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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My venture into the vintage wristwatch arena has lead me into antique pocket watches.

I want to start with a fairly inexpensive (around the $300 range) pocket watch. I was thinking that Hamilton or Illinois would be a good brand to begin with? I am unsure.

Any guidance would be appreciated. Thanks.
 

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Both good brands. Hamilton actually bought Illinois back in the late 1920s. Of the two I'd choose Hamilton since they were in business as recently as 1969. More parts around, Illinois hasn't made anything since 1930.
My personal choice for a starter pocket watch would be Elgin - they were the greatest American company and made over 50 million watches in their 100 year history. They don't have the cachet of Hamilton but they made fine watches. Parts are a bit easier to get for an Elgin as well.
Anything 15 jewels or better should be a fine performer. The 21 and 23 jewel railroad grade watches are out of your price range.
Have a look on eBay and remember to add $100 or so to the price you pay if the watch hasn't been serviced.
The two Elgins below - a 1909 15J 16S and a 1905 17J 18S - cost me less than $250 each after service and parts. They both run very well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Both good brands. Hamilton actually bought Illinois back in the late 1920s. Of the two I'd choose Hamilton since they were in business as recently as 1969. More parts around, Illinois hasn't made anything since 1930.
My personal choice for a starter pocket watch would be Elgin - they were the greatest American company and made over 50 million watches in their 100 year history. They don't have the cachet of Hamilton but they made fine watches. Parts are a bit easier to get for an Elgin as well.
Anything 15 jewels or better should be a fine performer. The 21 and 23 jewel railroad grade watches are out of your price range.
Have a look on eBay and remember to add $100 or so to the price you pay if the watch hasn't been serviced.
The two Elgins below - a 1909 15J 16S and a 1905 17J 18S - cost me less than $250 each after service and parts. They both run very well.
Great advice Ray. While seeking out a couple vintage military pieces, numerous collectors also suggested American brand (Waltham, Hamilton, Elgin) watches due to the availability of parts later on down the road.

I'll definitely take a look at the Elgin models you mentioned.

Do you try to stick to solid gold and silver models due to the eventual wear on gold filled casings? I noticed that stainless steel models were never popular with pocket watches.

:thanks
 

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No I never worry about the case. Most of mine are gold filled. I have a coin silver Dueber case on my Hampden (not a big surprise) and it is badly worn. My grandfather MacDonald's Elgin watch is in a silveroid (nickel-copper) case. Still looks great.
The watch movement is far more important than the case to me..but I come from some railroad/stationary engineer ancestors who cared more about the tool than the case.
 

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Sent you a link for a buddy of mine, and also will keep you in mind re our discussion. Waltham, Elgin, Illinois 15-17 jewel you should be able to secure within your price range. You need to decide if a hunter or open face. Hunters judge the wear by the covers opening to about 90 degrees little wear, best indicator. You should be able to get a nice opened face piece with screw on covers back and front too. I like screw on covers as they tend to be more dust free over the years. In a hunter try to look for a 20 or 25 year gold fill case also in about your price range. I actually really like Silverine or Silveroid cases in open face style, they tend to be extremely durable more so than coin silver.
 
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