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!

Young Men and Watchmaking

From The American Horologist magazine, January 1939

Young Men and Watchmaking

A YOUNG man interested in entering the profession of watchmaking should consider, primarily, his fitness for this particular work. This cannot easily be determined by the young man himself, not knowing what it is like beforehand, he cannot be sure of what success he may expect as an apprentice or as a student in school. It is not enough that he expresses a desire to learn the art, or that, as in many cases, a son steps into his father's repair shop; or, as an errand boy to the watchmaker, he begins to tinker with tools.

It is not often that an American young man will lose sight of his possible future earning ability. It would be senseless for him to use his probable salary as a yardstick of his future ability. Nor would it be commendable on the part of a teacher to accept a student only on the strength of the expressed desire by the latter.

It must be realized that the young man is making an important decision, perhaps the only decision that will shape his life more than anythil1g. Is not one's advice to the young man equally serious?

A school of horology may be ever so equipped as to matriculate students as master mechanics, only to find them later experiencing drudgery at meager wages -just as briIHant students in law and medicine become failures after being on their own. Of course, that has long been thought of as a matter of fate and no one was to be responsible.

We are now entering a phase in scientific research that does away with the hit-or-miss method in selective occupations. According to fitness most failures are preventable. That is to say; the applicant's fitness for the particular occupation may be pre-determined.

To be specific, let us, for example, point out that, according to this new science, interest is no guide to aptitude and that tweezer dexterity and finger dexterity are two distinct characteristics.
It goes without saying that mathematical knowledge, resourcefulness, good eyesight, tendency to precision in all things and patience are the prerequisites of the applicant. But these qualifications without natural aptitude will prevent their co-ordination, resulting in a mediocre workman despite fine training.

No science dealing with the human mind can be expected to work absolutely perfect. But from results obtained thus far by the Human Engineering Laboratory in Occupational Guidance, it would seem that THE AMERICAN HOROLOGIST as well as responsible Horological Schools would look into the matter for the benefit of applicants and others seeking advice.

We have gone a long way toward developing tools, materials, alloys, lubricants, and precision devices; let us catch up with the human element without which all these are without meaning. 

This may be done through scientific selection. It is not too much to ask of our horological schools to exercise extreme care where scientific selection is not possible, particularly, since it is the aim of all schools not only to turn out good mechanics but happy men as well.

Without natural aptitude happiness in one's occupation may be questionable. What is known already on the subject should be sufficient to point the way toward development of better horologistg in the interest of the public and themselves.

Time and Cement

From The American Horologist magazine, January 1939

Time and Cement

The invention (patent No. 2,129,043) is the work of Peter Bortsch of St. Peter, a village near Graz, Austria. A rod from the clock to which a weight is attached is inserted in the freshly poured cement. As the clock unwinds the rod gradually sinks into the cement. When the cement has set the rod stops sinking and the clock automatically stops.

Court House Clock Vital

Albany, Ore. - A public furore over disposition of the Linn County Court House clock was stilled when county officials promised that a clock would be installed in the new court house to supplant the timepiece in the old building by which an estimated one-half of the town's residents told time daily.

The citizens also were informed their ears would not be subjected to the harsh notes of a new chime, as the old clock chime was removed and would be attached to the new clock to be installed. 

Elgin Grade 207

The Elgin grade 207 pocketwatch movement is a lever-set grade, 18 size, stem-wind, with 7 jewels.

This example, in a swing-out case, threaded front bezel was made about 1902.


Elgin Grade 171

The grade 171 is a less common movement.  It's another 18 size Elgin product, 7 jewels, lever-set, this one made about 1899.


Elgin Grade 88

The grade 88, 18 size, 11 jewels, lever-set watch.  I guess I forgot to take a photo of the lever on this one, made about 1880.

There are many lever-set examples though, click here for a search.

Nice blued screws, a complete set...

Another Elgin Grade 55

This is another example of the grade 55; an 18 size, 7 jewel Elgin movement.  It is key-wind and key-set, and has the dial marked "National Watch Co.", the original name of the company.

This example is also a J. T. Ryerson named movement.  It was made about 1873.


Serial Number Application Update

I updated the Elgin pocketwatch serial number reference page this morning with some layout changes.  Hopefully it's an improvement...


300-Year-Old Clock Runs

From The American Horologist magazine, January 1939

300-Year-Old Clock Runs
Irish Grandfather Timepiece Has Withstood Several Burials

Lakeland, Fla. - A big grandfather clock made at Ballymena, Ireland, more than 300 years ago was buried several times when warfare brewed in Erin.  Each time it was dug up and ran smoothly afterward.

Finally, in 1763, it was brought to America. It passed from one generation to another, until now it is owned by Mrs. D. J. Browning, 82-year-old Lakeland woman.

The clock still keeps good time and records the days of the month as well as the hours and minutes. It runs by oldfashioned weights and has to be wound only once a week. 

