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Classic watches, watchmaking, antique tools, history, vintage ephemera and more!

Learn about mechanical timepieces and how they work, the history of the American watch industry and especially all about the Elgin National Watch Company! Check back for new content daily.

Although this is technically a blog, the content is not generally in a time-based sequence. You can find interesting items throughout. Down the page some is an alphabetical word cloud of keywords used here. A great way to dig in is to look through those topics and click anything you find interesting. You'll see all the relevant content.

Here are a few of my favorites!

There are some large images on some posts, so that might impact your load times, bit I think you will find it worth the wait. Thanks for visiting!

In The Family

This weekend I had the privilage of doing an overhaul, for a customer, on watch last cleaned by my Grandfather, Everett Sexton. The watch bears his mark in back of the case. The work was done in the early 1970s, judging from the mark's number.
The watch is a nice 17 jewel Hamilton. It was brought in Clark's Jewelry (formerly Overjourdes' when my Grandfather owned it) in Coeur d'Alene.

Elgin Grade 303


The Elgin 12 size, 7 jewel grade 303 is a work horse. This one was made about 1924.

Geting Started: Watch Crystal Codes

This website is for information, tips, odds and ends, and thoughts on vintage watches and watchmaking. Expect to see a mostly content here regarding Elgin National and other American makes. That's the area where I focus most of my attention.
I'm not sure of the best way to present things like this (ordinary web site? Blog? Online document?). There are a lot of choices these days so I may use more than one now and then, to see what works best.
Anyway, to get started, here is some information on watch crystal codes.

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Watch crystals are categorized using a cryptic code of letters and numbers the meanings of which may seem completely arbitrary at first. It may surprise some, but there are actually meanings to these codes.
Firstly, the basic shape of the crystal is given by a letter. The following letters are used in one common code system, used for G-S Flexo crystals.

SSquare
RRectangular with cut corners
T"Tonneau", two straight, parallel sides (short) the other two (long) convex
QSquare with cut corners
C"Cushion", four convex sides
DDiamond or an elongated octagon
NOctagon
OOval
HHexagonal
W"fancy" barrel-shaped
QSquare, cut corners
V"Rococco", concave corners
YSimilar to T but with convex short sides instead of long sides
ZRectangular with concave sides
HRound
F"Fancy" - any other shape, generally irregular such as hearts
These letters designations on their own refer to flat crystals. Crystals fitting a curved watch use an 'M' in front of the above letter. A 'C' in front the 'M' and the shape code indicates a "cylinder" crystal. Cylinder crystals are formed such that their thickness is even from end to end, making them "hollow" in the back. This allows extra space for the watch hands while the top follows the shape of the watch, usually curved. A cylinder designation with a flat crystal (non-'M') does not make sense.
These letters (one, two or there) are followed by a number indicating the specific crystal.
Here's a few examples:
MT2005 - A tonneau crystal, not flat but curved, number 2005
MS1975 - A square crystal, curved, number 1975
CMS2050 - A Square crystal, curved, and cylinder
There are a few other labels, types and designators found on watch crystals such as "Durex", which is a extra thick. Also, lines of plastic crystals ("unbreakable") frequently prefix a 'P' to the entire code. Watch-Craft and Rock-Craft are quite common crystals these days, but they use shape codes different from the above.
This is not the only crystal designation system. Many manufacturers used their own systems which were either completely different, or included additional shape codes. This is inconvenient, but to me it is one of the fascinating things about vintage watches. These systems where early attempts at standardizations that we take for granted today. The systems are cryptic because they were created in a time long before computers. At that time, having any system at all was a major selling point for watch companies, watch parts houses and suppliers ("jobbers").
Finding the right crystal for a particular watch can still be a challenge even with this system. But that's another topic...

Elgin Advertising, 1925

I could not find a watch that agreed with me until I secured an Elgin

One of a series of little biographies or Elgin Watches
...Written by Eminent Elgineers

It was Oscar Wilde who wrote the "a man will kill the thing he loves," and while I would not care to confess to being a time-killer, I must admit that I have submitted my watches, for which I had a real affection, to many punishments, including the water test.

For in my younger days, I served as coxswain of an eight-oared shell, and in one dramatic practice spin on the Schuylkill, the boat was swamped and the crew made a most inglorious exit from the water.  I swam ashore, but the watch that went overboard with me - my father's and a fine English make - was never quite the same.

My second watch was a gift from my mother on my twenty-first birthday.  It served me faithfully for several years and then for reasons best known to itself, suddenly lost its reputation for unerring accuracy.

With no little reluctance I discarded it, and purchased an Elgin which, decade in and out, has never miscounted a minute that I've been aware of.  It has won my regard as a true friend, on which I can rely almost to the second. 
by John Drew
ELGIN
THE WATCH WORD FOR ELEGANCE & EFFICIENCY

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