How to Identify European Pocket Watches

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European pocket watches are unique in style and design and are considered a collector's item by most horologists and antique enthusiasts. The features of a European pocket watch are somewhat similar to those of an American-made pocket watch except that the nomenclature of these features is entirely different. Pocket watches were a popular accessory for many years, specifically in the 19th century, before advent of the wristwatch. Learning the key features that distinguish European pocket watches will assist you in identifying these watches.

Identify the regulator on the pocket watch. The regulator is a balancing wheel that enables you to change the speed of the watch slightly. European pocket watches have a regulator marked "A" for advance and "R" for retard. American pocket watches are marked "F" for fast and "S" for slow.

Look for an Ebauche movement. This word is French and means "blank" or "outline." This term refers to an incomplete watch movement or design that was later shipped to a different manufacturer that would then finish the watch. This is a classic identification of French watches during the 1800s as the metal watch base parts do not exactly match the finished dials. The name engraved on the pocket watch made in this period is of the specific retailer that finished the watch and not the original manufacturer of the watch, according to the Barry S. Goldberg's Pocket Watch Collection website.

Observe the chronograph of the pocket watch. The chronograph can be easily identified as a separate dial that keeps track of elapsed time or a small central-sweep second hand. This feature in European terms is that of a watch that can be stopped and restarted at the user's discretion for calibrating and timing the watch. American watches consider a chronograph as a combination of watch and stopwatch.

Look for a "pin set" on the pocket watch. This is also referred to as a "nail set" and is primarily found on European pocket watches, notes the Barry S. Goldberg's Pocket Watch Collection website. The pin set is a button usually near the stem that is depressed and held while simultaneously turning the stem.