Gary Lester, GG (GIA), CSM (NAJA), President – Eastern Gemological Laboratories, Inc. provided the DCGIA members with an informative presentation of Pocket Watch history, evaluation and value.
“The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know” – Socrates
State of the Pocket Watch – Thousands of Pocket Watches are being destroyed each month, many for scrap gold prices. Prices are depressed, as dealers are over-inventoried and consumer demand is just not there.
Is Collecting Dead? – Millennials and Gen-Xers are not the collectors that Baby Boomers and their parents were. Watches are still selling at auction as well as, being sold privately to collectors.
What are Collectors looking for? – Pimped-out Pocket Watches!
Customized, One of a Kind watches with exemplar craftsmanship in the addition of encrusted gems, enamel, engraving, etc. The internal movement is not as important as the case and cover embellishments, as long as the movement works properly. Although the inner movement can be a surprise as many watch makers made workings that were incorporated into different designs by other manufacturers and jewelers.
Main criteria for movements during manufacture was would it fit the case.
Both Hand Engraving and Engine Turning designs add value to a pocket watch, based on the intricacy, wear and provenance.
Enamel from prestigious areas and schools add value. Central France Loir-et-cher being prominent as the capital Blois, was a favorite residence for French Kings. This brought many artisans to the area to cater to royalty. German, Swiss and Italian enamel as well. Huaut family, Guilloche’, patterns, and Niello enamel work were all discussed with samples of each provided in the slide show. Scratches and chips do not necessarily diminish value, but when repaired by an expert artist, it can increase the value of the piece.
Provenance does not always add value, as no one wants the memory of what might turn out to be the black sheep of the family, brought to light.
Tricolor gold cases bring more value than plain gold time pieces.
The Melanchthon Watch
At the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore you can see the earliest known watch. This watch was commissioned by or a gift to the German Protestant Reformer, collaborator with Martin Luther, and humanist Philip Melanchthon in 1530. A single winding worked for 12 hours and perforations in the case allowed telling time without opening the case. Accurate within 1/2 hour.
Gary finished the presentation with information on Evaluating requirements, Auction resource sites: Heritage, Antiqoorum, Christies, Sotheby’s and Skinner, as well as local houses. Dealers like National Assoc. of Watch and Clock Collectors and his go to clock guy GEORGE.
DCGIA thanks Gary for sharing his knowledge with us!
Summary by Charles Marts
Photos by Melanie Marts