Sunday, June 23, 2013

IWC Project Watch

Well, this project went a little south on me. On the positive side, I saved a fine timepiece from the jaws of the scrap bin and I have a decent watch for casual wear. On the negative side, it really didn’t come out as well as it could have. The main problem, of course, was and still is the broken lug (See Blog Post From January 22). The replacement came out a little larger than it should have and the soldering was left lacking and is off on the position. In hind sight, I should have brought it to someone that uses a laser for soldering. In the past, I’ve gotten better results from laser or pulse arc welding when it comes to work on watchcases. Note to self: spend the little extra for a lot better results.

My watchmaker had no problems with the movement. He did a cleaning and oiled it and it is running and is keeping good time. We decided not to touch the dial. It has some discoloration around the edges and some spotting on it but, all and all, it is in pretty good shape and still attractive, so it was left original. We were also able to buff out the crystal instead of replacing it and it looks as good as a new one. Then, I added a burgundy DeBeer crocodile grain strap to it for the finishing touch.

After all is said and done the project cost me about $300.00, including the watch to begin with, so I’m still into it for under gold value and I know I couldn’t find anything comparable for that price. On the wrist, it looks good and the faults aren’t terribly noticeable, so I’ll wear it for a while then on to the market it will go. I’m sure someone out there would be glad to give it a permanent home.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Holy Grail of Watch Books

Swiss Timepiece Makers 1775-1975 by Kathleen H. Pritchard

In watch collecting we hear the term “Holy Grail” thrown around quite a bit. To most collectors, their “Grail” watch is something in their area of collecting that is hard or damn near impossible to find, not to mention the cost that comes with it. To a Rolex collector, this might be a Paul Newman Daytona. Okay, probably a bad example. That one might be almost all collectors’ “Holy Grail” watch or holiest of holy. For another collector, though, it may be something else. Now, as far as reference books go, there truly is one Holy Grail book (except for those who had the foresight to buy them when they came out). That book, actually a two volume set, is Swiss Timepiece Makers 1775-1975 by Kathleen H. Pritchard.

I searched for these books for over 2 years and I only saw them up for sale twice, out of my price range, in all of that time. I finally found a set in Germany for 350 euros and I ordered them through an Abe books company. The next day, I got an Email saying they were already sold. About a week later, what appeared to be the same set came up on Ebay, in Germany, and I finally got my coveted books at a hefty cost (around $900.00 with shipping). Someone who’s not familiar with all of the variables that go into researching timepieces might ask, “Are these books worth that kind of money?” You bet they are. These books pay for themselves in just the amount of time saved during research of a watch, let alone the information contained in them that you just don’t see anywhere else.

Published by Phoenix Publishing Company for the N.A.W.C.C. in 1996, these books are about 1800 pages and are packed full of information. All of this information is meticulously crossed referenced and the books include trademarks, hallmarks, key figures in the various companies and bios of many companies. These books are truly encyclopedias of Swiss watch makers and I can’t begin to explain how useful they are in research. Although no endeavor of this magnitude is without errors and omissions, they are few and far between and I, personally, have not encountered any yet. These have now become some of my most used books and I refer to them on an almost daily basis.

The author, Kathleen H. Pritchard, passed away in 2005 and is sorely missed in the horological community. In the past, she published numerous articles in the N.A.W.C.C. Bulletin, as well as other periodicals. She spent over twenty years compiling the material for these books and had been updating and compiling more information for a revised edition when she passed. Hopefully this research will eventually be published. The watch community as a whole is indebted to her for her contributions.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Fantastic New Logo And Other Happenings

I’m back. Finally! If anyone was actually tuning in here, I’m sorry about the long delay. I’ve been working on my website. As I got more involved in the process, I decided to change the scope of the site. Originally, I envisioned creating a sales page on the site – I still do plan on spotlighting different watches, but those I plan to do in detail.

