If you have discovered small inscriptions inside your pocket watch case, you may be wondering if they have any meaning. The short answer is yes – they certainly do have meaning, or at least they did at one time.
During the pocket watch era, it was typical for watches to be serviced on a regular basis, especially when used in railroad service. With so many watches coming in and out of the shop, most watchmakers devised a system to record service and repairs in a master ledger. The watchmaker would then inscribe a reference number on the inside of the watch case matching the ledger. Some watchmakers even derived coded references that could immediately convey service details.
Over time, many watches became marked with dozens of service inscriptions, often exhibiting multiple formats as different watchmakers serviced the watch. It was also common for a date to be inscribed alongside the service marking, providing interesting context into the history of the watch.
Unfortunately, since each watchmaker developed their own reference system, there was not a centralized standard. As a result, we may never gain insight into what each of these inscriptions meant or who marked them.
One comfort we can extract is that each service inscription is a permanent mark of pride, revealing the meticulous care that the treasured watch once received.