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 Grade 206

 This one is an Elgin grade 206, 6 size, 7 jewels, made about 1904, in a striking gold hunter case.

American Waltham Watch Company, 1892

 Here's a Waltham 1892, Crescent Street model.
It is an 18 size, 17 jewel, lever-set watch in a classic open-faced case.

The double-sunk dial is a nice touch.

Elgin Advertising, 1927


A watch may never lose a second yet be many years slow

The bond between a man and such a watch is a secret tie, unknown to a critical and unsympathetic world. So the watch, no matter how highly it may me privily prized, is often publicly condemned as old-fashioned and out-of-style...  A man, in fact, is judged by the watch he carries, and if that watch be a modern Elgin, the appraisal is ever flattering.  For the Elgin is true alike to the time-minute and style-minute...  accurate and dependable, unbelievably thin, handsomely cased, a criterion of good taste.


A Wonderful Illinois Watch Co, 18 size Hunter

Here is a big and heavy 18 size, 17 jewel, lever-set watch made about 1915 by the Illinois Watch Company, Springfield.

Elgin Grade 291

 The Elgin grade 291 is 16 size, 7 jewel watch.
This one has an especially good metal dial.

Operation of the Watchmakers' Licensing Law

From The American Horologist magazine, October 1938

Operation of the Watchmakers' Licensing Law
Address delivered by Arthur C. Hentschel of Milwaukee, Wis., past president Wisconsin Retail Jewelers' Association. member of Wisconsin Board of Examiners in Watchmaking, F'riday, September 2nd, at the American National Retail Jewlers' Association at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York.

THE plan of regulating, licensing or certifying watchmakers is not new. Way back in 1908 an examining board for watchmakers was set up by the Wisconsin Retail Jewelers Association. The duties of this board were expressed as follows: "To design and layout plans whereby the Standards of Watchmaking would be raised." The opinion prevailed at that time that this might help to improve prices for watchwork and also be a means of bettering wages for watchmakers.

The President of the W. R. J. A. appointed a committee at that time to formulate a standard of requirements by adopting a number of questions, which if intelligently answered and the practical work required executed in a satisfactory manner would entitle the watchmaker to a Certificate of Master Watchmaker.

It was expected that when a watchmaker could produce such a certificate of efficiency he would have a decided advantage over those who could not show such a recommendation. Two examinations took place; one in 1911, and one in 1912, and the records show that in spite of a most strenuous campaign by all officers concerned the result was not satisfactory. Only three candidates were awarded certificates. These three formed the nucleus of the Guild of Master Watchmakers instituted in Wisconsin 30 years ago.

It is most evident that the first effort to register watchmakers in Wisconsin did not prove successful nor did it receive the proper support and it also proves that even at that early time the welfare of the watchmaker did receive serious consideration.

No doubt the sore distress of the watch repair department and also the watchmakers' plight were the gn~at concern of our organization during those years.  

The H. I. A. has done and is doing a marvelous job in this same field and did meet with a greater degree of success but even their efforts are only partially successful.

Perhaps other State Associations can report the same as Wisconsin.

The N. R. A. offered us an apparent solution to the watch repair problem, but unfortunately it did not materialize.

Along about the time of the N. R. A. the watchmakers of America became conscious of the fact that only through organization could they expect to ever improve their lot and organization became the order of the day.

The watchmakers of Wisconsin, after a series of trials and tribulations, finally arrived at that organization stage where they were able, under sound, efficient and able leadership to draft and enact a state law regulating the profession of watchmaking. That this sound and helpful legislation is on our statute books is entirely due to the untiring efforts of the Wisconsin Watchmakers' Association and due credit belongs to them. True, the Wisconsin Retail Jewelers' Association assisted both morally and financially. This law became effective April 29, 1937.

We are led to believe, by certain groups or interests, that laws cannot and will not correct certain evils and abuses, and that we already have too many laws on our statute books which attempt to halt or retard business and that free, unhampered and unbridled business practices and competition should prevail.  Truly: we have an abundance of laws and regulations that are outmoded and should perhaps be repealed, but it is a positive and glaring fact that the time is here right now when we must have laws that will either by license or regulation protect the trade or profession we have acquired by long years of toil and study. Be it called regimentation or governmental domination, a control, enforced by law,is the only solution to the many vicious and unsound practices that beset us today.

The power to enforce these licenses or regulations must by law be delegated to proper boards or committees appointed by and responsible to our lawfully elected representatives elected by the people and not by private interests set up by themselves and responsible only to themselves.

As I stated before, the law regulating watchmaking in Wisconsin became eflective April 29,1937.

This law defines what watchmaking is, and requires everybody doing watchwork for profit to be registered or licensed. The law sets up a board of 5 watchmakers whose duty it becomes to administer its provisions. The Governor of Wisconsin appoints this board. The board has full power and authority to set up proper examinations and superintend the apprenticeship provisions. It also sets forth reasons for revocation of a certificate. One very important cause for revocation is price advertisement of watchwork. The law also provides proper fines, even imprisonment. In fact, our law is very broad in its scope.

