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!

Theft in Chicago store involves 27 Borel watches

From American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, December 1959

Theft in Chicago store involves 27 Borel watches

TWENTY - SEVEN LADIES' AND MEN'S watches manufactured by the Borel Watch Company were reported missing after an early October burglary of the William H. Sheffner Jewelry Store at 2408 West 111 th Street, Chicago 43, Ill.

The theft which included many other items might be solved with the help of watchmakers and retail jewelers if any of them come across any of the following watches either through repair work or an attempt on the part of some person to make a sale. All the watches are 17-jewel movements with the exception of the last men's model listed which is a 30-jewel model.

Ladies' watches with identifying serial numbers are: 611269 Nurse, waterproof, steel; 22557 small white gold-filled; 23778 small white gold-filled; 22372 small yellow gold-filled; 23648 small yellow goldfilled; 322615, 6x8, Al dial, yellow rolled gold plate; 1496, 6x8, Al dial, white rolled gold plate, 1557, 6x8, Al dial, white rolled gold plate; 1707 the same; 1594 the same; 1490 the same; 1717 the same; 23632, 5" yellow gold; 721423 black dial Cocktail, yellow gold plate; 160464, 14K white four 2-point diamonds; 274697, bangle bracelet, yellow gold plate and black; 5872 54 steel nurse automatic waterproof, and 587442 nurse steel, white 14K gold top.

Men's watches are: 664008 steel compressor waterproof; 711293 steel waterproof; 711639 yellow gold-plate waterproof; 336735 the same; 594171 steel automatic; 595197 steel case and 14K yellow gold top automatic; 407565 gold-filled black dial automatic Cocktail; 593671 steel waterproof automatic chronometer, and 475615 steel waterproof chronometer with 30 jewels.

Hot Enough For You?

City of PortlandImage via Wikipedia

Portland has experienced three days of temperatures over 100 degrees. It's been quite a long time since we've seen this much heat in our summer here. Wednesday the high temperature hit 106 degrees, which is just one degree short of the city's all-time high or 107.

Needless to say it is difficult to do much vintage watch restoration work given the levels of perspiration these temperatures result in.

Also, given the importance of lighting, I am fortunate to have an extremely good location for my bench in a corner of a room with big windows facing west and north. It's not quite so fortunate from a temperature standpoint though as the sunlight is unbearable by the afternoon these days.

It is expected to cool off, a little, for the weekend. I hope so. There's plenty of work to do.
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How to Mail a Watch

Most of the watches I work on are family heirlooms, priceless to their owners. It's not easy to ship something like that for fear of loss or damage. That is perfectly understandable. No shipping is risk-free, and if this is something that will keep you awake at night then you shouldn't do it, simple as that.

If you decide to ship a watch, I can say that I have never had any trouble. Here are a few tips that greatly improve the security and safe delivery of your package.

1. Shipping and packing... I have always used USPS Priority Mail. The Post Office provides standardized boxes for Priority Mail free of charge. I use their medium-size square boxes. Include padding such as foam peanuts, and wrap the watch individually in foam, bubble wrap, or something similar. Placing the watch inside an inner box is nice for added security.

Boxes don't have to be huge. Watches are fragile, but not in the sense that glass is fragile. Watches need to avoid a sharp blow, so if they are wrapped individually in bubble wrap, and that is in a box of foam peanuts or something, then the watch can move a little and won't get a sharp jolt.

Packing does not need to be super tight either. A couple of times, I have received hunter case watches (watches with front covers) that have been packed so tightly that the case has squeezed  down and broken the fragile glass inside.

2. Important: Place a note inside the package with your name and address. Also please be sure to include your email address. I use email to track watches and transactions.

I can't stress this one enough. Please understand that I receive several watches a week, and multiple emails about watches every single day. When a watch shows up with no identifying information, I have no idea who it belongs to.

3. Address the package clearly. In over 10 years of doing this, three times a package has gone missing. All three were addressed to me incorrectly. All three were quickly located, but it can be a scare. Double check my address.

4. Ask the clerk at the Post Office to stamp your package "Fragile."

5. Insurance... I'm frequently asked how much to insure a package for. This is a hard question to answer. The actual replacement value of a watch is one thing, but this isn't the point. Nothing could not make up the loss of an important family item. The amount of insurance, therefore, is something that has to be left up to you. I receive many packages with no insurance, and that is fine too.