At any rate, I’ll detail the exact plans for the site in an upcoming blog post. For today, I wanted to show off my amazing Logo.

I hired JeanWogaman to create the image, and I couldn’t be happier with the work!  She captured exactly what I wanted, walked me through changes to the original design and, besides the obvious – she’s an amazing artist and illustrator – she was also pleasant, professional, and an absolute gem to work with.  If you’re looking for artwork for your business, I can’t recommend her highly enough.  She’s phenomenal.

I’ve had the image in my head pretty much since I came up with the business name. I wanted the child sitting on his father’s knee, listening to the movement of his dad’s watch. I really wanted the image to capture the child’s expression – wonder and excitement.  I think she really nailed it.

Thanks so much, Jean! Truly phenomenal!

I’ll be going back to my regular schedule of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday blogs.  Look for more information on the website changes coming soon, or go check out the website.  It’s linked in the sidebar.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Gone Fishing...

I'm sorry for the lapse in posts.  I've been working my way through an extensive class, combined with my regular work hours, and haven't had the time to write up a new blog entry this week.

The blog will be back with new content next week.

Thanks for stopping in.  I'm looking forward to sharing all the updates when I return.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Insult to Injury

On August 6th 2012, the jewelry store that I work at was robbed by three of the dumbest individuals that it has been my displeasure to encounter. I alluded to this event in my January 25th post and have recently been asked about it on several occasions. The robbers made off with over $50,000.00 in cash and inventory. Included in the inventory was a selection of vintage watches, as well as several modern watches. Among the stolen were many Bulova’s, Elgin’s, Gruen’s and Hamilton’s, mostly somewhat common watches but in good condition. Then there were a few Rolex including a 1917 ladies sterling silver one. Then there were a few not as common watches like a Girard-Perregaux Gyrodate, although, not a high end watch it was a somewhat unique piece.

I have to give credit where credit is due; the Cicero Police Department did an exceptional job. Within days of the crime, they had identified and captured the first of the thieves and several days later they captured a second one. Now for the sickening part of this little tale, when they caught the second criminal mastermind, he, of course, became very cooperative. The police started showing him photographs, the first of which was yours truly who he identified as “the gentleman we robbed”.   Again, credit to the police, I couldn’t identify the robbers, so they did a reverse lineup. They showed photos of some of the watches that were stolen, which the thief readily identified. When the police asked him what they had done with the watches, he responded, “Oh that junk.  We threw in a garbage truck with all of those jars of glass”. It seemed all they wanted was gold and cash but, as you can guess, the jars of “glass” were about 30 carats of diamonds ranging from about half pointers to half carats, plus a few larger stones and among the watches was a Rolex Day Date (and I thought they wanted gold). From what I understand, these guys robbed several other places.  It kind of makes me wonder what other “junk” they sent off to the dump. Of course, the cherry on the cake here is the third robber stiffed his accomplices on most of the cash and fled to New York where he was caught robbing a bank.


Included in this post is a small sampling of the pieces lost to a level of stupidity that can only be called criminal.

Friday, February 22, 2013

It’s All About the Dial

Okay, maybe it’s not all about the dial, but it is mostly about the dial. Let’s face it, (bad pun intended) the dial is the first thing you look at on a watch, whether it be on someone’s wrist, if you’re examining it, or if it happens to be on your wrist whenever you want to check the time. I am making the assumption that anyone reading my posts looks at their watch for the time and not their phone. So, the appearance of the dial is a major factor in a watches overall desirability.

Now, when dealing with modern watches all you are looking at is if it is attractive and, in the case of pre-owned, you look for damaged or aftermarket dials. But, when you get into the world of vintage and antique watches, there are so many more factors. From these factors begin the great watch debates that almost everyone has an opinion on, some of which are bitterly argued. I have actually seen a couple of guy’s stop talking, for a short time, over a patina argument. Now my personal opinion is that original is the best possible way to go. So, for me, I would rather have a watch with Patina or that is faded over a watch that had its dial redone, although no issues would be best of all. On the other hand, if the dial damage is so bad (I do consider patina damage) that it detracts too much from the piece, then I would have to either have the dial redone or replaced (if that option is available).