Why We Should Have State Legislation

From The American Horologist magazine, January 1939

Why We Should Have State Legislation

HOROLOGY, a time-honored industry, is next in importance to the medical profession; for time is next to life itself. Time is of such importance to us today that good watches and clocks govern our every activity.

Anesthetics are administered by the watch of the one who gives the anesthetic. Trains are dependent on the watchmakers' skill and accuracy. Great ships are dependent on accurate chronometers to make their observations and calculations. The value of accurate time is of great importance in every walk of life and is, in many cases, the thing upon which hinges the difference between life and death. We have reached a point in civilization where time must be measured in seconds and split seconds. It is no longer sufficient for a watch to run within a minute a day, as was true in years gone by. Horologists of today, to perform their work as it should be done, have to be highly skilled, and spend many hours on a watch after it is repaired to adjust it to accuracy.

Unfortunately the depression years have brought about a condition of commercialism which has made great strides toward lowering this highly skilled profession to a point where the public is bewildered and at a loss to know where to go to have a watch properly repaired.  There is many a nice fellow, who cannot proper!y repair and adjust a watch, and there IS no way for the public to discriminate. There are, even now, many really good watchmakers, but the public does not know them or is not in a position to discriminate for there is no way to tell the good from the bad.

Customers who want the best and are willing to pay for it, most times patronize the high-class jewelry stores. But it is sad to say that some of the biggest, most ostentatious stores are the biggest cheats and "Gip Joints". This is not true of all. But the honest, ethical stores are placed at a decided disadvantage because of the unethical methods in advertising used by the unscrupulous ones and the stigma of poor workmanship, which they must share because the innocent suffer with the guilty.

The ethical watchmakers, both large and small, find that this evil has eaten into the vitals of their business' and though they too fight the evil, thei; fairminded methods are not sufficient to combat the price appeal to a priceminded public. John Ruskin said, "There is nothing that some man cannot do a little cheaper; and he who looks for price alone, is that man's lawful prey." That is true in all things and all professions, but that is what the control legislation is for-to save the public from itself. Think what the public would suffer at the hands of unscrupulous men in the medical profession if it were not controlled.

We recently witnessed in Indiana the passing of a barbers' law to protect the citizens from dirt and infection. It is equally important, or perhaps more important, that people could rely on State Legislation to protect them against poor watch work when their lives depend on timepieces carried by doctors, nurses, persons whose duty it is to give anesthetics, train men, air pilots, etc.

But it is also an important factor that the public should be protected against the enormous loss in money they incur each year through poor work on watches, which has been estimated at $3,000,000 to say nothing of ruined watches, which would run it still higher.

Considering that twenty states are preparing to present bills to their legislatures this year. Can you imagine the loss the citizens of Indiana will suffer if it remains an open state and a "dumping ground" for all the unethical watchmakers from these other states?

Those who do not understand the situation cannot help themselves, but they will suffer the loss. Those of us who do understand and know the situation and do nothing about it are to blame for allowing it to continue.

Legislative control is the only solution for the problem. Even our supply houses are handicapped without it; for they cannot refuse to sell to the unethical unless we have such a law. Legislative control would not relieve the situation immediately because all those now practicing would have to be admitted. But it would prevent the unskilled from settling here; and in time, no doubt Indiana citizens could feel secure in the fact that those who practice will be educated for the work, which we all know requires much time, effort and money. Every step in civilization's progress has a more and more complex material accomplishment and these interwoven relationships of modern life, in which time is an important factor, can only be sustained through the use of acurate time-measuring instruments. In other words, civilization leans upon the watch and involves a closer and closer recording in smaller divisions of time by exact methods.

The middle ages produced clocks and watches; and clock and watches make the age in which we live. Man labored for thousands of years to produce a contrivance that would really tell the time.

Timekeeping has always been a part of history, and history a part of timekeeping. The entire universe revolves around time. Our civilized world came about through time. Everything we see and know is based upon time alone. Stop and think for a moment the necessity of time. The world would stand still without it. Then consider that recording of time dates back to the beginning of time. It was, and is, a science. The most scientific men of the world respected the ability of scientific watchmakers.

We must take steps to protect and preserve the science of Horology!

From Anthrax to Watchmaking (Seriously)

"Dan Spitz, former lead guitarist for thrash metal band Anthrax, has sold more than 15 million albums, been nominated for 3 Grammy’s, created over 10 studio albums – and now he is recognized as one of the best watchmakers in the world. After leading one of the greatest metal bands of all time, he abruptly departed Anthrax and pursued numerous courses of study to master the art of watchmaking."

Read this outstanding interview here:


Captain Tick-Mouse, 1917

Serve America First!
A letter from
Captain Tick-Mouse

To all Boys and Girls Everywhere:
Dear little friends, I have joined hands with Uncle Sam and Miss Columbia to Serve America First, and we want you to join with us - right now.

