The Pocket Watch Database has compiled data covering the major American pocket watch manufacturers and created an easy way to find information using the serial number on the watch movement. Here are a few tips to find information about your pocket watch:
The serial number is located on the watch movement (the “guts” of the watch). You will need to remove the back of the case to expose the movement. The serial number will be engraved into the metal of the movement plate.
Currently, the Pocket Watch Database provides lookups for watches manufactured by Elgin, Illinois, South Bend, Rockford, Waltham, and Hamilton. Certain private label watches are also available. The goal is to add more manufacturers as time and resources allow.
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 until it is corrected in the database. Reports will also help improve the accuracy of the database.
Checking the enormous dataset for accuracy is a daunting task. If you would like to help, please submit 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 will be displayed on the site for that particular serial number range to help other users. Please only submit a verification if all the information returned by the system is correct. If the information is incorrect, click the “No” option. This will submit an inaccuracy report.
We have recently added value reports in order to help determine the worth 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. You should contact a professional appraiser if you wish to find a more precise value for your watch.
Jeweled movements are prevalent in all American antique pocket 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 usually an indication of the quality of the watch. A low-end watch will have usually have 7-11 jewels. Quality movements will have at least 15 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.
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. Below, you will find a chart of common pocket watch sizes and measurements.
18s - 44.86mm (1 23/30 in.)
16s - 43.18mm (1 21/30 in.)
14s - 41.48mm (1 19/30 in.)
12s - 39.78mm (1 17/30 in.)
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, stem up, stem left, stem right). Watches can also be adjusted to temperature and isochronism, which was common in premium watches.
Pocket watches come in a variety of case types. Two of the most common case configurations are the open-face case and the hunting case.
Open-face cases allow the face of the watch to be exposed at all times.
Hunting cases contain a metal covering that snaps on top of the face when it is not being observed. 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."
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 the cause.
Multiple sources were utilized for each of the manufacturers in our database. The primary sources consisted of existing serial number tables, factory production ledgers, material catalogs, printed identification guides, and various online forums. Multiple resources originally compiled by the late Roy Ehrhardt were used.
As time and resource permit, more manufacturers will be added to the database to provide lookup searches. 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.