Some people actually look for patina on watch dials. Truthfully, I don’t understand the thinking on this one, but it takes all kinds, I guess. Of course, being in the business, it helps that there is a market for these watches that are still good timepieces, in spite of their dials. Those that do like patina on a vintage watch are also picky in their own way, specifically when it comes to the evenness of the discoloration. Obviously, no one would want a dial that is blotchy, but I have seen some reel sticklers in this category, so much so that they discriminate as much as the highest levels of connoisseur would over a superior piece.

On the flip side of that coin are those that want almost every dial redone. If even the tiniest level of discoloration exists or slight scratching at the remotest level, then off the dial goes to the dial refinisher. Don’t get me wrong, I understand this a little better than the patina angle, mostly for the fact that I, myself, like a watch to look as if it just came out of the box. I just don’t like the idea of taking away the original condition status of a piece, not to mention I have seen way too many botched redials to make that move unless it was absolutely necessary.

I could probably go on for hours on the subject of watch dials, but I’m sure I will have more chances on the subject. I do believe that the decision of changing or redoing a dial is a point of personal preferences. My preference is original, unblemished, with no fading or patina, but those are few and far between in the vintage market. For myself, I wouldn't come off of that criteria but, as they say, the customer is always right, so I try in business to give a little more options and try to have something for all types of watch enthusiasts.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book Review: A Movement in Time with Breitling and Rolex; An Unauthorized History

A Movement in Time with Breitling and Rolex, An Unauthorized History, written by Mark A. Cooper, is 150 pages broken down into five parts and then a glossary of watch terms. The first part is “The History of Rolex”. The second part is “How to Identify Fake and Replica Rolex”. Next is “The History of Breitling Watches” followed by “How to Identify Fake and Replica Breitling”. Then the final part is titled “The World’s Other Quality Watches and History”. This last section covers Ball, Cartier, IWC, Longines, Omega, Patek Philippe and Zenith.
I did not intend to review this book yet, but it has earned its worth this week. A good repeat customer came in with several watches, one of which was a Breitling Avenger that just didn’t feel right. The long story short, some of the information in this book proved my suspicions correct - the watch was a fake.

That being said, it is not a very well written book.  By that I mean writing style and mechanics, not the content. There are misspellings and grammar mistakes all over the place. The sections just seem to run into each other and his thoughts seem to wander in a few places. It is a self-published print on demand type of book and I do not believe the author used an editor. Another major problem with this book is the images are not clear, actually they look like photocopies. All and all, the presentation of this book is of poor quality. Being that the book is exactly 150 pages I can’t help but wonder if that was a price point magic number and the author crammed a little for that reason.

The information provided in this book is useful and, although most of it is available from other sources, he tries to amalgamate the information. I also found the glossary somewhat lacking and skimpy, although I already have several watch and clock dictionaries, so it was not a major problem for me. I believe that if the author chose to update some his material, obtain better images, and hire a professional editor, he should republish it. Then it would be a convenient reference guide for both Rolex and Breitling. As it stands now, it’s a little rough around the edges.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Online Learning Curve

I think I’ve finally gotten a little more of a handle on the photography end of things.  There are several watches that I’m hoping to have up for sale on my website in the next few days, so I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get the images just right.

I knew there would be a learning curve on taking my business online.  I’m really comfortable appraising pieces in person, working with clients to find just the watch they’re looking for or even discussing particular watches and watchmakers with some of my colleagues.  I’m hoping that, once I get the hang of things, my website and this blog will become an extension of that – but instead of having one conversation, it will be a way to talk to a lot of people who share the same passion for horology.

