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!

Dr Guillaume, Discoverer of Invar, Passes

From Horology magazine, July 1938


DR. GUILLAUME, DISCOVERER OF INVAR, PASSES Dr. Charles-Edouard Guillaume, famous for his researches with nickel steel alloys, died at Sevres, France on June 13th at the age of 77. A native of Switzerland, Dr. Guillaume grew up in the Jura mountain region where the manufacture of watches is a leading industry.

While yet a young man he was given a position at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures where he began his now classic researches into the behavior of nickel steel alloys, which culminated in the discovery of invar and elinvar. He was the recipient of many coveted honors among which were membership in the French Academy of Science and the Nobel Prize in 1920.

In January 1937, upon his retirement from the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, a medal commemorating his services was struck off.

The horological industry in particular has benefited from Dr. Guillaume's work and mourns the passing of its most distinguished research engineer. Funeral services were held on June 17th in Fleurier, Switzerland, where he was born. 

Creative Hand Repairs

This watch it seems, had a broken minute hand at some point.  Here is the minute hand laying upside down on the dial after I removed it.

The minute hand is actually the broken body of the hand glued to some gold wrist watch hand.

Who knows what remains to be found inside this project...

Yet Another Creative Repair

This Elgin grade 240 is an 18 size, 19 jewel watch made about 1910.
It features a great repair done no doubt many decades ago.

The pallet fork has been broken and repaired with a half-tube of brass used as a sort of splint. It is soldered in place.
In pretty rare cases, it is necessarily to bend the fork a bit. It's tricky to do, and to be avoided - it's usually the roller table that's incorrect anyway. But it seems in this case the watchmaker broke the fork, and had to repair it. It is actually a nice job. It is strong, straight, and the watch runs perfectly. I suppose the weight change cases a sight positional rate error, but I didn't detect it.

Elgin Serial Numbers Lookup

I've had all sort of trouble keeping my serial number web page working right. Mostly because I've been too busy to spend much time on it... And because it depends on a dynamic DNS entry that has to be manually changed when my internet provider changes my IP address, or when I forget to renew it. Yes, it's all done on the cheap, but it's working again, for the moment...

Try this one:


Elgin Grade 451

This is an Elgin grade 451, 12 size, 19 jewels.

This is a Lord Elgin model, made about 1926.

The Screw Department

Here's another photo made for Elgin marketing purposes, in the late 1920s. This shows the screw department.
From Elgin National Watch Co
The caption reads:
MANUFACTURING 400,00 SCREWS PER DAY. The Screw Department. These automatic screw machines, designed and built by master craftsmen, are highly efficient. They make minute steel and brass screws for watches, with an average daily production of 400,000.

Elgin Grade 387

This Elgin grade 387 is a 16 size, 17 jewel watch, made about 1919.  It's a really solid watch.

More About Creative Fixes

Long ago, although it seems counter-intuitive, factory parts for watches were often difficult to obtain and very frequently more expensive than hand-made replacements, and other...  solutions.  Today we see all sorts of interesting repairs in vintage watches, done long, long ago.  Here's something I found in a watch just today.

What we see here is a mainspring barrel from a 16 size Elgin pocketwatch.  The cap and the arbor have been removed.  What do we have?  There's a neatly folded wad of watch paper (a type of low-lint tissue paper) tucked in there just at the inside end of the mainspring where the spring hooks to the arbor.

Well this is a new one on me...

It appears that the mainspring is worn out and the watchmaker made a little paper pad to put in there that will press the end of the spring against the center so it would not relax and come unhooked.  Ha!  I think I'll replace the spring...

The Train Room

Here's another photo from the Elgin watch factory. This one is captioned "The Train Room". It's from the later 1920s and was taken for The Watch Word magazine.
From Elgin National Watch Co

Another Elgin Grade 303

The Elgin grade 303 is a 7 jewel, 12 size model.  This one was made about 1928.

This was a very popular movement.  Elgin sold an awful lot of them.

Elgin Grade 294

Here's a 18 size Elgin grade 294 in a heavy swing out case.
7 jewels, made about 1909.

Another Elgin Photo

Here's another photo from some Elgin National Watch Company promotional material from sometime in the late '20s or early '30s.

More here:
Elgin National Watch Co

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