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I think it would be good if you're more precise the word "reputable". In europe you can buy with some patience and spit a really reliable Zenith or IWC for a low three-digit amound for example (Don't forget to add the service) in a siver case..but often the brand on the dial is missing. Still reputable ?? If he prefer gold its getting a bid more expensive :). For pocket watch collctors the quality of the movement is most important. If I would be rich I'd buy a Audemars if it is possible to get one. The watches are gregorious and more than reputable for a very smal group of people. A lot of high end watches often based on LeCoultre movements exicist and had been exported to your continent (Jules Jürgensen, Auguste Saltzmann, Touchon, Tiffany etc.). If he search in this more than collectable region its nessesary to learn about watches. Don't buy anywhere in the net if you search the one watch. Mainly he should love the design of the hole watch. You can spend betwen a few dollars and a smal fortune.
Living in Central Canada I guess to look for railroad grade american watches out of this aera would be most useful. Personal I would say Howard but I don't know a lot about the american watches as well about english ones.

Regards Silke
 

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US pocket watches can be reasonably accurately (sometimes very accurately) dated via movement serial numbers - see the Pocket Watch Database link as one useful method, (it's not always completely accurate but is pretty good)...

https://pocketwatchdatabase.com/search/result/hamilton/1163553

I'd recommend looking at 18 size watches from Waltham and Elgin. For Waltham the Model 1883 watches are quite plentiful, good quality, and would cover your date. The trick is to find that particular date of manufacture amoungst all the available examples. If looking on eBay you can specify the 1896 date in your search criteria and then check the serial number on the watch on offer just to check the seller has got it right. The 1883s can generally be had for very reasonable prices, too. Note that the Model reference is the date that type of movement was first introduced - they may then have been made for a couple of decades or more. The Waltham Model 1892 watches are another option - they will likely cost a bit more depending on the grade but could also be had from 1896. Keep in mind that such watches will almost always require servicing and so that cost needs to be factored in. Also be aware that with these older pocket watches parts can sometimes be a little hard to find and parts are indeed very often required, (particularly commonly worn or damaged parts such as mainsprings, balance staffs, and balance jewels) even IF a watch is described as "running well" :)
 
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