex Datejust is another one that could be worth a look, although the gold Rolex is a bit of a Del Boy vibe these days. Good condition judging by the photos. No box or paperwork though. Say £2700 all in? Yep that’s where we would be too.
There is also a very blingy diamond bezel Rolex Datejust, no box or papers, but very nice condition.
More at the Cadmore website here. Auction is taking place next Monday.
I’ve been messing with pocket watches for about 6 years now and managed to fix a few. Some defeat me and there’s a simple reason; old age. The watch that is, not me.
You see pocket watches built back in the 1880-1920 period are genuine antiques and frankly, many of them were not built to last over a century. Owners skimp on servicing, the cases are hacked open with kitchen knives and cruder tools and dust, skin and hair sneaks in too. That often results in metal touching metal and the inevitable grinding paste effect that anyone who has stripped a BSA Bantam engine will be familiar with.
I digress. Here are some tips for those who have a vintage Waltham, Elgin, Thomas Russell, Omega or Lancashire Pocket Watch, and wish to keep it going.
Don’t adjust the timekeeping using the A/R lever. It’s tempting to press a screwdriver in and waggle it this way or that to try and compensate for poor running. But the problem is unlilely to be that simple and there is a danger of pulling the hairspring. Bang goes the timekeeping completely and most likely, the watch will stop after a few seconds of running.
Don’t oil or lubricate it, unless you have practised on other watches and use the correct tools and watch oil. Don’t drip lighter fluid in there either. It might help a sticky balance assembly, but it’s no substitute for a proper service.
Try not to wind the watch fully. You’re putting a 100% load on something that might not have been replaced since WW2, which was the last time the mainspring was replaced. It’s possible that it’s still using the original mainspring. So wind it ten turns, maybe eight – be kind to the old girl. When you feel a fair bit of resistance, then stop winding.
Don’t set the correct time by winding the hands backwards. It is just more load on ageing parts. Always advance the hands to set the time.
Does it have a winding key? Then there’s a fusee chain inside, wich if you imagine a mini bicycle chain, wrapped around a walnut whip, gives you a good idea of how it works. It is very delicate and most likely has stretched over 50-100 years. There are no factories in China making fusee chains for British or American pocket watches from the 1890s, so take care when winding it.
Top winders are more durable, as this is late Victorian tech, so made with more precision as machine tool manufacturing advanced. Any excess clicking, resistance or `crunching’ is a bad sign. Don’t wind it, don’t try to fix it with WD40.
If your old Waltham runs for 15-18 hours it’s doing well. Don’t expect it to run for a full day, or kep the right time. Many lost 1-2mins a day when they were new, so losing 5 mins a century later is acceptable. Be kind when you wind!
If you have a pocket watch problem then email me at; firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe I can help. Or it may need the A Team. Estimates and sympathy are free!
Luxury watchmaker Richard Mille has given the old school pocket watch a modern twist, with a tourbillon movement inside a square case, attached to a keychain. It’s a high quality bespoke piece as you’d expect, with carbon fibre and titanium all over the shop.
Inside is the RM20 movement and on the dial you’ll see a kind of gearbox indicator which lets you know when you’re in the winding position, or hands setting mode. Interesting detail; it runs at quite a low 21,000vph speed, so should have long term reliability, as in a lifetime of service.
Here’s a little bit of tech detail from the RM website;
The RM 020, the only pocket watch in the Richard Mille collection, has a unique, slightly rectangular case housing its exceptional 10-day tourbillon movement, with the two bezels curving outwards in two directions. The creation of a case like this, including the front and back sapphire glass which offers an open view of all parts, is a veritable tour-de-force of Swiss casemaking in haute horlogerie. The case is assembled with 16 spline screws in grade 5 titanium and abrasion-resistant washers in 316L stainless steel.
