Collectible Old and Antique Watches - A Historical Guide & Watch Collector's Reference.


 Collectible Watch Parts & the How To of Watches


Antique Watch Appraisal - What's it Worth !

Getting to Know Your Watch - Parts & Terminology

Collectible Watches

Watch Grading Guide

A True Story - Abraham Lincoln's Watch


Swiss complicated Watch


Longines Movement


Hamilton Movement


Gruen Movement


Waltham Crescent St Railroad Pocket Watch with 21 jewel movement, c1901


Let's Talk Collectible Watches: 

Get To Know Your Watch .......
how it's made, antique watch parts, types of collectible watches, & how to talk "Watch Lingo" !!

There are five basic parts to a watch:
- The MAINSPRING and the WINDING MECHANISM provide the power.
- The TRAIN, consisting of wheels, gears and pinions, controls and turns the hands.
- The ESCAPEMENT or regulating organ, consists of the escape wheel and balance.
- The SETTING MECHANISM, consisting of the dial and hands, tells the time.
- The HOUSING includes the case and plates that protect

It is important to be familiar with the basic workings of a watch so to improve knowledge and gain insight into recognizing and successfully selecting a quality timepiece.


Types of Collectible Watches

CHRONOGRAPH - not to be confused with chronometer, a chronograph records small increments of time and can be started, stopped 
and returned to zero as desired; stopwatch

CHRONOMETER - a time measuring instrument, especially one keeping exact time at all temperatures as used in navigation; considered a 
universal standard for the utmost quality and a superior level of accuracy.

COMPLICATED WATCHES - designed to do more than just keep time, are also highly desirable. Features of a complicated watch may include the date, day and month, moon phases, various times in different cities or countries, as well as stopwatch, timers, or chimes. Complicated watches are usually designed with buttons on the edge of the case to activate and cease the appropriate mechanism.

This Swiss made complicated watch indicates time, day, date, month, and moon phase with indicator dials of time in seven different cities.

CONVERTIBLE WATCH - introduced by Elgin, it is a watch that can be converted from a hunter's case to an open faced watch and vice-versa.

REPEATER WATCH - or Repeater, a type of complicated watch that allows the owner to ring the hour or quarter hour at the press of a button allowing the wearer freedom to know the time without having to actually look at the watch, and are among the most popular of complicated watches.

AUTOMATION WATCH - figural shapes on the watch carry on an activity in time with each ticking of the watch. For example, a lumberjack with his axe may chop a tree in perfect timing with the tick of the watch or a happy cow may jump over the moon with each ticking of the movement mechanism.

This 1900 automation watch depicts a butcher chopping a pig's head with each tick. Antique watches such as this are highly desired and collectible.

HUNTER'S WATCH - a watch encased with a lid over the dial, upon pushing the crown, the lid snaps open to reveal the dial. 

Collector's Tip: When closing a hunter case, while first pushing in the crown, carefully close the lid, gently pushing only on the edges of the lid because a gold lid is very soft, and pushing in the center may cause bending. Once closed, then release the winding crown. Snapping the case shut will eventually wear out the latch!

DEMI-HUNTER - has an opening in the middle of the case to reveal the time without opening the case lid.

FULLY JEWELED - any watch containing more than 15 jewels. (see also internal parts: jewel)

SKELETON WATCHES - favored by many antique watch collectors, have a glass front and back by which the internal movements of the watch can be seen.


Appearing here is a typical antique skeleton watch made in 1904 by the New England Watch Company and revealing the internal movement through the clear glass front and back.

RAILROAD WATCHES - rather costly at the time of their use because of the quality, accuracy and precision they required, but these collectible watches can be obtained at reasonable prices today. The first railroad watch was created by Waltham in 1890, called the Crescent Street.

DOLLAR WATCHES - introduced in 1892 by Ingersoll of a simple, rugged design with one or no jewels at the price of one dollar. Dollar watches were mass produced for their practicality, and were intended to be as inexpensive as possible. Many manufacturers produced them and the price remained a dollar until about 1950.

REPOUSSE' - raised, hammered decoration on the watch case

SIDE WINDER - a watch movement which has been mismatched with a case, causing the movement to be placed at the 3 o'clock position instead of the 12 o'clock position; usually seen among hunter's watches.

SKULL WATCH - an antique pendant watch that is hinged at the skull jaw to reveal the watch; very collectible.

TANK WATCH - rectangular shaped watch with heavy metal bars on either side of the dial, often with metal band links representative of 
the tracks made by the wheels of military tanks. Inspired by the tank tracks of World War I and first created by Louis Cartier and 
presented as gift to American General John Pershing.

TRANSITION WATCH - from about 1875 to 1895 watch makers were turning away from key wound mechanisms toward stem wound movements, during this transitional era watch makers produced watches with both.

TOURBILLON WATCH - designed so to reduce error in position of viewing the watch. The escapement is mounted on a pivoting platform that revolves every minute.

Internal Parts

ARBOR - the mechanical axle of a moving part, referred to as the staff on the balance and the arbor on the lever of the mechanism.

AUXILIARY DIAL - any extra dial that provides information.

BALANCE - consists of the balance wheel and the balance spring

BALANCE WHEEL - a weighted wheel that rotates back and forth; it does for a watch what a pendulum does for a clock. The gear train is advanced with each swing of the wheel.

BALANCE SPRING (or hairspring) - governs the balance of the wheel, which determines the timing of a watch.


ESCAPEMENT - keeps the motion of train and the energy of the mainspring in check, and includes the escape wheel, lever, balance and hairspring.

JEWEL - used as bearings within the mechanism to reduce friction and wear, improving the accuracy and performance and prolonging usefulness. There are four types of jewels each contributing to a different function. 

FUSEE - a chain and wheel connected to the mainspring barrel used to equalize the power of the mainspring; rarely used on modern watches after 1890 due to the space requirements and complexity of their use.

MAINSPRING - when the watch is wound, the mainspring holds the energy to run the watch.

MOVEMENT - the workings of a mechanical watch without the case or dial; called the module in quartz watches.

PLATE - a watch has a front and back plate; the workings are placed in between.

STAFF - the axle of the balance.

TRAIN - a series of gears that form the workings of the watch and carries the power to the escapement.



This 1920 pocket watch by Dudley Watch Company of PA, depicts symbols of the Masonic order, a square, compass, eye, trowel, level, Bible & 5 of the 19 ruby bearings.


 Digital Pocket Watch, 1890





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