A Guide to Opening Pocket Watches with a Snap-Off Case

Snap-Off Case pic

Snap-Off Case
Image: heritagepocketwatch.com

A successful businessman in the San Francisco Bay Area, Craig Duling has a strong interest in antique pocket watches. Craig Duling explores this interest through his website HeritagePocketWatch.com, which offers information on a number of different topics related to timepieces, including how to take them apart. For a pocket watch, the process largely depends on the type of case used.

The snap-off cases can prove tricky to remove since they do not involve any screws or other fasteners. However, the entire back can come off to reveal the moving parts inside. Once removed, the case can easily be snapped back into place to off seal the watch once again.

To open this type of watch, individuals should try to find a case knife tool created for watchmakers as not to damage the watch. However, in a pinch, people can use a dull-bladed tool and take care not to slip while opening the watch to avoid scratching. On the back rim of these watches is a small notch that can be used to rock the case open. Typically, the tip of a knife will not fit in the notch so people usually have to use the side.

Once the blade is inserted, a gentle rocking motion should cause the case to pop. If this does not happen, individuals should not try to force it open, as this will typically lead to damage. Closing the watch also requires care. If the watch is not closing smoothly, the case may not be aligned properly. Often, watches have small marks on the rim of the case that should be lined up when closing.


Which Watches Have the Highest Value?


An avid watch collector in Atherton, California, Craig Duling runs the Heritagepocketwatch.com website. Through this online portal, Craig Duling provides his audience with information about some of the world’s rarest and most valuable watches.

The art of watch making has produced stunning timepieces that have attracted the eye of collectors across the globe. Some of the most impressive of these watches have sold for more than $1 million at prestigious auctions, making them the most expensive of their kind. Here are a few of the watches that have the highest net worth:

Vacheron Tour de l’Ile
Vacheron has been making watches for more than 250 years, the longest of any manufacturer. One of its most valuable pieces is the Tour de l’Ile, a watch that has two faces and numerous complications. Each of these features has contributed to its value of more than $1.2 million.

Patek Philippe Caliber 89
Worth $5.1 million, the Caliber 89 remains the single most complicated watch, with more than 30 complications. Even more impressively, the watch contains over 1,700 different components that combine to weigh in excess of two pounds. Patek Philippe staff spent a total of nine years researching and creating this unique timepiece.

Patek Philippe Supercomplication
Created on commission from Henry Graves Jr. in 1927, the Supercomplication was specifically designed to be the most complicated timepiece on Earth. The resulting pocket watch boasted 24 total complications, a golden frame, and two distinct faces. Eventually, the Supercomplication sold for $11 million in a Sotheby’s auction.

Pocket watch history

History of pocket watches started in early late 1400s and early 1500s when mechanical engineering reached the state when simple spring devices could be made. By using the invention of mainspring, German inventor Peter Henlein was finally able to create watches that did not require falling weights as the source of their power. This invention gave birth to the first wave of small portable watches, which were in the beginning worn as a pendant on a chain around the neck.

Bu 1524 Peter Henlein produced pocket watches regularly, enabling his innovative designs to spread across Europe during the reminder of 16th century. Early models of mainspring powered watches were round (often egg-shaped) and bulky, but the introduction of screws in 1550s enabled them to gain modern flatten shape that we know today. Another distinctive feature of those early designs was the lack of glass – the only protection from the outside influences was bras lid.
1675 was the year when new fashion style emerged – pocket clocks that were small enough to be wore in pocket and not like a pendant. The originator of this fashion style was Charles II of England who popularized this new way of carrying watches across entire Europe and North America. By then, Glass protection was introduced, and pocket watches truly became the luxurious items that received many attention from fashion designers and innovators. The only downside of the watches that were made before 1750s was their lack of accuracy – they often loose several hours during one day! Introduction of lever escapement changed all that, enabling watches to loose minute or two during one day. This was improvement finally enabled introduction of minute handle which was not present in previous models.

After 1820, levers became standard in manufacturing all clock mechanics (which has not change even until today) and 1857 was the year in which we saw first pocket watch created from standardized parts. Powered with an industrial revolution, such watches soon overflowed the public of Europe and Americas, enabling everyone to buy cheap, durable and accurate watch. By 1865 American Watch Company could manufacture more than 50 thousand reliable watches, and soon after that other companies joined them in the manufacturing effort.

Between 1880 and 1900 saw the first attempts of standardizing time, not only for creation of time zones but also because of ever increasing need of precise time measurements in many scientific experiments and public transportation systems (famous Ohio train wreck of 1891 happened because of train engineer watches were 4 minutes out of sync).

By the time of World War I, pocket watches went out of fashion after highly miniaturized wrist watches became famous.