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!

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War Demands And You

From The American Horologist magazine, January 1942

War Demands And You

Watchmakers can fill many positions now opening up in Government Defense work, but just because you happen to be practicing the art does not prove you are capable of fi!ling precision instrument work openings.  Such men are being used as rapidly as special demands are placed.

To those seeking some sort of work in plants serving our Government, we refer you to the United States Employment Service.

In a letter just received from Washington, D. C., we quote:
"Your letter of December 18 stating that large numbers of your men:bers are eager to utilize their skill in the service of the Federal Government is greatly appreciated." "As you are probably aware, there is an Employment Service in each state in the country. Together these services constitute a nation-wide system of Public Employment Services which are now recruiting workers for the defense program. Local offices are situated in approximately 1 500 cities throughout the country.

All of these local offices are advised of work opportunities in their respective communities, and through the nation-wide clearance facilities of the United States Employment Service they are also aware of job openings in other localities." "Accordingly, we suggest that your applicants be advised to register at the nearest local office of the Employment Service in order to obt~in suggestions and counsel concernmg the manner in which to find adequate employment to aid in war-time production." Should there be any question on the p~rt of State or Government agencies, as to properly classifying watchmakers, refer them to "Federal Security Agency;" "Currently Active Occupations Series;" "Interviewing Aid for Watchmaker," 4-71.510, Number lA-41.

This is the Government "Occupational Analysis Section," dealing with our profession.  

There is another avenue open, that of Civil Service.


The Elgin Time marketplace is finally up and running, using Google Sites and the Google online store templates.  This is where I'll be able to offer watches and other related items for sale.


Comments and feedback welcome...

Question Box

From Horology magazine, April, 1939

Question Box

Jeweled Bankings

Editor Horology, 
Dear Sir:
Please answer in your Question Box.

What is the advantage of jeweled banking pins? How many watches should a watchmaker, working full time at the bench, put in good order per day?

Answer: If the spot where the fork strikes the banking be examined with a microscope it will be found that it is not perfectly clean. It will show a coating on the fork as well as the pin, similar to the substance which appears on the contact surfaces of wheels and pinions. It seems to come from nowhere but is probably due to a minute sliding of the fork over the banking pin, especially if the pallet arbor fits freely in the jewels.

Assuming, therefore, that there is a sliding action, a jeweled surface becomes beneficial. However, the refinement of jeweling the banking is justified in none but highly adjusted watches.

The question of hew many watches per day one should turn out will remain unanswered for some time to come. For the output of work depends on general shop conditions as well as the skill and knowledge of the individual workman.

Among the horologist's tools, for instance, are a number of devices which are not often used. Those who own plenty of equipment seldom get stuck when something out of the ordinary is required. The horologist who limits his equipment to the ordinary bench tools gets lost when a slight alteration is needed or a new part has to be made. Another important factor is an adequate stock of material. Much valuable time is lost in hunting for material. To maintain a good stock, however, is not everything. It is equally important that the material be kept systematically, so that one may tell at a glance whether or not he has a particular piece.

A fair daily average also depends much on the policy of a store in accepting watches for repairs. In too many instances horologists are compelled to work on watches which should have been junked long ago. And last but not least, the general surroundings in the shop, such as light, air and working space, also affect the output.

The Effect of Reciprocal Treaty to American Watch Industry As Made Between Our Government and Switzerland

From American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, October 1936

The Effect of Reciprocal Treaty to American Watch Industry As Made Between Our Government and Switzerland

The following letter points out the necessity for greater interest in our American industries and affairs, source of information is authentic:

"I have read with interest the article on page 14 of your July issue, entitled 'Who Knows the Answer?' and I am not surprised that some of your patrioticallyminded readers are disturbed over the large sales of imported watch movements at a time of such great unemployment in this country.

