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!

Elgin Advertising, 1922

The savage mountain tribes rolled huge boulders down on the invaders, but Hannibal only laughed.  "Though the mountains topple upon us," he vowed, "out swords shall drink deep in Rome!"
The Value of Time
By Kronos
Painting by HAROLD DELAY

Across the Alps rode Hannibal, thirsting for the blood of Rome.

History holds no more breathless adventure.  Hatred of Rome was the African warrior's earliest heritage.  A century after Alexander flashed across the page of Time, young Hannibal - not yet in his teens - swore undying vengeance against the foe of Carthage.

At twenty-eight he was acclaimed commander of the Carthaginian army in Spain.  Like a thunderbolt he struck.   Instead of following the seaward route to the south, with its inevitable delays on the African shore, he plunged directly overland - across the frozen mysteries of the Alps.

Without maps, without guides, he flung himself boldly into the impassable unknown.  His superb cavalry, his great herd of war elephants, struck terror into the swarming mountain hordes.  Nothing could stop him.  He knew the power of preparedness, the strength of surprise.  He knew the Value of Time.  "Beyond the Alps lies Italy!" he thundered - and the world's proudest empire staggered under his hammer blows.

The blood-soaked paged of Hannibal's bitter vendetta are covered with dust.  Rome is but a memory.  Yet the Value of Time so vividly seen by Confucius, Plato, Alexander, Hannibal - all makers of history - is impressed more sharply on the race with every passing century.

"Time is the stuff life is made of."  "Who wastes Time, wastes life!"  These hard-learden lessons of ages past are reflected in the earnestness with which the history makers of our own day gaurd life's most costly commodity - Time!
Elgin Watches

Stops At 12:00?

Drawing of a 'going barrel' type mainspring ba...Image via Wikipedia
I received the following question from a customer...

You recently repaired my Grandfather's pocket watch. It is running great. I do have a technical question for you though. I have noticed that when ever I let it run down and stop that the second hand always stops at the 12:00 position! Is this a design feature? I would imagine the odds of it being a chance are astronomical. In the couple of months I have had it back I have let it run down 8 or 10 times and the second hand is always at the 12:00 (to the second) when it stops. I have never noticed this before.

Excellent question!

When you wind the watch, the mainspring is coiled from the outer part of the barrel to tightly around the arbor in the center. This will always be same number of turns; a function of the diameter of the barrel and the length of the spring. When the watch runs, the spring unwinds and barrel turns (very slowly) the same number of revolutions that it took to wind it. Therefore, the total run-time should be consistent each full wind also.

So, it isn't surprising, all other factors being equal, that a full run-down would leave the second hand at about the same position.

I don't set the second hand in a specific position, and don't generally set the seconds to correct time unless I will be handing the watch, running, directly back to the customer. And the final stages of checking out the watch involve putting only a small amount of power on (just a turn or two, which would throw off the pattern) and making adjusts before a full wind. So the fact that it stops on the 12 position is chance.

The power provided by the mainspring is weakest when it is nearly wound down, so any tiny friction anyplace will have a more pronounced effect when the watch is nearly ready to stop anyway. In a watch that is not so freshly cleaned, or that has a weaker mainspring, or a watch
that has some tiny imperfection, or speck of dust someplace, I'd expect increased variation.

One not-so-obvious thing about watches that is more obvious once you think about it, is that the positions of the watch's internal parts have a direct relationship to, well, the time. For example, if a watch stops at a particular time in a cycle, or a certain interval, it can indicate a problem with a particular wheel - since the wheel will come around to the problem spot at consistent intervals.

My Grandfather, even in his later years, had such experience with this that he could sometimes listen to a watch and then tell me that a particular pivot, or something, had a problem based on the interval in which he could hear an aberration. Once while looking over watches I had cleaned, he listened, then told me a particular jewel has a crack. He was correct!
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A Happy Customer

A customer from a couple of months ago has posted a very kind blog entry on his unusual Elgin pocketwatch.


It's great to get such positive feedback!

Takes the Cake

From The American Horologist magazine, November 1938, in Do You Know by W. H. Samelius...