Will you help us?  Will you help us catch the slackers?  Will you come with me to do some real detective work for your Uncle Sam?

Do this and you'll be helping to win the war!

Uncle Sam and I have planned it all out we are ready to begin.  I have told you all about it in my new story book, "CAPTAIN TICK-MOUSE and His Adventures in SECRET SERVICE."  Read this book and you'll be all ready to go right ahead and "serve America first!"

This new Book is a little beauty, full of bright colors and lively pictures - a thrilling story book, FREE, for every boy and girl in America.  My Tick-Mouse artists have dipped their brushes into their handsomest colors, and dressed the book in red-white-and-blue in honor of Miss Columbia.

Your new story book is ready.  All my former Tick-Mouse Books have been given to you through my good friends, the Jewelers whose stores are nearest your homes.  To save precious time, I will give out these new books in the same way.  So ask your Jeweler today for your new Tick-Mouse Book - the one about Captain Tick-Mouse.  If he hasn't got it yet, and can't get you one, then write direct to me, enclosing a two-cent stamp, and I'll mail you one.  (But please, please, please don't do so till you've done your best to get it from your Jeweler, for I haven't a minute to lose.  I'm working day and night, catching slackers for Uncle Sam.)

So, Boys and Girls, be quick - hurry over to your Jeweler's and get your new Tick-Mouse Story Book - show your colors - fall in line with Uncle Same, ready to SERVE AMERICA FIRST!

Your Loving Little Friend,
Captain Tick-Mouse

Address me at 10 South Wabash Avenue, Chicago, in care of the Elgin National Watch Company, where I have my official headquarters  - T.M.

Elgin Grade 217

 The Elgin grade 217 pocket watch is an 18 size, lever-set movement with 15 jewels.

This one was made about 1903.  It's in a swing-out nickle case, quite common during this time.

Open-face, swing-out cases are more durable than other types and of course have fewer gaps to let in dust and moisture.  Some railroad standards called for swing-out cases specifically.


Survey of Wisconsin Registered Watchmakers

From The American Horologist magazine, February 1939

Survey of Wisconsin Registered Watchmakers 

Based on replies from questionnaires sent to every Wisconsin registered watchmaker, approximately 30 per cent of which were answered and returned.

Shown in even figures for ease of comparison and study. All replies are filed in the office of the State Board and are open for inspection and study.

Attitude Toward the Statute Regulating Watchmaking 
94 per cent favor the law.
5 per cent disapprove.
1 per cent are undecided.

Suggestions for Improving the Law 
5 per cent favor regulating hours, wages, prices.
5 per cent favor stricter enforcement of present law.
1 per cent favor including clock repairing.
6 per cent favor law as now written.
83 per cent made no suggestion for change.
(Varied suggestions made by less than 1 per cent.)

Percentage of Time Devoted to Watchmaking
3 per cent not engaged at craft.
25 per cent of balance engaged part time.
75 per cent of balance engaged full time.

Average Income 
Those engaged part-time averaged $14.50 per week, ranging from $3 to $35 per week.
Those engaged full-time averageq $27 per week, ranging from $8 to $60 per week.

Analyzing the Watch Train

From The American Horologist magazine, February 1939

Analyzing the Watch Train
By W. H. Samelius

QUITE often we find a watch that stops at regular intervals and by understanding the watch train as to relationship of gear ratios to one another, we can readily tell where to locate the cause of the trouble. Let us take the accompanying diagram of an ordinary watch train where the balance wheel vibrates 18,000 per hour.

The barrel has 72 teeth and the center pinion 12 leaves, so for each revolution of the barrel the center pinion makes 6 revolutions, or, for each turn of the mainspring the watch would run 6 hours and in order to have the watch run for 36 hours it would be necessary to have as many turns of the mainspring as 6 is contained in 36 or 6 turns of spring driving the mainspring barrel 6 revolutions.

The mainspring must not be too long or too short, for in either case it cannot drive the barrel the full number of turns required. Since we find the barrel revolves one turn each 6 hours, it is obvious where a watch gives trouble or falls off motion each 6 hours, the barrel may be the cause. It may be out of flat, out of round or may have a damaged tooth.  

Following up we find the center pinion makes one revolution per hour and naturally, a watch that stops or shows poor motion hourly tells us to look for our trouble at the center wheel. This wheel may be out of flat, rubbing a plate, or, it may be out of round, or, like the barrel, have a damaged tooth.  We also might look to the cannon pinion which is attached to the center arbor, making one revolution per hour. It is possible the cannon pinion may be out of round, binding on the plate or have a broken tooth. A cracked center pinion, or center pinion out of round may also cause trouble. If the center pinion has 12 leaves, one leaf passes through the barrel each 5 minutes so we can look to the center pinion should the watch stop each 5 minutes or the motion of the balance fall off.

