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Pocket Marine Chronometer  Valuations & History

Pocket Marine Chronometers and deck watches began their development in the eighteenth century in response to the increasing need for accuracy when keeping time at sea. Accurate time was imperative for knowing precisely where you were on long journeys at sea to prevent loss of life and goods.

Early chronometers were often referred to as “timekeepers” and were used by ships’ officers to determine longitude, or east-west position, at sea.  One of the earliest pioneers in marine timekeeping was John Harrison, who designed and built the first successful marine chronometer in the mid-1700s. His H4 model was incredibly accurate for its time, losing only five seconds per day. This breakthrough allowed sailors to accurately calculate their longitude and navigate with greater precision.

Over time, advancements in technology led to improved accuracy and design of pocket marine chronometers and deck watches. These instruments became essential tools for navigation on ships of all sizes, from military vessels to merchant ships. They were also widely used by explorers during expeditions to uncharted territories.

Find Me A Specialist Pocket Watch Valuer

How To Sell: Auction or Private Sale?

Mark Littler Ltd. are one of the only independent advisers in the antique industry. We offer trusted, independent advice to help you sell your Pocket Watch for the highest possible price.

Selling at an auction might provide your watch with greater exposure. However, with a combined average of 45% in gross buyers’ and sellers’ fees, this approach might prove to be a false economy.

Conversely, finding a private buyer for your pocket watch through our services could net you 33% more than if you sold it via auction, as our fees are only 12%.

What We Do For You

Simply fill in your contact details below and you will get an automatic referral to a leading pocketwatch auction expert who will give you an auction estimate and advise on how to sell with them.  We will also see if we are able to get any offer from our private clients. 

If we get any offers we will send these within 4 days.  All offers are without obligation and there are no fees to pay us if you decide to sell at auction.

Pocket Watch Valuation Tips

To get the most accurate valuation of your pocket watch simply ensure you provide the following information:

  1. Include the width of the pocket watch across the dial but DO NOT include the winder or bow in this measurement.
  2. Let us know if the watch is working – just knowing that it ticks when wound is enough.
  3. How heavy is the watch?  While we can value pocket watches simply by looking at the images, if you can let us know the total weight of the watch (in grams) then we can be a lot more accurate.
  4. PROVENANCE! Who owned the watch before it came to you?  Perhaps it was a family member who fought in a war, or a relative who had friends in high places.  These stories matter and can impact the value of the watch more than you think.
  5. Boxes and paperwork.  Does the watch have its original box and paperwork?  If so let us know as this will make a difference to the valuation.

Expert Pocket Watch Valuation

Use the form below or send images of your pocket watch to be connected with a pocket watch expert.

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    The Market for Marine Pocket Chronometers

    As the world’s oceans grew increasingly important for trade and navigation in the 18th and 19th centuries, demand for accurate timekeeping at sea also increased. This led to the development of marine chronometers, specialized high-precision timepieces designed specifically for use on ships.

    One type of marine chronometer that gained popularity during this time was the pocket chronometer. Unlike larger ship-mounted versions which were typically used by navigators, pocket chronometers were smaller and more portable, making them suitable for use by captains and officers who needed to keep track of time while on deck.

    If you would like more information on the history of pocket marine chronometers please see the history at the end of this page. Mark Littler can also assist with valuation and sale of your gold pocket watch. Please use the form on this page to get in touch for a no obligation valuation and advice on selling your gold pocket watch and explore this page for the 6 things that impact the value of your watch.

