Classic watches, watchmaking, antique tools, history, vintage ephemera and more!

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Elgin Grade 303, and Creative Repair

The grade 303 is a 12 size, 7 jewel watch, that Elgin sold an awful lot of.

This one was made about 1925, and helps make an important point.

People often write to me about an old watch that "runs fine" except for...  Something.  It's missing a hand, it doesn't set, whatever...  But it "runs fine."  Watches are also listed on eBay, described as "running."  This would seem to mean that the watch winds up, ticks, and possibly keeps time within a few minutes a day.

But an old watch has likely not been cleaned in decades.  Perhaps even a century.  Such a watch will have stale oil that is doing nothing - in fact doing harm.  And it will have particles of dirt inside, sticking in the gummy oil and forming an abrasive.  An old watch, not serviced, may run fine now, but running it is just like running a car without oil.  The dirt will quickly wear down baring parts and create a real problem by ruining something.

I see evidence of this all the time.  I also see, sometimes, cases where this damage has been "repaired," as in this watch.

The center pivot, the hole in the main plate where the center wheel turns, at some point was ground out of round by running this watch without servicing it.

What to do?  The main plate is all but ruined.  But someone, likely long ago, re-shaped the pivot using a punch to deform the plate around the edge of the hole.

Notice the pits left around the center on the dial side of the lower plate.

For a watch in daily use, this would not be an acceptable repair.  The material is left thinner and weaker by the punch.  It's also a bit sloppy, and it's not really round and even.  But this is obviously a lot easier that drilling out the hole larger and fitting a bushing.

I left this fix as-is.  As an antique, this watch, now cleaned and lubricated with modern oil, now runs fine, for occasional use.

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