Affordable Pocket Watch Buying Guide

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Affordable Pocket Watch Buying Guide

There is always a dashing gentleman in those old, classic movies who, whenever someone asks for the time, readily pulls out a pocket watch. A classic symbol of luxury and elegance, pocket watches fell out of favour with changing times as people started wearing wristwatches. Yet even today, one can find a dapper gentlemen who wouldn't dream of wearing a suit without pairing it with a pocket watch.

These fine pieces of timekeeping jewellery can be purchased brand new from a jewellery store, while used ones are readily found in pawn shops. Online websites like eBay offer new, used, and antique pocket watches that can fit into every budget, making them quite affordable. They make a perfect gift for special occasions such as weddings or even anniversaries. When choosing a pocket watch, a buyer should select a piece based on its style, movement, and composition that best fits his needs.

Pocket Watch Styles

A good place to begin exploring pocket watch styles is to understand their history. Pocket watches date as far back as the 16th century, where they were only worn by members of the nobility. This is because of the immense cost and time it took to make a single watch from a single craftsman who had to expertly construct all of the tiny gears. Throughout the centuries, pocket watches were mainly worn by men, though some decorative antique models strung from necklaces belonged to women. They are designed to fit primarily into either a suit pocket or a pants pocket, and have a chain that allows them to stay securely attached to their owner.

Pocket Watch Face Designs

When it comes to pocket watches, almost all of them use the analogue watch face. This is the model with an hour and minute hand that tells time by pointing at numbers. While it is of course possible to make a digital pocket watch, many watch collectors believe this defeats the whole purpose of buying a classic pocket watch. Therefore, when discussing watch face design, dealers are truly discussing the case of the pocket watch and not the face itself.

Open-Face Design

The open-face design does not have a cover. It is easier to tell time in this design, since the wearer simply pulls the watch out of his pocket and inspects it. However, one flaw with open-face watches is that the glass around the face tends to get scratched. Many vintage open-faced pocket watches, for example, had their glass faces replaced due to this very reason.

Hunter Design

The hunter design uses a cover that snaps open on a hinge. As its name suggests, it was originally developed to be worn for the gentlemanly pastime of hunting. The case of the hunter pocket watch provided extra protection for the watch face. While users do have to open the case to tell time, in return for this small hassle they receive a very durable pocket watch.

Pocket Watch Movements

The movement of a pocket watch determines how it tells time. There are two types: quartz and mechanical. Many buyers prefer one over the other for a variety of reasons. While each have their own pros and cons, these are mainly tied in with the perceptions of the buyer. People who like quartz watches may find mechanical ones to be a hassle, while those who prefer mechanical watches find quartz models somewhat gaudy.

Quartz Pocket Watches

Quartz pocket watches work by using a small electrified quartz crystal that powers the watch. Their main claim to fame is that they are highly accurate devices for keeping time. In fact, throughout an entire year a quartz watch keeps time as accurately as one half of a single second. Quartz watches are a more modern invention, so those who prefer this style need to look for new models and stay away from vintage ones. People who want a highly accurate watch should select one that uses quartz movements.

Mechanical Pocket Watches

Mechanical pocket watches are considerably older than quartz pocket watches. They work through mechanical energy, and the older models are wound every day so that they keep working. Modern mechanical watches use automatic winding that responds to body movement so that they do not need to be wound daily. The inside of a mechanical pocket watch is devilishly complicated, and many watch faces have open sections, allowing users to get a glimpse of the inner workings inside. One of the main downsides of mechanical movements is that they are not as precise as quartz. People who buy mechanical pocket watches appreciate them for their nostalgic value and fine watchmaking qualities.

Jewel-Bearing Watches

When buying mechanical watches, customers may run across terms such as 17-jewel watch or 20-jewel watch and wonder where this comes from since they do not see any jewels on the watch itself. Unlike most other pieces of jewellery, these jewels have a purpose as bearings for the gears of the watch. Hidden deep inside the innards of a mechanical watch, the immense strength of the jewel keeps the bearing from grinding down over time. Old watches may use natural diamonds, rubies, or sapphires while modern variations use synthetic rubies.

Pocket Watch Chain

Pocket watches use several different chains. Buyer can either purchase one with their pocket watch, or get it separately. A belt chain works with pocket watches worn in pants pockets, and attaches to the belt. Buttonhole chains are for pocket watches worn in a vest or suit pocket, and they attach to a buttonhole. The decorative fob chain isn't attached to anything. Instead, the watch rests inside the pocket while the end of the fob chain, usually adorned with a decorative fob, hangs outside.

Pocket Watch Metals

Pocket watches are made from several different metals, and this greatly affects their value. The most practical option is likely the stainless steel pocket watch, since this metal is highly durable and scratch-resistant. It is also an affordable option and found on many modern pocket watches. Gold, silver, and brass were all commonly used on older pocket watches, and these metals are more valuable which means the price is more expensive. However, they have their flaws since gold is soft and bendable, while both silver and brass tarnish with time. One affordable option for those who want a watch made from precious metal is to purchase it in used or antique condition as opposed to brand new. However, make sure the watch is entirely made out of metal and is not plated. Metal plating tends to start rubbing off with daily use, revealing the unattractive alloy underneath.

Buying Pocket Watches on eBay

Watch enthusiasts already know that eBay is the place to go for all of their timekeeping needs. Pocket watches from all eras including the modern glow in the dark face of a quartz pocket watch, and a classic golden hunter cover pocket watch, can all be found on eBay. With such a wide variety of watches being sold and sellers competing avidly against one another, it is easy to find a fantastic deal on a pocket watch. Even high quality pocket watches sold in used condition can be found on eBay for affordable prices.

Searching for Pocket Watches

When it comes to looking for pocket watches, customers should learn how to use the search engine to their advantage. Start out by typing in a general term  such as 'pocket watch' to get an overall feel of the selection. Typically, a search like this returns thousands of results, so it is best to narrow down the search parameters even further. A search for 'open faced pocket watch', only returns results for those watches in the open face design. Even with these refined results, it can be difficult to get a handle on all of the many auctions, so customers can continue to narrow the terms by searching for 'mechanical open faced pocket watch'. As more search terms are added, fewer results are returned.

Used and Vintage Pocket Watches

Buyers can get fabulous deals, from used and vintage watches, if they do a little background research beforehand. More so than other watches, pocket watches need to be serviced periodically, but many sellers fail to disclose the service history of a watch. Unless the seller mentions servicing upfront, the buyer should always ask about servicing before placing a bid. While serviced watches typically cost more, many buyers are willing to trade the higher price in return for buying a working watch.


Worn by the members of the upper class for hundreds of years, pocket watches carry with them a badge of honour and success. While owning a pocket watch does not guarantee these things, it does possess a sense of classic style, and always looks appealing when paired with a fine tailored suit.

Those who want to purchase pocket watches should start with understanding their unique attributes, and how they affect the watch. The watch's design affects its appearance and longevity. Its movements affect how accurately it was made and how stringently it keeps time. Its chain affects how the watch can be worn. Its metal construction affects its overall value and outward design. eBay sells pocket watches from many different eras, allowing buyers to find them in new, used, and vintage condition. By carefully selecting the right watch, the owner can get the satisfaction of owning an incredibly useful piece of history.

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