Whether you’re an owner of antique and vintage watches, or you’re in the market to buy, understanding the factors that determine a watch’s value is key to getting the best sale price. Here is a general overview of how antique and/or vintage watches are valued and estimated, based on the article “How to Understand the Value of Your Vintage or Antique Watch,” on PocketWatchRepair.com.
Know what you have.
The most important factor in understanding the value of a watch is knowing what it is. Before attempting to buy, sell, or pawn a watch, make sure you have a clear understanding of who the manufacturer is, its model, age, grade, condition, and any other details about the particular watch.
A watch made with precious metals adds to the value of the watch. Does yours have a gold or gold-plated case? Many watches contain gold in the movement itself, including gold-plated train wheels and gold jewel settings.
Precious gems in the setting also adds to the value of a watch, and its jewel count is sometimes marked in the movement, as in 20J. Most antique watches have a minimum of seven jewels. According to PocketWatchRepair.com, under 15 jewels is considered a lower-grade watch; 15-17 jewels is considered a mid-grade watch, and 19-24 jewel movements is considered high-grade.
Age, appearance, and authenticity
Age – To determine the age of a watch, find the serial number from the movement, aka the moving/working part of the watch, not the watch case. With certain European and Swiss watches, it is more difficult to find the serial number. If this is an issue, you may be able to find out the age based on the style of the movement, and/or the way the watch was made. This may be tricky, and you may need help from an expert watch appraiser.
Appearance – Like anything else, the appearance and condition of the watch will have a big impact on its estimated value. Is the watch clean and in working order? Is the glass face and case without scratches and cracks? Are the hands clean and movement smooth? Does the case align correctly? If the watch is in working order, listen to hear if the ticking is “clean and crisp.” These and other factors of appearance contribute to the overall value of a watch.
Authenticity – Like a classic car, a watch that is “authentic,” or in original condition is more in demand than one that has been refurbished with “after market” parts. Make sure the hands are the same, and also look for extra screw marks on the case, which would indicate that the case has been replaced. Make sure a watch is not counterfeit, especially if you’re thinking about buying it.
One final thought…
Determining the value of a watch can be complex, but you can do some research ahead of time to get a good idea of what you have and its worth. Keep in mind that condition, uniqueness, and rarity all contribute to the value of a watch, but it really comes down to what someone is willing to pay for it.
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