Old Waltham Pocket Watch Identification & Value Guide (With Rare Models)

Waltham pocket watches might not be as rare as other branded pocket watches of that era. Still, they hold tremendous historical value for being the first mass-produced watches in America!

In fact, even Abraham Lincoln, the 16th US president, sported a Waltham’s pocket watch during his Gettysburg address, making it even more nationally significant.

And besides the national value, collectors love Waltham for its interchangeable parts and original brand marks. But is it only the brand value, or do any other aging features help identify and value an old Waltham pocket watch? Let’s find out!

Key Takeaways

  • An old Waltham pocket watch’s value changes with its features, gears, number of jewels, etc.
  • Valuable Waltham pocket watches have stamped ‘W’ or ‘Waltham’ logos and serial numbers on their dials and cases.
  • Old Waltham pocket watches have five main case materials, of which the gold and silver ones are the most precious, costing up to $1,000.
  • Hand-crafted Waltham watches, such as those with aged white or yellow paper dials and painted cases, cost more, often up to $5,000.
  • Old Waltham watches with their original working hands, movements, and clear, sharp numbers will be more expensive than repaired or restored Waltham watches.

Key Features of Rare & Valuable Waltham Pocket Watches

Besides their original text logos and bills, rare Waltham watches sport the following aged & branded features:

  • Unique porcelain dials with a central ‘W,’ ‘Waltham’ or wreath logo
  • 20 – 25 jewels to reduce the watch’s inner friction
  • Anchor, co-axial, or cylindrical escapements (mechanical gears & linkage)
  • A stamped ‘AWco’ mark on the pocket watch’s case
  • Manual, mechanical, quartz or self-wound movements
  • Roman or Arabic numerals and indices
  • Might have material or metal purity hallmarks
  • Might have extra features like calendars, moon phases, and chronographs 
  • Double-clinched bezel

Keeping Time with the History of Vintage Waltham Pocket Watches

Established in 1850 to mass-produce affordable pocket watches, Waltham went through several historical and design changes as follows:

  • 1850:  Aaron Dennison, David Davis, and Edward Howard founded the American Horologe Company in Roxbury, Massachusetts, intending to lower the watch’s production cost using levers and other interchangeable parts.
  • 1851: Dennison surveyed many business executives and designed a premium business pocket watch based on their feedback. Later, the brand experimented with many more unique features like enamel dials, jewels, and semi-automatic movements.
  • 1853: The company made the first public domain watch with a white enamel dial and a gold case under the brand name ‘Waltham.’
  • 1854 – 1856: Waltham established new production lines – Railroad, sport & military watches. And all of these 35-40 million watches had precise, interchangeable parts, second hands, sub-dials, and jeweled plates.
  • 1857: Waltham faced a financial strain and sold about 90% of its shares to ‘Appleton Tracy & Co.’ in an offline auction. And the new parent company automated most of the watch’s features, making it common and cheaper.

3 Types of Waltham Pocket Watch Designs & Their Resale Values

Vintage Opencase Waltham Watch with Metal Chain

Confused between the millions of Waltham pocket watches available in the market? Let’s sort them into five types based on their design and figure out why they are valuable today:

Vintage Waltham Pocket Watch TypesIdentifying FeaturesEstimated Value
Open CaseLook for exposed, anti-magnetic dials with crystal or mineral glass covers, chronographs, and manual, key-wound movements$40 – 2,000
Full Hunter Pocket WatchesFeature a thick and fully-covered hinged case with etched floral or calendar carvings$30 – 5,000
Half-Hunter Pocket WatchesUse a small, fully-covered case with an open window that shows the time without opening the case$40 – 800

6 Factors to Identify & Value a Vintage Waltham Watch Rightly

Now, let’s see how different factors like age, materials, and colors affect a Waltham pocket watch’s final resale value:

1. Waltham Watch’s Age & Serial Numbers

Apart from the numerous aging signs like tarnish, discoloration, cracks, and dents, vintage Waltham watches also have etched marks and serial numbers that tell the era they are from.

So, get a magnifying glass and check all the numbers on your Waltham watch’s dial and case. Then verify those numbers and other era-specific features from our price table below:

Waltham Pocket Watch YearsAgeUnique & Collectible FeaturesSerial NumbersEstimated Value
1850s (Pre-Public Domain Watches)164 – 173 years1.7 – 1.9 inch prototype watches with superior 8-day movements, key winders, holes & open case designs50 – 20,000N.A (due to Prototype models)
1860 – 1880144 – 163 yearsLarge, 2-inch watches with brushed porcelain dials, AWco marks, metallic cases, bold Roman markers, and mechanical movements20,000 – 1,50,000$40 – 3,500
1880 – 1900s123 – 145 yearsIntroduction of railroad watches with open-case designs, precise, lever-set movements, gold or silver finishes, and jewels1,50,000 – 9,50,000$40 – 5,000
1900 – 195766 – 122 yearsFully automatic stem-wound watches with full or semi-hunter designs, stainless steel bodies, and galvanized dials9,50,000 – 35,000,000$10 – 2,500 (gold-polished ones can cost up to $4,500)

Waltham watches with mechanical, lever-based, or quartz movements are older and more valuable.

2. Waltham Pocket Watch Case Materials

Open your Waltham pocket watch’s case and feel the material on the inner lining. It might be an old leather or fabric pocket watch if it feels warm and soft. But if it feels cold and has some stamped hallmarks in the center, it might be a precious gold or silver watch.

