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!

The Elgin Three-Fingered Bridge

In their time, this was what today would be called a "retro" design.

This is the Elgin 16 size, 17 jewel grade 381.

Abe Lincoln's Pocket Watch

By now everyone has read the story of the secret message engraved into President Lincoln's pocket watch by a Washington DC watchmaker that happened to be repairing the watch when he heard of the attack at Fort Sumter and the start of the Civil War.

"April 13 — 1861," the first line reads, "Fort Sumpter (sic) was attacked by the rebels on the above date. J Dillon." The second part repeats same date, states the location as Washington and says, "Thank God we have a government."

I was wondering what type of watch Lincoln used. All the articles on this engraving did not say. It turns out that President Lincoln owned a Waltham William Ellery, model 1859. This is an 18 size key-wind watch with 11 jewels and a solid steel balance wheel.


War "Education" for Industry Near

From The American Horologist magazine, September 1938

War "Education" for Industry Near 
Army Maps Program to 'Train' Private Factories in the Making of Munitions

The War Department is getting ready to spend $10,000,000 "educating" industry to produce war materials.

Congress authorized the expenditure ever a five year period in an effort to gear the industrial machine closely to the military preparedness machine. The first $2,000,000 will be spent in the next twelve months.

Louis Johnson, Assistant Secretary of War, said today that the new program would be fully under way by Sept. 1.

The "educating" will be done by awarding small contracts for war supplies to firms which do not now produce them, but could by making slight changes in their plants.

A clock manufacturer, for instance, might receive an order for certain metal parts used in artillery range-finding instruments. The theory is that the manufacturer, through experience in producing the peace-time order, could begin production speedily in war time.

The Army's principal branches have been asked to report on what vital munitions will be most difficult to procure in the event of war, and these will guide a special board in distributing the orders among the factories. Unlike the army's usual purchases, the educational orders will be non-competitive.

The army's ordnance department has six arsenals producing and maintaining its guns and other equipment, and has contracts with a few commercial concerns for some finished and semi-finished materials.

The World War demonstrated, however, that modern conflict requires cooperation of all industry in fllling military orders. Specific tasks to be carried out in the event of another war have been assigned tentatively to about 10,000 plants. 

Hitler's Gift Used Against Him

From The American Horologist magazine, January 1942

Hitler's Gift Used Against Him

Freddy Tomlins, British Royal Air Force, on leave to skate at the Ice Carnival held in Seattle, December 5th and 6th, may time his effort to peddle destruction to Hitler by a watch which was the gift of Adolf to him.

The watch bears the engraved message "To our dear Freddie Tomlins in remembrance of his skating in the Berliner Sport Palast, March 29 to April 4, 1937." Tomlins, then 20 years old won the International skating championship in the Berlin Sport Palast, April, 1937, by defeating Horst Farbar, German national champion.

Tomlin tells the time "through courtesy of Hitler," and adds, "Of course, I wish Hitler were as reliable as the watch." 

Elgin Advertising, 1924 - Timed By The Stars

Elgin takes the time from the stars and puts it in your pocket
The Celestial Timepiece - 
and how Elgin uses it to make watches better

A few centuries ago men thought that their destinies were controlled by the stars.

Today we no longer look to the stars to forecast the future.

But sill, in another way, the stars control us.

The stars are the final arbiters of time - and by time almost all human destinies are governed.

Every time you look at your Elgin Watch you come in contact with the stars.  For Elgin maintains its own Time Observatory - in charge of astronomers of national prominence.

It is in daily use, every working day of the year - practical use.

Here the Elgin astronomers take the time direct from the stars.

With star observations almost unbelievably exact they check the master clocks.

And second after second, hour by hour, the master clocks send out the precise time to the Elgin work-rooms and timing laboratories to control every operation in making and timing your Elgin Watch.

If you should wonder why it is that Elgin goes to all this pains and expense of maintaining its own observatory, please bear in mind that Elgin is the professional time-keeper.

Everything that Elgin does is done in the professional spirit.

More than any other one thing it is this spirit - as it shows itself in practical timekeeping quality - which is leading people to buy better and better watches.
The Professional Timekeeper

The new Elgin "B. W. Raymond" Railroad Watch is supplied with two types of balance wheel - the Elgin regular steel balance and the Elgin special Invar balance.

Click "Older Posts" just above for more, or use the archive links right here.

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