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What Do These Inscriptions Inside My Pocket Watch Case Mean?

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If you have discovered small inscriptions inside your pocket watch case, you may be wondering if they have any meaning. The short answer is yes – they certainly do have meaning, or at least they did at one time.

Watch Case Inscriptions
Hand-Inscribed Service Marks Inside a Pocket Watch Case

During the pocket watch era, it was typical for watches to be serviced on a regular basis, especially when used in railroad service. With so many watches coming in and out of the shop, most watchmakers devised a system to record service and repairs in a master ledger. The watchmaker would then inscribe a reference number on the inside of the watch case matching the ledger. Some watchmakers even derived coded references that could immediately convey service details.

Over time, many watches became marked with dozens of service inscriptions, often exhibiting multiple formats as different watchmakers serviced the watch. It was also common for a date to be inscribed alongside the service marking, providing interesting context into the history of the watch.

Unfortunately, since each watchmaker developed their own reference system, there was not a centralized standard. As a result, we may never gain insight into what each of these inscriptions meant or who marked them.

One comfort we can extract is that each service inscription is a permanent mark of pride, revealing the meticulous care that the treasured watch once received.

 

20 Comments

  1. INSIDE ON THE BACK OF THE WORKINGS IS “THE COMMODORE” AND THE WORD “ADJUSTED”.

    ALSO ON THE INSIDE OF THE BACK COVER IS INSCRIBED: GUARANTEED J BOGGS CO
    25 YEARS.

    CAN YOU PROVIDE ANY INSIGHT TO WHAT THESE MEAN?

    • Richard – Certainly. “The Commodore” is most likely a private label watch, manufactured by one of the large watch companies for a jeweler. “The Commodore” has been seen on Illinois 18-Size movements. IF you post an image of the movement to your account collection, I can confirm. Based on the “25 Years” stamp, your watch case is gold-filled, manufactured by the Keystone Watch Case Company.

  2. Hi, would like to speak to you but the contact form on the website is broken. How would I go about getting in touch?

  3. I’m curious if the Database is still an active site? I inherited an Illinois (Burlington) Model 9, Grade 107 #3473342. A couple of interesting observations from reading your website. It only has the branding of Burlington on the dial, the inside cover and the mechanism. The inside of the back cover is inscribed, “X3762” so perhaps it was serviced March 7, 1962. It also features a number font that I haven’t seen in any other watch. It is a bold sans-sarif, close to some models, but the top of the 3 is round, the 7 & 5 aren’t obscured by the bottom dial. Unfortunately, it doesn’t run, but it appears it was packed away and never touched since he passed. I tried to wind it, but the stem would not wind clockwise and I was afraid to force it.

  4. Hello Nathan.
    I’m on the Pocket Watch Database site regularly, looking at, and monitoring the Buying Guide often. One thing I have noticed that changed a while back, was the Counting Down Time, for the eBay Bidding. The Site is out 6 hrs, in relation to the eBay Countdown, causing confusing at times.

    Thanks.
    Ric Holl.

    • Ric – I believe all should be good now. Please let me know if you still have issues. Thansk!

  5. Hello Nathan inside the back of my 1943 Elgin pocket watch there are some hand engravings which you say could be to do with servicing the watch. I have a scribed circle with the no 132 and some smaller numbers underneath 4059R. Can you shed any more light ?

    Kind regards, Glynn

    • Glynn – These are simply servicing codes from previous service/repair and would only be understandable by the repair shop that originally placed them. However, service mark inscriptions are a good sign the watch has been taking care of in the past.

  6. Hello, I have this Waltham pocket watch and do not know if it’s real gold or not. There are a lot of numbers on the case of the plate but it’s also scratched up inside. Serial number 4401830, case number 217768, I see something on the chain that looks like x3-10 inside case has 270/s or over 5? Another engraving inside case 10561k or r? Something that looks like LA 7/8 A date 6/15/37. Numbers 30744, also 126b or 1266? Under it 8833. Another number 854. There are some more but I can’t see it well.

    • The hand-inscribed marks will not indicate anything. Look for the case maker marks. If there is no indication of gold content, or if the case features a “year” guarantee, it is likely gold-filled.

  7. I was just given a watch that was apparently my grandfathers. He apparently work for some two letter railroad (can’t remember, but I remember thinking it was a monopoly game railroad). I have some pictures of the watch. Based on my research, it appears as though the case is from around 1898 but the internal parts of the watch are from 1935’ish…..so my question would be…Is that a thing? I’m by no means a watch guy, I don’t collect them, I do think they are very pretty looking, but don’t know anything about them. If I can figure out how to post some pics I will.

    • Yes. It was common for movements to be recased at a different time. Feel free to upload images of your watch. I would be happy to take a closer look.

  8. Nathan,
    I have a 1883 Wiltham 11j pocket watch. I was able to pull all the information on the watch but the case contains a stamped RR 201 on the inside cover under the Stirling Silver stamp.
    I cannot find any references for these markings, Any ideas?

      • I created a new account on pocketwatchdatabase and uploaded a picture of the case markings under serial number 2054410
        The same RR201 marking appears on all the covers as well.

        Thanks in advance for any insight.

        • Perfect. Thanks for the images. The “RR201” is simply the serial number for the case. To my knowledge, there are no surviving records for these serial numbers.

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