Finally, if the pocket watch has a cover, look for "AWco" written on the inside. This will indicate that the cover was also made by Waltham. If there is a "K" with a number, it means that the case is made of gold, with the number indicating how many carats it is. For example, "K18" means the case is made out of 18-carat gold.
Yes, Abraham Lincoln did in fact own a Waltham pocket watch. Upon the Gettysburg Address, the 16th President was presented with a Waltham pocket watch model 1857, serial numbered 67613. The watch is currently on display in the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
Please use the following tables to help determine the approximate age of your watch. Remove or open the back cover from your watch and look for a number engraved into the movement; this is the serial number for your watch, and by using it, you can find the closest years it was made on these tables. Please note there is a difference between the number marked on the movement and the one marked on the case. These tables are only accurate for the movement serial numbers.
Waltham 16 size; 9 jewels; steel escapewheel; pendant setting; old railroad style dial and hands; base metal with stainless steel back and bezel snap type case. Serial number 30_555_111 made in July of 1940. A good watch to carry. Please feel free to ask questions about the condition. [click here for case back view] [click here for movement view]
Waltham 18 size, 15 jewels, Appleton Tracy & Co. Grade, model 1883, hunting style mens pocket watch. Stem wind and lever setting. Double sunk Roman numeral porcelain dial. Beetle hands. Made around 1886. Gold filled hunting case.
18 Size, 15 jewels, PS Bartlett grade, Model 1883 made around 1884, Porcelain roman numeral dial, spade hands 3 oz coin silver case. Interesting watch register case paper. View Movement, View Caseback, View Inside Caseback, View Watch Paper.
This page contains INSTRUCTIONS for using the serial number look-up tables that are found on many of our watch company history pages. The example below uses information from the American Waltham Watch Company, but that is just an example. You should consult the serial number table for the specific brand of watch movement you are trying to date by selecting a company from the menu on the left.
Not all vintage watches can be dated using the serial number. Some American watch brands did not use a consistent series of serial numbers, but most of the big manufacturers did. Most vintage Swiss pocket watches did NOT have serial numbers and can't be dated by this method.
Many watch companies made hundreds of thousands of watches, and some companies made millions of watches! It would be impractical to list the individual serial numbers of EVERY watch made... that would make some really long pages! Our serial number tables list RANGES of serial numbers. So to determine when your watch was manufactured, you will need to find where your serial number fits within the range of numbers.
Let's say you have a Waltham watch with serial number 21,607,210 as shown in the photo below. Note that we're using the serial number from the watch movement, not from the watch case. Looking at the table of Waltham serial numbers (see example below), you can see that number 20,900,000 was made in 1917 and 21,800,000 was made in 1918 (marked in red in the table below). Since your serial number falls between those two numbers, you know that your watch was made in 1917 or 1918.
You must use the serial number from the MOVEMENT of the watch... the working part with the wheels and gears... not the serial number from the watch case. Cases and watches were often made by different companies and each usually has its own serial number. You usually have to take the back off the watch case to see the movement serial number which may appear anywhere on the watch movement.
What metals were commonly used to make watch cases? Is every gold-colored case watch case made of gold? Are all silver-colored watch cases made of silver? Answers to these and many other questions about watch case materials can be found below.
If your vintage pocket watch is in a gold-colored case, odds are pretty good that your case is gold-plated or gold-filled, or even just gold-colored metal. There were far more gold-filled cases made than solid-gold "karat cases"... in fact, it is estimated that only about 5% of cases produced were solid gold. These days, solid-gold cases have become even more scarce because so many of the large gold cases have been sold or melted-down for their gold-value (a practice we abhor and discourage, by the way). But there were some beautiful, solid-gold cases made over the years and some of them have survived intact. So if you have a vintage watch that's housed in a solid-gold case, consider yourself lucky!
It's important to understand the difference between "solid-gold" and "pure gold". Solid-gold means the case is gold all the way through. Pure gold (100%) with no other metals added is called 24-karat, but pure gold would be much too soft to be useful as a metal for making watch cases. Gold must be mixed or "alloyed" with other metals to make it hard enough to be usable. The purity of gold is expressed as a fraction of "pure" 24 karat gold, so if something is marked as 12-karat gold, that means it is 12/24ths or 50% gold. Gold coins are about 22K (91.6%), and the highest purity typically found in jewelry or watch cases is 18K (75%) which was fashionable in Europe. Most solid-gold watch cases sold in the USA were 10K - 14K (41.6% and 58.3%, respectively).
