Swiss Pocket Watch Buying Guide

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Swiss Pocket Watch Buying Guide

Pocket watches predate wristwatches by nearly 400 years, with the first pocket watch introduced in 1510 in Germany. Through the years, pocket watches became an integral part of high society status, especially pocket watches made mostly or entirely in Switzerland. Swiss pocket watches gained a reputation as making stylish fashion statements during the 19th, and early part of the 20th, centuries. When wristwatches were given to army troops to better coordinate attack timing during World War I, pocket watches began a slow descent into obscurity. For the past 50 years, pocket watches are more collector's items than they are functional timekeeping pieces favoured by consumers.

Nonetheless, Swiss pocket watches have witnessed a mini-renaissance, as consumers understand the value of making an investment in this piece of men’s jewellery. Consumers can buy Swiss pocket watches at jewellery and antique shops, as well as shop online at the leading auction site, eBay. First, interested consumers should learn what defines a pocket watch, especially one made in Switzerland, as well as understand common pocket watch terms, and know what to look for when buying a Swiss pocket watch.

What Is a Pocket Watch?

A pocket watch fits inside of most pockets, typically waistcoat and trouser pockets. Pocket watches can possess a visible bezel or manufacturers can encase pocket watches with a gold or silver cover. Manufacturers can polish, engrave, or add artistic designs to the protective covers. Pocket watches have small spring latches that open the protective covers. For security reasons, most pocket watch owners secure their watches with a gold or sterling silver chain. The type of chain depends on where the watch is to be stored. A pocket watch T-bar chain slips through a waistcoat buttonhole, and then attaches the spring chain to a belt loop by using a belt clip. Shorter style chains feature fobs on the end of the chains. This type of chain hangs freely from the pocket.

What Defines a Swiss Pocket Watch?

Some manufacturers define Swiss watches as watches completely manufactured in Switzerland or watches that possess a Swiss movement. The Swiss government proclaims that the Swiss share of production costs must be at least 60 per cent for a watch to assume the Swiss label. However, the watch industry proposes a more stringent production cost minimum of 80 per cent. The confusion that surrounds the definition of Swiss watches has led to numerous false claims made by watch sellers. Watches that are entirely manufactured in Switzerland carry the designation "Swiss made" and the manufacturer’s logo prominently displays on either the watch case or on the back of the watch. Consumers should search for Swiss pocket watches entirely manufactured in Switzerland to ensure authenticity. A Swiss-made pocket watch that has been entirely produced in Switzerland encompasses a level of unparalleled quality and durability.

Common Pocket Watch Terms

Consumers who are interested in buying top-of-the-line Swiss pocket watches should familiarise themselves with the most common pocket watch terms. Knowledge of the terms comes in handy when consumers discuss Swiss pocket watch features with a watch sales professional. The following chart lists the most common pocket watch terms and a brief description of each term.

Pocket Watch Term



A hunter-case pocket watch button that opens the case


Translucent pocket watch cover

Constructed with plastic, glass or synthetic sapphire


Referred to as the face of a pocket watch

Displays time


A type of chain that attaches to one end of a watch, but does not secure the watch to the person wearing it


Tightly wound spring steel that provides power for a pocket watch as it unwinds


Type of pocket watch that is accurate to within two or three seconds a day


Mechanism that keeps time

Mechanical or quartz in most pocket watches


Tiny, synthetic ruby used as a bearing to prevent gears from rubbing together

High durability


Weighted wheel that winds the mainspring each time it moves


Open loop that secures pocket watch chains


Type of movement that runs on batteries

The table above is by no means an exhaustive list of pocket watch terms; however, knowing the basic watch terms can assist a buyer when purchasing a Swiss pocket watch. Basic pocket watch jargon is valuable when speaking to sales professionals.

What to Consider Before Buying a Swiss Pocket Watch

Most consumers consider pocket watches to be a relic of a forgotten era. However, pocket watches remain popular amongst antique collectors, as well as consumers who want to exude panache. The slowly growing trend to bring pocket watches back into the consumer mainstream means consumers need to know the five factors that often determine the pocket watch buying decision.


The older the pocket watch, the more value it possesses for the owner. Pocket watches have a long and celebrated history and were primarily used by notable historical figures. Consumers should inquire about the history of a pocket watch that they are considering for purchase. Pocket watches engraved with historical references carry considerable value.


