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When I’m out antiquing, I often spend a lot of time looking at small trinkets. The urge to comb through the tiniest of treasures must have transferred from my other hobby of building and decorating dollhouses. If a large tin full of buttons looks promising, I’ll take the time to examine each one. Recently, this practice paid off. I found something that wasn’t a button at all.

It was a watch; a weird watch, similar in size to a clear glass marble. I asked the dealer how much it was. I was afraid it’d be expensive, as cool watches almost always are. The dealer had no idea it was in the button tin. In fact, she had never seen it before. “Five bucks,” she said. Then, she grabbed it and hastily twisted the little crown around. “I wish it worked.”

That wasn’t a deal breaker for me. Its unique appearance and cheap price were good enough. The dealer wrapped the piece up and I was on my way.

On the ride home, I excitedly took the watch out of its bag for closer inspection. Surprisingly, it was ticking. Not only did it work, but it was two minutes shy of the correct time! The dealer’s tinkering must have done the trick. 

This little piece is akin to the steampunk fad of today. Known as a crystal ball watch for its likeness to the fortune-telling icon, it is really no more than a wrist watch in pendant form. The crystal case splits in half at its gold-plated seam for easy access to the watch works. The pendant would have been worn on a chain. While the average wrist watch has a flat opaque caseback, this has a convex crystal “skeleton” caseback, allowing us to see the works (magnified, no less). The face was made by Kent and the Swiss works were made by Elbon. Both of these companies thrived during the 1950s. The watch has seven jewels; the minimum number in terms of quality. A watch of exceptional quality might have as many as twenty-three jewels. (The typical watch has seventeen.)

Although it is just a novelty item, this crystal ball watch adds a refreshing touch of whimsy to my trinket box.

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