The Complete Guide to Buying a Pocket Watch on eBay

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The Complete Guide to Buying a Pocket Watch on eBay

Pocket watches have existed since the 1500s. Initially, they only had an hour hand, so they were unreliable and mostly worn for appearances. They became more precise as technology improved and the minute hand appeared on watches in 1680, with the second hand appearing a decade later. Pocket watches were traditionally worn attached to a waistcoat, but today they can be stored simply in a trouser pocket or attached to a leather holder on a belt loop. Pocket watches can be simple or ornate, and are made from a variety of materials.

During the buying process shoppers should consider their budget, the style of pocket watch, and the materials, movement, and case used. One place to find a broad selection of pocket watches is the online retail site eBay.. Buyers can browse a large selection of pocket watches at great prices. Shoppers need only to enter a keyword in the search box on the homepage to see all of the available pocket watches. 

Budget for a Pocket Watch

Pocket watches range significantly in price, so buyers should set a limit on how much they are willing to spend. The budget should include any accessories, such as a chain or a holder. Before buying, it is also a good idea to research a number of pocket watches to get a good idea of a fair price for a particular kind of watch. To stay within the budget, buyers can use eBay's sort feature on the results page to specify a price range.

Styles of Pocket Watch

Pocket watches can be divided into five main styles: open faced, double hunter, full hunter, half hunter, and double half hunter. The terms refer to how the watch face, which indicates the time, is displayed.

Open Face Pocket Watches

An open face pocket watch has no cover, so offers a simple and straightforward design. The time can be read easily without having to open a case. Open face watches are a modern style, relatively speaking: they were rarely used until the twentieth century because the pieces of a pocketwatch were delicate and susceptible to breaking.

Double Hunter Pocket Watches

The double hunter pocket watch style has a protective case wrapped around the watch, with two covers. The one at the front opens to display the time, and the rear cover reveals the timekeeping mechanism, called the movement. While meant to be kept in a pocket, the double hunter style can also be stood on a surface with both covers open so that the time can be read easily.

Full Hunter Pocket Watches

Full hunter pocket watches have a case around the watch, like double hunter styles. However, they have only one cover, which opens at the front to reveal the time: the clock movement is left hidden. This style of watch can be very ornate or engraved.

Half Hunter Pocket Watches

The half hunter pocket watch simplifies the full hunter watch design by using covers with a clear window set into them so that the watch does not need to be opened to tell the time. This still gives the watch the benefit of a protective case, which makes it a convenient choice.

Double Half Hunter Pocket Watches

Double half hunter pocket watches combine the characteristics of the double hunter and half hunter styles. They have two lids that open fully, and both have windows from which to view the watch's face and inner workings. This style of watch maintains its protective case and allows owners to view the ornate workings of the timepiece as an added benefit.

Pocket Watch Movements

The watch movement, refers to the way that the watch keeps track of time. Pocket watches typically have either a mechanical or quartz movement. Mechanical movements are traditional, but quartz movements are more precise and require less maintenance. Buyers can use eBay's sort functions to specify a watch movement to narrow down their search results.

Mechanical Pocket Watch Movements

Mechanical movements are driven by a winding process that stores energy and then drives the gears that keep track of time. Mechanical pocket watches can store enough energy for a set number of hours before needing to be rewound: this is known as the power reserve. When buying a mechanical pocket watch, check how large the power reserve is. A typical reserve is somewhere between 36 and 40 hours. Mechanical pocket watches tend to lose a few minutes per month, so it is a good idea to check the watch against another clock periodically. Mechanical pocket watches are often true works of craftsmanship that can last for generations.

Quartz Pocket Watch Movements

Pocket watches with quartz movements are battery powered. The battery passes an electric current through a quartz crystal, which then vibrates at a constant speed that the watch uses to keep time. A quartz pocket watch loses only a few seconds per month, or about a minute each year. Quartz pocket watches do not need to be wound regularly, but the batteries do need to be replaced periodically. They are typically affordable, but high-end models are also available.  

Pocket Watch Case Material

Pocket watch cases can be made of a variety of materials, including precious metals, such as gold and silver. The types of metal can be divided into two categories: solid or plated. On eBay, shoppers can apply the sort filters to specify a material in addition to using keywords, such as "bronze full hunter pocket watch&".

Solid Metal Pocket Watches

Solid metal pocket watches can be made of gold, silver, bronze, or stainless steel. Each material has its own advantages. For example, gold and silver are highly prized, stainless steel is strong, and bronze is easily affordable.