Sometimes we find the center arbor out of upright causing the hands to rub on the dial on one side and directly opposite the minute hand will rub on the glass, in both cases create friction enough to slow up the motion of the balance, or possibly stop the watch entirely.

Continuing further through the train we find the center wheel has 64 teeth and the 3rd pinion 8 leaves. If the center wheel makes one revolution per hour, the 3rd pinion will make 8 revolutions per hour or one revolution every 70 minutes so a watch stopping or falling off motion each 7 1/2 minutes tells us to look for our trouble at the 3rd wheel, which like the other wheel, can be out of round, out of flat ·or have a damaged 3rd pinion.

The third wheel has 75 teeth and the 4th pinion 10 leaves and while the 3rd wheel is making one revolution, the 4th pinion is making 7 1/2 revolutions and while the 3rd wheel is making 8 revolutions per hour the 4th pinion will make 8x7 1/2 or 60 revolutions per hour or one revolution per minute, so a watch falling off motion each minute or stopping each minute shows our trouble lies in the 4th wheel or pinion.

The 4th wheel has 60 teeth and the escape pinion 6 leaves, so when the 4th wheel is making one revolution, the escape pinion is making 10 revolutions per minute, the escape wheel having 15 teeth and as each tooth of the escape wheel delivers two impulses, each revolution of the wheel then will give 30 impulses and as the escape wheel makes 10 revolutions per minute there will be 10x30 or 300 vibrations per minute the balance makes and multiplying this by 60, the number of minutes in the hour we will have 60x300 or 18,000 vibrations per hour, a watch that is commonly known as a quick train.

As was stated above, the cannon pinion has 10 leaves and we find the minute wheel has 30 teeth so as our cannon pinion makes one revolution per hour, the minute wheel would make 30 divided by 10 or one revolution in three hours.  Continuing we find the minute wheel pinion has 8 leaves, and the hour wheel has 32 teeth which is a gear ratio of 4 to 1 so while the cannon pinion is making one revolution, the minute wheel is making 1/2 revolution, and the hour wheel is making one-fourth less or 1-12th revolution, so it is possible to find trouble in the hour wheel and minute pinion when the watch stops each hour, or, should it stop each 12 hours it would indicate the hour wheel is out of round, out of flat, or may be binding between the plates. It might also indicate the dial being off center, the hour hand binding on one side of the opening each 12 hours.

I trust these suggestions will be helpful to our readers.

Elgin Grade 252

The grade 252 is a spectacular Father Time model.

This is a lever-set, 21 jewel, 18 size movement, stem-wind.  This is a classic railroad grade timepiece.

This particular example was made about 1901. It features a 20-year gold filled, open-face case with decorative engraving, and a double-sunk dial, all in excellent condition.


Elgin Grade 97

The grade 97 is another old 18 size model, 7 jewels.  It is key-wind and key-set.

This particular one was made about 1887.  It features a heavy, triple-hinge case that is quite typical of its time.


An Electric Clock Which Does Everything Except Think - Revisited

I received an email today regarding this earlier post, "An Electric Clock Which Does Everything Except Think":


The email was from a decedent of the clock maker that constructed this clock,  Marvin Shearer.  Does anyone have any information on the current whereabouts of his clock?  If so we'd like to hear from you.  Drop me an email and let me know.


Minor Serial Number Application Update

I just added a last update date/time to the main serial number page.  This is the last update date/time of the database.  Also, on the left side, there are now a set of links for serial numbers recently looked up with the application.


Elgin Serial Numbers Update

I updated the Elgin watch serial number look up application yesterday with an additional page, and a few other changes.


I removed the serial number range, production years and private label data from the first page.  To see this information, follow the "serial number detail" link at the top of the second column.

From that grade details page, in the same location at the top of the second column, there is a "Production" link to the new page which includes a histogram of production volume for the grade.

I don't know if the chart works on all browsers.  For Android mobile devices, it seems to require Android O/S version 3 or higher.

Elgin Grade 208

The grade 208 is a later 18 size design; improved.  It's a 7 jewel model, stem-wind and stem-set, this particular one made about 1900.


Elgin Grade 73

Here's another old 18 size.  The grade 73 is a 7 jewels model, this one made about 1891.

It features nice blued screws, all around, including the case screws.  The decorative gold filled case is threaded front and back, shows only light wear.

It's a very large and heavy watch.


Elgin Executives Hold Unique Sales Convention Over Telephone

From The American Horologist magazine, February, 1939

Elgin Executives Hold Unique
Sales Convention Over Telephone

Although a last minute shift in plans almost upset a national telephone sales convention as planned by the Elgin National Watch Company the event went off as scheduled January 16th.

