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There are many Bradley character watches for sale on eBay, many of them popular Disney character watch models. If you not aware of the history of Bradley watches, these ads can be confusing. The prices, year of manufacture, and other information in these ads are so varied that it's clear they cannot all be correct. How do you know how old a Bradley watch is? Is it really a Bradley watch? How common are these models? How much should you pay?
Unless you're a watch collector, chances are you wouldn't know much about these classic collectible watches. Here we will try to demystify these issues for you and give you some solid background information that will help you make your own choices when it comes to purchasing these items.
Disney character watch history began in 1933, when Ingersoll manufactured the first Mickey Mouse watch that is commonly considered by most people to be the first comic character wristwatch. In 1957, Ingersoll became U.S. Time, and around 1968 the name was changed again to Timex. Ingersoll/U.S. Time/Timex, therefore, had the license to manufacture Disney watches from 1933 up until 1968. From 1968 to 1972, several companies were licensed to produce Mickey Mouse watches, many of which were sold exclusively in Disneyland. These included Helbros, Hamilton, the Vantage Watch company, and Elgin.
In 1972 Timex chose not to continue with the lucrative Disney contract, and it was acquired by Elgin National Industries, Inc, on January 1, 1972. Bradley Time Division of Elgin National Industries produced most of the Disney character watches for the next thirteen years. Therefore, Disney Bradley watches were produced between 1972 and 1985.
1933 - Ingersoll
1957 - Ingersoll/U.S. Time
1968 - U.S. Time/Timex
1972 - Bradley
1985 - Lorus/Seiko
This is very surprising to many people who believe strongly that Disney Bradley watches were around in the 1960's. There are countless ads for Bradley Mickey Mouse watches from the 1960's, and even some dated from the 1950's! Obviously, these are incorrectly documented. Bradley certainly made character watches for many years before obtaining the Disney contract, for characters such as Popeye, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, and the Allstar Baseball watch. However, Bradley Disney watches were produced during or after 1972. Bradley manufactured about 1800 different watch varieties during their contract with Disney! That's a lot of watches. Hy Brown and his wife Nancy Thomas have written what many consider the "bible" on character watch collecting (Comic Character Timepieces), and have included a period from 1973 - 1985 called "The Bradley Years", as Bradley watches dominated the character watch marketplace with both Disney and non-Disney themed character watches.
During their contract with Disney, Bradley produced hundreds of whimsical colorful timepieces that were good quality and fun to wear. While Mickey Mouse is the undoubted leader in the character watch parade, Bradley produced other character models that are also popular. Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Cinderella, Snow White, Mary Poppins, and Alice in Wonderland are other popular Disney models manufactured in the early 1970's. The Cinderella Bradley watch, in particular, is often misrepresented with regard to age with many ads listing a Bradley Cinderella watch as being from the 1950's or 1960's. The earliest Cinderella Bradley watch that we could find documented was manufactured in 1973.
Bradley manufactured Mickey watches in nearly limitless variations with regards to case shape and color, bands, crystals, and even had pendant watches made that are very hard to find now in mint condition and in their original packaging. The Mickey Mouse pocket watches were also a big hit and are very popular with collectors today.
Some Disney Bradley watch items of note are:
~Mickey Mouse "jump hour" watches
~men's divers watch models
~Mickey and Goofy sports line of watches
~Disco Mickey watch and record set
~animated dial watches
~Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck Registered Edition Birthday watches
~the "nodding head" Mickey and Minnie watches.
Bradley and Elgin also manufactured a line of high quality Mickey Mouse timepieces for men and women, some with varying shapes of cases such as rectangular, boxed, circular, and hexagonal, and many with beautiful and unique stainless steel and goldtoned steel cases and unique metal bands or premium quality leather bands. These are worth considerably more than the children's sized versions, especially if they come mint in their original box and in running condition. Many of these "adult" Bradley watches are highly unique and beautiful, and can fetch quite a sum when put up for auction. The estimated value depends on the watch and packaging condition and the rarity of that particular piece. While most Bradley watches are wind-up wristwatches, beginning in the early 1980's they began producing models that were battery operated. Most Bradley watches are distinguished by the "Bradley" logo at the top of the dial above the number twelve, while many of the battery operated have the "Bradley Quartz" logo to distinguish them from the wind-up, manual models.
Bradley produced many other non-Disney character watches in this same period. Other characters include Bugs Bunny, Underdog, Cat in the Hat, Hot Wheels, Smoky the Bear, Barbie, Sesame Street, Star Wars, Raggedy Ann, Holly Hobbie, Popeye, Strawberry Shortcake, Superman, Mighty Mouse, Elvis Presley, and others. In 1987, Bradley released a line entitled "The Oldies", a series of character watches featuring never-to-be-forgotten stars in both plastic cases and higher quality, beautiful stainless steel cases in a deluxe watch box, all of which are popular collector's items. These characters included Elvis Presley, W.C. Fields, Emmett Kelly Jr., Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, the 3 Stooges, Marilyn Monroe, and Charlie Chaplin.
