Waltham is an American watch company that existed from 1850 to 1957. It produced about 35 to 40 million different luxurious products and precision instruments in that period. The list included clocks, watches, pocket watches, compasses, and speedometers.
Checking the Waltham pocket watch value guide will show that their products’ value depends on their size, age, and materials, including diamonds and precious metals. Since these pocket watches are considered antique or vintage, they are highly collectible and expensive nowadays.
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Waltham Watch Company History
The Waltham Watch Co. (American Watch Co.) existed from 1850 to 1957 and produced 35 to 40 million precision implements, including various watch types, during that period.
The first watches were produced in 1852, but the company didn’t release them for sale immediately. The first Waltham watch was sold in 1853.
Waltham was the first manufacturer in the US that mass-produce watch movements, lowering their prices and increasing productivity. Their production lines manufactured all precise and interchangeable watch parts, making new models quality.
Waltham watch company
|1850 to 1957
|Clocks, watches, pocket watches, aircraft clocks
After founding the company, watchmakers Aaron Dennison, David Davis, and Edward Howard started producing 16S and 18S models with key-wound movements. After Appleton Tracy & Co purchased the company at auction in 1857, Appleton’s first pocket watch with all standardized parts appeared on the market.
Unfortunately, the company closed its doors in 1957, but one Swiss company owns its shares and still produces watches. You can effortlessly find modern quartz models with Waltham’s name, but they are not from the genuine American watchmaker company. That is why antique and vintage models are so much in demand.
Although they stopped working long ago, the Waltham watch company is still the symbol of luxury and superior craftsmanship. Most Americans believe that it represents a valuable part of American history and collect their products manufactured for more than a century.
Ways to Identify a Waltham Pocket Watch
Waltham started producing pocket watches over 150 years ago. Even though the company doesn’t exist anymore, its products are valuable collectibles nowadays. The best way to identify one of these beautiful pieces is by following official recommendations. So, the best option is to start with:
It is necessary to open the watch’s back cover and inspect the inner working surface with a magnifying glass. Your goal is to find engraved signs Waltham, Mass and A.W.W.Co. with the watch’s grade in between.
The AWco and K signs
Waltham’s pocket watches have a sign AWco written on the cover on the inside. The letter K with an added number 9, 14, or 18 indicates a model with a golden case.
Waltham pocket watches designed after 1852 came with a unique engraved serial number. Finding it on the watch movement is the best way to determine a particular model production year.
You can find an online database to compare the number with the matching year. As you can guess, the oldest pieces have the lowest numbers.
Railroad grade standard
In 1891, a faulty timepiece caused a tragic train disaster. The Waltham company reacted immediately and started creating pocket watches according to railroad standards.
Their sizes are typically 16 or 18, and those with 17 jewels are more expensive than previously manufactured models. They came with an Arabic numeral on the dial, an open face case, and a maximum allowed variation of half a minute per week. Other features included:
- The stem positioned at 12 o’clock
- Adjustability to at least five positions
- Lever set
Ways to Evaluate a Waltham Pocket Watch
The rule of thumb is that older Waltham pocket watches are the most costly. As always, you can find a few exceptions, but most collectors will appreciate well-preserved antique models.
Pocket watch outer case’s dimensions are not standardized, and the movement’s diameter actually determines their size. The standardized pocket watch movement diameters go from 000000 (6/0), or 1 inch (25.40 mm), to 22, or 1.9 inches (48.26 mm).
Early Waltham pocket watches with key-wound movements came in two sizes, 16S or 18S. In other words, those with 16S have a movement diameter of 1.7 inches (43.18 mm), while that parameter in watches with size 18 is 1.77 inches (44.87 mm).
Movement is the crucial factor you should check to determine the Waltham pocket watch value. It is the mechanics inside a case that shows precision levels. As expected, the most valuable are models that work most precisely.
You shouldn’t evaluate your pocket watch as a whole but check the case’s material separately. Those made with diamonds or from gold, platinum, or stainless steel can be pricey even if you have a damaged or broken piece in poor condition. You can find Waltham pocket watches with a case made of:
- Solid gold
- Nickel alloy
- Base metal
- Other materials
Pocket watches in mint condition are the most valuable pieces you can find, and their prices will be higher. As expected, signs of wear, scratches, dents, and any damage will lower their value.
However, models made of precious metals or decorated with jewels will be worth something regardless of their condition. Professional restoration often increases the watch value, but reparation and replacing old elements with new ones will lower its price.
As always, rare Waltham pocket watches produced in lower numbers will cost more. Plus, antique models produced before 1900 and those designed for special collections are typically expensive.
Waltham pocket watch typically contains 15 to 25 jewels representing bearings in the mechanism. These industrial gram gems prevent friction and wear, so the pocket watch with more jewels is of more quality.
Be aware that their number and presence don’t affect the watch’s value. The crucial things are performance and precision they enable.
The earliest Waltham pocket watches came without packaging, so new owners needed to go to a jeweler to get the case. Many people never took that last step, so pocket watches in the original boxes are rare and pricey.
The state of the global economy significantly impacts the Waltham pocket watches value. Therefore, their price can vary depending on the current situation and increase on good days or decrease during the economic crisis.