Here’s the tech specs from RM;
Movement dimensions: 42.20 x 42.20 mm
Thickness: 8.40 mm
Tourbillon diameter: 12.30 mm
Number of jewels: 28, set in white gold chatons
Balance wheel diameter: 9.12 mm
Balance: Glucydur®, 2 arms, 4 setting screws, moment of inertia 10 mg•cm2, angle of lift 53°
Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz)
Balance spring: elinvar by Nivarox®
Shock protection: KIF Elastor KE 160 B28
Barrel shaft: nickel-free Chronifer® (DIN x 46 Cr 13 + S) with the following characteristics: stainless – antimagnetic – suitable for tempering
We cannot see any clues as to the UK price on the RM website,but let’s take a guess at about £70,000. Reassuringly expensive.
It seems like a year ago that I visited an Antiques Fair at the Macron Stadium near Bolton, although in fact it was but a couple of months ago. Back then, we watch hunters were free to roam charity shops, antique shops, backstreet pawn shops etc looking for timepieces of interest. Happy days!
One thing I noticed while browsing the 100-ish stands at the antiques fair that Sunday were that pocket watch asking prices had fallen quite dramatically, compared to this time last year. A working sterling silver open case Waltham was on offer at £85, while a stop-start Ingersoll, missing a crystal, was ticketed at £20, spares or repair. Many collectors probably agree that it’s good that a dose of realism is now being applied to the pocket watch market but I’d go further and say that the mini boom of a few years ago is definitely over.
If you keep tabs on ebay then you’ll have seen a considerable drop in prices there too. Frankly, unless it’s a gold watch, or a particularly rare verge watch, you don’t see many people asking outrageous prices – as they used to until about a year ago.
There are many reasons for this decline in prices, but I’m thinking one of the biggest is the sheer fragility of most pocket watches. To be blunt, these old tickers often need very careful handling, or bows break, people try to wind them the wrong way, make the wrong number 7 key fit a number 11 pinion etc. Then there is the tendency that real mineral glass crystals have for falling out after 30-50 years of use. That seemingly simple repair isn’t so easy once you try to locate an exact match for the 494 glass or whatever fits your bezel.
Don’t get me started on fusee chain pocket watches, because the thought of trying to wind a new chain onto the column with the watch in bits is a bit of a nightmare tbh. Originally, such jobs were completed by children in watch workshops of the 1890s, so fiddly and frustrating is the job of hooking the fusee chain in situ.
Like many skills of the past, you won’t find many pro pocket watch repairers left nowadays – fact is, people don’t want to pay a living wage to those who CAN repair such vintage items. Often it can cost over £150 to service a silver pocket watch with a retail value of £100. Brutal maths.
Then there’s the wearing of the watch, for which you need a waistcost. Very snazzy of course, but given that David Brent started to make the Gary Barlow/cruise ship singer outfit look like a saddo costume, the waistcoat has kinda gone out of fashion. You’ll find them all on the Debenhams `We Are Bust’ webpage anytime soon for £10 a pop.
So, much as I love the sound of a nice Waltham, Elgin or Lancashire Pocket Watch, and the heavy, reassuring feel of the silver in my hand, I won’t be buying one anytime soon. And I’m officially an old bloke. If a generation that grew up with Smiths and Ingersoll pocket watches being sold alsongside Timex and Accurist wristwatches is kinda glad to leave them in a drawer somewhere, I think the glory days of getting £250 for a nice, clean sterling silver pocket watch are long gone. Recession Britain will demand we invest more wisely in Swiss watches that might actually hold their asset value.
Do you still love a pocket watch and chain? Post a comment below.
As a former jounalist and editor, I have very little time for most mens’ lifestyle magazines. Buzzword-infested copy, lavishly photoshopped tech porn pictures and page after page of thinly disguised press releases, sponsored by big brand advertisers keen to sell gadgetry to men with `all the gear and no idea.’
Wired is a classic of this genre, with cod-scientific articles predicting various prism-shifting vistas of utopian city-dweller futures, where soy-boys compare their latest purchases on Instagram until the poorer guy cracks up and starts smoking Spice in back alleyways.
Here’s a link to a recent promo piece in Wired, which sells the idea that pre-owned, even truly vintage 100 year old watches, will be bigger than the new watch market one day. Total BS. For one thing consumers will soon tire of owning a watch that doesn’t keep accurate time. But we will get to that later.