BUYING A WATCH
Be sure to read each ad carefully for information about any watch listed, and view all the photos provided. Email the seller with any questions you may have about the item that is not clear from the ad. Check the following features:
* Look for the small Bradley logo situated at the top of the dial (for older watches) or larger lettering in the middle of the dial (later models and Bradley Quartz models). The Walt Disney Productions logo is also found on the dial for Disney watches, usually at the bottom in small print.
*Check if the watch is in working condition, and if it keeps accurate time. Older, manual watches are not as accurate as battery operated models and may normally lose a few minutes a day. Ask if the watch was checked for accuracy, or if it is only marked "working" because it started to tick when wound.
*If a watch is listed as "new", ask if it had ever been worn, was a display model, or is really NOS (new old stock) and ask specifically what condition it is in. Older watches may have blemishes from age (spotting on the dial, cracked bands, stiff crowns) even though they may never have been worn. Display models may show blemishes from handling and from the display case, such as scratches on the case and caseback or marks on the crystal.
*If the watch is used, ask for specifics about the condition such as the crystal (may be replaced if severly scratched or cracked); dial (may have spotting or warping from age); watch band (can be replaced if severly damaged); and the crown (may be stiff and hard to turn or is sometimes missing from the watch). Ask if any parts have been replaced since the watch was manufactured.
*Check if the watch comes in original packaging and ask about the condition. Shelf or display wear for older watches may include some scuffing on the bottom and corners of boxes, faded coloring, and a grimy appearance. Also check if the original warranty or watch pamphlet is included, as this is also very important for collectors even though they may be outdated. The more complete the "set" is (watch, packaging, and paperwork), the higher the value.
It's a good idea to do some research into the subject if you are interested in taking up watch collecting. The more you know, the less likely it is that you will be taken advantage of in a sale or become the victim of less than truthful advertising. Familiarize yourself with basic watch terminology as well as common auction terms and become an educated consumer.
Many sellers want to know exactly what their item is "worth" (specific dollar value) before putting it up for sale, just as sellers would like to know how much to pay for an item as though there is a specific dollar value for a collectible timepiece. As any dedicated and experienced watch collector knows, there is no "set" value for any given timepiece no matter how old or collectible it is. While one buyer may pay no more than $30 for a mint condition Bradley watch, some buyers are willing to pay up to $100 for the same model. Many buyers will pay top dollar for a mint condition Bradley watch in its original box, with all paperwork in a mint case with the original cardboard liner. You can get an idea of what the watches are selling for by doing an eBay search on completed listings for Bradley watches. Determine the price you would like to pay and try not to get tempted to engage in a bidding war and pay more than you intended unless the item is truly very rare. If, however, you are continually overbid on your auctions, your set price may be too low and you might want to reconsider it. While Mickey Mouse is very popular, other characters are not as common and therefore may command much more in an auction. For example, the Mary Poppins Bradley watch is quite rare and would fetch considerably more for a comparable Mickey Mouse watch of the same age and in the same condition.
While some reference books give a dollar value to collectible watches, by the time these have been published, the values have usually already changed. Discrepancies noted within these references show clearly that value is in the eye of the beholder, as the values can differ by more than a hundred dollars for some models. These should be used only as guides when trying to determine a fair value for a timepiece.
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST:
- Bradley made many Mickey Mouse watch models with Mickey wearing red gloves, as opposed to the white or yellow gloves found on other Mickey watch models. These red-gloved Bradley watches are not "rare" as described in many watch ads, but are a common feature.
- Many Bradley watches were made for children, with very small sized bands. If you are going to purchase a watch to wear, you may need to buy and install a new band in order to do so.
- The word "vintage" is used to describe many Disney Bradley watches. This term is used very loosely by sellers on eBay to describe almost any watch that shows the slightest wear or signs of age. While the definition varies greatly, eBay defines a vintage watch as one that is manufactured before 1968. Therefore Bradley Disney watches do not fit this criteria, as they were manufactured from the 1970's into the 1980's
- Bradley watches were generally sold in several distinctive types of packaging, outside of the children's watches sold in cardboard style "peg" packaging. The packaging styles included a red barrel-shaped plastic long case with a solid or clear lid; a long black plastic watch holder with "Bradley" printed on top in a circle; a clamshell standard watch holder with the Bradley logo; and a clear covered rectangular shaped case with a beige base with the Bradley logo on the front .
Collecting watches is an enjoyable hobby and like any other, should entail some research before beginning. Some notable references that were used for this article and that can be extremely helpful for anyone starting to collect Bradley (and other) Disney collectible watches include:
1. Bradley Character Watches: Identification & Price Guide. The Ehrhardts, Heart of America Press, 1995. ISBN 0-913902-89-6
2. Comic Character Timepieces: Seven Decades of Memories. Hy Brown, Nancy Thomas. Schiffer Publishing, 1992.
3. The Mickey Mouse Watch: From the Beginning of Time. Robert Heide, John Gilman. Hyperion, 1997.
If there is any information that you were seeking that was not covered in this guide, please feel free to email us with questions and we may revise the guide to include this information.
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