What's It Worth? The Role of Miniaturization in Watchmaking

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When watches were invented, they were the size of a large egg. In fact, one of the first watches ever made, in the late 16th century, was referred to as the Nuremberg Egg.

In the following 200 years, watchmakers strived to make them smaller and smaller, until eventually the goal became to miniaturize watches to the smallest possible size.

As the size of watches decreased, the likelihood increased that they would be worn by women – so designers began to adorn the timepieces with enamel, fine rubies and diamonds. Many pocket and pendant watches were reduced in size to just 23mm, like the ruby-encrusted watch pictured in the center of this photo – and that’s including the case! (The movement, pictured second from right, is the smallest wristwatch movement ever made.)

This trend culminated in the 1930s, with wristwatch movements that were a mere 7mm wide.

The lavender enamel watch on the left, a generic by an unknown watchmaker, is valued at between $1,500 – $2,000. The ruby watch retails for $3,000 – $4,000. And finally, the yellow gold Vacheron Constantine is valued at $3,000 – $5,000.

The smaller the watch, the more actively it is sought by collectors. The value of any watch always includes the case it’s in.

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