Anyway, right now I’m really just trying to map out how best to showcase things on the site and which tools will be the best to use to build up my online platforms.  There are a ton of platforms out there!  And, more importantly, I only have so much time – and most of that is taken up by my real world business.  I’ve decided blogging was a good use of time because it gives me a place to talk about individual pieces and share some of what I’ve learned and find interesting.

I’m not sure yet what other social media sites I might want to use, if any.  There are a few I think might be a good use of time, but I need to learn more about each and maybe test them out after the website is completely off the ground.  If anyone out there has any suggestions, or venues you like for your business, I’d love to hear about them.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It's been a long week.

It’s been a long week.

            The trouble with this long week is that the fat lady ain’t singing because it ain’t over. My partner is laid up for a little while so I will at least be working through the weekend. On top of that with me being the only one at the store I haven’t got a chance to get any of my things done downtown or meet my watchmaker to finish up a couple of projects. Yesterday I was finally able to escape long enough to get a cable I needed for the new camera and today I was able to start getting some pictures done so I will get some of those up very shortly. Hopefully by next week I’ll get back on schedule with some of the posts for this Blog and have some new stuff on the website so for anyone reading just hang in there and thanks for stopping by.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hamilton Wristwatches A Collectors Guide - Book Review

This book written by, Rene Rondeau, is a must have for collectors of Hamilton wristwatches. I will admit it is a pricey book, currently used on Amazon for $347.86, but nonetheless a valuable tool for the identification of men’s Hamilton wristwatches. The book starts with a brief history of the Hamilton watch company and is then followed by three main sections.

The first section is a list of all men’s Hamilton wristwatches. The list is in alphabetical order by the name of the watch (Hamilton named all of their watches). Next to the watch name is a page number, which leads you to the next section.

The second section of the book shows illustrations of over 1,000 Hamilton watches. This section is organized by the shape of the case and the metal it is made out of. Using this section you should be able to identify almost any Hamilton wristwatch in a matter of minutes.

The third section is titled, “Notes”. It consists of more detailed information on the 100 most collectible men’s Hamilton wristwatches. Included in some of these descriptions are production numbers and other tidbits. The watches in this section are denoted in the second section with an asterisks.

The appendix gives information about American made movements done by Hamilton and also has a section about the Sherwood models. As I stated, this is a very convenient reference book for men’s Hamilton wristwatches and I have reached for it on my shelf quite a few times since I bought my copy last year.

            Note: My apologies on the poor photo but my cameras are still in revolt.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Update From the Overworked

It’s been a few days since I last posted, it has been a few hell days over here. First, I lost Internet access at home, and then my camera decided it wanted to pick a fight with me. If that wasn’t enough, I keep getting swamped with nonsense that has to get done. Well, I think I cleared my plate enough to get some work done this week and I bought a new camera to boot (a Nikon D3100) but I think my home internet is down for a while.

Hopefully, by the end of the week, I will have figured my new camera out enough to get some items listed on my website and some good pictures for here. It is kind of frustrating trying to get good pictures of watches and I hope mine improve with a better camera and photo setup. Just bear with me while I get some glitches out of everything, I need a little learning curve with the photo situation. I’ll let you all know what I think about the Camera and photo setup soon.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Update on IWC Restoration

Update on the IWC restoration

            This week I left the movement with my watchmaker he is going to clean and oil it and make any necessary adjustments. I also took the case with me downtown today and asked my friends at Miller’s Jewelry Supplies test it with their XRF. It tested out to be 75% Gold 16% Silver and 9% Copper (Basically standard 18 karat gold).

            After that I dropped the case at Vision Jewelers They are going to make the lug for me and solder it onto the case. After going over it with them, the tentative plan is to make a mold out of the case and cast a new lug. Then they will simply solder it into place. Everything should be done by the end of next week hopefully it all goes according to plan.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Oh, The Hardships of This Business

Being that buying and selling watches is a large segment of my income, I simply can’t afford to grow too attached to them. On the other hand, as a watch enthusiast, I often get the urge to hoard them and keep them for my very own. One of the perks of being in this business, of course, is that I often get to wear the watches for a little while before I find them a more permanent home. I know it’s time to sell them or at least stop wearing them if I start calling them “My Precious”. But then there are the ones that are gone just too damn soon.
In the last couple of years, only three watches really jump out at me as having moved entirely too fast.  In a lot of ways I’m glad they did, because if I still think about them now I can’t imagine if I had time to bond with them. I know, boo-hoo and woe is me, I don’t get to keep my inventory.