6. Email me when your watch is actually on its way. I'll be looking for it and I will let you know when it arrives. USPS Priority Mail takes 2 to 3 days. I receive text messages from the USPS with tracking information, so I'll know when it's going to arrive.

One last thing... Pack your watch while it is not running. A running watch has a slightly increased chance of being damaged by a sharp, physical jolt.

If you like to use a provider other than the USPS, such as UPS of FedEx, I have also never had any trouble with these. And I will return your watch by the same method.

Again, I have never had anything turn up missing, or damaged, in spite of mailing things out and receiving packages every week. But if the risk of shipping bothers you, then you really should not do it.

Read more about my experiences shipping watches here.

Elgin Advertising, 1926

He did his gift shopping at the jewelers!


Men and nation pass.  But their jewels remain.  Of all the possessions of ancient civilizations, the most enduring have been the tokens wrought in precious stone and metal.

Gone are the palaces of Egyptian kings, their gorgeous apparel and equipages.  But scattered among the museums of today, in all parts of the world, many of their jewels are still intact, more beautiful and infinitely more valuable than ever.

Today, as always, a purchase at the jeweler's is an investment in permanent values.  Jewelry is one of the few luxury-commodities which can be "consumed" year by year, decade after decade, without materially lessening the quantity or quality of the basic value!

Building up a line of jewelry means building up an asset-heritage for future generations, while enjoying the delight and charm of beautiful adornment in the building.

The jewelry business is among the fastest-growing in America, because, more and more, keen Americans are putting their shopping money into imperishable values.


Another Interesting Wall Clock


OhGizmo! has a feature on yet another interesting clock design. I rather like this one actually. The OLED design should make for a very clean and clear illumination.

The Influence of Observatory Trials on the Progress of Chronometry

From Horology magazine, July 1938

The Influence of Observatory Trials on the Progress of Chronometry

The Journal Suisse d'Horolgerie has recently concluded an interesting series of articles on this subject. Opening the discussion the author traces the history of chronometric trials in the leading European observatories. He points out that the first tests for ordinary watches were given at the Geneva observatory in 1790 by the Societe des Arts. A total of 19 pieces were submitted.

Until 1847 manufacturers were allowed to select the tests to which their watches were submitted. This freedom of choice, however, did not provide any basis of comparison of competitive makes and in that year a series of uniform tests was adopted. They included trials in 6 positions and 3 temperatures.

While the observatory at Geneva was in existence prior to the institution of chronometric trials, the observatory at Neuchatel was created specifically for this purpose upon the demands of watch manufacturers in the vicinity. The first trials, started in 1860, required watches to be tested in only 2 positions. This was soon found inadequate and in 1873 the 5 position tests were adopted. In 1876 an annual prize award was created, which was given to the manufacturer submitting not less than 12 pieces and obtaining the best results. This was intended as a safeguard against awarding the prize for an isolated .piece. Later the requirements were changed from 12 to 6 pieces as the minimum. In 1873 the tests were extended to cover 5 positions and a few years later a third temperature test was added.

In France, the observatory at Besancon first inaugurated chronometric tests in 1885. These were based on the Geneva trials. Kew observatory, in England, likewise followed the Geneva trials when its own tests were started in 1884.

Coming to the technical portion of his subject, the author, E. Guyot, cites the results obtained at the N euchatel observatory with the various forms of escapements during the period 1862-1900. He follows with a comparison of the results obtained with various forms of hairsprings and balances. One fact stands out most clearly as a result of the figures quoted and it is that since the introduction of the Guillaume balance in 1899 the temperature variations have been greatly lessened and the secondary error reduced. Of the watches submitted to the observatory since that time, the number of brass and steel bimetallic balances dropped uptil in 1910 there were only 5 out of 181 watches which had them. The last portion of the article deals with the apparent improvement in the rate of a timepiece with an increase in its diameter.

The conclusions derived are summarized by the author in four statements:

1. They serve to stimulate the watch manufacturers by inducing them to make better products.
2. They play an important role in watch factory advertising. By improving business they are enabled to devote more money to chronometric research.
3. They supply important information about the various systems used: escapement, balance, hairspring, etc. and permit the elimination of unsatisfactory systems.
4. They contribute to the maintenance of a high standard of horological workmanship.

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