OK...You have just found a pocket watch. It may have belonged to a family member, or you may have developed and interest in watches. Now you want to see just what is inside of your watch. One word of caution....BE CAREFUL. OK, so it is two words, but if you are not careful, you can inflict considerable damage to the precision movement that the case holds. Always remember this. There are two kinds of people who open watch cases. A watchmaker and a damn fool.
There are many types of watch cases. We will discuss the most common ones here. If you run into a fusee type of watch, contact us and we will give you detailed instructions on how to deal with those.
So here we go.
SCREW ON BEZEL AND BACK
. These are about the most common types of pocket watch cases. You will usually notice around the edge of the case a very fine to faint line. This is where the case ring and the bezel and back come together. To open, they simply unscrew counter clockwise. Sometimes, these cases get stuck and are very hard to open. You can use a small piece of thin rubber to grip the bezel and case back. Apply pressure while turning and the case should open.
SWING RING STYLE CASES
. These cases were an attempt to create a dust proof environment for the watch movement. You will notice around the case ring a fine to faint line beneath the bezel that holds the glass crystal. This bezel along with the crystal unscrews counter clockwise. When the dial is exposed, just below the second hand at the 6 O'clock position, there is a small groove. This groove is for lifting the movement out of the case using your fingernail. But first, you must gently pull the crown out. This pulls the stem out of the movement and allows you to lift the movement from the case. The swing-ring is hinged to the case ring so it is rather secure. Care must be taken so as not to damage the dial or movement. These types of cases require special care when opening and closing.
When you close a swing-ring case, you will need to feel the stem going back into the movement. You can turn the crown until it falls into place. Push the movement back into the case and then push the crown back into the pendant. You can now replace the front bezel with the glass crystal. Very simple, Right?
HUNTER STYLE WATCH CASES
. These pocket watches come in all different sizes. It is not uncommon to see these in the massive 18 size cases all the way down to the small ladies pendant watches. They do have one main thing in common, and that is how they open.
To observe the dial on a hunter cased pocket watch, you need to push down on the crown. One of the case lids is going to open. That was easy. Now you know what is the back of the watch. You should see a very small lip to the right of the case back. Here you insert the edge of a knife under the lip. Using very gentle force, apply pressure with a twisting motion and the case back should open right up. OH BOY, another cover?
Yes, most hunter cased watches have another dust cover under the outside cover. This is called a cuvette. To open this one, place your knife along the edge where it fits against the case ring. When you insert the knife into this edge, the cuvette will pop right open. Be very careful so as to not slip and damage the watch movement. See where the saying above came from!
When you close hunter cased watches, be sure NOT to push in the center of the case. This can dent them and distort them. This is especially true when you encounter a karat gold watch case.
THE NAWCO BULLDOG WATCH CASE
. This is a very strange watch case. You probably won't encounter one unless you are building a pocket watch collection. They have a very solid flat section just below the crown. This is very wide and does not look like the regular pendant on a pocket watch. This flat section also bevels out to the edge. You will know it when you see it.
The North American Watch Case Company (NAWCO) made cases for the Illinois Watch Company. Illinois made watches for the Burlington Watch Company. The watches were marked with the Bulldog name on the dial and movement. The cases were also marked Bulldog. Over time, many other companies chose to house movements in the NAWCO cases. They were very strong, and featured the screw on bezel and screw on case back. What made them different than just the regular watch case?
The NAWCO case also contained a cuvette. After you unscrewed the case back, you would notice the additional cover over the movement. This made for a great sealed case and also prevented most people from opening them. So how do you open the cuvette? Simple. Just like opening the cuvette on a hunter cased watch. Insert a sharp knife edge into the groove and pop the cuvette off.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT CASE OPENERS
. Almost every watch case manufacturer produced small watch case openers that could be carried by the owner. They were made by Keystone, Dueber, Cresent, Star and Illinois watch case companies. They were very decorative and many were given away at World Fairs. These had a very fine edge that was used to open watch cases. These have become very collectible.
WHAT IF I STILL CAN'T GET MY WATCH CASE TO OPEN
. This can happen. Cases at times have not been opened for decades. They corrode together. When you encounter one that is stuck to the point that you can't open it, seek out a professional watchmaker or jeweler that has experience in the area of watch case repair. We have many methods available that we can use to open a stuck case. These are tricks-of-the-trade that have been tried and tested over many years, all designed to open your watch case without any damage to the watch movement.
We hope that this topic was helpful to you. If we can assist you in any way, please let us know.
Pocket Watch Cases The Correct Way To Open.
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November 30, 2007
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