What is the difference between a vintage and antique watch

The term vintage is generally used to describe items that are over 40 years old. Antique is reserved for items that are over 100 years old.

Typically, our vintage watches and pocket watches will date from the 1910s to the 1970s, and anything before the 1910s is classed as antique.

How often should I have my vintage watch serviced?

To keep your vintage watch in great condition, it is important to have it serviced regularly. Every 3-5 years is recommended, or sooner if you notice a problem (like your watch is gaining or losing time significantly).

How do I wind my vintage watch?

Vintage and antique watches will have a manual movement, as opposed to today’s quartz movements (which operate with batteries). This means, when you open your watch up by removing the back, you will see a beautiful movement operating with wheels and springs, which require winding to keep them moving.

Most likely your vintage watch will be stem-wound.

On a stem-wind watch, the watch is wound by turning the winding crown, almost always in a clockwise direction. The winding wheel will typically have a ratcheting mechanism to ensure the watch only winds in one direction and that the other direction is just “ratcheting back” to make it easier to wind. Therefore don’t worry that you are winding the watch the wrong way around.

If you feel or hear any kind of grinding noise while winding, then stop winding immediately.  This may indicate a problem in the winding mechanism, and it’s best in this scenario to have a professional service your watch.

How often should I wind my vintage watch?

Your mechanical watch should be expected to run for 24-48 hours on a full wind. Vintage watches love to run on a regular basis – think of it as giving them regular exercise! To keep your watch in the best condition, wind it once a day, ideally at the same time.

Wind your watch (as explained in the previous FAQ) until you can’t wind it anymore. You don’t want to over-wind it with real force, but equally don’t be afraid to wind it fully to ensure you get the full run-time.

What is a pocket watch?

As the name suggests, a pocket watch is a watch designed to be carried in the pocket of the owner.  It is substantially larger than a modern day wristwatch and traditionally carried on a chain.

Before the advent of the wristwatch most men, across all walks of life, would have worn a pocket watch on a daily basis.  Advances in technology and manufacturing in the wristwatch industry throughout the 1940s made these increasingly affordable.  This coincided with a change in taste around this time and pushed the pocket watch aside for the more convenient wristwatch.
Although invented in Europe, the Americans industrialised  pocket watch production around the turn of the 20th century and sold them in increasing numbers.  The European market, unable to compete on price, began to focus on producing higher quality timepieces with additional complications.

What is a hunter case pocket watch?

A hunter-case pocket watch has a metal cover to the face, protecting it from everyday wear and tear whilst in the pocket.  The name is derived from the English, where fox hunters preferred to have a protective cover over their pocket watches to allow them to check the time while riding without damaging their watch.

Most antique and vintage hunter case pocket watches have the hinged lid fixed at the 9 o’clock position.

Often the hunter case cover was intricately engraved as pocket watches were (as watches are today) a status symbol

What is an open-face pocket watch?

Contrary to a hunter case pocket watch, an open-face pocket watch does not have the metal cover to protect the crystal.

How do you wear a pocket watch?

Pocket watches are traditionally worn on a pocket watch chain, usually on an inside coat pocket. The pocket watch chain connects to the pocket watch with a clasp, and the clip at the other end of the chain slips onto the pocket to keep it safe and secure.

Open face pocket watches should be worn with the crystal towards the body to keep it protected from the daily bumps of life.

Take care also to avoid placing keys, coins or other hard objects in the same pocket as this may scratch the crystal of your pocket watch.

Of course, you can also throw tradition to the wind and simply slip your beautiful pocket watch into your trouser pocket.

How do I wind a vintage pocket watch?

Vintage and antique pocket watches will have a manual movement, as opposed to today’s quartz movements (which operate with batteries). This means, when you open your pocket watch up, you will see a beautiful movement, a bit like this:

pocket watch movement drawing

A manual movement operates on a system of cogs and springs, which require winding to keep them moving.

Pocket watches can either be stem-wound or key-wound. Almost all of our watches are stem-wound, as generally only very old pocket watches are key-wound.

On a stem-wind watch, the watch is wound by turning the winding crown, almost always in a clockwise direction. The winding wheel will typically have a ratcheting mechanism to ensure the watch only winds in one direction and that the other direction is just “ratcheting back” to make it easier to wind. Therefore don’t worry that you are winding the watch the wrong way around.

If you feel or hear any kind of grinding noise while winding, then stop winding immediately.  This may indicate a problem in the winding mechanism, and it’s best in this scenario to have a professional service your watch.

