TBT Rarefinds Episode 3 part 2

Pocket Watches: How to Start if You want To become a Collector


#TBTRareFinds series will take you on an adventure into the culture and trends of the past including antiques, vintage items, art history, jewelry, clothing, collectibles, and other related topics.

Watch #TBTRareFinds Episode 3 Part 2 and learn about the backstory of Pocket Watches and Trains

Hosted by: George Pizzo

Glenn Anderson, Owner, and Founder of American Pocket Watch Collection. He’s currently residing in Germany and has been collecting pocket watches for the past 30 years.

 americanpocketwatch.de homepage


See the first part of this episode: How to Spot a Good Pocket Watch on Estate Sales

Glenn tells a story of the connection between pocket watches and trains. Back in the late 1800s, there was a tragic train wreck, and it was due to an engineer having a pocket watch that was set to the wrong time. 

As a result, two trains collided and several people perished. It was then brought to the attention of the government to have railroad-grade pocket watches made. The first commercially sold railroad grade pocket watch was a Waltham model, 1870 key whined, 15 Jewel pocket watch. Glenn owned one of these. 

That's how it started and throughout the years, it got more stringent, strict. For example, the watch couldn't lose more than four seconds in a 24 hour period. These watches that were used on the railroad were constantly being checked by watchmakers to make sure that the parts were correct and the watch would work because people's lives depended on these. 

Then, wristwatch watches started taking over. The first wristwatches were actually pocket watches that were transformed into wristwatches during world war I. They were called trench watches back then. They would take small-caliber movements and they designed a wristband with a case and welded the two parts so the band would hold on.

Hamilton Railroad Pocket Watches

To give viewers an idea, Glenn showed his Hamilton pocket watch and demonstrated how to adjust the time and how a lever set in regular pocket watches works. Railroad grade pocket watches were 17 Jewel and above regularly. They would also have to be lever set. 

Railroad Grade

These types of pocket watches also need to be adjusted to temperature along with different positions. His Illinois Bunn special states on the rear say adjusted to temperature in six positions. It would be adjusted laying down on its back, standing up. They would put it into a refrigerator or almost a freezer and try to make it freeze. It would have to keep it a time. They went through a huge standard of making sure that pocket watches were up to the standard of the railroad grade.

 pocket watches for men, vintage pocket watches, antique pocket watches

Understandably, railroad grade pocket watches are more expensive and a lot of collectors are after railroad grade. To know if your pocket watch is railroad grade, it all comes down back to where we started with a serial number.

Is there a way to tell if a pocket watch is Railroad Grade?

For demonstration purposes, Glenn asked George to look up a watch that he owns. It’s a 3-step easy process.

  1. Go to Pocket Watch Database
  2. Enter the serial found at the movement of the watch
  3. Click on the manufacturer from the dropdown menu

The search tells us everything we need to know about the pocket watch. It’s a Model 9, Bunn special, 169,000 were produced. It’s a 21 Jewel railroad-grade pocket watch. It was made in 1923 and adjusted to temperature in 6 positions. It will also show the other stuff that is pretty much for the experts. You can also get the case and screw locations. The movement type plates, movement configurations just by scrolling down a bit on that page.

This website by Nathan Moore used to be all free, but his resources got stretched. Now he asks that collectors pay dues to this site because of the highly advanced information that is actually on the website. It helps out Nathan Moore and his team and it helps out the Pocket Watch Database. Because of the rich information there, you could literally start at  knowing nothing, and just by this homepage, you would be more than advanced in all that stuff.

Glenn shares a little tip on how to get a good reference point on the pocket watch. 

  1. Go to eBay and you type in the model of the pocket watch
  2. Filter into the left-hand side that says “Sold”
  3. Go to the sold items to find out the general value of a pocket watch

This way, even if your clients tell you that something is selling on eBay for a higher asking price, you’ll know the actual going price of an item.

George also mentioned that he subscribed to WorthPoint- a database of sold items on eBay. There are around 52,000 different items on eBay that are on WorthPoint that have actually sold. There you can check the actual sold price of an item that makes it a good reference point for his business.

See the 3rd part of this episode here: TBT Rarefinds Ep. 3 Part 3: Why Invest in Pocket Watches?


Recommended Readings:

  • Introducing #TBTRareFinds
  • NJ Estate Sale: What's Hot and What's Not? Items Showcase
  • Throwback Thursdays You Don’t Want to Miss
  • Estate liquidation, Online Auctions, and More
  • Insights about Online Auction and Estate Sale

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