"Employees, as well as employers, have something to think about when they realize the effect of the reciprocal treaty that our government made with Switzerland, which became effective on February 15th of this year. Before this treaty went into effect, the importations of Swiss watch movements exceeded the number manufactured in the United States and, as you are well aware, there was at that time a serious problem of unemployment in the watch-making industry. Every imported movement deprives American workmen of approximately ten hours of labor. In spite of that situation, the reciprocal treaty with Switzerland reduced the tariff on imported watches, with the following results:

"In the first six months of 1935, 375,347 watch movements were imported.  Under the reciprocal treaty with Switzerland, in the first six months of 1936, 590,880 watch movements have been imported, an increase of over 55%. This increase of 215,533 watch movements imported during the first six months of this year has replaced over two million hours of work that could have been performed in the United States.

"If this deliberately planned program, which is affecting labor in the American watch-making industry, was proving to be of proportionate benefit to some other class of workmen in the United States, there might be some justification for such a program. There appears, however, to be no possible justification, as our total export and import business with Switzerland during this same period shows a decline in goods they took from us of over 12 million Swiss francs, while they increased their sales to us over 3 million francs, buying less and selling more. This, of course, shows an alarming trend as it creates an unfavorable trade balance and it is impossible to justify a treaty with any foreign country that produces such a result. This trend is increasing rather than decreasing, and employees and employers alike face a problem of government policy that not only does not tend to relieve the unemployment situation in the United States, but actually increases it."

What May We Expect Next From Our Government Officials?

Our office has been deluged with protest against recent Government officials' actions and statements detrimental to our entire industry, one of the most current being that of our Secretary of Labor as appeared in Walter Winchell's Column, as follows:

Friday, September 4, 1936 

"A newspaperman just returned from Geneva was in. Said that Miss Perkins, our Secretary of Labor, on August 10th, held a special press conference for United States reporters. At which she stated that she had brought a watch all the way from here to Geneva to be repaired by "any" watchmaker. That there weren't any good ones in America. This from the Secretary of Labor!" 

Do You Know?

From The American Horologist magazine, October 1938

Do You Know?
Directed by 
W. H. Samelius, Chairman
Science of Horology and Technical Board

 Table showing the thickness of washers and about how many seconds they will slow up a watch having 14 weight screws in the balance and otherwise like an average 18 or 16 size balance:

.O2 mm. 30 seconds in 24 hours, 
.04 mm. 60 seconds in 24 hours, 
.07 mm. 120 seconds in 24 hours. 
.09 mm. 180 seconds in 24 hours, 
.12 mm. 300 seconds in 24 hours, 
.18 mm. 480 seconds in 24 hours.

If washers are made for 0 size watches or smaller, the above rule will not apply as the effect of washers will be about 3 to 4 times greater.

During the years when the music box was in favor, the musical m'lchinery was reduced so small that there were musical snuff boxes, musical seals, musical watches and even musical rings.

The first equation clock to show both mean and apparent time was made in Lcndon about 200 years ago.

We often find hard steel pallets badly pitted or grooved, both on the locking face and impulse face. 

When the brass tooth of the escape wheel drops on the locking face of the pallet the impact will cause any abrasive material that may have settled on the face of the pallet to become embedded in the soft brass tooth and in this way the tooth becomes charged and as the tooth then passes over the hard steel pallet, a groove or pit mark will be the natural result.

When refinishing a worn pallet, be very careful to maintain original lifting and locking angles.

There are two centers to a lathe; the center that fits in the headstock is called the live center and the one the fits into the tail stock is called the dead-center.

The light rays from an arc light travel 186,000 miles per second.

There are over 1,000 separate and distinct inspections thruout the making of a complete watch and in all there are over 200 separate pieces in a watch movement.

The first planatary machine made in England was built by the celebrated clockmaker, George Graham.

With a contour projector as used in our modern watch factories, a small watch plate is enlarged on a screen 150 times in order to detect any error as to locations for pivot holes, screw holes, etc.
The thickness of a baguette hairspring is 64/100,000 inch and the width is 4/1000 inch.

The standard of accuracy in one of our largest watch factories is three-one hundred thousands inch.

During the early days of clockmaking the seconds-beat pendulum was known as, or called a "Royal Pendulum." 

Many fresh water pearls are found in the waters of the United States such as the Mississippi and its tributaries There are also many fine pearls found in Scotland.

All salt water pearls are given the trade name "Oriental." They are found in the Persian gulf, South Sea Islands, Venezuela, Panama, Australia and Japan. 

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

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