"Here is a watchmaker that is entitled to a large cake. Among some junk watches I found what I think is the worst case of botch work ever peretrated. It was an American watch, key winder and in place of the balance hole and cap jewels, a lead slug had been inserted and a hole drilled into the lead to support the balance pivots. The roller jewel was made of a piece of copper wire and soft soldered to the roller table. The workman evidently thought the balance was broken so he soldered both ends of the balance wheel. For balance bridge screw he used a machine screw about 5 times larger than necessary. The banking pins were cut off entirely and the center pinion was soft soldered fast to the center arbor. A small piece of brass served as a pallet stone. Instead of closing the train holes in the proper manner, he used a center punch, punching 5 0r 6 marks around each hole. Naturally, the watch did not run."

Swiss Bar Movement

Here'a great old Swiss "bar" movement.It's always nice to see these in such good shape. I especially like the fancy hands on this one.

Elgin Advertising, 1922

The Value of Time
By Kronos
Paintings by 

"Time," cried Plato to the men of Athens, "is the gift of the gods - the movable image of Eternity!"

Plato saw Tim as the great companion, guiding human life through the fleeting years to its home on "the luminous slopes of the stars."

"The Creator" he said, "brought into being the sun, earth, moon and the five other stars we call planets, to distinguish and safeguard the appointment of Time.  To this universe He allotted souls equal in  number to all the stars in the heavens - that each soul, after living out his appointed Time, might return to his own star."

From this Year of our Lord 1922, with its watchwords of "Efficiency" and "Power of Will" as guideposts to success, the historians trace back to Plato the first definite expression of the Will-Plan of life.

He who would lay hold on his life, dominating instead of drifting, must lay hold on his Time - by resolutely safeguarding the golden hours of Now:

"Time was is past; thous canst it recall.
Time is thou hast; emply thy portion small.
Time future is not, and may never be -
Time present is the only Tim for thee!"

Over the Time of the ancients, the sun and moon kept watch.  But the Twentieth Century, more richy endowed, intrusts life's costliest possession to these marvels which bring to us the accumulated experience of all the ages -
Elgin Watches

20,000 G.I.'s Studying Watchmaking, Jewelry and Allied Lines

From American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, August 1949


Nearly 20,000 World War II veterans are learning to become jewelers, watchmakers, goldsmiths and silversmiths under the G.I. Bill and Public Law 16.

This total was disclosed in a Veterans Administration study of the principal courses and employment objectives of 2,535,385 veterans enrolled in schools and job training establishments under both laws on December 1, 1948.

Three-fourths of the 19,991 veterantrainees in jewelry and watchmaking-or 14,784-are enrolled in trade and vocational schools. The remaining 5,207 are training on-the-job.

Of the veterans in classrooms, 12,038 were enrolled under the G.!. Bill and 2,746 were studying under Public Law 16, an act providing for the rehabilitation of veterans with service-connected disabilities.

The job trainees included 3,219 enrolled under the G.!. Bill and 1,988 training under Public Law 16.

Eligibility for G.!. Bill training consists of (1) active military service some time between September 16, 1940, and July 25, 1947; (2) service of at least 90 days, or a discharge for service-connected disability if released before 90 days, and (3) a discharge under conditions other than dishonorable.

For Public Law 16, requirements are (1) military service between the 1940 and 1947 dates; (2) a discharge other than dishonorable; (3) a compensable service-connected disability, and (4) V-A's determination that training is necessary to overcome a handicap.

While in training, veterans may receive a subsistence allowance from V-A.

Free brochure is technical aid

From American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, December 1959

Free brochure is technical aid

L&R MANUFACTURING COMPANY, one of the world's largest manufacturer of mechanical and ultrasonic watch cleaning machines and cleaning solutions is offering a free, six-page folder that not only illustrates l&R's complete line of chemical products, but is of much technical value as well.

Detailed technical information is given on their No. 111 Ultrasonic Watch Cleaning Solution, No. 3 Watch Rinsing Solution, Extra Fine Watch Cleaning Solution.

Requests for your copy may be addressed to any authorized dealer or to l&R Manufacturing Company, 577 Elm St., Kearny (Arlington), N. J. 

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