Gold Pocket Watches

Gold has long been the main choice for any type of jewellery, including watches. It is available in three main colours: rose, white, and traditional yellow. Gold is soft, so it is often blended with other materials to make it stronger. The purity of gold is measured in carats, with 24 carats being pure gold, 18 carats being 75 percent pure gold, and 14 carats being 58.3 percent pure gold.

Silver Pocket Watches

Silver is also a popular choice for watches and jewellery, and it is less expensive than gold. Silver is also soft and is mixed with other metals in the same way as gold. The most popular alloy of silver is sterling silver,, which is 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent other metals, usually copper.

Bronze Pocket Watches

Bronze is less expensive than other precious metals. Bronze is an alloy made of copper, zinc, tin, and nickel, and is a rich golden brown. Bronze is strong and durable, though it can tarnish over time, so it requires some special care.

Stainless Steel Pocket Watches

Stainless steel is a another popular option for pocket watches. It is a strong, tarnish resistant alloy, so a watch made from stainless steel remains in a good condition for a long time with proper care. Its distinctive metallic sheen makes stainless steel a popular choice for men's jewellery and watches.

Plated Pocket Watches

Plated jewellery is made up of a precious metals bonded to the surface of another metal. Plated jewellery tends to wear more quickly than other types simply because the coating is so thin.  However, plated jewellery is often less expensive than solid pieces. Common metals used for plating include gold,, silver,, and chrome..

Chains for Pocket Watches

Chains for pocket watches come in several forms, from fobs to T-bar and double Albert styles, so shoppers can choose a style that fits their own taste. The table below highlights the differences in chain styles.

Chain Style



Watch connects to one end of the fob chain and sits in the pocket

Other end is attached to a fob or decorative ornament 

Belt clip

Watch hooks to one end of the chain

Other end attaches to the belt loop


One end of the chain has a T-shaped bar that slides through the buttonhole of a waistcoat

Watch attaches to the other end and sits in a pocket

Double Albert

A double stranded chain with a T-bar

One of the ends attaches to the watch and the other attaches to a fob or another pocket watch

In addition to chains, shoppers can purchase leather watch holders,, which attach to a belt. The pocket watch sits in the holder and then attaches to the belt loop via a chain. Some pocket watches for sale on eBay may be sold with a chain. If buyer also wants a watch chain, they should include this feature in the search keywords when browsing for pocket watches. 

Vintage and Antique Pocket Watches

While some buyers prefer brand new items, others appreciate the craftsmanship and stateliness of pre-owned pocket watches. eBay offers a large selection of vintage and antique watches that are ideal for anyone who would like to own a piece with some history behind it. When buying vintage and antique pieces, buyers should read the listing carefully and do some independent research to verify that the pocket watch is authentic. They can also contact the seller if they have any questions about an item. To locate vintage and antique pocket watches on eBay, try specific keywords such as "antique Victorian pocket watch&" and then filter through the categories.

Buying a Pocket Watch on eBay

Once the buyer has searched for the ideal pocket watch, and found an item that they wish to buy, they should consider the seller of the item. eBay is made up of a community of independent sellers who manage their own listings. Before buying an item, eBay shoppers should check the seller's feedback history, which is left by other buyers who have purchased from the seller before. Visit the eBay Help Centre to learn all about feedback.. Feedback is the best way to identify the best sellers, so after your purchase you should leave comments and ratings of your own. Also keep an eye out for Top-rated sellers while browsing listings. These sellers have been recognized by eBay for their excellent customer service and solid feedback from other buyers. Top-rated sellers are identified by a badge on the listing.

Complete the Buying Process

After buyers choose an item and a seller, they need to complete the checkout process, which requires creating an account.. They also need to specify a payment method. eBay supports PayPal, credit cards, and debit cards, among other options, but individual sellers' accepted methods can vary, so read the listing carefully. Learn more about payment methods through the eBay Help Centre.


Pocket watches may be regarded as a stylish, but old-fashioned accessory that have been around for several centuries. However, they are still in demand today. Buyers can purchase pocket watches easily through eBay, which has a large selection, including vintage and antique pieces. eBay also makes it easy for shoppers to locate exactly what they need with keyword searches. They can use eBay's sorting function to filter results by important features of the pocket watch. Buyers can choose from the styles of pocket watch, including open faced or double half hunter, as well as the watch movement. There are two categories of movement: mechanical, which relies on regular winding and quartz, which is powered by a battery.

The material used to make the pocket watch case should be considered. Gold and silver are classic options, but buyers can also purchase bronze, stainless steel, and chrome plated varieties. Finally, buyers should consider a pocket watch chain. eBay makes it easy to buy the perfect pocket watch.

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