Manufacturers produce pocket watches in two designs. Hunter-case pocket watches have covers that fit over watch faces. The covers attach by a hinge and open with a spring-release mechanism. Most Hunter-case pocket watches require the user to activate the spring by pressing a button. Open-face pocket watches do not have any protective casings and the stem attaches to a chain at the 12 o’clock position. Chains attach to Hunter-case watches at the three o’clock position. Look for practical features of either style that include luminescent displays and the capability to display a 24-hour clock.


Chains secure pocket watches to clothing to prevent loss or theft. Belt chains contain a clip that attaches to the belt and the chain is long enough to reach deep into a man’s trouser pocket. Buttonhole chains attach to buttons, and thus, do not provide the level of security that belt chains do. The pocket watch dangles from the button, which can easily tear if the watch becomes ensnared on an object. T-shaped pocket watch chains have a flat, T-shaped piece that pushes through a buttonhole instead of attaching directly to a button. Both buttonhole and T-shape chains attach to waistcoats. Fob chains are strictly decorative pieces that do not attach to any article of clothing.


Pocket watches have either mechanical or quartz movement. Mechanical movement has historically utilised a group of springs and gears that users manually wind. Recent innovations have created self-winding mechanical pocket watches that wind based on body movement. This type of pocket watch works on an internal wheel that is weighted on one end. Quartz movement pocket watches operate on battery power. Quartz movement watches do not require winding and they provide the most accurate depiction of time.


Pocket watch value depends largely on the materials used for construction. Since pocket watches are constructed for daily use, they must possess high levels of durability. Stainless steel is the strongest metal used to make pocket watches and it is the most resistant to tarnishes and scratches. Consumers who live in humid climates should seriously consider stainless steel pocket watches. Gold can resist tarnish, but it does a poor job of preventing scratches. Sterling silver is strong enough not to bend, but it oxidises when in contact with water or water vapour. Think about how much use the pocket watch gets before making a decision on construction material.


Consumers need to look for the "Swiss made" designation to ensure authenticity. They should also find that Swiss pocket watches are water resistant to 30 meters. Look for 17-jewel mechanical movement pocket watches that utilise synthetic rubies as bearings. Ruby bearings provide smoother movements between calibrations. Moreover, consider pocket watches that display large 12-hour dial numbers or Roman numerals, which make watches much easier to read.

Buying Swiss Pocket Watches on eBay

The growing Swiss pocket watch revival means eBay has plenty of sellers who offer Swiss pocket watches. To verify a seller is offering an authentic Swiss pocket watch, look for the "Swiss made" designation in the seller’s product photograph. To find a seller who meets your shopping criteria, type keywords into eBay’s powerful search engine, and then navigate through the search result pages until you find the right Swiss pocket watch seller. Type specific keywords, such as "Seiko pocket watch" or "new Swiss pocket watch" to reduce the number of search result pages. Once you find the right seller, review the seller’s accepted payment methods, return policies, and delivery terms located on the seller’s product page.

To ensure authenticity, buy a Swiss pocket watch from one of eBay’s Top-Rated Sellers. The top-rated sellers have earned strong reputations for selling superior products and running fair auctions. You can also review the customer feedback that eBay presents on seller product pages. Look for positive feedback that extends back at least a year, and preferably, some of the positive feedback comes from satisfied watch buyers. In addition, try to find a seller who offers a lengthy return window so you can ensure that you have received a high-quality Swiss pocket watch.


Pocket watches have a history of presenting a favourable fashion light on anyone who wears one. Swiss pocket watches convey even more status, as any watch that carries the "Swiss made" designation is more valuable than any other type of watch. Combine pocket watches with Swiss manufacturing and consumers have one of the more esteemed status symbols available. Swiss pocket watches are considered to be of the highest quality, both in reading time accurately and providing users with uncompromised durability. Because of their positive attributes, Swiss pocket watches have witnessed a consumer renaissance.

The revival means anyone who is interested in purchasing a Swiss pocket watch should become familiar with 11 common terms that encompass pocket watches. They should also search for Swiss pocket watches that carry historical significance, since these types of watches carry more value. Consumers also need to consider factors such as design, construction, and movement before they make a purchasing decision. If consumers reach an impasse during the Swiss pocket watch buying process, they should consult with a watch industry sales professional who can guide them towards the right watch.

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