The occasion was announcement of the company's 75th Anniversary. Because the subject was of great importance, Mr. T. Albert Potter, president of the Elgin company, wanted to talk with all Elgin wholesalers and their salesmen in person. For the talk, telephone connections were established with all of the company's wholesale distributors and a loudspeaker was installed in each establishment to enable wholesalers and their representatives to conveniently hear Mr. Potter and Mr. Schaeffer, tell the Elgin 75th "Anniversary" news from New York.

Suddenly, came a call which was to take Mr. Potter from New York. It looked for a time as if the telephone plans would have to be scrapped. But someone offered the idea of making a recording of Mr. Potter's talk. When this was done, Mr. Potter's voice "spoke" to the men as planned. The broadcast proved a novel and interest-compelling way of contacting wholesalers in the field. The talks were given several times, each time with 16 to 24 wholesalers in different sections of the country listening in.

Hailing the year 1939 as important to wholesalers, retail jewelers, and to the Elgin Company because of the 75th Anniversary, Mr. Potter explained the intention to celebrate the year in a most unusual way. First by active participation in N ew York World's Fair. Secondly, by devoting the year to intensive merchandising and sales operations.

Thirdly, to "start the ball rolling immediately" with a plan of vital importance to business.

This plan, explained Mr. Potter, included an offer to the public of a special group of Elgin "Anniversary" watches, featured at an especially attractive price for seven weeks from February 1st to March 18th.

Next, the wholesalers heard the voice of Mr. Schaeffer who gave broad details of the plan and discussed the special tie-up material being prepared. These include window and counter display pieces, newspaper mats, special Valentine postal cards and direct mail aids in addition to a dealer broadside telling of the support being given the Elgin anniversary program in national magazine advertisements.

New Atlas Catalog

The Atlas Press Company general catalog for 1939, released in January, presents the most complete in form a ti on ever available on Atlas lathes, shapers, drill presses, arbor presses, and shop equipment. Twenty-four of its 72 pages are devoted to the new lO-inch Atlas lathes with power cross feed. Copies are available from Atlas Press Co., Dept. 7, Kalamazoo, Michigan-ask for Catalog No. 39.

Do You Know

From The American Horologist magazine, February, 1939

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

During the 16th and 17th Century amber jewelry was worth its weight in gold. Some of the finest examples of amber jewelry may be seen in the Kramlin, Moscow. Amber has also been used for decorating purposes such as looking glass frames, snuff boxes and many trinkets. There is a superstition that amber beads worn about the neck will cure a goitre. It is also thought to be helpful for relieving rheumatism if worn on the affected parts of the body.

The end of a minute hand for a 12inch dial travels .0104 inch for each beat of the seconds-beat pendulum.

If a watch loses time in heat, move two opposite balance screws toward the free end of the rim. If a watch gains time in heat, move two opposite screws away from the free end of the rim.

Ferdinand Berthoud, a noted English horologist estimated that 82% of the error in rate of a watch due to temperature change comes from the variation of elastic force of the hairspring. Other errors arise from expansion and contraction of the balance and the change in the length of the hairspring. Early watches having solid balances varied as much as from 4 to 8 minutes in 24 hours.

A polar clock is an optical apparatus invented by Professor Wheatstone, 1840, where the hour of the day is found by means of polarization of light.

Keys and locks are ascribed to Theodore of Samos, about 730 B. C.

Professor Wheatstone is credited with inventing our earliest electric clocks in 1840.

The compass box and hanging compass used by navigators was invented by William Barlowe of England, 1608.

The flying pendulum used extensively for novelty clocks was patented by J. C.
Briggs, U. S. A., 1855.

What is claimed to be the smallest watch in the world was recently exhibited at the exposition at Stockholm, Sweden.

It is of Swiss construction and has more than 70 parts. The watch was one-half inch long and less than one-fifth inch wide.

A good quench for hardening cutters is made up as follows: 1 ounce cyanide, 1 ounce salt petre, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 gallon water. Heat steel to cherry-red before quenching.

The minute markings on the dial of Westminster Clock in London, or commonly known as Big Ben, are 12 inches square.

Some of our earliest clocks or timepieces did not have a dial or hands.

These clocks were placed in church towers and merely struck the hour. A gnome was placed on the side of a building as a sundial and was used to show the fractional part of the hour.

Our first timepieces were known as Horologes, later as clocks by the English, Glocke by the Germans, Clocke by the French, Clugg by the Saxons and Clog by the Irish.

The oldest church clock in New York City is in the tower of St. Paul's chapel.  It was built by John Thwaites of London, England, in 1798. 

Oiling of Balance and Capped Escape and Pallet Jewels

From The American Horologist magazine, February, 1939

Oiling of Balance and Capped Escape and Pallet Jewels

All capped pallet and escape jewels as well as the balance jewels should be oiled before the parts are placed in position. If not oiled in this manner, sometimes the oil does not work through to the cap jewels, and the result is that the pivots run on dry stones, causing a grind, and, of course, pitting the cap jewel. A very small drop of oil should be placed directly in the center of the cap jewel. Too much oil at this place is almost as bad as lack of oil. For the purpose of retaining the right amount of oil in the pivot holes, we take advantage of a natural phenomenon called capillary attraction. If too much oil is given, the oil will fill the space to the edge of the jewel hole. It would immediately be attracted by the close space between the setting which would pull it away and leave the pivot without a sufficient supply of oil.

