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 581

This is a later model, WWII era.  This one, made about 1943, is just in just about mint condition.  This one is the 22 jewel version.  It is also found in a 21 jewel arrangement.

This is a 16 size movement in a military case, with the Elgin "Arrow" logo.

This watch features a sweep seconds hand.

Elgin Grade 97, Cannon Pinion Adjustment

These parts are from a grade 97, key-wind, key-set Elgin pocket watch.  It's a big one, 18 size, with 7 jewels.  This one was made about 1888.

The problem was that the cannon pinion was broken.  In this photo we see the minute wheel at the left and the hour wheel at the right.  The cannon pinion is the lower part, in steel.  The hour wheel slides over the cannon pinion, and the cannon pinion fits by friction on the shaft of the center wheel.

The minute hand rides directly on the cannon pinion.  The hour hand rides on the hour wheel.  To set the watch, a watch key fits on the square end of the cannon pinion, and the hands are directly turned.  When this is done, the cannon pinion slips on the center shaft.  That's why it's just friction tight.

The cannon pinion shown here is the best replacement I could find around the shop.  These key-wind cannon pinions are relatively scarce.  The problem is that it's outer surface on this one was in rough shape, and it wasa hair too big for the hour wheel to fit smoothly.  Working on the outside of the cannon pinion is tricky.  It's walls are thin, and there's no good way to chuck the thing into the lathe.

The first step then is to make a little shaft of steel that the cannon pinion can fit tight onto.

Looking good...  Tight enough to support the part without damaging it.  The outer surface can be worked until the hour wheel fits nice and easy.

This is the hour wheel trial fit onto the cannon pinion.

This sort of work has to be done very slowly.  For one thing, it's easy to damage the cannon pinion as the outer walls are thin.  Also, if too much material is removed, you can't exactly put it back, and again the part would be ruined.

Here are the parts in place on the dial side of the movement.

Elgin Grade 303

Here's another grade 303, as 12 size movement with 7 jewels.

Elgin sold an awful lot of these.  This example, with a lot of character, was made about 1928.

The open-face case, threaded front and back, and the metal dial are all pretty typical of this era.

Elgin Grade 3

The grade 3 is a 16 size, 15 jewel movement with gilt plates, in a layout not used in later designs.

This example, made about 1894, is in really nice condition, and well worth a few extra photos.

This first image shows the lever-set mechanism, with the lever extended.  Note the notch at the end of the lever.  The wheel under that notch has a spring under it so in extended position, the wheel pops up and engages the gears for setting.

When the lever is retracted, the notch moves and the wheel is pushed down out of the way.  I should probably take dial-side photos like this more often.  There are a number of different lever-setting designs.

These show the top and bottom of the balance cock, with its mechanism for extra fine adjustment of the regulator.

Here is the dial-side again, with the cannon pinion, minute wheel, hour wheel and a dial washer in place.

And a nice gold hunting case completes the piece...

New Manning-Bowman Electric Table Broiler

From The American Horologist magazine, March, 1940

New Manning-Bowman Electric Table Broiler

A new electric table broiler that broils sizzling-hot steaks right at the table has just been announced by Manning-Bowman.

This new broiler, unusually. decorative and practically smokeless, makes it possible to cook and entertain at the same time.

Intense heat generated from an 800 watt unit gives uniformly delicious results. The distance between the heat and the food is fixed, so the time necessary for cooking depends entirely on the thickness of the food and on individual tastes.

Over the broiler rack a ventilated cover fits snugly. A special hinge holds it up and out of the way when the handle is lifted. The solid walnut handle-detachable for compact storage-is thoroughly insulated. There are no ugly little legs to stick up and spoil the graceful appearance.

In addition to broiling meats and vegetables, Manning-Bowman's new broiler can be used for toasting open sandwiches 

Nine New Elgin DeLuxe 17 Jewel Models Take the Spot Light

From The American Horologist magazine, March, 1940

Nine New Elgin DeLuxe 17 Jewel Models Take the Spot Light

Nine brilliant beauties of the timekeeping family of Elgin National Watch Company are making a collective bow to the jewelry fraternity this month with a special flyer to announce their appearance. In the family of new models making their debut are five women's watches and four men's. One model for each group is cased in the new rose gold which is highlighted in fashion circles.