In the Wired feature the guy from Armand Nicolet asserts that by changing the mainspring and hairspring, many decades of life may be miraculously extended from vintage movements. Hmmm, well maybe. Another bloke claims that vintage pocket watches are in some ways superior to modern examples.
OK, allow me to present a bit of reality into the equation readers, because this grade A baloney is giving me a headache;
Old watches are generally worn out. By this I don’t just mean the hairspring is gummed up with WD40 and the mainspring is slacker than the knicker elastic on a Love Island detainee. This is especially true of things like Victorian key-wind pocket watches. Think about 120 years of coal fires, rattletrap train journeys, factory machinery and tools hitting the poor old Elgin or Waltham, raggedy children winding the thing until the fusee hooks beg for mercy.
About 50% of the project pocket watches I’ve bought from car boot sales, customers in the shop, or at antique fairs, never – that’s NEVER – manage to go for more than 4 hours and keep the right time. It isn’t just about replacing mainsprings, and stripping and cleaning the parts. Once you wash all the gunk out of old pocket watches you find worn out jewels, allowing the balance staff and other pins/pivots to run out of true, plus gears have worn teeth, escapement wheels and pallet stones are also usually clapped out.
For those who don’t know – such as hipster-bearded, Birra Moretti drinking Wired readers – let me explain that the balance assembly, with the lever and the pallet stones flicking the escapement wheel with total precision, is where the power of the mainspring is weakest. ANY resistance, any wear, anything out of alingnment, will make the watch stop as the spring uncoils and obviously the power is reduced.
That explanation is physics, not casual opinion sponsored by advertisers.
You don’t get to by-pass the overall wear and tear, the myriad problems an old watch has, simply by replacing two springs. It ain’t that easy. Even top winder pocket watches, which are generally more resiliant than fusee chain types, cannot cope with modern life.
Here’s another fact, modern pocket watches, made by computer aided machines, virtually untouched by human hand, are much more reliable timekeepers, and in need of less cleaning and oiling than old pocket watches. The tolerances are far, far closer, the parts are lighter and much more resistant to magnetism too. Even an unsigned, Chinese made basic mechanical pocket watch with a Seagull movement can whup the ass of a 100 year old Waltham in everyday life. Less fragile, more accurate, longer power reserve – no character of course, but definitely better at doing the thing a watch should do, tell the bloody time.
No Wristwatch Born Before 1970 Was Designed To Survive a Digital World
Here is another fact of life regarding classic mechanical and automatic wristwatches. Most of them, even the ones that say anti-magnetic on the dial, are in no way equipped to handle modern life. Every month we get buyers coming into the shop with Breitlings, or Tissots, gaining vast amounts of time. The owners usually work with computers, tablets, park the watch next their phone overnight etc. That screws up your watch, even the nice one you bought from Chrono24 for over £400.
There’s no escape in the open too. Phone masts, on-street wifi in shops, businesses and pubs. Even your modern car has magnetic fields buzzing around inside as it manages all the engine management functions, warning lights, Sat Nav, phone commands etc. Your vintage watch, even after a full overhaul, may still be useless as a timekeeper if you insist on being a dipstick and wearing it every day in an office full of computers – it isn’t designed for that life!
The Problem of Parts Supply
You can refurbish popular old watches by essentially pillaging the supply of dead watches still knocking around ebay, Etsy, car boot sales and contacting specialist companies. But let me explain the reality of classic watch ownership for you.
Dials that peel and pickle require highly skilled re-enamelling, or repainting. Obtaining a genuine mineral crystal for many less popular Swiss automatics is another wild goose chase – then you have to pay someone to fit it. Who is going to set up a factory and mass-produce parts for all these vintage watches? Amazon? Don’t make me laugh.
No, the truth is that if a simple service with new springs and a clean gets an old watch going nicely, then there’s little wrong with it – you dropped lucky. Take my advice and use that watch sparingly. Keep it well away from microwaves, pesky kids, workplaces, drunken nights out with the lads or magnetic fields. Treasure it as a piece of engineering history like an Alfa 164, a Ducati 750SS or a Foden lorry and know that servicing it every five years, or restoring after damage, will almost certainly cost you hundreds of pounds.