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How to tell if your old watch is a hidden fortune

By LLM Reporters  |  September 26, 2021
luxury vintage watch

There are hundreds of thousands of discarded and neglected watches across the world and these outdated watches may just have a considerable amount of value attached, meaning all those watches become hidden goldmines.

You may not be a watch connoisseur or know a Casio from a Patek Philippe, but you could still earn a wad of cash for that old timepiece in the attic. A report in 2021 estimated that over $56 billion dollars in value was lost through ‘forgotten’ luxury watches where the owner had no clue about its true value. Luxe Watches, one of Britain’s leading independent pre-owned watch retailers, have put together a list of eight things to find out if time could be money for you.

Is my watch antique or vintage?

Vintage watches are typically around 30 years old or more, have a collectible or novelty value and some sort of cultural significance. Antique points to items over 100 years old, and for watches will generally indicate the pocket variety.

vintage pocket watch
The type of watch can say a lot about it’s value, whether it’s an antique pocket watch to stem-wind or jeweled

Can it tell the time?

Collectors want old watches for the prestige opposed to the functionality, but the working condition can alter the value massively. Check to see if you can hear the ticking. If it has a smooth metallic ring it means it is still in working order. If you hear a grinding noise, it could, unfortunately, mean it’s close to its end.

Can you find the serial number?

The serial number says a lot about a watch, and can be found on the caseback, inside mechanism or between the lugs if it is a Rolex.

Who’s the maker?

Even if your watch looks ancient, it can still be made by a huge brand name. Whether you recognize it or not isn’t important but you still might – Omega have been making watches for almost 200 years. Here are a few names to look for: Audemars Piguet, Breguet, Blancpain, Patek Philippe, Rolex, Breitling and Vacheron Constantin.

What type is it?

The type of watch can say a lot about it’s value, whether it’s an antique pocket watch to stem-wind or jewelled. If it is stainless steel or solid gold then you could be onto a winner. Typically an elaborate design on vintage pocket watches is a big pointer to value.

luxury watch
A report in 2021 estimated that over $56 billion dollars in value was lost through ‘forgotten’ luxury watches where the owner had no clue about it’s true value

Does it have extra weight?

Heavier watches could mean there’s gold or other features of value.

Do you have the paperwork to hand?

Also known as provenance, an ownership record of the origin, history of owners and authenticity can put extra 0s to the value. Having the basic proof of manufacturer alone is massive, but if your timepiece happened to be owned by someone famous it could lead to a huge windfall.

An important aspect is to not go down the route of selling alone – Ebay is full of gambles and lacks the expert touch. A lot of people attach astronomical prices to items that are not worth a fraction of it, while others incorrectly value family heirlooms and lose a huge amount of money.