The nine DeLuxe models have in common five features which are: (1) all have 17 jewels, (2) exclusive Elginium patented hairspring which is non-magnetic, rustproof and unaffected by climatic and temperature changes, (3) Beryl-X balance which is also non-corrosive, non-magnetic and unaffected by climatic and temperature changes, (4) special grooved balance staff whose feature is that it can be readily replaced because it can be removed with a staking tool without distortion to the balance, (5) all models will be unusual values at $37.50 each.

Out to announce the new line of DeLuxe Elgins is a flyer in attractive color and form. Its four pages in gray and dubonnet highlight the watches attractively with the two rose gold models shown in actual color.

The advance piece of news given in this announcement is that a special advertising program exclusively for the Elgin DeLuxe line will run in two-color, half-page advertisements in such leading publications as Liberty, Collier's and Saturday Evening Post.

This special advertising is only the first part of the year's picture of Elgin advertising. It is following by a program of full-page ads which will appear in Life magazine. Then, a special graduation campaign will run not only in full-color ads on Lord and Lady Elgins, but also full-color ads on Elgin watches in general including all nine new DeLuxe models. 

A Survey On Come-Backs

From The American Horologist magazine, March, 1940

A Survey On Come-Backs

The average repair department without timing machine equipment will have thirty-five (35%) percent of all their watch repairs come back at least three times for complete regulation.

Twenty (20%) percent of all these watches are never brought to a satisfactory time keeping.

Thirty-five (35%) percent of all small watches come back on an average of four times for regulation.

Twenty (20%) percent of these are never satisfactorily timed.

This information compiled through our Statistical Division, and should give well founded reason for the average store and repair shop to consider their future through satisfying their clientele. 

Do You Know?

From The American Horologist magazine, June, 1937

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

Iron or steel immersed in a solution of carbonate of potash or soda for a few minutes is a good preventative of rust and preserves the surface of the article so as to resist rust against ordinary conditions.

To remove blueing from steel, immerse in a pickle composed of equal parts of muriatic acid and ilixir of vitrol. Rinse in pure water, immerse in alcohol and dry in sawdust.

To mark tools, cover the part to be marked with a thin coating of tallow or beeswax. With a sharp instrument, write the name in the tallow, cutting clearly into it. Fill the letters with nitric acid and let it remain for about five minutes. Rinse the article in water to remove the acid and clean off the surface with benzine. You will then have the name etched in steel.

Waterbury Clock Co., Waterbury, Conn.The Waterbury Clock Company may be said to be the original home of American clock manufacturing. As early as 1790 James Harrison began to make wooden clocks by hand in that town.

The first clock charged on his books is one to Major Morris, January 1, 1791, for $16.00; the second one is charged to Rev. Mark Leavenworth at $20.00.

Shortly after 1800 Harrison constructed a water wheel to furnish power for making various parts of his clocks, which he made for several years thereafter. He finally transferred his business to Co!. Wm. Leavensworth and moved to New York where he died poor.

Col. Leavensworth subsequently failed in the business and several changes came about until 1857 when the Waterbury Clock Company, with a capital of $60,000, was organized to make weight clocks. Their first spring clock, the oneday Gothic, was produced during 1858.

Ansonia Clock CompanyThe Ansonia Clock Company grew out of the Ansonia Brass and Battery Company (now known as the Ansonia Brass & Copper Company), which was established about 1840 by Phelps-Dodge & Co., Ansonia, Conn. The latter was organized in 1854 and carried on its manufacturing business in Ansonia solely for several years, but the increasing demand for its goods led to the determination of the company to build a new factory at Brooklyn, N. Y., for which ground was broken in February, 1879, and was completed in August of the same year. The building was 200 feet square and five stories high.

On October 27, 1880, this magnificent building was entirely destroyed by fire at a loss of $1,000,000. A new building was immediately erected, the dimensions being 660 feet by 200 feet, and the production was about 3,000.

