Coins and watches seem like an odd pairing, and for the most part, people who collect one do not collect the other. Collecting either can be both a time consuming and an expensive hobby, so it would make sense that not everyone is going to be interested in collecting both.
There is a place where the two hobbies intersect, however, and that comes from a watchmaker named Corum. Corum is unique in offering a watch that features a genuine coin on the watch face, and the technology that allows them to make a watch that features a relatively thick coin as the focus of the watch while keeping the watch from becoming overly bulky is rather advanced.
Corum introduced the coin watch in the early 1960s, and early models made use of the U.S. gold $20 piece, which had not been available to the general public since 1932. There were some concerns at the time about whether using a coin in a way constituted “defacing” it, which would have been illegal under U.S. law.
Somehow, these issues have been avoided, and the company continues to make coin watches to this day. Newer versions make use of commemorative coins and newer, limited-edition gold issues that are intentionally made to resemble the gold coins of the 1920s.
These are remarkable watches, whether you’re buying one with a gold $20 piece as its focus or a .925 silver commemorative coin.
Case sizes range from 36mm to 43mm, and the watches tend to be made with the reverse side as the coin face and the obverse side facing your wrist. That’s OK, as the case is covered with sapphire crystal on both sides, which allows you to see both sides of the coin.
The process of slicing the coin in two horizontally is a complicated one, and one that is proprietary to Corum. They’re not talking about how they do it, but they’ve been doing it for some 50 years now, so they’ve gotten pretty good at it.
The movement offered in the current versions of the watch is a 30 jewel automatic movement with a power reserve of 72 hours. Cases are mostly yellow gold with a diamond mounted on the crown.
While many of the watches Corum has made over the years have used $20 gold pieces, they’ve also made slightly smaller watches that featured $5 and $10 gold pieces. The $5 pieces are generally used in watches for women, due to their smaller size.
While one can usually get a bargain buying a watch second hand, that’s not always the case with the Corum coin watch, as the coins themselves have intrinsic value that tends to keep the prices, even for used and non-working models rather high. Of course, non-working models can generally be repaired, either by a competent watch repair shop or by Corum itself.
Prices range from a low of $1000 for a non-working $5 coin model to $20,000 or more for $20 gold piece models with some provenance. Many famous people have worn Corum coin watches over the years, and occasionally, models owned by someone with a famous name will pop up for sale. New models run in the $10,000-$20,000 range.
If you like coins and you like watches, the Corum coin watch is a nice fit, albeit an expensive one.