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!

Pinion Cutters

Here's another photo from the Elgin watch factory. The caption on this one reads "Pinion Cutters".
About 1930...
From Elgin National Watch Co

Mark Twain on the Cuckoo Clock

"For years my pet aversion had been the cuckoo clock; now here I was, at last, right in the creature's home; so wherever I went that distressing "HOO'hoo! HOO'hoo! HOO'hoo!" was always in my ears. For a nervous man, this was a fine state of things. Some sounds are hatefuler than others, but no sound is quite so inane, and silly, and aggravating as the "HOO'hoo" of a cuckoo clock, I think. I bought one, and am carrying it home to a certain person; for I have always said that if the opportunity ever happened, I would do that man an ill turn. What I meant, was, that I would break one of his legs, or something of that sort; but in Lucerne I instantly saw that I could impair his mind. That would be more lasting, and more satisfactory every way. So I bought the cuckoo clock; and if I ever get home with it, he is "my meat," as they say in the mines."
-- Mark Twain

Another Elgin Factory Photo

This is a photo made for promotional purposes at the Elgin factory.  The date is not known but it should be about 1930 in light of where it was found and what it was with.
From Elgin National Watch Co

The Radium Room

Here's a photo taken inside the Elgin watch factory, about 1930.  The caption reads:

APPLYING "EVENING MAKE-UP" TO THE FACE OF A WATCH.  The Radium Room.  Radium occupies a department of its own, that people are not allowed to visit.  The room is finished entirely in white enamel, well lighted, and the air is changed every seven minutes to keep it clean and fresh.  Exhaust pipes which carry away all impurities can be seen in front of each girl.  Only a small potion of radium is mixed at a time, and all stock is held in lead containers, as is the daily mixture.  A common pen is used to place the radium on the hands and numerals of the dial.  Each girl is provided with a smock, and compelled to leave it in the department.  Every Precaution is taken so that no part of the radium reaches the operator.

From Elgin National Watch Co


I received a watch yesterday via UPS 2nd day air.  There was no indentifying information inside, and the name on the return address does not match anything I have in emails.

Is this your watch?  Please get a hold of me and let me know.


UPDATE 7/21/11:
Watch identified, crisis averted.

Elgin Grade 317

This is a less common grade of the 18 size Elgin pocketwatches.

It's a 15 jewel movement, made about 1908.

The Elgin Watch Factory, 1910

Here's a nice photo postcard showing the Elgin clock tower. This card is postmarked in 1910.
From Elgin National Watch Co
It's interesting how many women are in this photo - nearly every figure shown in fact. Elgin employed a great many women, a majority of the employees during certain eras.

Elgin Grade 301

This Elgin grade 301 has an unusual case.  It is ten-sided, but it is also threaded front and back and so the bezel and back cover are round.

This is a 12 size, 7 jewel watch, made about 1919.

Waltham 845

This 1892 railroad Waltham provides a nice example of how lever-set watches are operated.

This is an 18 size, 21 jewel model 845.

Illinois Autocrat

This is a 12 size, 17 jewel watch from the Illinois Watch Co. Autocrat model, made about 1928...


I seem to be able to invite people to Google+.  If any customers or other regular readers here would like to try out the new service from Google let me know.  The invitations do function intermittently, so there's no guarantee.

More Vintage Watch Ads

These are from 1948.  Click to go to the Picasa album, enjoy.


Vintage Watch Ads

Here's a few watch ads from a Swiss industry magazine, 1955.  Click to see the whole album.


Elgin Watch Factory Photos

I've posted an album of four photos from the estate of someone who worked at the Elgin factory in about 1910. One photo shows the staff from the repair room at a picnic. The others, I believe, are interior scenes of the National House, which was an employee recreational and dormitory building.

From Elgin National Watch Co

Find the whole album here:
Elgin National Watch Co

Elgin Grade 308

The grade 308 is one of the more unusual ones. It is an 18 size, 17 jewel watch. This one was made about 1905. Note the scarce 24 hour dial.

Elgin Grade 354

Here's another Elgin grade 354.

This is a 0 size, 15 jewel watch made about 1915. This example has an especially nice gold hunter case.

Elgin Veritas

Here we have the watch whose wheels I posted a photo of a while ago.  This is an Elgin 18 size, 23 jewel Veritas model, made about 1902.

One of the best...

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