Pocket Watch FAQ
Where can I find the serial number on my watch?
The serial number is located on the watch movement (the “mechanism” of the watch). You will need to remove the back of the case to expose the movement. The serial number will be engraved or stamped on the movement plate. Never use the serial number stamped into the case.
Which watch manufacturers can I search?
Currently, the Pocket Watch Database provides serial number lookups for watches manufactured by Elgin, Illinois, South Bend, Rockford, Waltham, Ball, Hampden, , Hamilton, and Seth Thomas. Certain private label watches, such as the Burlington Watch Company, are also available. Date and registry serial lookups are available for the vast majority of remaining manufacturers, including Columbus, Peoria, and E. Howard. However, the data provided is not as detailed. The goal is to continue adding more information as time and resources allow.
What if I find information that is incorrect?
If you happen to find information that is incorrect, please submit an inaccuracy report. You can do this by conducting a search using the serial number. Then, find the area on the result page that reads, “Does this info match your movement?” Click the “No” option and you will be given an opportunity to provide more details. Any inaccuracy reports will be displayed on the site for that particular serial number range to inform other visitors. Reports will also help improve the accuracy of the database.
How can I help?
Checking the enormous dataset for accuracy is a daunting task. If you would like to help, please submit inaccuracy or verification reports whenever you search using a serial number. You can submit a verification report by finding the area on the result page that reads, “Does this info match your movement?” Click the “Yes” option. This verification will be recorded and displayed on the site for the relevant serial number range to help other users. Please only submit a verification if all the information returned by the system is correct. If any of the information is incorrect, click the “No” option. This will submit an inaccuracy report.
Why was my inaccuracy report removed?
One of the strengths of the Pocket Watch Database is the community of enthusiasts that assist in improving the data by compensating for incorrect, fragmented, or missing factory records. Every report must be evaluated with reasonable skepticism before a change to the database can be made with confidence. For this reason, and to prevent confusion amongst future users, some reports may be removed completely. Here are a few common reasons reports are removed:
- Obvious Improper Lookup. (Example: Stating a serial is grade "P.S. Bartlett" while report on an Elgin movement)
- Obvious Incorrect Information. (Example: Stating a Hamilton serial is grade "975" when comprehensive factory records and observations clearly indicate grade "940")
- Misformed Report. (Example: Stating an Elgin serial is size 20s or that it only contains 4 jewels)
- Confusing or Ambiguous Information. (Example: Stating an Elgin watch contains a "fast/slow adjuster" or "the serial number is incorrect")
- Repeated Reports (Example: Submitting multiple reports on the same serial number with identical information)
- Using Tone Inconsistent with Site Policy (Example: Using all caps to imply yelling, using improper language, or displaying an antigonistic attitude)
- Suggesting Modifications Based on Unsubstantiated 3rd-Party Sources. (Example: "Production year is 1922 not 1923 according to website X")
- Submitting Personal or Contact Information. (Example: "Please send more information to firstname.lastname@example.org")
- Suggesting Updates to Auto-Generated Information. (Example: "The value should be much more than what is listed")
- Submitting Case Information (Unless Relevant to Factory-Cased Watch). (Example: Reporting "Nickel case with train on the back"). It is better to create a record in your collection and upload images for other users to view.
- Reporting Information only Relevant to Individual Watch. (Example: Stating that a watch is missing a minute hand)
The best practive when submitting an inaccuracy report is to provide as much information as possible about the watch, including anything that is marked on the movement. If you have verified jewel count by removing dial or serviced the watch, please indicate that. Uploading an image of the movement to your collection account is invaluable to verifying certain reported claims. If the watch was seen on a different website or auction page, including the source and/or item number is benecial for evaluation.
Why has the database not been updated following my verification report?
One of the strengths of the Pocket Watch Database is the community of enthusiasts that assist in improving the data by compensating for incorrect, fragmented, or missing factory records. Every report must be evaluated with reasonable skepticism before a change to the database can be made with confidence. Many times, there is not enough information to warrant an immediate change to the database. Once enough evidence is collected, the database will be updated accordingly. It is extremely beneficial to have images of the watch being reported. Creating a record within your collection and uploading images can be crucial to evaluating a reported claim.
Can you appraise my watch?
We have added value reports for many manufacturers in order to help determine the value of a particular watch. Please search using your serial number first, and then look for the "Value" tab. The value reports are simply an estimate and can vary greatly based on case material, overall conditions, rarity, collectibility, etc. You should contact a professional appraiser if you wish to find a more precise value for your watch.
What are jewels?
Jeweled movements are common in all American antique pocket watches, with the exception of "Dollar Watches." Jewels are hard minerals that are added to the mechanics of the watch to prevent wear at pivot and collision points. The number of jewels is typically a direct indication of the quality of the watch. A low-end watch will have generally contain 7-11 jewels. Quality movements will have at least 15-17 jewels. And, premium watches will contain 21 jewels or more. Watches that contain a higher jewel count tend to be more reliable and last longer. Please visit our jewel information page to learn how to accurately count the jewels.
What do the size designations mean?
Pocket watches come in various sizes, usually noted as a number followed by an "s." This is a standardized sizing used in the industry, much like shoe sizes. The larger the number preceding the "s," the larger the pocket watch. The size is based on the measurement of the movement inside the watch, and not the watch case. A 18s or 16s pocket watch is a common size for a gentleman's watch. Please visit our size chart to lookup measurements of common movement sizes.
What is an "adjusted" watch?
If a watch has been "adjusted," it is a sign of quality. An adjusted movement has been tuned to keep accurate time under various positions and conditions. Medium grade watches usually are adjusted to 3 positions (dial up, dial down, pendant up). After 1908, all railroad pocket watches were required to be adjusted to at least 5 positions (dial up, dial down, pendant up, pendant left, pendant right). Watches can also be adjusted to temperature and isochronism, which was common in premium watches.
What is the difference between an open-face case and a hunting case?
Pocket watches come in a variety of cases, characterized by one of two classifications - open-face or hunting.
Open-face cases allow the face of the watch to be exposed at all times and the stem will be located at the 12:00 position.
Hunting cases contain a metal cover that snaps on top of the face when it is not being observed and the stem will be located at the 3:00 position. These cases usually have a "pop-open" mechanism that is engaged whenever the stem is pressed.
Occasionally, you will find a movement with a hunting configuration that has been mounted in an open-face case. These are commonly referred to as "sidewinders." You can determine the movement configuration by looking at the position of the stem. Openface movements will have the stem at the 12:00 position while hunting movements will have the stem located at the 3:00 position.
Why was the Pocket Watch Database created?
Finding information about a specific pocket watch movement can be particularly difficult. There are several locations online that contain information, but not a single site has multiple manufacturer lookups in one place. Additionally, many of these resources are not hosted in a stable server environment, occasionally causing a lookup site to be suddenly inaccessible. After the popular Elgin lookup site went offline in late 2011, the Pocket Watch Database was created to restore Elgin lookups and continue to provide information for collectors and enthusiasts. Since that time, anufacturers have been added as time and resources allow.
What sources were used to compile the database?
Multiple sources were utilized for each of the manufacturers in our database. The primary sources consist of existing serial number tables, factory production ledgers, material catalogs, wholesale catalogs, printed identification guides, and various online forums. Multiple resources originally compiled by the late Roy Ehrhardt were also used.
What is the roadmap for the Pocket Watch Database?
As time and resources permit, more information will be added to the database and accuracy will be improved. The goal is to have a single source that can offer numerous manufacturer lookups. The site is hosted and maintained on a professional server and we are dedicated to keeping this resource online indefinitely.