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 372

This is a lever-set, B. W. Raymond model, made about 1911.

The grade 372 is a 16 size, 19 jewel movement.

This individual watch does not match the factory records though, which show this production run as having an up/down indicator.  This watch clearly does not.

It does have a double-sunk dial, a nicely finished micro regulator, a motor barrel and raised, gold, jewel bezels though.

Elgin Grade 317 - Lever Details

The grade 317 is an 18 size movement, 15 jewels, lever-set.  This example was made about 1909.

18 size Elgin movements use one of two lever escapement styles; the "tangential" arrangement, where the lever is aligned on a tangent to the escape wheel, and the "perpendicular" arrangement.

These details show this example of the  perpendicular arrangement. 
The tangential design, also known as an English lever, is found on older models.  The old 18 size designs where Elgin's first products, and they reflect the English watches that American watchmakers were looking at, at the time.

The perpendicular design, like this one, is also referred to as a Swiss lever.  It is a more stable, improved, style, that appears later.

Find a detailed  example of the tangential design here...  Note the direction of the end of the pallet fork, that faces the balance wheel when the movement is assembled.

Elgin Advertising, 1927

What may the engaged man give to his fiancee?

The What, When and How of remembrances...  Don't Guess - ASK YOUR JEWELER

An engagement ring, of course!  But what else, during the engagement period may an engaged man give to his fiancee - with propriety and good taste?

This is one of the many puzzling problems in the delicate and intricate art of proper gift-giving.

Certain kinds of gifts, including all forms of jewelry, the engaged man may bestow upon his bride-to-be as freely as his means and wishes sanction.  Other types of gifts, such as wearing apparel or furniture, he cannot give at all, without breaching the canons of approved social practice and good form.

But there are other equally perplexing questions in the etiquette of gift-giving.  What, for example, should a bridegroom give to his best man and ushers before the wedding ceremony?  And the bride to her bridesmaids?  What are the proper anniversary and seasonal gifts to friends and relatives?

When you have a delicate gift problem to solve - don't guess - go to an expert for authoritative councel. See your jeweler.  He is a past-master in the science of gift selection.  His consultations are free.

But, today, send the coupon below for the Tiny Treasure Book, a pocket brochure that treats of the What, When and How of Remembrances.  A copy is waiting for you.


Elgin Grade 95

The grade 95 is a 6 size, 7 jewel movement.  It is an older design, lever-set.

1891 has a spectacular gold hunter case.

Elgin Advertising, 1923

Some Watch Ideas are Getting Out-of-Date

Our plain-living, plain-speaking grandfathers used to have a phrase - "Handsome is as handsome does."

You don't hear it so much nowadays - but there are signs that this old-fashioned, sane sense of values is coming back.

It is no surprise to Elgin that men on average are buying better watches today than they ever did.

The vogue of the cheap watch was bound to come, have its day, and die out.

Only to be expected, too, was the mistake in the other direction - regarding a watch as a piece of jewelry rather than as a timepiece.  Now also passing out as buyers become better informed.

The field of the Elgin Watchmakers is far removed from such temporary and artificial swings this way and that.

It is the field of the professional timepiece, for people who value accurate time-keeping before all other watch considerations.

A field much larger than some might suppose.  For two years past it has been impossible to supply all the Elgin Watches asked for.

The Professional Timekeeper

Technical Data: Hamilton Balance Staffs

Technical Data
Hamilton Watch Company
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Subject: Balance Staffs

THE Hamilton Watch Company has from time to time found it necessary to make changes in the style and the dimensions of Hamilton balance staffs, due to new watch designs and improvements in the method of manufacture. These changes may sometimes make it difficult to obtain the correct balance staff immediately. This data sheet has been prepared. in order to help the watch repairman distinguish these changes with the greatest possible ease.  Be sure you obtain genuine staffs. They have the correct measurements making alterations unnecessary and cut down the time needed to fit new staffs into the watches.

ALL genuine Hamilton balance pivots are burnished by a new and improved method. No abrasives are used to burnish the pivot after the staff has been finished to size.  A pivot manufactured in this way is superior to one produced by other methods as the burnishing has a tendency to work harden the pivot. The pores in the steel are closed to a great extent by work-hardening and thus a hard outer case is formed around the pivot. This burnishing makes the pivots smoother and better able to withstand wear. Staffs finished by this method have little tendency to pit endstones.

IT is commonl y known that pivots polished with abrasive compounds retain some of the polishing material in the pores of the steel. When these pivots are running in oiled jewels, the oil mixing with the abrasives makes an excellent cutting compound, with the result that a hole is drilled in the endstone. All jewels used. in Hamilton Watches are of the finest quality Rubies and -Sapphires.  With all the hardness of these jewels, if the balance pivots are not perfect, the jewels will pit and wear. It must be remembered the balance wheel oscillates 157,680,000 times yearly and it stands to reason that an imperfect staff due to this rapid motion is apt to damage the jewel in which it runs. 