The Ansonia Clock Company continued in business until a few years ago when the Russian Government bought the entire plant, removing all the tools and machinery to Russia, where clocks are now being manufactured. 

Explanation of Terms Used in Connection With the Detached Lever Escapement

From The American Horologist magazine, June 1937

Explanation of Terms Used in Connection With the Detached Lever Escapement

Club - One of the teeth of a club wheel.

Club Wheel - An escape wheel with impulse planes on the ends of its teeth.

Dart (guard pin) - A pin or finger in the fork which engages with the edge of the roller, to prevent the accidental unlocking of the escapement.

Draft - The tendency of the escapement to resist unlocking, as shown by the return of the fork to the banking whenever it is moved away except by the balance. Draft is produced by inclining backwardly (that is, in the direction the acting teeth of the wheel are traveling) the locking faces of the pallet stones.

Drop - The space between a tooth of the escape wheel and the pallet from which it has just escaped.

Escapement, double roller - One in which accidental unlocking is prevented by the dart coming in contact with a separate roller called the safety roller of smaller diameter than the table roller which carries the jewel pin.

Escapement, single roller - One in which accidental unlocking is prevented by the dart (or guard pin) coming in contact with the edge of the same roller that carries the jewel pin.

Fork Hollow - The two curves that extend outwardly from the corners of the fork slot. In double roller escapements these are a necessary part of the safety action and prevent the unlocking of the escapement after the dart has entered the passing hollow of the roller.

Fork Slot - The rectangular notch in the end of the fork which engages with the jewel pin to unlock the escapement and give impulse to the balance.

Heel - The locking corner of the club escape wheel tooth.

Impulse - (The same as "Lift").

Impulse Planes - (The same as "Lifting Planes").

Lift - The angle through which the pallet and fork move while propelling the balance.

Lifting Planes - Those surfaces on the pallet stones and wheel teeth, which by sliding past one another propel the balance.

Lock - The distance from the locking corner of the pallet stone to the locking corner of the wheel tooth at the instant when the two come in contact.

Pallet - Strictly speaking, one of the two jewels (or "stones") that engage with the teeth of the escape wheel. It is also applied to the metal frame in which the pallets are fastened, and to the pallets and frame combined.

Pallet, Circular - A pallet the centers of whose lifting planes are equally distant from the pallet arbor.

Pallet, Equidistant Locking - One in which the locking faces are equally distant from the pallet arbor.

Pallet, Discharging - (Also called "L" stone and "Let-off" stone.)-The last of the two pallets to engage with a given tooth of the escape wheel.

Pallet, Receiving-(Also called "R" stone.) - The first of the two pallets with which a tooth of the escape wheel comes into engagement.

Pallet Stones - Effect of Moving in the Pallet Frame:
Drawing out the "R" stone increases the drop on the inside and increases the draft on the "L" stone.
Drawing out the "L" stone increases the drop on the outside and decreases the draft on the "R" stone.
Drawing out either stone increases the lock on both stones.
Drawing out the "R" stone and pushing in the "L" stone increases the draft on both stones.
Reverse movement of the stones produces contrary results.

Passing Hollow - The crescent-shaped notch in the edge of the roller, which permits the dart (or guard pin) to pass from one side of the roller to the other.

Rake - This refers to the front side of the escape wheel tooth extending from the locking corner down to the rim of the wheel. The teeth are said to "have rake" because they lean forward. The purpose of rake is to prevent the locking side of the pallet stone coming in contact with any part of the wheel tooth except the locking corner or heel.

Roller, Safety - The small roller that acts in connection with the dart to prevent the accidental unlocking of the escapement. The relation of this roller to the table roller must be such that in looking through its passing hollow at the end of the jewel pin, the two corners of the hollow shall appear to be equally distant from the sides of the pin.

Roller, Table - The larger roller which carries the jewel pin.

Slide - The distance that the pallet stone travels beyond the lock.

Toe - That part of the tooth of a club escape wheel which leaves the stone last.  The wheel travels from heel to toe.

