Classic watches, watchmaking, antique tools, history, vintage ephemera and more!

Learn about mechanical timepieces and how they work, the history of the American watch industry and especially all about the Elgin National Watch Company! Check back for new content daily.

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Getting Started Collecting Vintage Watches

Want to know how to Collect Antique Pocket watches?

It will soon be 2015 and while the usual resolutions will be as common as always, why not add something new, or old as the case may be, to the mix?

Start a collection of pocketwatches.  Or, if you already have a couple, why not take it up a notch?

Why Collect Antique Pocketwatches?


Mechanical watches are fascinating machines, but if you are reading this, you likely already know this. But they also have a rich history of invention and are integral in the industrialization of both Europe and America. It's hard to imagine, but there was a time when knowing the time was quite unusual. The measurement of time makes it not only possible to meet someone at noon, but indeed is critical to a modern work day as we know it.


In the late 19th and early 20th century, timepieces experienced a technological boom. Thanks to improved manufacturing techniques, and innovations in the technology, costs reached the point where most working people could afford a watch - they were perhaps comparable to buying a nice laptop today. Because of this, there are simply a lot of watches out there, and particularly most American watches of the period are commonly available at reasonable costs.

Getting Started

Some tips that would apply to any collectible, apply well to pocketwatches.

1. Most watches are not an investment.
While values of pocketwatches have increased significantly in the past few years, the main reason to collect them remains personal enjoyment. Antique and collectible markets are notoriously unreliable. Buy watches you like, don't expect to get rich, and you'll sleep better at night. This is often said of collectibles, and it's quite true.

2. Don't just buy anything and everything.
Buy items you like, but buy very good examples of various types, not just anything. It's better to have one really fine example of a certain style than six wreaks.

3. Pick a focus and learn about it.
There's various angles to take to get started.  For example, military watches, railroad watches, ladies watches, or watch accessories like chains and fobs. American products like Elgins are a good choice because they, for the most part, are affordable and reasonable to repair. Parts are still around.

4. Read everything you can about the topic.
With a focus in mind, get educated on it. This is part of the fun. Learn the terminology, the companies, the personalities - important watchmakers and businessmen... There is a deep history to discover, and the more you know, the better collection you will build. I highly recommend the Engle, Gilbert guide, it's a great resource!


The most important thing is to have fun with a new hobby. There is always more to learn, and the learning never stops. There are mysteries, there are characters, history, and of course the objects themselves. Have fun with all of it!

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