Thursday, June 20, 2019

Ebaying at its best (or - how to waste your life searching online)

No, this is not a whinge. Quite the contrary - after wasting a solid ten hours on eBay over three days, for some strange reason, I feel like a winner. Weird!

Bitten by the “Moeris” bug, overcome with the panicking fear of missing out on the 'deal of a lifetime', I ended up winning actually not one but two pocket watches.  The catch arrived promptly, in less than a week, on the same day - one from Adelaide, the other from Lydney, just south of Gloucester.

The English Moeris is a Cairo tramway piece, properly marked with an issue number, meaning that the watch was actually used by a tram driver or station master. You can't ask for more authenticity and character. The dial is absolutely stunning, the movement is in need of service - but it’s complete. However, the hands are a poor replacement which is rather annoying. Bottom line: a very promising restoration project. Total investment so far: $150.

The second Moeris from Adelaide is a different story altogether. The mechanism is complete but showing no sign of life; missing stem and crown, and the case is heavily beaten up. In other words, it would not pass one of my 'pocket watch buying tips' shared with you last week. However, the watch is a G. S. T. P. British War Office military piece fitted with a nicely jewelled 19H calibre. Even as a complete write-off, it would be worth its $50 in spare parts alone.

So the most important question is: what's in it for you?  Words of wisdom.  Clearly, buying a vintage pocket watch without proper inspection is a lottery you'll never win. At best, you are investing in a 'restoration project' which could take months to complete and cost hundreds of dollars. The end result - unknown. On the other hand, investing $50 or $150 on a watch with historic value is money well spent - as long as you don't expect the watch to be complete or keep time.

The most common mistake novice collectors make is this: the expectation that three beaten up watches will produce enough parts to complete one stunning piece. Nothing could be further from truth. Just think of it for a moment: if you invested in three 50 year old ex-taxi Fords with half a million kilometres on the clock, will you be able to turn that pile of junk into a nice, good running family car? Clearly not - all three donors would suffer a similar amount of wear, needing the same crucial parts.

Annoyingly, even if you double, triple or quadruple your budget, there is no guarantee that a more expensive watch will be any better than a junk donor, which is a simple paradox of the 'no inspection, blind luck' game. On the other hand, if you are looking for a very specific maker, model and year, historical reference timepiece, then eBay is a great starting point.

And finally - note this name down: O. Dusonchet, Cairo. I am yet to do my research on him, but it looks like he was a jeweller who supplied all watches to the Cairo Tramway in the early 1900’s.

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