The first watch that sticks out in my head was a 1967 Omega Speedmaster. I only had the watch for a couple of days but, in all fairness, I had a previous call from someone looking for one. I mean he was literally looking for that year and had asked me about a week prior to it coming in.

The second one was an Audemars Piguet Millenary Kasparov. What a nice watch that was. It came in as part of a package deal and was out the door less than 8 hours later with another package deal. I think my partner saw my eyes light up a little on that one, he knows I’m a huge fan of Audemars, one of the few watches that I own personally is an Audemars that I had given my father for his 75th birthday and inherited back several years later.

The last one was a Patek Philippe Calatrava from the mid 1950’s. That one I actually did buy for myself (kind of). I bought it one day at a restaurant by the jewelers building in Chicago and sold it less than a half hour later when I was in the building. Why that one sticks out is for two reasons, it was the first Patek I ever owned personally (albeit shortly) and it was the quickest I ever sold a watch. I mean, I literally just crossed the street and sold it without even trying.

I have sold other watches within a day or even sometimes the same day I get them in, it’s actually quite common, these are just the ones that stick out in my mind. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Gent’s Stainless Steel Movado Acvatic Wristwatch ca.1935

This is the watch that has been on my Bio picture. I wrote the following report on it for a class I had taken. Sadly, this watch was one of the many that where stolen in a robbery at our store in August of 2012. I don’t have any of the before pictures from when I originally got the watch, but I can assure you it was in a sad state. It was not running, the crystal was broken and the dial was compacted with grime, but I thought it had potential.

The Case 

This Watch is in a Stainless steel round case with Tortue lugs. It is designed to be water resistant with a lead gasket and a cork seal for the winding crown. It is 37 mm from lug end to lug end and 27mm without the crown. It has a decagonal screw back cover on the inside of which you will find the markings for Movado Stainless Steel, as well as the serial number (0159100) and the model number (11730). It also contains the hallmark of Borgel Fois (FB with a key below it), which was still used by Taubert & Fils who had taken over the company.

The Dial

The Dial on this watch is signed “Movado” under the 12. It is a white painted dial with a gold chapter ring with marks that denote the seconds. Outside of the chapter ring in the 6 o’clock position is the word “Switzerland”. Inside the chapter ring is a dark blue circle outlined in gold that contains the numbers (1 thru 12), which are also in gold outlining. Inside of that and above the 6 is the word “non-magnetic”. The hands are upright line style with luminescence inside of them and a long seconds hand.

The Movement

The movement, a Movado 150MN, is a manual wind with 15 jewels and contains a Breguet hairspring. It has a power reserve of approximately 43 hours. It has the word “Movado” engraved above the crown wheel and “fifteen jewels” on the plate.

The Maker

Movado, Founded 1881, in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland by Achille Ditesheim. In 1935 the company introduced its first water resistant watch the “Acvatic” (a name derived from the Latin word for water.) 

The Condition

This watch is in good running order. The case back has some scratches ranging from light to deep. As for the Dial the chapter ring is faded and the hour markers are dirty. The dial appears to have been cleaned. Also the crown is not original. I would say this watch is in fair condition

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My First Restoration Project of 2013

I picked up this watch over a month ago, but I kind of put the project off until the Holidays were over. It was made by International Watch Company and is 18 karat yellow gold. I would estimate that it was made in the mid 1950’s.

As far as what needs to be done to restore this into a serviceable wristwatch, let’s start with the case.