    What Our Customers Say

    Excellent5.0 Based on 367 reviews fromSee all reviewsb M.b M. ★★★★★ The service from the Littler team is exceptional. Many businesses make big promises and very very few deliver. Littler actually deliver. In addition. all the team that i dealt with were courteous and efficient and the service from start to finish was flawless. I cannot recommend them highly enoughkaren mc V.karen mc V. ★★★★★ Excellent service from initial email to sale completion. Highly recommend Mark and his team. Everything dealt with efficiently. Thank youJose V.Jose V. ★★★★★ I recently had the pleasure of working with Mark Littler to sell my collection of 14 high-end whisky bottles, which included my precious Karuizawa collection and a 40-year-old Port Ellen, and I couldn't be more pleased with the experience. From the initial consultation through to the final sale, Mark and his team demonstrated unparalleled professionalism and deep market knowledge. They provided expert advice on pricing and marketing strategies, ensuring that my collection reached the right buyers and secured the best possible price. It's clear that Mark Littler is exceptionally skilled in handling luxury collections, and I would highly recommend his services to anyone looking to sell high-value items with confidence and ease. Thank you, Mark, for making what could have been a daunting process, smooth and rewarding!Brian P.Brian P. ★★★★★ A very efficient sales service from quote through delivery to payment. All done with care and a smile. Thanks.Brian S.Brian S. ★★★★★ I had a bottle of 25 year Anniversary McAllan and was looking at the options available.Direct selling / via broker / go to auction?To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to this. I'd convinced myself that this whole process was going to be a bit of a pain.I'd envisioned bargaining back and forth with various entities, paying through the nose for commissions / insurance / postage etc...So, did some investigation, looked at number of these possibilities and decided to contact Mark Littler.No regrets.Quite simply: Great service from ML teamSo, what was good?Prompt communicationClear defined processesVery fair price offeredBottle Return process : Fully insured, solid packing materials provided.Contract clear & simple (client copy provided)Payment was completed within two days of them receiving my bottleSo thanks Matt & Rachel.Your professionalism and friendly service has been greatly appreciated.Kind regards,BrianEddie F.Eddie F. ★★★★★ I am so pleased with the service I have received from Mark and his team. He has guided me through the whole process of selling my Dad’s whisky collection, Including sending the less valuable stuff to auction. I’d highly recommend him without a doubt.Charles S.Charles S. ★★★★★ Excellent professional service - prompt, uncomplicated, efficientscott M.scott M. ★★★★★ I can’t recommend Mark and Katy enough. My whisky casks were sold for more than I expected. This was done with minimum fuss. Their communication was great and I shall be using them again.SusanSusan ★★★★★ Can you tell me the hallmark for this medalResponse from the ownerHi Susan. Please can you email images to [email protected] and we'll be happy to help. Tom H.Tom H. ★★★★★ Matt Tweats at Mark Littler has been super helpful and gone above and beyond to help me sell my whisky collection. Thank you very muchCharles L.Charles L. ★★★★★ It was a pleasure to deal with Mark and his team in the sale of my whisky cask. Excellent customer service, communication, professional, helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly.Overall, I would have no hesitation in endorsing Mark Littler Ltd in achieving the best price if you are looking to sell your cask.Geoffrey B.Geoffrey B. ★★★★★ I wanted to sell a couple of whisky casks and used Mark Littler Ltd as my whisky broker. Apparently it is a slow process but Mark Littler managed to push the sale through quickly and at a good price. I have no hesitation in leaving this 5* review for the company.js_loader

    What To Look For In Your Pocket Marine Chronometer

    Pocket-watch-value

    Condition/originality

    The condition and originality of a watch has the greatest bearing on its value. What could outwardly appear to be a rare 17th century verge pocket watch, may have had a large proportion of its movement replaced or cannibalised over the years (replacement dial etc). These changes might only be known to a watchmaker or collector so a guarantee of originality will positively impact the value if you are looking to sell.

    The outward condition of the watch is easier to assess yourself. Cracks to the dial, worn cases or erased presentation engravings can negatively impact the value of a pocket watch.

    Complicated-pocket-watches

    Complications

    Very broadly speaking, the more complications the greater the value of the watch. Minute repeaters are some of the most sought-after complications as well as: tourbillon, split-seconds chronograph (or rattrapante), chronometers, perpetual calendar and phases of the moon, to name but a few.

    If your watch has only the repeating complication then the repeating frequency (hour, quater, minute etc) will impact the value. With rarer repeating frequencies generally more sought after. Quarter repeaters are the most common. The mode of repeating (bell, gong, vibration) will also have an impact.

    Gold-Pocket-Watch-Valuations

    Case material

    With the exception of watches with ‘out of the ordinary’ movements or features (chronometers etc) the case material can have a significant bearing on the value of the watch. Generally speaking 18ct gold pocket watches are more valuable than 9ct gold pocket watches, silver pocket watches and gold or silver plated pocket watches are worth less again.

