How To Date A Watch

This is my most recent super score — a cool retro-style 14k white gold 1940s cocktail watch. How do I know it’s from the 1940s? It has a screwed balance wheel, which makes it post 1930. But it has no shock protection for the balance staff — most watches were made this way until the late ’40s.

Also, the design is very ’40s — square dial contrasted with a high curved crystal and rounded lugs with bezel set stones. But the giveaway are the service marks on the inside caseback. Whenever you take a watch in to get serviced, the watchmaker inscribes a series of letters and/or numbers on the inside caseback. These usually include the year of the service — so the next time you take it in for a cleaning or repair, they’ll have a better indication of what needs to be done.

There’s not total agreement on how often you need to take you watch in for a tune up. For a mechanical watch, most watch people would suggest every five to eight years.

The oldest service mark on this baby is from 1947. The most recent is from, like, 1983. It’s running like a champion though. I’ll get it cleaned eventually. Also, it cost $6.