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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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Elgin Grade 719, The Lord Elgin Chevron Direct Read

Now here's something completely different...

During the '50s and '60s the Elgin Watch Company was beginning to decline.  During these years they produced a number of odd-ball designs in an attempt to recapture market share.  One could call this innovation, but the results are just plain annoying for watchmakers.  


This is one of a line of "chevron" Lord Elgin wristwatches from that era.  It features a "direct read" display, with a jump disc for the hour.  The time is shown on two rotating discs for the hour and minutes respectively.  The hour disc does not turn smoothly, but rather "jumps" from one number to the next at each hour.  This is accomplished by a complicated, fragile and difficult dial-side complication.

This watch came all the way from France.  It seems no one over there wanted to work on it, and I can't say that I blame them.


The minute disc goes over the top of the hour disc.  The minute disc is larger and clear in the middle area.  These watches are almost always found with a broken minute disc, as this one had, because they are difficult to remove without cracking them.  Watchmakers have no doubt broken countless minute discs on these "digital" Elgin watches. 

By the way, I took some of these photos before disassembly and cleaning...



 This shows the parts under the hour wheel, separated.


The mechanism is so prone to "jamming" that the original factory notes I used as a guide actually mention how the watch should be set by the user to minimize (not avoid, but reduce) the problem.  The mechanism is so awkward that Elgin actually made two special tools for removing and adjusting the read discs (and no, I don't have them!).
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