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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.

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Another Creative Watch Fix

Here's a different solution to the problem of a pin missing from the movement on an old style Elgin 18 size watch.

This type of watch has, normally, one case screw on one side and a pin on the other that fits into a hole in the case. On this watch the pin is long broken off. Long, long ago a watchmaker placed a case washer on the screw, which would not normally be needed but it makes the screw tighter, and on one of the plate screws there is a flat piece of steel, crudely formed, acting as a second washer. The movement isn't very secure, but it is at least prevented from falling out.

I could have replaced the pin in the plate, but this is the sort of vintage "repair" I like to leave intact on an old watch. It's part of the history and character of the old pieces.

Elgin 6 Size


Here's a nice Elgin 6 size, grade 206, 7 jewels.
Made about 1899.

Creative Repair

One of the interesting things about restorations on very old watches is the history of watchmakers that have gone before. In the early years, even with factory made watches, it was much more cost effective to fabricate or repair a part than to obtain a factory original replacement. Basic materials were also sometimes in short supply. Watchmakers kept quite a bit less material on hand than one might expect.

I'm always finding creative repairs in watches. As these are part of the history and character of the piece, I feel it's important to keep those repairs in place, if at all possible. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it does not.

This first photo shows a balance cock from an 18 size Elgin pocket watch. The hairspring was intact on this watch, but it had slipped out of the stud. In this photo the stud is still locked into the cock by it's set screw, at the end in the lower part of the photo. The reason the hairspring slipped out is also clear on inspection. In stead of the usual brass pin slipped into the stud with the spring end and finished off on each end, some creative watchmaker used a sliver of wood! In fact, the sliver of wood is still there, in the stud. Well, that's not going to work...


This second photo shows another interesting repair on a different watch, also an 18 size Elgin. The photo show the dial side of the lower plate. This watch is a particularly old key-wind model that has one case screw. On the other end of the movement from where that screw goes, a pin sticks out, which mates to a hole in the case. The movement is thus held secure from two sides.

On this watch it appears the the pin broke off or was worn away. The watchmakers has soldered a small finger of steel into the edge on the dial side of the plate to replace the pin.

My Grandfather always said, you never know what you will find in a watch until you get in there.

Question Box


From Horology magazine, April, 1939

Question Box

Regulating Watches

Editor Horology, Dear Sir:
I enjoy reading this magazine very much and cannot praise it too highly.

Would like to ask you why the Swiss factories do not give the watchmakers a break. They fill all the holes in the balance wheels with screws so that the watchmaker can not make any change in the weight of the wheel for regulating, except by placing washers or substituting larger screws, which detract from the appearance of the wheel. Many times there is hardly any clearance for larger screws. Would like to have you answer this in the Question Box.
C. O. A.

Answer: Factories maintain that the horologist should never have to change screws for the purpose of regulating a watch. It is quite proper to make a slight change in weight with balance washers.

These, however, should not be larger in diameter than the heads of the screws.

The horologist should always bear in mind that adding or removing a pair of screws may seriously affect the temperature adjustment of the watch.

Of Broken Mainsprings

When working on an old watch it's not unusual to find a broken mainspring. Usually, they break in one, or maybe two places. This can happen simply because of age, and with the stress of being coiled and uncoiled many times.

Sometime though you find something more like the spring shown here in this 18 size, key-wind Elgin. The top of the barrel was loose and came right off with the bridge.

Yep, I think it'll need a new spring!

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