It is a good plan to oil the pallet arbor pivots before placing the pallet in position because if there is small shake, the shoulders might not receive oil. Special care must be observed when oiling the upper pivot of the pallet fork, which must be oiled only slightly, otherwise the oil flows under the bridge, the pallet sticks, the motion is impeded, and regulating is impossible. The oiling of the notch of the pallet fork is done by means of a small wooden stick, which is slightly oiled and rubbed on both sides of the notch. This is more of a greasing than an oiling, for the oil must not be visible.

The quantity of oil needed for the train wheels is easily determined as the oil containers of the jewels permit a slight control. The center wheel pivots should be oiled before placing the wheel in position for the pivots need to be well oiled because of their location so close to the source of power.


Mainsprings should be carefully oiled with a heavier oil and the arbor pivots should not be overlooked. The oil must be placed at the bottom of the mainspring barrel, at the edge of the first spiral "and only so much as it is necessary to slightly moisten all spirals. The upper side of the mainspring is covered with just a very thin layer. The mainsprings of small watches should be oiled sparingly because if too much oil is applied, the oil may travel from barrel to center wheel, to hairspring, where it will cause trouble. The third wheel should also be oiled sparingly because the surplus oil may find way to the hairspring.

Winding Parts

Winding parts should be oiled with a heavier grade of oil. The bearings of the stem-wind wheels should be oiled and' all bearing surfaces, including the square of the winding arbor where it runs through the clutch pinion.

N ever oil the pinion or the teeth of any wheels, with the exception of the escape wheel, and that only with a touch of oil on every fifth tooth.

Stock Oil

Stock oil should be tightly corked and kept in a dark and cool place, as light disintegrates the best quality of oil.

Oil Cups

These should be small agate cups with boxwood covers. They should always be cleaned before putting in fresh oil and covered when not in use to prevent contamination by dust and other. foreign matter. Containers should be kept scrupulously clean and in factories they should be cleaned every day and in watchmakers' shops at least three times a week.


A good oiler can be made from a pinion broach having the tip flat and filed dart shaped. This type of oiler is more reliable than the tube and needle automatic oiler. The point of the oiler should be kept off the bench so it can not collect dirt. Various size oilers should be used for the different parts. 

Elgin Grade 82

This is another grade 82 Elgin pocketwatch.  It's a lever-set, 18 size movement.  This example is the 15 jewel version, marked G. M. Wheeler.  It was made about 1885.


Elgin Grade 59

This is an unusual Elgin movement.  The grade 59 is a 17 size, 7 jewels, design with a unique plate layout, and a solid balance wheel.  It is key-wind and key-set.
This example, marked "Leader", was made about 1877.   The Leader designation is also unusual.

Time, Its Value

From The American Horologist magazine, February, 1939

Time, Its Value
Executive Director, Good Neighbor League

There are times when most of us are compelled to cut down our financial budget for perfectly good reasons. This may be due to unemployment, or sickness, or some other legitimate cause for which we are not responsible and which is beyond our control.

But here's one thing of which we cannot be deprived-no matter what may be our station in life-something which is often more important than money, namely Time.

Furthermore, it is far more important to learn how to live on twenty-four hours a day, than it is to make up a budget for the spending of ten dollars a dayor one hundred dollars a day. In this respect we art all members of the same aristrocracy. Everyone of us has the same amount of this wealth at his disposal- we each possess twenty-four hours a day.

There's a certain amount of this precious treasure which must be spent on the job of getting a living-let's say eight hours a day. The rest of it is ours, to spend as we please. But notice-some men "kill time," others "pass time" and others merely "fritter away time." This is the height of extravagance, which the worker, of all persons, cannot afford.

The way that a man spends this leisure time is a sure indication of his real character. What he does while he is making a living may not reveal the real man, because he may not be responsible for his job, but the way he uses his spare time-when he is his own master-betrays his genuine qualities. It's when he does what he really likes to do, in his own way, and in his own time, that he shows the kind of a man he is.

He can't plead that he hasn't enough time. He has all that there is. He will never get more than twenty-four hours a day, no matter what he does. He can't buy more, he can't borrow more, he can't steal more time. It is therefore up to him as to what he will do with this precious treasure.

There is no use charging one's failure in this respect to the prevailing social system. This is too weak an alibi. Furthermore, it is short-sighted to expect that any other kind of a social system which men may regard as ideal-and for which they are hoping-will make the slightest difference in the length and value of time. There will still be only twenty-four hours in each day, and the man who under any system spends these hours wisely will be richer than the spendthrift of the treasure of Time.

