Pocket Watches: How to Wind, Open and Search Serial Numbers

Exterior Pocket Watch Parts

Interior Watch Parts

For our purposes, the most important “part” of the interior of a pocket watch is the serial number. This is what we will need in order to look up the pocket watch and find out when it was made and other specifications that can be helpful in determining values.

How to Wind a Pocket Watch

For most pocket watches you will come across, you will wind the watch by turning the crown in a clockwise direction. Be careful not to overwind the watch. Once you feel the slightest bit of resistance, stop winding.

For older watches, a winding key maybe required. For these watches, simply insert the winding key into the hole on the back, and wind in a clockwise direction. Again, being careful not to overwind the watch.

How to Open Pocket Watches

Pocket watches will either have a threaded back or a hinged case. For watched with a threaded back, you will need to press the palm of your hand or finger tips against the back of the watch and twist as you apply pressure, in a clockwise direction.

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If the watch has a hinged case, the watch will have a small notch on one side where you can use either a case knife or your finger nail to pop it open. There will ususally be a cuvette or inner back lid that will lift in a similar manner.

Serial Number Database

Once you have the back of the watch off or open, you will be able to see the serial number. The serial number is unique to each watch model as only certain quantities were manufactured and from specific dates. This will also tell you if you have a Railroad Grade watch. Railroad Grade pocket watches hold a higher value than most other pocket watches due to their fine quality and time keeping standards. These higher standards were necessary in a time when time tables and time zones were not yet standardized.

The most comprehensive database that I have come across is https://pocketwatchdatabase.com/

Here’s an example of a return you will get when you enter the make and serial number into the database.

American Waltham Watch Co.

Grade: No. 18

Manufacturer: Waltham
Manufacturer Location: Waltham, Massachusetts
Movement Serial Number: 9430341
Grade: No. 18
Model: 1883
Estimated Production Year: 1899
Run Quantity: 3,000
Total Production: 646,314
Size: 18s
Jewels: 7j
Movement Configuration: Openface
Movement Finish: Nickel
Movement Setting: Pendant
Plate: Full Plate
Regulator: Plain
Hairspring: Breguet
Adjusted: No
Railroad Grade: No