As you can see in the picture above, the watch is completely missing one of the lugs.

The back cover has several slight dings that are almost unnoticeable. It also is in dire need of a polishing. The Crystal needs to be replaced, although I could probably polish the scratches off of it.  I think I would have to go too deep and would prefer a new one. 

The movement is an IWC 21 jewel automatic cal.852 in running condition but needs to be cleaned and oiled.

It still has the original crown, which is always a plus. The dial is in poor shape but I will try to save it before resorting to other options, such as having it redone.

I intend to post updates on the progress of this project, as well as descriptions of any techniques I use.

Feel free to ask questions, or share any techniques you prefer.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Importance of Solid Reference Material

In my opinion, the first acquisition of any collector is information. That is definitely true of watch collecting, where slight differences can cost great amounts of money. With the Internet, there is a slew of information that is free of charge and quite a lot of it is very useful. (Warning Cross check facts, as there is also quite a bit of wrong information floating around the World Wide Web). Aside from what is available online, there are several good magazines and periodicals that are great resources. But above all else, building a library of good books is imperative to any Collector, Enthusiast or Professional. I currently have approximately a hundred books on watches, clocks and related fields (Gemology, goldsmith, etc.) and my library is continually growing.

As far as vintage wristwatches or pocket watches, my starting point is normally “The complete price guide to watches” By Richard E. Gilbert, Tom Engle, and Cooksey Shugart. This book, in my opinion, should be the first purchase for an aspiring watch collector for several reasons. The first being the obvious, it has thousands of watches listed with photos or illustrations and current market prices. Beyond that, this book contains a wealth of information, including grading a watch, determining its age and information about its maker. The book also contains a dictionary of watch terms, pronunciation and examples of watch parts. There is information about case markings, Hallmarks, sizes and the precious metal values of the cases.

During a class I took last year on watch appraisals, I referenced this book repeatedly and it proved to be a truly valuable resource. But, no one book can do everything and the information contained in this book is just a starting point, albeit a very good one. There are several dictionaries available for watch and clocks, as well as books on watch making that explain the parts and their functions and, as far as the watchmakers, almost every major one has books about them that are more detailed. But, as I said, this book is a great starting point and quite often I do not need to go any further to make a well-informed decision about a purchase. Because of the usefulness of this book, I try to buy the updated edition every year or two and I believe the (2013) 33rd edition is due out in February.

The authors of this Book are all long time members of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (N.A.W.C.C.) and are considered some of the leading experts in Horology. It is published by Tinderbox Press and is approximately 1200 pages.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

About This Blog

            Welcome to I hope you enjoy this site and find useful information in its content. I further hope that some interesting and useful dialog can be created on these pages that add to the better understanding and appreciation of all timepieces. Some of the pieces you see here may be available on my commercial site,   That site will be selling vintage and modern watches, Watch accessories and other related products.

I have created this blog as a place to share information and opinions on timepieces that I have had the pleasure of learning about. Another goal of this site is to review Horological books and articles that I have read. I can promise that if I review a book, I have read it cover to cover and quite often crosschecked it against other information available. If I review a watch, I have either owned it or had ample time to go over it. I always hope for more input from readers here or on other venues.

            Although this site is primarily devoted to vintage men’s wrist watches I will also discuss some antique watches, pocket watches, modern watches and possibly some clocks. As watch enthusiasts, all of this subject matter is prudent information to us. In addition, I also intend to write about some of the watchmakers and watch companies and the influences they had or have on the industry.

            Understand that while facts are facts, opinions are subject to many factors. When I am stating my opinions on things, whether it is a watch, book or hot broad, it is still just my opinion and your opinion is yours. These opinions are shared to open dialog about a subject and not to bad mouth or libel any product.  Nor are they meant to cause feelings of ill will toward any poster or reader. Although I carry my own favoritism and prejudices for makers and brands, I will try not to let that interfere with an unbiased look at their products or of their accomplishments.