How often should I wind my vintage pocket watch?

Your mechanical pocket watch should be expected to run for 24-48 hours on a full wind. Vintage watches love to run on a regular basis – think of it as giving them regular exercise! To keep your watch in the best condition, wind it once a day, ideally at the same time.

Wind your watch (as explained in the previous FAQ) until you can’t wind it anymore. You don’t want to over-wind it with real force, but equally don’t be afraid to wind it fully to ensure you get the full run-time.

How do I set my vintage pocket watch?

Vintage pocket watches are normally set in one of 4 ways:

  • key-set
  • stem-set
  • lever-set
  • pin-set

Along with your watch, you will received a note on which type of setting mechanism your watch requires.

  1. Key-set pocket watches (not very common). You will receive a key along with your watch. Open the crystal of your pocket watch and fit the key over the square centre-arbor (the place where the watch hands are connected to the wards). Turn clock-wise, holding the key perpendicular, until you reach the correct time.
  2. Stem-set (Pendant-set) pocket watches. These are the most common type of movement available on vintage pocket watches, and most of the watches we sell will be stem-set. The same crown that you use to wind your watch will also be used to set it. When the crown is pushed in, it is in the “winding position.” When pulled out (it should “click” when you pull it out gently), it is in the setting position. At this point, you can wind the crown clockwise until you arrive at the correct time, then click the crown back into the normal, winding position.
  3. Lever-set pocket watches. These are also fairly unusual, and were designed for higher-grade pocket watches to prevent them from being accidentally set to the wrong time. They were also used for railroad timekeeping. There is a great website with photo instructions on how to wind a lever-set pocket watch here.
  4. Pin-set pocket watches. These are also quite rare. On a pin-set pocket watch, there will be a little button near the crown that must be pressed at the same time as winding the crown to set the time.

How often should I have my vintage pocket watch serviced?

To keep your vintage pocket watch in great condition, it is important to have it serviced regularly. Every 3-5 years is recommended, or sooner if you notice a problem (like your watch is gaining or losing time significantly).

These are the main brands of vintage watches and vintage pocket watches that we stock. We have found these to be the best quality and most reliable watches.

Bulova

  • Founder: Joseph Bulova
  • Year Founded: 1875
  • Where: USA and Switzerland
  • Type: Wrist watches

A Little Bit About Bulova

Joseph Bulova was a Bohemian immigrant to the US, who started as a wholesale jeweller in Manhattan in 1875, where he also produced small clocks and pocket watches. He expanded in 1912 to open a factory in Switzerland to manufacture fully-jewelled watch movements and from there became a world-leader in mass production of excellent quality watches.

In 1945 Joseph Bulova’s son, Arde Bulova, opened the Bulova School of Watchmaking as he “wished to repay, in some small measure, the sacrifice and service of returning disabled veterans after the Second World War.” The Bulova School of Watchmaking has since been credited with training an entire generation of watchmakers in the US.

Bulova is also well known for being leaders in innovation and design in wrist watches. In the 1950s, Bulova developed Accutron, the world’s first electronic watch. In 1958 this was developed for NASA to be applied to devices used for precision timing on satellites. Bulova narrowly missed out to Omega in supplying the official wrist watches for the Apollo NASA missions to the moon, but Accutron movements were used throughout the instruments and time panels in the spaceship.


Love this history? Own a piece of your own. Shop our Bulova vintage watches here.

Chopard

  • Founder: Louise-Ulysse Chopard
  • Year Founded: 1860
  • Where: Switzerland
  • Type: Wrist watches and pocket watches

A Little Bit About Chopard

In 1860, Louis-Ulysse Chopard opened a small watch manufacturing company called L.U.C, in the village of Sonvilier, Switzerland. His reputation quickly grew and he found himself with buyers around the globe, including Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.

Throughout the early 20th century, Chopard specialised in making pocket watches and ladies’ wristwatches. In 1963, the heir to the business, Paul-Andre Chopard, sold it to a German goldsmiths and watchmaker, Karl Scheufele II.

 


Love this history? Own a piece of your own. Shop our Chopard vintage watches here.

Elgin

  • Founder: a collective of watchmakers in Chicago, Illinois
  • Year Founded: 1864
  • Where: Chicago, USA
  • Type: Wrist watches and pocket watches

A Little Bit About Elgin

Elgin was founded in 1864 by a collective of watchmakers from Chicago, Illinois. It was first incorporated as the National Watch Company. The founders then went off and poached 7 watchmakers from Waltham to come work for their company!