Reminiscences of an Apprentice, "Our Watchmaker"

From The American Horologist magazine, January, 1942

Reminiscences of an Apprentice
"Our Watchmaker"
Submitted by W. H. SAMELIUS

Our watchmaker was a few years older than I was.  He had partly learned his trade in a neighboring town, and after he went to New York for a couple of years and returned with the concentrated essence of all the knowledge that exists and that great center of skill and experience. He knew the way to do everything and there was nothing he did not understand. Anyone of the innumerable descriptions of clocks and watches were all the same to him, and he was equally skillful in jewelry and silverware. As a general thing, the young men of our town were jealous of him after he came back and blamed him for "spreading himself out", "putting on airs", etc., but I noticed some of my companions' who had been to cities not half as big as New York, came back aand put on airs too and surely, our watchmaker had the right to spread himself out farther, seeing New York a far larger city and he was the longest away from home.  People were fond of telling a story about him, although I never believed it, that when he arrived home from New York, he asked the porter at the railway station the way to his mother's house; but you see, people in country towns are so ready to make remarks about people better than themselves. Supposing the story is true, however, was it any wonder, one being in New York so long, and learning so much, should forget all about the streets of our little insignificant town? Some incredulous persons may think that a head containing all the knowledge he possessed. might burst, and so it might, only that his mouth and tongue acted as a safety valve and prevented any such catastrophe. I always considered our boss to be a clever man, but I thought our watchmaker to be far greater because he had been to New York and talked a great deal about it, while our boss had never been there and could not talk so much. When the two got into any little argument about the work that was being done, as sometimes they did, our watchmaker would invariably silence our boss by telling him that was the way we did it in New York; but although silenced, our boss would shake his head, smile and insist on having it done his way, the same as he did with me, which I thought was presumptuous on his part.

Our watchmaker did not make his drills or sharpen them as well as I could, but then I thought, that in such a great place as New York, they might have some ways of making holes without drills, which might account for his making bad ones. I also noticed his gravers neither were so evenly ground or whetted as mine or my bosses were; but I tried to explain in my own mind, that in New York, they kept a man for the purpose of sharpening gravers, which would account for our watchmakers want of experience in this particular field. The pins that he made were neither one sharp or the other, but I did not think much about that because it could not be expected that a man who had been to New York would condescend to be particular with such a trifling little thing as a pin. Our boss sometimes spoke to him about the condition of the points of his screwdriver, that they bruised the heads of all the screws in the watches; but I thought it mean of our boss to grumble so much about so common a thing as the point of a screwdriver, which I did think was altogether below the dignity of a man who had been two years in New York. And why should he not have trade secrets after being in the city?  He would not tell any of them to our boss and it could not be expected he should either; but he often promised to tell me something if I would do certain things for him and in this way he would get me to do a great many things I had no business to do. When he told me any secrets, it was always something our boss had told me before or something I knew without any body telling me; but then I was too young to be able to understand the big secrets and I wafted patiently until I should get older.

If our boss was home for a day or two, our watchmaker usually attended to the customers and on these occasions he fairly teemed with New York fashions and styles in jewelry; and if that had not the desired effect on the customer he treated them bountifully with selections from his stock of Cockney phrases. Some of the customers were perfectly delighted with the clever young man and thought he ought to have a shop of his own, and thought our boss was an old fogey. Other customers, again, if they could not wait until our boss came home, would transact their business with me. Our watchmaker did not like this and told our boss that I was not polite with the customers; but it was only because I would not tell lies and say the things all came from New York, when I knew very well many of them were made in our own shop, and I also knew that our boss always wanted me to tell the truth. One day, however, I got square with our watchmaker and I kept myself square with him ever after. He was putting a watch together and asked me to hand him a bottle of mucilage. I got the mucilage for him and I wanted to see what he was going to do with it when putting a watch together, but he turned his back and told me to go away, that I would find out soon enough; so I went away, thinking it might be some of his big secrets that I was too young to comprehend. Some way or other, however, I looked over his shoulder and saw him fastening in a screw with mucilage that had overturned with him when putting the watch together. "Oh," says I, "Is that the way you used to do it in New York?" and I quite innocently remarked that when a screw overturned with the boss, he always made a new one. He was awful mad at my seeing him and got up and chased me around the benches with a large stick until I promised not to tell the boss when he came home; and as I never had any intention of telling, I consented to his proposition on the condition that he would never tell anything more about me and the bargain was closed to the satisfaction of both of us.