The board, after its appointment, was faced with several important and necessary duties such as registering all watchmakers who were entitled to a certificate without examination, planning and adopting a proper examination for future applicants and also preparing for the registering of apprentices. These three problems consumed a vast amount of time, but the board feels that a just and proper solution has been found for these necessary objectives.

About 1100 watchmakers have been registered by exemption, this was a most interesting finding as nobody knew before how many men were really engaged in watchmaking in Wisconsin. It is a sad fact that about 20 or 25 men who were entitled to register by exemption failed to do so and must now take an examination. The examination which everybody must now take before practicing in Wisconsin is divided into three distinct sections or phases namely practical, oral and written.

This is what the examination consists of:

Part 1. Practical demonstration of applicant's skill in the manipulation of watchmaking tools. Time limit 9 hours.
Subject A. Applicant is given a 16size, 17-jewel watch of good quality with a broken staff, hairspring distorted and escapement mutilated, required to completely make and fit a staff and completely repair and re-assemble watch. 
Subject B. Applicant given 6 3/4 ligne or smaller wrist watch without a stem, required to completely make a stem and completely overhaul and re-assemble.
Part 2. Oral examination. This oral examination gives the board a true picture of the applicant. His fitness, his character, his honesty is closely scrutinized by the board during his oral examination.
Part 3. Written examination. This consists of about 75 questions relating to the technical knowledge the applicant may have on the subject of watchmaking.

The above examination consumes two days and the board is after that time very well qualified to pass upon the qualification of the applicant as a watchmaker.

Our third duty was to set up a proper apprenticeship plan and I am glad to state that I believe we have a good sound and workable apprenticeship indenture.  Eight apprentices are now indentured under it.

The Wisconsin law recognizes only registered watchmakers and registered apprentice watchmakers. Everyone else is prohibited from engaging in watchmaking. There are only two ways to learn the watchmaking trade. First, study in an accredited trade school, combined with practical experience or a four-year apprenticeship indenture issued by both the watchmaking board and the State Industrial Commission.

This in short gives you an outline of the operation of the Watchmakers' Law for the first year. The short time allotted to this subject will not permit going into all details as they confronted the board.

I am firmly convinced that the retail jeweler should wholeheartedly support the Watchmakers' Associations in their endeavors to pass a law similar to the Wisconsin law.

I have been unable to conceive one sound or logical reason why we as retail jewelers should oppose such legislation.  Let us enumerate some of the reasons why we should give our support, yes, perhaps even lead the way:

First. The proper enforcement and application of the provisions of this legislation is a positive protection to the public against fraud and botchwork.  This is a most important consideration because we must ever in all our endeavors protect the public.
Second. It eliminates one bad and destructive evil, I refer to price advertising, such as these: "Any make of watch cleaned and oiled, mainspring or jewel, 39 cents." "Watches repaired, all makes, jewels or mainsprings or cleaning, 60 cents." Wisconsin has eliminated this evil entirely, all price advertising signs have disappeared.
Third. Our repair department will become more profitable through eliminating all untrained and undesirable workmen. It will also lead to a higher wage scale for the watchmaker.
Fourth. A finer and higher class of young men will be attracted to enter the trade. A protected profession can always offer a better future to those who may enter it.
Fifth. And this reason is perhaps the most important one. The fear of union activity entering into our business. It is my belief that by virtue of a licensing law the trade will be better protected and will never feel the urge to unionize.

I have given but 5 reasons why the retailer should back up this watchmakers' licensing law. Everyone of the reasons I have mentioned is more or less selfish as far as the retail jeweler is concerned and we as an association have wished for a solution for the watch repair evil for more than 30 years and now a solution is here for us to grasp.

A problem our board is now experiencing and one that we must and will meet is classifying or accrediting schools for the teaching of watch repairing.

A young man who took an examination before our board, upon being orally examined was asked why he selected watchmaking as his profession and also how he happened to select the particular school that he attended, told the board that he was mechanically inclined, having worked in a garage at times, so a watchmaker he wanted to be. He was a farmer boy and from general appearance would never be able to do work on small wrist watches. He told the board that he had noticed an ad in Popular Mechanics which stated that watchmakers were earning $100 a week and that after he had finished his course at that school they would find a position for him. He enrolled as a student and paid 250 good dollars for his course. After attending the school for the required time no position could be found for him for various reasons, but he was told that he could continue at school and work on trade work on a percentage basis. This was the boy's statement made before the board. He made a very poor examination and the Board failed him. Nevertheless his $200.00 is gone and he no doubt will go back to the farm. Without our law he would now be butchering up somebody's watch and create bad competition for some watchmaker. We have examined three men who attended the same school that this young man attended and all failed to make the grade.  On the other hand, some very good and competent men came from other schools. Some were up in theory, but not so good in practical work. Placing proper approval or credit upon Watchmaking Schools will be a most serious but necessary problem, it is one of those problems our Board must solve. The Board has not come to any solution upon this matter, but a study of this subject may lead to the conclusion that privately owned schools conducted for profit only, are not the best schools to qualify. Certainly a school that conveys the impression to their prospective students that $100.00 a week jobs await them is not the right school to endorse. 

Elgin Grade 452

Here's a nice grade 452, named for George M. Wheeler.

It's 12 size, has 17 jewels, and was made about 1921.

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

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