Antique Bracelet Watches: What You Want to Look For

Updated April 14, 2022
Vintage Hamilton cocktail bracelet wrist watch

Antique watches offer a wonderful way to combine a practical timepiece with a tiny piece of history. Every antique watch will have a little story to tell, and many old or vintage watches come complete with information about where and when the watch was made and even about the original owners. These small pieces of information bring an interesting dimension to a watch purchase and make it that little bit more special than buying a modern watch straight from the shelf.

Common Characteristics of Antique Bracelet Watches

Antique 1920s Rolex Ladies Bracelet Wrist Watch

While you've probably heard the term bracelet watch, chances are high that you don't know what exactly it means. Well, bracelet watches describe wristwatches with cases that're suspended on a metal closure of some kind. While these watches aren't exclusive to women, they're more so associated with 'ladies' watches of the early 20th century. When looking for these watches, you might come across any combination of these characteristics.

Miniature or Small Watch Cases

Unlike modern case sizes (which are about the size of antique pocket watches in many cases), antique bracelet watches had much smaller watch cases which typically came in a variety of shapes such as tank, diamond, or circle. These dainty cases matched the delicacy of the metal bands themselves.

Presence of Semi-Precious Gemstones

The luxury versions of these bracelet watches were distinctively high-quality thanks to the inclusion of semi-precious and precious gemstones like marcasite, sapphire, ruby, mother of pearl, diamond, and others in their designs.

Inclusion of Valuable Metals

Since these bracelet watches are always made out of metal, it's most common to find these older wristwatches being made out of more expensive materials than the mostly stainless steel ones of today. Commonly, you'll find these antique watches were made out of gold, gold fill, silver, and platinum.

Various Band Types

From stretch styles, to links, to cuffs and bangles, antique bracelet watches were made with a variety of metal bands. This gives them a unique and customized look perfect for modern outfits.

Popular Brands

Given antique bracelet watches' nature, most prominent watch manufacturers of the early 20th century were making bracelet watches, though brands like Hamilton, Bulova, Omega, Cartier, and Rolex are some of the more notable that you can find examples of today.

Buying an Antique Bracelet Watch to Adorn Your Wrist

Platinum Art Deco Hamilton Bracelet Wrist Watch

When buying an antique bracelet watch, it's important to buy it from a reputable seller. This is particularly important when buying any old or vintage item, as you want to trust that the listings are accurate. While a watch that doesn't work can make for a great piece of jewelry or be worn purely for decoration, most people want a watch to keep time, and trusting your retailer to give you one that does it vital.

So, when you're thinking about buying an antique bracelet watch, there're a few key items to check over.

Bracelet

The bracelet needs to be in good order. The connections between the links should be robust and no pieces should be missing. Vintage and antique bracelet watches are usually held together with pins, and these pins should be fitted securely and not bent. A bent pin will stop the bracelet from fitting properly.

Catch

Check the catch to make sure it's working properly. If there's any doubt, the catch ought to be replaced, or if that's not possible, wear it with a safety chain, so if the watch catch does pop open, the watch won't be entirely lost. A safety catch can be fitted by many high street jewelers, but it's perfectly alright to pass on a watch that's not fitting properly.

Watch Case

The watch case will naturally be old and reflect the wear and tear of many years. However, you want to make sure that the knocks and scratches that're present are within an acceptable boundary. Some wear and tear adds to the beauty of an old watch, giving it additional character, while severe damage may weaken or disfigure the watch case entirely.

Watch Mechanism

An antique watch that's going to be worn as a time keeping device needs to keep good time. The seller should be able to provide information about the watch's accuracy and if it's automatic or has to be wound, as these distinctions can make or break a sale.

Other

There're other aspects of buying an antique bracelet watch that will need to be checked depending on the watch type. Bracelets made from gold, for instance, should be hallmarked or stamped in some way that confirms that the metal is gold. Many antique watches will be made from solid gold and this will be reflected in the price, making it essential that you establish the quality of what you're buying.

Where to Buy Antique Watches

Wadsworth Art Deco Gruen Bracelet Wrist Watch

Antique and vintage watches can be bought from specialist antique watch stores, from general antique stores and online. Thanks to the many different places you can find them, it's nearly impossible for you to not hunt down the bracelet watch of your dreams.

Specialist Retailers

One of the benefits of buying an antique watch from a specialist dealer is that the dealer is an expert in the field and will be able to offer detailed help and advice. This doesn't mean that excellent deals won't be found in other stores, although the level of advice and information offered may be less. When buying from a store, it's possible to handle and actually feel the watch's quality. This isn't as easy when buying online, and while some online stores offer unconditional money-back guarantees, the general rule is that you're buying them unseen and incur the potential repercussions.

Online Auctions

It's also possible to buy antique or vintage bracelet watches from auction sites such as eBay and Etsy. These websites provide an excellent way to find unusual and hard to find watches and bargains from around the world. There are, of course, also drawbacks to buying antique watches online, and it's important to check out a seller's feedback before buying from them. This'll let you know not only the seller's reputation but also the types of goods that he normally sells. Someone who specializes in selling antique watches on eBay may well be an expert in this subject; however, someone who sells general goods with only the occasional watch may not.

How Much Are Antique Bracelet Watches Worth?

Generally, antique bracelet watches run the gamut of values, ranging anywhere from under $50 to a few thousand dollars. Specifically, there are a few characteristics that can make your old watch worth a lot more than those that're already on the market. High-quality brands like Rolex and Cartier--who were making bracelet watches at the beginning of the 20th century--will always fetch more than what unknown brands or lesser quality ones will bring in. Additionally, the inclusion of semi-precious and precious metals and gemstones can ratchet up your watches' values based purely on the materials' fair market prices. Thus, gold-filled watches aren't going to be worth as much as diamond-laden platinum watches will be.

Here are how just a few of the many antique bracelet watches currently available recently sold at auction:

Bring Back That Antique Bling

You can bring back that antique bling like you're walking into Jay Gatsby's raucous mansion with a beautiful and glittering antique bracelet watch. These delicate watches will get you through all of the roaring twenties-themed parties you could ask for, and once you've put your dancing ways behind you, they might even become an heirloom to pass on to future generations.

Was this page useful?
Related & Popular
Antique Bracelet Watches: What You Want to Look For