5 Ways to Quickly Identify a Quality Pocket Watch

Many times, new watch collectors are unsure how to identify a quality pocket watch. With all the grades, models, sizes, and manufacturers, how can you determine if you are looking at a high-end watch? Here are 5 characteristics that can quickly distinguish a quality pocket watch:

  1. Jewel Count. Movements with 17 or more jewels contain hole jewels for the entire gear train, giving the movement improved accuracy and longevity. Jewel counts greater than 17 certainly improve other aspects, but a jeweled gear train helps reduce friction in the most important areas. Lower quality movements usually contain 7-15 jewels, and are often not marked with the jewel count. How to determine jewel count
    21 Jewels

    21 Jewels stamped on an Illinois/Burlington movement.

    Hole Jewel vs. Metal Bushing

    A hole jewel (top) compared to a plain metal bushing (bottom).

  2. Screw-set Jewels. Plate jewels that are set with screws were more expensive to manufacture and were easier to repair when problems arose. In contrast, friction-set  jewels were less expensive and repairs require much more effort. As a result, higher quality movements almost always contain screw-set jewels, especially before 1930.
    Screw-Set Jewel

    Example of a screw-set jewel.

    Friction Jewels

    A gear train with friction/pressed hole jewels.

  3. Micrometer Regulator. This feature is often overlooked by new collectors while evaluating a movement. Micrometer regulators, sometimes referred to as patent regulators, were used on higher quality movements, allowing the owner or a jeweler to make precision adjustments to the oscillation rate of the balance wheel, changing the speed of the watch. All movements will contain a regulator, but lower-quality movement usually do not contain an additional mechanism to allow for precision incremental adjustments. List of common patent regulators used on pocket watches
    Patent Micrometer Regulators

    Several variations of micrometer, or “patent,” regulators.

    Plain Pocket Watch Regulator

    Plain regulator from an Elgin movement.

  4. Double-Sunk Dial. This is an easy way to determine quality without even inspecting the movement. Double-sunk dials took more time and effort to manufacture. As a result, these dials were typically reserved for watches of higher quality. While this is not always the case, it is an excellent indicator. Do not be fooled by a black line imitating the second sink, which is common.
    Double Sunk Dial

    Double-Sunk Rockford Dial

    Single Sunk Dial

    Single-Sunk Elgin Dial

  5. Adjustments. Quality watches were adjusted at the factory to improve accuracy in a variety of circumstances. Typically, more adjustments indicate a better quality movement. Top tier movements are adjusted to five or six positions, temperature, and isochronism. Adjusted watches are usually stamped as such, and later watches often include the type of adjustments.
    Several variations of adjustment indications stamped on pocket watch movements.

    Several variations of adjustment indications stamped on pocket watch movements.

While these characteristics are not always correlated with a high-end pocket watch, they will certainly will give a general indication of quality.

 

10 thoughts on “5 Ways to Quickly Identify a Quality Pocket Watch

  1. Good information….some of which I did not know and helps select a quality high end watch as there is so much choice, makes and condition Thanks!

  2. I am having difficulty identifying the value of my pocket watch. It matches all 5 criteria you have to qualify for a top quality watch. It has written on its double face porcelain dial and inside J C Anderson Tularude Colorada It has a Montgomery dial. Its case is double screwed gold filled. Inside the movement is 17 jeweled adjusted with a beautiful micrometer regulator . Inside the back case are the Roman numerals v 1x x v11 v1. The serial number is 441005 . I would appreciate any light you can shed on this, thanks so much and God bless.
    Ps I can supply photographs if needed.

  3. Good information.

    I recently purchased my first and I guess it was just dumb luck that lead me to a double-sunk dial and micrometer regulator.

  4. I have an extensive collection and have a major concern as my collection took me over 40 years to accumulate.The question is what would happen if some unscrupulous person recorded the serial numbers in this database and filed a false police report and claimed they were stolen? I have many valuable watches of all sorts ,case materials and am concerned about this more than anything

    • Mike – I imagine if you had records detailing your collection, such a scenario would be resolved quickly. “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.”

  5. hello….I look for double signed Studebaker watches and occasionally come across ones that say Studebaker on the dial but not on the movement. southbend serial number 505601 is one that is only dial signed and your pwdb lists it as southbend but makes no mention of it being a Studebaker. what can you tell me about this circumstance?thanx in advance for your help.

    • Original “Studebaker” watches should be signed on the dial and movement. Based on the description of your watch, the dial was pulled from a “Studebaker” watch and fitted on a standard South Bend movement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *