Saturday, April 19, 2014

Elgin Grade 303

The grade 303 is a very popular, affordable and reliable design.  Elgin sold a lot of these.  It's a 12 size, 7 jewel movement, this one made about 1921.

You can find more information about this grade here:

Elgin Grade 288

This is another 18 size example.  It's a 7 jewel model made about 1929.

There's more about Elgin watch grades here at the website:

Elgin Grade 7

The Elgin grade 7 is an older, 18 size, 7 jewel movement.

This example was made about 1883.
This is a key-wind and key-set model.  The same size key that fits the winding arbor also fits the square arbor in the center of the hands.

This is a tangential escapement, also called an English lever.  It is less stable than the Swiss style levers, perpendicular, that Elgin and other American makers moved to later.

Tangential and perpendicular refer to the orientation of the lever to the escape wheel.
An old star wheel has been re-purposed into a washer for a case screw.
The click is rather elegant on these old ones, but it is prone to wear out the shark's toothed wheel.
There was a tooth broken off of the cannon pinion, visible here.  That's a shame, those parts are getting hard to find.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hairsprings and Grease Don't Mix

There was grease, that had turned to putty as grease does, packed into the inner most coils of the hair spring.  Meticulous cleaning by hand is the only way to get it out.

If the coils of the hairspring do not expand and contract evenly and smoothly, if they touch at all, then the spring becomes effectively much shorter.  The spring behaves as a pendulum, so a much shorter spring reduces the period of the balance wheel and the watch runs very fast.  Magnetism can do this to a spring too by causing coils to stick to each other when they're close.  Gaining several minutes per hour is not unusual when this is the trouble.

This is an Elgin grade 345, a 12 size, 17 jewel movement.  This example was made about 1920.

Glass Chip, How Did That Happen?

I found a tiny chip of glass sitting on the dial on this watch.  It appears to have come off the inside of the edge of the crystal.  Strange...  It's barely visible.  There's no sign at all of any injury to the watch or case.

This is an Elgin grade 82, 13 jewel version, made about 1885.  It;s a G. M. Wheeler movement.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Elgin Grade 345, Greasy...

Here's a grade 345 that had a layer of some sort of grease, together with WD-40.
It's not quite done yet, but it ticks.  There's still a lot of work to do yet, and it will definitely be apart again to get thing right.
Getting WD-40, the worst thing ever for a watch, off a hairspring is not an easy task.  It takes a lot of by-hand work.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Elgin Grade 317, Damaged

There's a lot of damage in this Elgin grade 317.  There's quite a bit of rust, and all the dial feet are broken off. The feet are still in the base plate holes, secured by their screws.

Someone just pried the dial off by force?
This part is a part of the winding/setting mechanism, or "keyless works".  It's the "vibrating arm".

Here we see the broken part and a replacement.
 Of course there's also a broken mainspring.

This ratchet wheel has a missing tooth.  It was also in the watch upside down for some reason.

The balance staff and upper balance jewel also needed to be replaced, as did the 4th wheel, where the seconds hand rides.  The pivot where the seconds hand goes was broken off.

The grade 317 Elgin is a 15 jewel, 18 size movement.  This one was made about 1917.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Elgin Grade 345, Animation

Here's another image of this grade 345 Elgin, animated.

Elgin Grade 345, Broken Mainspring

This watch was one I serviced early last year.  It came back with a broken mainspring.  That happens, there no way to predict it.  Mainsprings, especially steel ones, are the most "wearable" component in a watch by far.  If they don't break, they will eventually "set" and lose their springiness.

This is a 12 size Elgin, 17 jewels, made about 1927.


This morning I received an email from a customer from a few years ago.  I had worked on three watches for him.  He was asking if I happened to have the serial numbers of the movements so he could create detailed descriptions for an insurance claim - all of the watches had been stolen!

Yes, I keep information like that, so I was able to help him out.  But this raises a very good point.  If you own one, or a few antique pocketwatches, it's a good idea to record some key information about them, and to keep that information in a safe place.  I suggest at least these items:

  • A basic description including size, jewel count and grade of model.
  • The serial numbers of movements, if any.
  • The type and material of the case.  Remember that early American manufacturers, and others, did not sell watch movement in cases.  Cases are "mix and match" as it were.
  • "Watchmakers' marks", the cryptic codes hand inscribed in the insides of watch cases.  These are the finger prints of a watch case.
  • A few good quality photos will help as well.

Keep in mind that a stolen watch may be quickly separated from it's case, so record information about both.