And here’s how to identify and price all such Waltham pocket watch materials:

Old Waltham Pocket Watch Case MaterialsHow to Identify Them? Average Value
Leather or FabricFlexible and soft-to-touch cases with a distinct leather smell and creasingLess than $500
GoldLook for a 10 – 18k gold purity hallmark on their cases$50 – 5,000
SilverFeature an etched ‘Sterling’ or ‘.925’ mark on the case’s back$20 – 1,000
Steel or Stainless SteelThese have an engraved ‘Stainless Steel’ mark, but you can also spot such steel watches by their gray, glossy finish and slender sections$5 – 200
Gold Plated WatchesLook for a ‘GP’ hallmark on the pocket watch’s base$20 – 800

Pick Waltham pocket watches with a brushed, gunmetal or matte finish for a good value.

3. Waltham Pocket Watch Styles

Waltham was already very successful in its premium business-class pocket watch collection worth up to $4,500. So, in the early 1850s, the brand ventured into more public-domain styles like railroad & sports watches.

Let’s figure out the cost of these Waltham pocket watch styles:

Waltham Pocket Watch Styles/ThemesEstimated Value
Luxury/Classic or Business$10 – 4500
Dress or Formal Watches$20 – 1,200
Sports & Casual$10 – 800
Military & Pilot$15 – 700
Railroad Watches$30 – 1,800

Avoid getting old Waltham watches with visible dents, scratches, or broken hands, as those might lose their value drastically.

4. Waltham Pocket Watch Dial Colors

You obviously won’t get the new-age-themed or galvanized dials with vintage Waltham pocket watches. In fact, the earliest 1850s pocket watches might have simple, white, or yellowish paper dials, while the 1870s dials might have painted black dials.

And here’s how the dial color changes the resale cost of an old Waltham watch:

Waltham Pocket Watch Dial ColorsAverage Cost
White or Yellow$30 – 5,000
Golden – Yellow or Rose gold color$20 – 900
Brushed Silver$5 – 200
Black$30 – 400

5. Waltham Pocket Watch Case Colors

It’s not just the dial colors! Even an old Waltham watch’s case color affects its cost drastically. That’s because the multicolored Waltham cases have a simple painted finish, while the metallic ones might be gold or silver-plated! So let’s check their costs:

Waltham Pocket Watch Case ColorsEstimated Value
Black & Gray Less than $150
Yellow Gold, White Gold & Rose Gold$40 – 5,000
Silver & White$20 – 1,000

The earliest 1860s Waltham watches might have hand-painted & matte or brushed red or yellow cases.

6. Waltham Watch Jewels

In simple terms, watch jewels are synthetic rubies or sapphires placed along the balance wheel or fork. Usually, old Waltham watches have about 20 – 25 jewels that hike their worth from $100 – 2,000.

You’ll get some new models with 10 – 15 jewels, too! But those are common and cheaper, costing $5 – 300.

4 Rarest & Most Expensive Waltham Pocket Watches

Now that you know the worth of some easy-to-collect Waltham pocket watches, let’s list some exceptionally rare or gold-filled watches that cost more due to their one-of-a-kind features:

Rare & Valuable Waltham Pocket WatchUnique Features Last Auction Cost
18k Presidential ModelOriginal, manual-wind Presidential watch with a rare engraving that reads – “Presented by the President of the United States to Captain Miles Kirkpatrick of the British Steamer West Cumberland, for his humanity and bravery displayed in effecting the rescue of the crew and passengers of the American Schooner Millie G. Bowne, Dec. 22 – 1889.”$15,600
Diamond Grade Hunter Pocket WatchA bright red enamel case cover featuring a doodle of a small cherub with a bow & garland of flowers.$13,400
Lady’s Hunting WatchA 14k gold watch with doodles, poppies, bouquets, and zig-zag textures.$6,500
Antique Crescent Street Pocket Watch18k solid gold pocket watch with 15 – 20 jewels and a full ‘Waltham Mass. logo.’$6,000

How Do You Identify a REAL Waltham Watch?

Sadly, the market is filled with bogus Waltham pocket watches with printed logos & metallic cases that scam collectors for the same value as the original one.

But don’t worry! You can spot such bogus pocket watches by checking if they have the following FAKE features:

  • Blurred engraving and uneven stains and polishes
  • Incorrect or cursive logos
  • Missing serial numbers, maker marks, or jewels
  • Might have stamped dates or grammatical errors on the dial
  • Magnetic dials

What Can I Use to Lubricate My Old Waltham Pocket Watch?

You can use any light, low-pressure oil like Moebius watch or Hazelnut oil to lubricate old Waltham pocket watches.

How Often Should I Oil My Waltham Watch?

You can oil your Waltham watches once in 3-4 months, but ensure that you wind them up and keep them working to avoid rust.

Does Waltham Still Make Pocket Watches?

No, Waltham hasn’t made pocket watches since 1957, when the company’s shares were sold off among three Swiss brands.

Besides their brand marks, vintage Waltham watches fetch a lot of money for their interchangeable parts, jewels, and styles. Just remember to observe all the features mentioned in this guide and stay away from similar-looking counterfeits!

And if you want more collectible pocket watches, hop on to our expert-curated list of ‘13 best antique pocket watch brands’ or a branded ‘Hamilton watch’ for easy reference!

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

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