Models made of precious metals will be worth more or less depending on gold, silver, and platinum prices on the current market.
Waltham Pocket Watches Value
The most iconic Waltham pocket watch was the first industrialized model created in 1857. President Abraham Lincoln got one as a present.
Another famous piece was the Waltham Vanguard railroad model with the up/down power reserve indicator manufactured in 1870. The company offered it in at least 52 countries worldwide by 1907.
Besides these famous models, you can find other antique Waltham pocket watches worth your attention. Since some models are rare or particularly luxurious, you can expect them to be expensive.
Collectors with unlimited budgets typically look for these pieces and enjoy their uniqueness. Let’s take a look at a few of the most valuable Waltham pocket watches you can find on online sale sites.
Most valuable pocket watches
|1870 to 1879
|Crescent Street pocket watch
|Railroad pocket watch with 21J up/down indicator
|Riverside pocket watch with etched locomotive
|Late 19th century
|Waltham US Assay pocket watch
|High-grade pocket watch
|Tiffany & Co. Waltham pocket watch
|1900 to 1909
|Lehigh valley pocket watch
|1890 to 1899
|Hunter case pocket watch
|Waltham filled-hunting case pocket watch
|Special Railroad King pocket watch with colored dial
|1910 to 1919
|Riverside Maximus pocket watch
Antique Waltham Riverside Maximus pocket watch
The company produced this antique hunter pocket watch from 1910 to 1919. The elegant, 2 inches (51 mm) wide and 0.5 inches (13 mm) thick case made of 14K gold was everything one man could wish for. Since its mechanical movement features 23 jewels, its price is $375.
Antique Waltham Special Railroad King pocket watch
Waltham produced this stylish pocket watch with 17 jewelers and a colored dial in 1883. The dial with roman numerals makes it unique and pretty rare on the current market, so you need to set aside $524 to get it.
Waltham filled-hunting case pocket watch
This lady’s pocket watch from 1907 with a pendant is worth $595. It came with a white dial, modest 15 jewels, and black Roman numbers. Even though this piece is small, it is actually highly luxurious. The best part is a 14K gold-filled case in an Art Deco style.
Antique Waltham hunter case pocket watch
This model, produced from 1890 to 1899, is recognizable for its beautifully engraved cover and gold gilt dial. Thanks to a solid 14K gold chain, 15 ruby jewels inside the mechanism, and a gold case back, this exceptional piece reach a price of $1,665.
Antique Waltham Lehigh Valley pocket watch
You should set aside $1,900 for this rare pocket watch produced from 1900 to 1909. This two-tone version of the 1883 model is a uniquely American piece dedicated to the Lehigh Valley railroad.
You can see a steam engine’s faint outline on the gold-filled case’s back and a painted flag on the dial. It is an excellent watch for history admirers.
Vintage Tiffany & Co. Waltham pocket watch
This small pocket watch was produced in the early 20th century. The collaboration between two American giants resulted in a luxury watch worth $2,290.
You can see a Waltham sign on the classic white dial, and the Tiffany & Co signature on the 18K solid gold case’s back. It came with a manual winding, while the 16 added jewels precisely set the time.
Antique Waltham high-grade pocket watch
This timelessly elegant Waltham pocket watch with an 18K solid gold case came in 1919. The company used gold to create the back and inner cover case, micro-regulated wheels, loop, and stem. It was equipped with an impressive 21 jewels, justifying the value of $2,738.
Antique Waltham US Assay pocket watch
This pocket watch with a dial with Arabic numerals and a 14K gold open-face closure features 23 jewels in the setting. The production date was between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the current price is about $2,795.
Antique Waltham Riverside pocket watch with etched locomotive
This model from 1898 is a unique piece with an attractive locomotive etched into the case made of 14K yellow gold. It was among the first Waltham pocket watches of the new generation with an SOL grade movement. The large 18 frame size and 11 incorporated jewels justify the price of $3,000.
Antique Waltham pocket watch with up-and-down indicator
This superb antique pocket watch with a high-quality gold casing was the Waltham innovative model produced in 1908. This $3,195 worth piece came with a fantastic up-and-down wind indicator and a mechanism with 21 jewels.
Antique Crescent Street pocket watch
Collectors appreciate this antique hunter pocket watch, produced from 1870 to 1879 as an ultimate craftsmanship piece. It came with an 18K solid yellow gold case and 15 jewels. Since those in near-mint condition are rare nowadays, no wonder the price is $6,000. That makes this model the most expensive pocket watch the company ever produced.
Places to Buy and Sell Waltham Pocket Watches
In most cases, purchasing a Waltham pocket watch is an uncomplicated process. However, you should be careful regarding precious models to prevent fraud.
Your best shot is to go to a reputable antique or vintage watch dealer. Another option is to look for a desirable model online, and the most reliable places for such an activity are probably eBay, 1stdibs, and Chrono24.
Finally, auctions are excellent places for both buying and selling antique watches. An advantage is that their experts check each piece before releasing it, but the downside is typically high commission.
Since all Waltham pocket watches are vintage or antique now, the demand increases over time. You should consider their high price besides unquestionable quality and luxurious look if you plan to buy one. On the other hand, you will get flawless design and ultimate craftsmanship for your money.