They chose Elgin, Illinois, just north of Chicago, as the site for their factory, and the company officially changed its name to Elgin in 1874 as the name had come into common usage for their watches.

Elgin built the Elgin National Watch Company Observatory in 1910 to ensure precise time in their watches.

All civilian manufacturing ceased during World War II and Elgin solely supplied the defence industry, producing military watches, chronometers, fuses for artillery shells and other aircraft instruments.

The original factory in Elgin was closed in 1964, having produced half of all the pocket watches manufactured in the USA!


Love this history? Own a piece of your own. Shop our Elgin vintage watches here.

Illinois

  • Founder: John C. Adams, John Whitfield Bunn
  • Year Founded: 1870
  • Where: Springfield, Illinois, USA
  • Type: Wrist watches and pocket watches

A Little Bit About Illinois

Founded as the Springfield Watch Company in 1870, the company was backed by a number of wealthy fanciers and was capitalised initially at $100,000 – a lot of money in 1870! By the end of 1872, the company had sold about 10,000 watch movements.

In 1877, after suffering financial difficulties, the company was reorganised and changed its name to Illinois Springfield Watch Company. However it wasn’t long until their finances were in bad shape again, and in 1878 they went through another restructure!

Finally, the Illinois Watch Company emerged in 1878, under the leadership of Jacob Bunn, and Illinois industrialist and financier. Bunn oversaw steady growth, and in 1880 Illinois manufactured over 47,000 watch movements, and had offices across the US in Chicago, New York City and San Fransisco.

 


Love this history? Own a piece of your own. Shop our Illinois vintage watches here.

Longines

  • Founder: Auguste Agassiz
  • Year Founded: 1832
  • Where: Saint-Imier, Switzerland
  • Type: Wrist watches and pocket watches

A Little Bit About Longines

Founded in 1832 by Auguste Agassiz, brother of the famous naturalist Louise Agassiz, along with two partners. Agassiz was made head of the company by 1846 and through family contacts in the USA Longines became hugely successful abroad.

 

In 1876, Jacques David, the technical director at Longines, goes to the USA for the Universal Exhibition in Philadelphia. The report he writes upon his return is generally regarded as being the catalyst for the industrialisation of Swiss watchmaking, with Longines subsequently becoming a pioneer in mechanised production.

In 1919, Longines was named the official supplier for the International Aeronautical Federation. They developed and supplied highly accurate and reliable navigation instruments using their sophisticated design techniques.


Love this history? Own a piece of your own. Shop our Longines vintage watches here.

Omega

  • Founder: Louis Brandt
  • Year Founded: 1848
  • Where: La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland
  • Type: Wrist watches and pocket watches

A Little Bit About Omega

Founded in 1848 by Louis Brandt who began by hand assembling watches from parts produced by local craftsmen. By 1889, Louis Brandt and Fils (Louis Brandt died in 1879 and left the company to his two sons, or “fils” in French) was the largest producer of watches in Switzerland, and were producing over 100,000 watches a year.

They were leaders in innovation, and in 1892, along with Audemars Piguet, developed the minute-repeating wristwatch – recognised to be the first wristwatch of its kind.

Omega continued to be leaders in the watchmaking industry, with a well earned reputation for excellent quality. Subsequently they have been awarded many prestigious awards and affiliations over their 150 year history.

  • Omega has been the official timekeeper at the Olympic Games for over 20 years and was awarded the Olympic Cross of Merit in 1952 for its contribution to Olympic sports, when it brought the first electronic timekeeping divide to the Helsinki Olympic Games
  • The Omega Speedmaster was chosen by NASA as its official chronometer in 1965 and was the first watch worn on the moon by Buzz Aldrin on his first lunar excursion!
  • Omega watches were the only watches certified for use in space by the Russian Space Agency

Love this history? Own a piece of your own. Shop our Omega vintage watches here.

Tiffany

  • Founder: Charles Lewis Tiffany
  • Year Founded: 1837
  • Where: New York City, USA
  • Type: Wrist watches and pocket watches

A Little Bit About Tiffany

One of the most famous jewellery brands in the world, that few haven’t heard of. Charles Lewis Tiffany opened his first store in New York City in 1837, and started selling watches in 1847. In 1853, Tiffany installed a statue of Atlas holding a clock above the entrance to his store – this was one of the first public clocks in New York City.