18-S staffs, both double and single roller types were made with large and small collet shoulders. In the illustrations, S. R. and D. R. mean single roller and double roller. L. C. and S. C. signify large and small collet shoulders.
In watches numbered over 100,000 only staffs having small collet shoulders were used. Watches with numbers under 100,000 may have used staffs wiLh either large or small collet shoulders. 

16-S staffs were made with large and small collet shoulders. Some watches numbered under 100;000 used staffs with large collet shoulders, others used staffs with small collet shoulders. Watches numbered over 100,000 used staffs with small collet shoulders. 
12-S staffs, in watches of grades 920, 900, 914, 910 with numbers under 1902601 used 5, R. type staffs, (Catalogue No, 1250). Watches of these grades, numbered from 1902601-700, used the D, R. staffs, (Catalogue No, 1250A), 
In watches from 1902701 - 800 the S. R. type staffs were used, (Catalogue No, 1250).
In watches from 1902801 D. R. type staffs, (Catalogue No. 1250A), were used.
12-S staffs in watches of grades 922, 904, 902, 918, 916, 912 are D. R. type, (Catalogue No, 3050). 

6/0-S staffs in Watches Grade 986 were both single roller and double roller. Watches Grade 986 before No. 2041401 used staffs, Catalogue No. 1927. Watches Grade 986 after No. 2041400 used staffs, Catalogue No. 1927A. 
It is necessary to give full description and catalogue number of material desired. The Material Sales Department of the Hamilton Watch Co., suggest, whenever possible, sending the part to be duplicated, with orders for material. By doing this, you will insure yourself prompt and accurate service. Your co-operation will be greatly appreciated by this department. 

Elgin Grade 127

This is a spectacular watch so I took a few extra pictures, including details of the lever-set mechanism under the dial..

This first three images show the lever extended for setting mode.

The Elgin grade 127 is an older design, 16 size movement having 11 jewels.  This one was made about 1894.

 Excellent gold hunter case, engraved...


From The American Horologist magazine, January 1942


Several technical publications, within the last year, have dealt quite extensively with the treatment of ablasives, and have proven valuable to the people who are using grinding and polishing materials.

In our daily routine we use many kinds for the different operations at hand. I am of the opinion the ones which we use the most would be in order named: Arkansas Oil Stone powder, Diamondtine, Crocus Powder and Diamond Powder.

Presuming that there are some readers of this article who use these various abrasives just as they come from the supply house and find at times that these powders are not quite satisfactory will find a simple check test which will be of value.

Arkansas Oil Stone powder and pumice are used quite extensively in the reduction of balance pivots and pinions and inasmuch as it is not quite uniform in the granules-some dissatisfaction may occur.

In order to avoid such trouble use a steel slab and a stiff spatula ground off to about 3 inches long and at end of blade sharpen on a 45 degree at right angle to the blade, then place a small amount of the powder on steel block to which has been placed a small amount of oil, preferably liquid petrolatum, then rub the powder with quite a little pressure to a smooth paste, being sure that you use oil sparingly. This method is also used on other grinding powders, except diamond. When you have rubbed out powder so that it feels smooth, scrape it off the slab and place on your tin slip polishing block. This block should have several compartments, each one of which should contain a different abrasive. When you desire to grind some flat pieces the abrasive is always available and always of the right consistency, whether you desire to use crocus powder on pivot polisher, wig-wag, or tin slip.

Regarding diamond powder, do not I use this on the polishing block. Keep separate and use olive oil as a mix.  In checking diamond powder, it is necessary to use a small crusher. I have one which is very adaptable for this abrasive. I use a round block of bard steel 2 inches high and It inches in diameter. In center I have a round depression 10 MM across the top edge. Be sure that the pestle fits closely. To check your diamond powder, place therein a small quantity with a little olive oil and use pestle in a grinding motion. Use a lot of pressure until mixture is smooth. Remove mixture, using a very small spatula, and place in a slim glass vial to which some gasoline has been added. Shake well and let stand about 24 hours and use the top settlings for fine polish. It is just right to use for removal of pits in end stones. I have a special diamond lapp used for that purpose. Should you wish to experiment on a formula of your own in the grinding of different materials, a small crusher of this kind is valuable. I might add that diamond abrasive is one of  the most costly, yet it is inexpensive because so little of it is used. There is nothing that will take its place.