Our watchmaker had the most profound contempt for books and magazines on any subject connected with the trade. He made it a point never to believe anything about the business that he saw in print. Cumming's Elements were all nonsense, Reid's Treatise made him go to sleep; and for Berthoud and Jurgensen's works, they were only foreign gibberish. All the old works were antiquated, and no modern workman could derive any benefit from them; and as for new publications, they were nothing but humbug, and he knew it, for had he not been two years in New York.  What more was necessary for him to be a judge? A friend sent him some of the early numbers of the New York Horological Journal regularly, but, although it came from New York, he never read a word of it, but our boss always read it through and through when he could get a copy, and I liked to read it too; but here I must remark that neither our boss nor I had been to New York, which may account for us having the desire to read the Journal. I have seen our watchmaker tear it up and use it as wrapping paper, just to show how little he required the teachings of any journal or book connected with the trade. I remember a man used to come around at times to take orders for a trade journal that was in the course of publication. He always happened to call when our boss was out, or I think he would have subscribed. I liked to glance over the sample copies and I wished I had enough money to be a subscriber, for I saw many things of interest to me, but our watchmaker was far sharper than I was and was not to be imposed upon so easily. He flung the publication at the man and said it was nothing but an advertising dodge; that in New York, the wholesale watch dealers gave away illustrated catalogs which contained more information than the publication did, and gave them for nothing; so you will observe, nobody could impose on our watchmaker, he was very sharp and clever.

There was a half-pay army officer, a resident of our town, who had great proclivities for science, and a weakness for using high language.  He never would call a spade a spade, or his watch a watch, his watch was a "Horologium" and some times he would come into the shop to get the "horologer" to eradicate the defects of his Horologium. About the time of one of his visits, one of our townsmen had taken out a patent on an improvement on frictional gearing and it was the general subject of conversation in our town at that time.  Our boss remarked he was always under the impression that friction was not caused by the extent of the rubbing surfaces, but by the pressure that was upon them; but in this frictional gearing the surfaces were made large, apparently to create friction and thus prevent the wheels from slipping; so our boss asked the learned visitor how the theory that there was the same amount of friction in a narrow surface as in a broad one could be reconciled with the results obtained by the experiments made to establish the efficiency of frictional gearing. Our learned visitor replied that the reconciliation of the theory in the one instance, and the practice in the other, were exceedingly simple; and went on to explain that "in applicate mechanics two quiescent discs with their periphery free from abrasion or dentations, contrary to the usual practice of horologists and other mechanicians, had a reduplication of circumferential potent energy imparted to them as homogeneous solids moving around a permanent axis, not by pressure alone, but also by the cohesion of the molecules of matter that constituted the periphery of the once quiescent discs; and that the line of pressure, being toward the center, directs these aggregate combinations of force into a polygon, which finally collapsed, and the tangible forces, rushing off ,at a tangent, imparted motion to the material discs or wheels, the velocity ration of which was equal to the quintessence of the aliquot part of the circumference of the discs, if no unguent be used."

Our boss, after this volley of science, was perfectly stunned, his glasses fell from his eyes, he gasped for breath and could not utter a word in reply but; our watchmaker was quite unconcerned, and thought the explanation a clear one; but that while he could never believe that there was the same amount of friction on the narrow surface as on a broad one, still, there could be nothing plainer than that when the polygon burst, the force flew off at a tangent, and gave motion to the wheels. In fact, when he was in New York, he had often seen the same thing himself. That day the old scientific gentleman went away proud that his own learning had been appreciated, and happy that our town possessed such an intelligent young man.

It is to be regretted that too much pretentious New York knowledge and too much science at one time, squelched our boss, nevertheless, it is to be hoped that his practical experience on friction will be made public on some future occasions.

Elgin Grade 10

The grade 10 is an 11 jewel movement, and another 18 size, as are most of the early Elgin designs. It is stem-wind, lever-set.

This one was made about 1879. It features moon hands, and an unusual type of case. The back does not open, instead the movement lifts completely out on a ring, with the stem and crown attached.  The font is hinged as normal.  Inside the back the case is marked "GEM" and have a serial number, there are no other markings other than watchmakers' marks.

This is the only watch case like this that I have ever encountered.

Elgin Grade 57, National Dial

 The grade 57 is another 18 size.  It comes in 11 and 13 jewel flavors.

This one, made about 1871, is the 13 jewel type.  It features a dial marked "National" and not "Elgin".  The National Watch Company was the name the company used for the first few years of production.

This watch is key-wind and key-set.

It's in a nice gold hunter case.


Elgin Grade 70

The grade 70 is an 18 size stem-wind, lever-set, movement.  The is the 15 jewel version, there is also a 17 jewel type in this grade.

This one, made about 1891, is in an open-faced case, swing-out, nickel case and features fancy hands. It is a G. W. Wheeler model.


Elgin Grade 571

This is a later Elgin pocketwatch.  It's a 16 size, 21 jewels, B.W. Raymond model.

This example of the 571 grade was made about 1950.  

Notice that it's serial number begins with an 'F', which is a shorthand for 49 million.

Find is more information about this serial number style here.

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

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