Rusted Hairsprings

From The American Horologist magazine, June 1937

Rusted Hairsprings

We have had inquiries from jewelers and watchmakers who wished to know if there is a preparation on hairsprings to keep them from rusting. We do not place any preparation on hairsprings and do not know of any to prevent rust spots. When the hairsprings alone are placed in packages, they are covered with a fine lime. powder, which prevents any discoloration or rust.

When a hairspring is being cleaned, it should be put in benzine and then very carefully dried in sawdust, so that none of the benzine will cause any rust spots on the spring. Those already on the spring can be cleaned with diamatine or oilstone powder, but great care must be taken in order not to damage the hairspring. 

Holding Small Hands

From The American Horologist magazine, June 1937

Holding Small Hands

Occasionally one finds that the ordinary hand brooching tool does not accommodate the holding of very small hands, such as used on Baguettes. A simple little tool can be quickly prepared to answer your special purpose. As suggested by Mr. Guy Whoolston of Pennsylvania Horological Association, it can be prepared in a few minutes. 

Simply select one of your stout tweezers, file one or more slots across as shown in the outlined drawing. Upon opening the tweezer, the hand is placed so as to contact each of the four sharp edges. When pressed together the sharp edges grip the hand firmly and prevent the hand from turning while using your brooch to enlarge the hole. 

National Watch Inspection Week

From The American Horologist magazine, June 1937

National Watch Inspection Week

Inspection week for 1937 will be held July 17 to July 24. All organizations, individual members, and non-members, and non-affiliated organizations; are urged to participate in this annual event.

After this year, National Watch Inspection week will be held the second week of March annually, at which time suitable window cards, streamers, etc., for our members' usage, will be supplied.

Manufacture of Timepieces in Italy

From The American Horologist magazine, June1937

Manufacture of Timepieces in Italy

Royal Italian Consul General

The electrically controlled watches are of current manufacture in Italy.

Concerning the mechanically controlled watches, those used in towers are manufactured in various firms in Italy, both industrial and artisan.

The watches for table or wall and similar are also manufactured in Italy on an industrial plan, and among the specialized firms in such production are, in particular, Officine F.lli. Borletti of Milano, and S. A. Arture Junghans of Venezia-Giudecca.

In the field of pocket watches, wrist watches and precision watches in general, we have no considerable production in Italy, and we believe that for such a production the national industry still resorts to importation of separate parts and that the artisan activity be limited in that field to solely assembling.

The number of nationals generally employed in the production of watches is estimated to about 2,000 artisans.

Elgin Watch Receipt, 1897

Here we have a store receipt for an Elgin watch.  It was sold to Miss L. R. Vernon by Hinkley's Jewelry Store in May of 1897.  The warranty has been changed from one to three years.  Too bad the price is not mentioned, but the watch is serial number 2670798, which is a pretty nice 18 size movement.

Elgin Grade 152

The Elgin grade 152 isn't found quite so often.  It is a 16 size movement, with with 15 jewels.

This is an older model, none were made after 1900.  This example was made about 1898.

It features a micro-regulator and gold jewel bezels.  This open-faced case is threaded in the front, and hinged, with a dust cover, in the back.

Parking at the Elgin Factory

This later view shows a parking lot in front of the Elgin watch factory. Such modern times!

Office Work

This unusual photo shows some ladies at work at the Elgin watch factory.  It appears to be some sort of clerical department.  The man, it's probably safe to assume, is the supervisor. Looks like they had some plants...


Elgin Grade 104

The grade 104 is a bit different in its plate design.

This is a 16 size, 7 jewel movement, made about 1896.

The is an early pendent-set model.

Elgin Serial Numbers Application Updated...

I discovered that the grade detail section of the site was not working at all.  It's been replaced with a working version, also updated for better performance, like the main page was. 

This is the serial number page:


This is the grade detail page:


Elgin Grade 430

Here is a grade 430, cased as a ladies wristwatch.

This is a 6/0 size movement, 7 jewels.  This example was made about 1927.

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

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