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 288

Here's an 18 size Elgin grade 288.

7 jewels, made about 1911.

Co-Eds Find New Use for Alarm Clocks

From The American Horologist magazine, April 1938

Co-Eds Find New Use for Alarm Clocks

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- University of Tennessee co-eds use alarm clocks as getter uppers for eight o'clock classes and for something else, too.

Several of the girls and their dates were dancing at a recreation spot near the campus. The orchestra was in the middle of a sweet tune when the jangle of an alarm clock startled the dancers, and sent the co-eds racing out the door.

"We had to be back at the dormitory at 10:30," one of them explained. "So we set the alarm clock to be sure we wouldn't be locked out."

Burlington Special

Everyone loves an actual railroad grade watch.
 Burlington Special number 2204592, 16 size, 19 jewels, model 5.

Dogs Have Time

From The American Horologist magazine, April 1938

Dogs Have Time

Men have gold and yet are paupers.
Dogs have time -
Time for waiting uncomplaining 
When it's snowing, freezing, raining;
Time for patience when they're gaining 
Not a dime.

Dogs possess what men have least of;
Time to spare -
Time un clocked by wheels in motion;
Time to wait with blind devotion 
For a man to cross an ocean -
Time to care.

Men with time for selfish striving, 
Time to shove 
Happiness aside for pleasure, 
Somehow lose that greatest treasure 
Which dogs have in boundless 'measure:
Time for love.

-Gene Lindburg.
From Denver Post.

Another Elgin Grade 344

Here's an especially nice Elgin grade 344, 12 size, 17 jewels.

These fancy dials are rarely found in such good condition.  Something about them seems to make them extra fragile.

 Made about 1925.

Elgin Grade 132

Here's a nice Elgin grade 132. This is a 6 size, 15 jewel watch, made about 1896

Question Box- How Many Watches Per Day?

From Horology magazine, September1937

How Many Watches Per Day?

Dear Sir:
I would appreciate very much your answering the following questions either direct or through your question box.
How many watches should a good watchmaker be able to turn out in a day, as an average?
What is a reasonacble percentage of come-backs over a period of a year?
W. R. K.

Answer: To answer these questions with a definite figure is no more possible than to tell how long it will take to put a certain watch in good order on the strength of the price quoted. In the first place, it would be necessary to define the term "good watchmaker." How many of the 100,000 watchmakers in the United States claim to be inferior? Even the man whose bench is surrounded by rusty revolvers and antiquated cameras, in a Main Street pawn shop, proudly displays his slogan "expert watch repairing." The Horological Institute of America, for instance, is an authority passing on the grade of workmanship. But, efficiency does not depend entirely on the skill exhibited in an examination watch when practically unlimited time is granted for executing the job.

Horology challenges assertions frequently made that this or that firm does not pay for, or does not allow, the use of a slide-rest, pivot polisher or similar instruments. These are all labor saving devices and no one practicing horology with only a few screw-drivers and tweezers can ever hope to compete, either in quality or quantity, with the horologist who commands a good set of tools. The fact that a number of us still keep our slide-rests in the original canvas bags proves that we have not as yet learned how to use them.

Another factor in the efficiency of a watch repair shop is the actual location of the work shop. It will be found that the proprietor of the average jewelry store will go to almost any amount of trouble to place the jewelry repairers in the choicest part of the store, but for the watch repair department he ill allot some useless corner or a stuffy balcony.

Such an employer has only the right to ask his watchmakers how many jobs they can produce under the most unfavorable conditions.

Even after considering the ability of the individual workman, his equipment and general working conditions, the important subject of material is to be reckoned with. Any employer who expects a great volume of work from his employees should be prepared to provide the shop with a modern and systematically arranged material department. Putting a job aside until a mainspring, staff or jewel arrives from the material house or fishing for a crown or stem in a mixture of odds and ends does not constitute efficiency.

In a like manner the percentage of come-backs will depend on conditions already mentioned.  A skilled workman with modern equipment working in an ideal shop with a good stock of material at his disposal, will have less come-backs.

Vintage Watch Accuracy Revisited

How accurate can a vintage watch be?  The Tick Tock blog has posted two enlightening pieces on the accuracy of watches, particularly vintage watches, since these two articles are from 1950.

"One of the things many watchmakers struggle with is customers who want modern accuracy (or even quartz accuracy) from vintage timepieces. It seems that over the years we have forgotten what was expected of wristwatches 50 years ago."

Take a look at the entire blog post here:


Read the two pieces via Google Docs, one here and the other here.
My earlier comments on this subject are here...

Do You Know?

From The American Horologist magazine, April 1938

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

It was during the 16th Century that clocks were fitted with glass to protect the hands.

The name "Pendule" was given to watches in which the pallet arbor was placed across the verge escape wheel and to this arbor was attached two arms, each arm having a small weight attached to the outer end, which acted as a balance. There was an opening in the dial showing one of these weights moving to and fro which then appeared similar to the motion of the pendulum of a clock.

The rack lever escapement was invented by Peter Litherland of Liverpool, England, 1781. At the end of the lever was a segment into which teeth were cut, engaging a pinion which took the place of a balance staff and the motion of the lever to and fro would cause the balance to vibrate the same as our watch of today. The lever at no time was detached. While the method secured a steady action it entailed considerable friction and for that reason the rack lever was soon abandoned.

With the regular 15-tooth escape wheel and the 4th wheel having ten times as many teeth as the escape pinion, the balance beats 18,000 vibrations per hour.

When the 4th wheel has nine times as many teeth as the escape pinion the balance vibrates 15,200 per hour. When the 4th wheel has 8 times as many teeth as the escape pinion the balance vibrates 14,400 per hour.

As compared to the solar day, the siderial clock gains 9 5/6 seconds per hour or 3 minutes, 56 seconds in 24 hours.

In 1891, a head-on collision occurred near Kipton, Ohio, killing the engineer and several railway mail clerks. Investigation disclosed there was a difference of four minutes of time as shown by the engineers' watches. This was the cause of loss of life and property. Mr. Webb C. Ball, a jeweler at Cleveland, Ohio, was a witness to the investigation.  Interest was aroused so he worked out a system for a plan of inspection for all railroad watches which was accepted and is today in operation on practically all railroads in the country.

It is claimed that Sandoz & Trot was the firm that established the first watch factory in Switzerland in 1804. Previous to that time watchmaking had been a house industry.

The screw bezel for watch cases was invented by E. C. Fitch of 1886. He was one of the early presidents of the Waltham Watch Company.

Gnomonics: The art of constructing and setting sun dials taught extensively during the 17th Century.

Guild: An association of workmen employed in kindred pursuit for mutual protection and aid.

It is believed that Ctesibus, a famous Greek mechanician, that lived in Alexandria, was the first man to apply toothed wheels to the Clepsydra about 140 B. C.

Dog-Watch: A nautical term for two daily two-hour periods of watching aboard ship. The first begins at 4 p. m. and the other at 6 p. m.

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

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