If a watch case is solid-gold it will usually be hallmarked or stamped with a karat symbol or assay mark, like "WARRANTED U.S. ASSAY". Proper case-marks are usually a good indication of gold-content, but gold-testing is advised if you want to be sure. Markings on the case are sometimes ambiguous, and counterfeit or "upgraded" assay marks, while certainly not common, are known to exist. A good jeweler or goldsmith should be able to acid-test your case for gold-purity. Below are examples of markings on solid-gold watch cases.
James Boss, an early partner in the company that was to become the Keystone Watch Case Company, is credited with the development of the gold-filled watch case which was patented in 1859. Although James Boss certainly didn't invent the process of making rolled gold plate, Keystone "J. Boss" watch cases were the first widely adopted and commercially successful gold-filled watch cases, and are still commonly found on vintage watches today. If your Keystone case is marked "J. Boss" or "Jas. Boss" then it is a gold-filled case. After Keystone achieved success with gold-filled cases, many other case manufacturers began producing gold-filled cases.
Gold-filled cases were made by sandwiching together 2 bars of gold (typically about 1/2" thick) on either side of a bar of base-metal, usually brass or brass-alloy (typically 3/4" thick). The 3 bars were soldered together under high pressure and high temperature in specially constructed ovens. The composite 3-layer bar was then rolled through high-pressure rolling mills until the desired thickness was reached. The gold layers could consist of 10-karat, 14-karat or 18-karat gold. While this process produced a thicker layer of gold than electro-plating, the gold content was still no more than 5-10% of the total case weight. As such, gold-filled watches do not have any significant gold value.
Gold-filled cases were often marked with a guarantee, another innovation credited to James Boss, which specified a number of years that the case was guaranteed to wear. A case that's marked "14K Warranted 20 Years" meant that the gold-filled case was made with a layer of 14K gold, and was guaranteed that the gold-layer would not wear through to the brass for a period of 20 years. If your case is marked "Warranted 20 Years" or "10 Year Guaranteed" or any other reference to a number of years or guarantee, then that is a sure indication that it is a gold-filled or gold-plated case. Note that the year-guarantee was related to the thickness of the gold layer, not to the karat-quality of the gold used in the gold layers. In general, a longer guarantee implied a thicker layer of gold. Most gold-filled cases were made with 10K or 14K gold.
The year-guarantee markings on cases continued until 1924, when the practice was prohibited by law due to the failure of some manufacturers to stand behind the so-called guarantees. If your watch case says"Guaranteed for x Years" you know that it was made prior to 1924. After 1924, gold-filled cases were simply marked "Gold-Filled" as seen below.
There are examples of pocket watch cases made in platinum, rhodium or other "exotic" metals but these are quite rare. Many materials have been used to produce "one-of-a-kind" watch cases, but the materials listed above make up the vast majority of cases the collector is likely to encounter.
As the window to your timepiece, the watch crystal takes some of the hardest hits, and the brunt of the everyday wear and tear. To extend the life of your watch crystal, crystals are made of different materials to ensure different kinds of strength. Plastic crystals are the most flexible of all the watch crystals, and therefore are used in a wide range of watches. Glass crystals are also common in watches. The wonderful thing about plastic and glass crystals is the fact that they can be custom cut, shaped, or trimmed to fit different watch cases. Here you will be able to find crystals to fit everything from wristwatches to pocket watches. We stock plastic, glass, mineral glass, and synthetic sapphire watch crystals, as well as the watch tools you need to repair or replace the crystal of almost any watch brand like: Bulova, Rolex, Seiko, Pulsar, Lorus, Citizen, Omega, and more.
Between 1924 and 1949 Bulova used a date code symbol on their watch movements to indicate the year that movement was assembled. Between the same years most Bulova watch cases also had a serial number that started with the number corresponding to the year of assembly. 2b1af7f3a8