Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Time in Your Pocket

I recently inherited a pocket watch from my grandfather.  It has an ornate gold case and seems to keep fairly good time. Is it worth keeping, perhaps as the start of a collection.

ANSWER:  There was a time back in the Good Ole Days when grandpa kept his watch in his pocket. The wristwatch, as we know it today, didn’t come into common use until after World War I. Nearly every working man up to that time kept his watch in his pocket.

First known as portable clocks, pocket watches were large and cumbersome. The typical 17th-century timepiece was four inches wide and nearly three inches thick. Since they were a bit too big and because people didn’t have pockets, most owners wore them around their necks on chains.

By the 18th century, men’s waistcoats and vests had pockets. In the meantime Peter Henlein and other watchmakers had discovered spring technology and soon began to miniaturize personal timepieces. Because the watches didn’t have any cover to protect the crystal, watchmakers fashioned small slip cases from silver or gold to protect their watches.

Today, pocket watches are one of the most collectible items. Not only do they look great, but they take up little room and hold their value, making them a great long-term investment. While pocket watches made before 1865 are available, their cost can be prohibitive to the beginning collector. Those made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries come in a wide variety of styles and prices. Some collectors specialize in collecting only railroad pocket watches. From the beginning of railroading in the United States, keeping accurate time has been a requirement for efficient operation.

A number of reference guides provide a way to look up a pocket watch manufacturer’s serial number.  Some collectors have even turned to the Internet to find information on their watches. To find the serial number on a pocket watch, very carefully remove the back of the watch and look for the number on the movement inside.

For more information on pocket watches go to Bowers Watch & Clock Repair and The Antique Pocket Watch

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