"This was my grandmother's watch and she left it to me, what do you think it's worth?" Watches are versatile in the market. In other words it's a collectors market - what they desire is what the market bears. That being said there are some that hold their value more than others; such as Rolex, Patek Phillippe, Hamilton 992B pocket watches, Audemars Piguet, and Tourbillons. These are high end watches that cost a pretty penny on the front side and as long as they are cared for properly will retain their monetary worth. As for grandma's watch it is possible there is value. The things to note are, what is the metal type, the brand, are there precious gems on it, is it a mechanical watch (doesn't need a battery,) is the dial in good condition, is it running, how old is it? The best way to determine value is do the research. The internet is always a good place to start. There are a few good sites to look at that will help you decide the above information. http://www.thewatchguy.com/, http://www.mybulova.com/ (if it is a Bulova,) http://mb.nawcc.org/(you do have to sign up, it's free.) Also a good reference as always, eBay.
In determining the metal type whether it is gold or silver, the smart choice is to get it tested at a local, reputable jeweler. Unfortunately, items can be marked inaccurately as something they are not and unless you have paperwork stating otherwise it is always a good idea to get it checked out, it is usually a free service and depending on the size of the watch it can bring the value of it up considerably.
When researching the brand, please make sure you check the insides of the watch as well. Again, if you do not have the right tools take it to a local jeweler, they should be able to open it for you. Unfortunately, the deceit of manufacturers is high in the watch industry and a lot are made to look identical on the outside to the expensive ones but once opened display the true manufacturer. Usually the higher end watches are the ones most duplicated.
Bling on a watch is fun and obviously the gemstones will add value to the piece but again make sure they are real, get them tested appropriately. As a watchmakers wife, I do see quite a few watches and colored gemstones are not as popular as they used to be, but they do exist, mainly with diamonds, in the more current styles. In the early 1900's a variety of gemstones were used and even then many were imitations. Bottom line, get them tested, this also can bring the value up.
Most people think that if the watch is mechanical it will automatically be worth more, that is not the case. There have been a lot of watches made in the last 500 years and it has only been in the last 50 years or so that battery operated ones were available. So that being said you can imagine how many mechanical watches are out there! The go to collectors watch guide is "The Complete Price Guide To Watches" by Gilbert & Engle. It runs about $25., but if you are an avid collector it is well worth your money. They usually have one in the local library, if you just want to peruse one. It takes a bit to figure out how to look watches up in there but read the beginning chapters and you should have no problem.
Once you have figured out the value of your watch, if your watch is not running find a watchmaker (horologist) to take a look at it for you and see if it is worth putting money in to it. Sometimes the amount of work is not worth it, unless of course it is a sentimental piece, then it is up to you. Horology can be lucrative and fun if appeals to you. there are a lot of groups that participate in collecting watches and clocks it is possible there is one in your town. Happy Hunting! Next time we will talk about stones and their symbolic meanings.