Review: Understanding Watches at Assay Office Birmingham

Assay Office Birmingham, established in 1773, is not only the heart of the jewellery industry in Birmingham, but offers folk the opportunity to learn more about the intriguing world of hallmarking and valuations through their Anchorcert Academy day courses.

Last month I took part in the ‘Understanding Watches’ day course at Assay Office Birmingham to improve my knowledge of how they work and how to spot a fake.

We see many different watches at Biddle & Webb, from 18th Century pair cased pocket watches right through to Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date GMT Master II’s, and it is our job to offer an opinion on originality and condition, all of which ultimately affects our valuation.

Therefore it is always beneficial to refresh our knowledge and gain new information as the field of watches is constantly growing with regard to brands and replicas.

The day started with an introduction into the watch market both past and present. How retail prices compare to second hand and how having a brand name or celebrity endorsement always results in big bucks regardless of the materials used. We were introduced into the inner workings of a watch, escapements, the balance spring, the pros and cons of quartz movements and more.

The afternoon gave us the opportunity for us to get our hands dirty, although actually our hands needed to be extremely clean to change batteries, adjust and change straps! Pins flew, but eventually we had it down to a tee due to the patience of the tutor.

In my opinion the most helpful part of the course, from a professional perspective, was handling some replica watches. Here are a few pointers of what to look out for to spot a replica:

  • Spelling mistakes
  • Misshapen logos
  • Small apertures
  • Spacing of features on the dial
  • Weight

I would definitely recommend the course to anybody, not only is the tutor highly experienced but you receive a tour of the hallmarking floor and a lovely buffet lunch! From changing a battery to spotting a ‘Chanel Raris’ watch, it was a fun and informative day. This course would appeal to beginners and industry professionals alike.

To see upcoming courses at The Assay Office Birmingham please follow this link:


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