Antique Watches: A Journey Through History
Antique watches are like windows into a bygone era, especially considering pocket watches make up the majority of these timepieces. Each watch is truly one of a kind, making them interesting for collectors and enthusiasts alike.
5 Reasons to Buy an Antique Watch
- Most are custom, handmade pieces
- Gold or silver cases, often heavily decorated
- Top models with complications like a chronograph or minute repeater
- A piece of history in your pocket
- Popular collector's items, including affordable models
Watches from Days Gone By
Antique watches are growing in popularity among watch collectors and enthusiasts. However, there's no set definition of what exactly constitutes an antique watch. The boundary between antique and vintage watches is quite blurred. As a general rule, all timepieces produced before 1940 can be considered antique; anything more recent is vintage.
Most antique watches come from an era when wristwatches were either nonexistent or an extremely niche product. This is why the majority of antique timepieces are pocket watches.
Some of the most refined pieces come from illustrious brands like Patek Philippe, A. Lange & Söhne, Breguet, and Jaeger-LeCoultre. For something more affordable, there's also a wide variety of interesting watches from the likes of Junghans, Zenith, and Omega. Regardless of the price and manufacturer, these timepieces all have one thing in common: They serve as time capsules from a bygone era.
How much do antique watches cost?
|Model||Price (approx.)||Case/Movement no.|
|Zenith Pocket Watch||330 USD||Silver, 52 mm/19-34-3T|
|Omega Pocket Watch||390 USD||Silver, 50 mm/4901982|
|H. Moser & Cie. Pocket Watch Conversion||940 USD||Silver, 51 mm/584581|
|A. Lange & Söhne Pocket Watch||3,500 USD||Yellow gold, 52 mm/37885|
|Patek Philippe Pocket Watch||80,500 USD||Rose gold, 50 mm/80.117|
Affordable Antique Watches
Collecting antique watches is a fantastic hobby. The selection is enormous, and almost every timepiece is truly one of a kind since they were made by hand. Moreover, their affordable prices make antique watches a great starting point for any collection. Pocket watches from small, long-forgotten manufacturers sell for as little as 90 to 210 USD. Most are made of silver and have intricately engraved case backs.
There are also plenty of inexpensive options from more prestigious brands, including Zenith, Longines, and Omega. Their cases are also silver and hand-engraved. Most of these timepieces come from the turn of the century and share the same basic design: a white dial with Breguet numerals, a small seconds at 6 o'clock. and either classic Breguet hands or elaborate Louis XV hands.
Prices for well-maintained pocket watches begin around 280 USD. Models with especially detailed decoration demand about 440 USD.
Highly Coveted Pieces with Hefty Price Tags
Some collectors consider antique watches from storied manufacturers like Patek Philippe and A. Lange & Söhne their personal holy grail. The majority of these timepieces have intricately engraved gold cases. Inside, you'll find in-house calibers, often with chronograph or minute repeater complications. Many come with certificates of authenticity and in their original packaging, which further increases their value. Antique A. Lange & Söhne pocket watches sell for anywhere from 3,300 to 63,000 USD.
Pieces from Patek Philippe cost between 4,900 and 81,000 USD. However, watches with especially elaborate decoration require a much larger investment. For example, they may be encrusted with precious gems or feature an engraved portrait of their former owner. These timepieces are extremely rare and often cost well over 111,000 USD.
Prices for Early Wristwatches
It's quite difficult to find antique wristwatches. You'll have more luck searching for pocket watches that were later mounted on a bracelet or strap. There are modified pieces from nearly every manufacturer. This includes traditional watch companies like Vacheron Constantin and H. Moser & Cie. Depending on the model and its features, prices for these converted pocket watches range from 940 to 3,400 USD.
Nowadays, you'll find some new wristwatches outfitted with movements and dials from antique pocket watches. The result is the best of both worlds: the charm of an antique watch and the comfort of a modern wristwatch. What's more, these semi-antique watches sell for interesting prices. Timepieces with a refurbished Patek Philippe movement can cost as little as 13,500 USD. Watches with calibers from Jaeger-LeCoultre or IWC are even more affordable at 3,300 to 5,600 USD.
When it comes it genuine antique wristwatches, most are women's watches created for luxury stores like Tiffany & Co. You'll find pieces from big names like Cartier and Patek Philippe. These timepieces are rather rare and, therefore, demand prices anywhere from 16,500 to well over 55,000 USD.