In 1874 Tiffany opened a huge watch factory in Geneva, Switzerland and significantly scaled up their watch manufacturing. In 1883, with the adoption of standard time in New York City, Tiffany began a weekly “regulation” of over 400 clocks in New York.

In 1903, Tiffany’s chief gemologist George F. Kunz developed and patented a luminescent paint that was used for numerals on watches, and still is today! \

Throughout the 20th century, Tiffany crafted some of the most beautiful and decadent watches known to man, which have been worn by the rich and famous across the world.


Love this history? Own a piece of your own. Shop our Tiffany vintage watches here.

Waltham

  • Founder: a collective of watchmakers
  • Year Founded: 1850
  • Where: Waltham, Massachusetts, USA
  • Type: Wrist watches and pocket watches

A Little Bit About Waltham

When David Davis, Edward Howard, and Aaron Lufkin Dennison formed the company that would later become the Waltham Watch Company, their revolutionary business plan was to manufacture the movement parts of watches so precisely that they would become fully interchangeable. They eventually perfected this plan, and created what has been called the American System of Watch Manufacturing.

The company was originally named the American Horologe Company – they intentionally avoided the word “watch” to ensure their radical business plan remained top secret!

In 1853, it was renamed the Boston Watch Company. Unfortunately theirs was another company like Illinois, which ran into financial difficulties, and in 1857 it was restructured under the new (catchy) name of Appleton Tracy & Company.

In 1859, the Waltham Improvement Company merged with ATCo to become the American Watch Company (AWCo), but when in 1861 the country entered the American Civil War, all production was stopped and the factory was downsized to its lowest possible level to keep it open.

After the American Civil War ended, Waltham became the main supplier of railroad chronometer to a number of railroads across North America and over 50 other countries.

Over the next 30 years, they were still not able to settle on a name for the growing business. Eschewing their PR agency’s advice, they hopped across ALL of the following names:

  • The American Watch Company
  • The American Waltham Watch Company (1885)
  • Waltham Watch Co. (1907)
  • Waltham Watch and Clock Company (1923)
  • Waltham Watch Company (1925)

Waltham Watch Company continued to produce quality watches and pocket watches until they went out of business in the 1950s.

 

 

 


Love this history? Own a piece of your own. Shop our Waltham vintage watches here.

Where do you source your watches?

We have long, established relationships with watch and clock makers and repairers across the world (Harold, the senior member of our team has been a member of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors for over 20 years!). We work closely with them to source only watches and pocket watches in excellent condition (both in appearance and internal working order).

Our highly experienced watch makers service all our watches for us before we send them out to you.

How are your watches packaged?

All of our vintage watches and pocket watches come packaged in a beautiful black London Vintage Watch Co. watch box, perfect for gifting.

How much is postage?

Postage is free worldwide. In the UK, we use Royal Mail Special Delivery (insured and guaranteed next day delivery). To ship abroad, we use a tracked and signed for service wherever possible.

Please note the buyer is responsible for any import duties.

I am looking for a watch made in a particular year (for a 40th birthday present) - can you help?

Yes, we frequently get requests for watches from a particular year to mark a special birthday or anniversary. We can work with you to source the perfect watch for this occasion. However please allow 3-4 months for us to find your perfect watch, as it may take some time to source and service your watch.

We're already married but my husband would love a vintage watch!

We get this all the time! Vintage watches and pocket watches are a really lovely gift for your husband on your wedding day, but they also make beautiful gifts for other special occasions, like special birthdays or anniversaries.

Here are some ideas for gifting a vintage watch or pocket watch:

  • 3rd wedding anniversary – traditionally leather. The leather strap on a vintage watch fits perfectly!
  • 11th wedding anniversary – traditionally steel. A steel case watch or pocket watch is ideal
  • 15th wedding anniversary – traditionally crystal. Most vintage watches and pocket watches have a crystal (rather than glass or plexiglass) face – perfect!

How long is your guarantee?

We guarantee all of our watches for 6 months from the day of purchase.

What is covered under your guarantee?

All mechanical parts including the case and  movement are covered by our guarantee. Should you have any issues within the first 6 months you can return your watch to us and we will service it and have it running cleanly and returned to you.

Please note this guarantee does not extend to normal wear and tear or misuse.

How do I return the watch under your guarantee?

If you encounter a problem with your watch, please contact us at hello@londonvintagewatch.com as soon as possible. We will advise where to return your watch. You should use an insured, signed for service (like Royal Mail’s Special Delivery).

North England

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South East England

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South West England

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Scotland

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Wales

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Ireland

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