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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Shopping for a Pocketwatch - Part 2, Cases
The first two categories of watch cases to be familiar with are hunter, or hunting, cases and open face cases.
Hunter cases seem to be what everyone wants today, however you should be aware that there are some significant drawbacks. Hunter cases are very much more fragile due to the extra moving parts. The hinge for the cover is easily bent, or broken. And the glass on the front, the crystal, has to be paper thin to allow room inside.
If you are looking for a watch that can stand up to frequent use, open face is the way to go.
The most common material for antique watch cases are either one of several nickle alloys, or gold filled, or the similar rolled gold. Solid gold and solid silver are also around, but of course tend to be more expensive. For watches at lower prices, to be used occasionally, the nickle alloy, or gold filled are both good choices.
The material of a case is often marked inside the back cover. The nickle alloy cases will say silveroid, silverode or something similar.
Gold filled, or rolled gold, cases may, inside the back, say guaranteed or warranted for a number of years, such as 10, 20 or 25. This number of years is a reflection of the thickness of the gold, and therefor the expected number of year of wear before the base material shows though.
Gold filled and rolled cases are made using a sandwich of base metal, often brass, with gold on the outside. This sandwich is rolled or otherwise squeezed to the desired thickness, and the case is made from the resulting sheets.
Vintage watch cases are not gold plated. The amount of of gold in the outer layer on a gold filled case is much greater. Gold plating would likely wouldn't last even one year before being worn through.
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