    The most obvious example of this can be seen with gold cased watches: three seemingly identical watches with identical Waltham movements could be several thousand pounds different in value depending on the case material, i.e. gold plated vs. 9ct gold vs. 18ct gold.

    Pocket-watch-valuations

    Age

    The most expensive pocket watch ever sold at auction was only made in 1933. The price of the Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260 was not released, but it is fair to estimate that it is likely the most expensive pocket watch ever produced, and was only made in 2015.

    As such the age of a watch does not necessarily invoke a high value. For example, pair cased silver verge watches from the reign of George III can be sold for as little as £100 at auction (condition dependant) yet an Edwardian minute repeater can easily sell for £1,000+.

    Pocket-Watch-Worth

    Provenance & certificates

    Provenance can add a significant amount of value to a watch and sometimes the provenance will be of more value than the watch itself.

    A good example of this would be a watch that could be proven to have been on the Titanic; the story attached to the watch is what would be valuable rather than the pocket watch itself.

    The original chronometer certificates, receipts, boxes and paperwork can also add significant value to a watch when they are still present.

    Antiuqe-Pocket-Watch-Valuations

    Manufacturer

    In alphabetical order here is a list of some manufacturers that command a significant premium:

    • Audemars Piguet
    • Breguet
    • Harrison
    • IWC
    • Massey
    • Mudge
    • Omega
    • Patek Phillpe
    • Perrelet
    • Rolex
    • Tiffany
    • Tompion
    • Vacheron Constantin
    • Zenith

    The History of Pocket Marine Chronometers

    Navigation at sea

    In 1714 the Board of Longitude was established by the British Parliament in order to overcome the issues of navigating precisely at sea. The aim was simple; create a device that would not lose or gain more than two minutes over a two-month journey. The reward was £20,000 – around £4million in today’s terms, and many clockmakers dedicated their lives to solving the problem.

    Similar rewards were offered by France, Spain and Holland, but it was British watchmaker John Harrison who eventually won the prize in 1761 for his watch known as H4.

    John Harrison’s H4

    Harrison’s H4 overcame the issues caused by the changing temperatures experienced during a two-month journey at sea by using a bimetallic composition for the balance wheel. Two metals were used whose characteristics response to temperature change were such that they cancelled each other out and thus provided a constant response in the balance wheel through the changing temperatures. Ultimately however, H4 was based upon a highly refined verge escapement, which meant it was unsuited to mass production and was eventually superseded.

    The verge escapement would be replaced in future marine chronometers, however Harrison’s work on bimetallic composition and caged roller bearings was an important part of marine chronometer development. Furthermore, his work encouraged others to submit watches to the Board of Longitude. Thomas Mudge was one watchmaker of note involved in the furthering of Harrison’s work and who is also accredited with the creation of the first detached lever escapement – which is largely recognisable as the escapement type used in modern pocket watches.

    Detached escapements

    Detached escapement types were very important for the advancement of the accuracy of pocket watches in general. Detached escapements allow the mechanism to swing undisturbed for the majority of its movement, thus reducing friction effects and potential loss of time.

    Thomas Mudge: Marine Chronometers and Lever Escapements

    Mudge’s lever escapement watch was a gift to the then King George III (and is now in Windsor Castle) however he felt that the creation of the new escapement type was too difficult and so he abandoned his work on level escapements to focus on the creation of marine chronometers. He went on to win an award of £3,000 from the board of longitude for his own marine chronometer.

    Pierr Le Roy: Detent Marine Chronometer

    It was the French watchmaker Pierre Le Roy in 1766 who combined all the necessary parts to create the foundations of the marine chronometer we know today; combining the initial developments of H4 with the accuracy of a detached escapement type known as a detent escapement.

    Despite the advancements allowing marine chronometers to be made more cheaply they remained very expensive items. As such it was not until as late as 1825 that the Royal Navy began to routinely supply its vessels with marine chronometers suited to long distance time keeping. As such early pocket marine chronometers and deck chronometers remain rare and are sought after by collectors.