Do not use crusher in which you check your diamond powder for any other kind of abrasive. Therefore it is well to make two of these crushers, so that you will have the extra one for other than diamond powder. 

Looking for a Westclox Resource?

Check out this Westclox clock history site:

Great stuff!

First Typewriter Invented by Watchmaker

From The American Horologist magazine, January 1942

First Typewriter Invented by Watchmaker

Strange truths continue to prove watchmakers have contributed more to science and industry than any other calling outside of chemistry.

While in Iowa two years ago, at their state watchmakers' convention, I was receiving watchmakers contributions to industry, and discovered several enlightening contributions to our already lengthy lists of facts. My exceptional good fortune in meeting the sons of two Iowa watchmaker inventors will add to our historical wealth of knowledge, and we know there are thousands of such cases if only we could unearth them.

Our typewriter inventor, Mr. Abner Peeler, back in 1857, in Webster City, Iowa, worked out an idea with the result that the first typewriter saw the light of day and was finally patented on August 14, 1866 under the U. S.

Patent No. 57,182, and described as a "new and useful machine for writing and printing."

Mr. Peeler, however, did not reap much profit as is the usual inventor's plight; he sold his claims for $3,000.

Peeler also invented the air brush, the greatest step that has ever been taken in fine art. He also invented the self-threading sewing machine shuttle, which was sold to the Singer Sewing Machine Company's agent G. G. Ferguson of Ft. Dodge, Iowa in 1882.

Upper photo, latest air gun. Lower reproduction, first air gun.

This inventive genious also created a compressed air rifle, which was considered by our government to be so dangerous that it was suppressed.

The lives of many American watchmaker inventors are packed with human interest, but space-only allo~s the brief highlights. ..

Mr. Peeler's son, W. R. Peeler, of Los Angeles, possesses the original typewriter and air gun, and expressed his desire to dispose of them to historical museums or anyone interested in such relics. 

Elgin Grade 293

 Now and then we find an older 16 size watch in a case designed as would be typical of a larger 18 size watch.  This is an example of such, made about 1916.
The grade 293 is a 16 size, 7 jewel movement.

New Technical Page

I've just added a new listing the the ElginTime website to collect pointers to technical information on vintage watches.

Stay tuned for more additions...

G. I. Has the Last Laugh

From American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, June 1946

G. I. Has the Last Laugh

Pfc. Franz Schmidt, American-born German serving in Berlin, Germany, with the American army of occupation, was strolling in the suburbs, thinking perhaps of his fraulein. back in the States, when a little girl of perhaps ten stopped him.

"Mister, " she asked in modest German, "Would you like to buy some jewelry cheap in exchange for some American coffee and candy" The girl led him to a typical German stone hut so common in the suburbs. The girl's mother brought out a wide assortment of old-fashioned trinkets, a couple of cheap rings and three very old Swiss watches with thick cases.

Familiar as Franz was with watches, he asked the girl's mother what she wanted for them. The woman wanted merchandise in the amount of about ten dollars. This was all right with Franz. He later returned with the necessary supplies, that he had acquired at the Army Red Cross Canteen.

As he left the house he heard the girl's mother mention something about a 'Yank Dumpkoff," but he paid no attention until he got back to the barracks, where he investigated his purchases at length.
The first watch was devoid of any works, but the case was worth about $40 in platinum. The second watch had a few ruby jewels worth abont $10 each. He then examined the third watch. Somehow, it was a strange piece of workmanship. He studied it closer, then took it apart piecemeal. To his amazement the crown and shaft were composed largely of silver, while the movements were of platinum. His biggest surprise perhaps was a plate with German inscription. Tediously he removed the plate and embedded beneath, he found a flawless diamond almost a carat in size.

A Swiss jeweler later told him that the watch was over 100 years old, and it was common in those days for men to hide away such gems for a rainy day - but that rainy day happened to be Franz Schmidt's! 

Navy trying to identify victim of plane crash

From American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, December 1959

Navy trying to identify victim of plane crash

A SWISS MAN'S WRIST watch found at the scene of a recent military plane crash in the East could lead to positive identification of a victim who might otherwise have to be buried as unknown military personnel in peace-time.

Navy officials report that demolition was so complete that the watch with its marks is the only means of identifying one of the victims.

As shown in the accompanying photo the watch is a Tavennes with serial number 134221, and the case was manufactured by the Keystone Company, of Riverside, N. J. The jeweler's watch mark is lR 6-14/4. Any watchmaker or jeweler having knowledge of this watch should write, giving the name of the owner, either to the United Horological Association of American Watch Mark Identification Bureau, 1901 East Colfax Avenue, Denver 6, Colo., or to the Navy Department, PO Box 2092, Denver 1, Colo.

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

Blog Archive