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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
If you think it's difficult identifying a Swiss made wristwatch from the 1960s, just try dating pocket watches. We have had some real interesting ones here since Ernie changed the name of our forum. :-!
So I'm going to give some brief tips on how you can do it. Of course, JohnF and I will be around to help you but for your interest here goes from easy to harder ID work.
(1) If you have an American made watch built after 1860 or so, or a famous brand like Omega, well..Bob's your uncle. The serial numbers records for the watch movements are available online or in a common book like Shugart's price guide. You can nail these right down to the year of manufacture. Case serial numbers are useless, by the way. You need the number off the movement.
(2) If you have a silver or gold cased English watch, the hallmarks can often give you a clue as to the year of manufacture.
(3) If you have a verge movement, chances are your watch is older than 1850.
(4) If you have a double cased watch with inner and outer case, your watch likely dates to before 1830.
(5) If you have an English watch with a chain drive and English lever movement, your watch was likely made between 1850 and 1910.
(6) If the dial of your watch is ceramic, the watch was probably made before 1920.
(7) If you have a cylinder escapement in your watch , it's likely not English but it could have been made anywhere from 1740 to 1940. You'll obviously need more clues. :think:
(8) If you have a Swiss lever (straight line) escapement your watch was likely made after 1840 but they're still making them so....:-s
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Vintage Watch Identification - Read This First

Time for another sticky note as we are getting more first posting requests for identification of vintage wrist and pocket watches. Here are some rules to help us help you.

(1) Please post pictures, preferably of the watch movement. This is very important as in 95% of the cases we get we can't go anywhere without a photo. A picture of the dial helps us guess the decade, and of the movement, calibre and maker. Sometimes we can read the serial number as well and that may or may not be helpful.

(2) If you have an American pocket watch, a Rolex, Longines or Omega vintage watch, please give us the serial number off the movement (not the case). We are able to identify such watches precisely with our books and online sources.
Case serial numbers don't help in most situations, but sometimes the hallmarks on a gold or silver pocket watch case give us a clue.

(3) American made antique and vintage watches are in general easier to identify than Swiss made ones. In fact some Swiss brands are totally obscure, have disappeared forever into the mists of antiquity. In those situations we should be able to guess the decade of manufacture from the style, but that's about it. A lot of Swiss brands were strictly jeweler's private label makes - I had a Helicon from the 1970s like this.

(4) Unfortunately we cannot identify Gruen watches from records as their meticulously maintained documents were destroyed by the idiots who bought Gruen in the late 1950s. This is a tragedy, but what can we do?

(5) Be careful when deciding to open up a watch for pictures of a movement. Here are some common sense ideas from one of our respected members:

It is important that a watch only be opened if:
  • It is really necessary to do so
  • You realize that the movement in a watch is very delicate and can easily be damaged
  • You really know how to open the case and have the proper tools
  • You can do this in a clean environment
  • You take care to avoid introducing marks, dust, lint, or fingerprints onto the dial or movement
  • You know how to close the case and have the proper tools
  • You realize that opening a watch may compromise its water resistance (of course, most vintage watch never had or no longer possess water resistance)
  • You remember that if you encounter difficulty or uncertainty at any point, you should stop and ask questions about how to proceed or take the watch to a watchmaker.
 
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