Knowing your hunter from your half-hunter: four key points in identifying different pocket watches and their cases

To the untrained eye it can be difficult to identify the many different antique pocket watches for sale, along with the cases that accompany them. This is why the helpful minds at Pieces of Time decided to give you four key tips that will help you decipher the main areas to look out for when you come across a timepiece you like the look of but are unsure of in terms of value and authenticity.

Silver and Enamel Swiss Cylinder - Antique Pocket Watch- Ideal To Wear To The Races

Find all the information to become a knowledgeable person here:


How do you define open face and hunter cased pocket watches?

Quite simply, if there’s a metal cover over the dial of the watch- yes, “dial” not “face”- then it is classed as a hunter-case watch. If there’s no metal cover over the dial, then this is an “open face” watch.

You will be able to notice that the open-face watch just has a “crystal” over the dial which is normally made of mineral glass. If you come across a movement that possesses neither a metal cover nor a crystal, then the chances are that there’s something’s missing with this particular timepiece. Occasionally the bezel -the round metal ring that retains the crystal- is lost, making it impossible to replace the missing glass.

Case and Movement

There are two vital areas to most antique pocket watches and they are pretty simple to establish. They are of course the watch case and the watch movement. The movement is purely what the inner workings of any pocket watch are referred to. The watch case therefore accounts for the outer protective cover, including the crystal that covers the dial too.

An important point to note is that antique watches usually had their cases and movements made by different companies. There were the watch makers and there were the case manufacturers.

Pair-Cased Watches

This type of watch is one that you are fairly unlikely to run into, unless you are fortunate to have had a very old watch that has been handed down to you through the generations. During the early to mid-18th century, it was commonplace for watches to be housed in “pair-cases”.

To identify a pair-cased watch you should identify these characteristics: an inner case which holds the actual movement of the watch, regularly a verge fusee, and an outer case which enclosed and protected the inner case. Because the inner case was unable to be made dust-proof due to the key-holes for winding and/or setting, an outer case was there to provide additional protection from general dust and dirt. Some pocket watch owners went to further precautionary measures and went for triple-cased watches which were made during the same period. Early pair-cased verge fusee watches were regularly ornately decorated with pierced and chased gold-work.



When a hunter-case movement and dial are mounted in an open-face case, it’s referred to as a “side-winder” because the winding stem will now be at the 3:00 position instead of the normal 12:00 position- this was done by design. While this doesn’t offer any real operational difficulties, a side-winder is generally not considered to be a correct matching of movement and case.

Also worth noting is that the timepiece is only ever called a side-winder if it is a hunter-case movement in an open-face case. You will often hear people referring to their hunter-cased watches side-winders because the winding stem is at 3:00, but they are only called side-winders if in an open-face case.