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!

What Watch Does Mitt Romney Wear?

Mitt Romney has been spotted wearing a few difficult to identify watches. However, he has been seen with this one.

Elgin Pocketwatch Movement Models

I've been working on reference material for Elgin's older movement designations, by model.


It's still a work in progress...

Elgin Grade 312

The grade 312 is a 16 size, 15 jewel, movement.

This one, in a spectacular gold, open face case, was made about 1906.

Bulova 10AM

 Here's a Bulova model 10AM, 17 jewel, wristwatch movement.

It is difficult to date these movements because they re-used their marking in more than one year.  This one is either 1930 or 1940.

Otto Young & Co Catalogue

Otto Young & Co
Tool and Material Catalogue, 1906 - 1907

Just a small sample of a few pages...

Elgin Grade 27

This Elgin grade 27 is a B. W. Raymond branded, 18 size movement.  These came in both 15 and 17 jewel variations.  It's a lever-set watch.

This one was made about 1893, and features a really nice hunting case.

Elgin Grade 70

The Elgin grade 70 is a large, 18 size, movement, made in both a 15 and 17 jewel version.  It is lever-set and stem-wind.

The dial has hand-paint Odd Fellows designs.  This is the second time I have seen a dial like this, with very similar additions.  The work is unfortunately not pristine.  It would seem that the watch has been knocking around without it's crystal and dial for awhile.

This example was made about 1889.

It was sent to a specialty shop for a bezel.  These generally have to be fabricated.

It's important to take extra care with hunting case watches (watches with a front cover, like this one).  Hunter cases are much more fragile than their open face counterparts.

Elgin Grade 286

Elgin's grade 286 is a 6 size, 7 jewel, movement.

This one was made about 1904.  It was missing the front bezel, as this first photo shows,  It was sent to a specialty shop to take care of that and returned to its owner from there.

Question Box

From Horology magazine, March, 1938

Question Box

Dear Sir:

I would appreciate very much a few suggestions concerning the proper or most approved methods of handling repaired watches. By that I mean, is it best to provide a watch rack to hang on the wall or would a cabinet be more useful?

At the present time we are using regular jewelry trays which we keep in the show-cases and, of course, these trays are transferred to the safe at the close of the day. We are not satisfied with our present way of handling as we have several hundred watches being transported back and forth from the safe with the result that they sometimes get damaged in moving. 
E. M.

Answer: Handling repair jobs is quite a problem. The methods adopted vary with the size of the store and the number of watches. The system described here is in use at the Slavick Jewelry Company, one of the largest jewelry establishments in Los Angeles.

The watches are kept in cabinet drawers which are made with a separated number compartment for each watch. The compartments are made in several different sizes to accommodate ladies' wrist watches, mens' strap watches and pocket watches. The compartments for pocket watches are made to hold the watches in a vertical position.

The compartment number of a watch is marked on the repair ticket and in the repair record book. At night the drawers are placed in the safe and in the day they are kept in a cabinet in the watch repair department. 

Elgin to Build Observatory for New York Fair

From Horology magazine, March, 1938

Elgin to Build Observatory for New York Fair

Time's dramatic story, from earliest history to the present day will be presented for millions to see at the New York World's Fair in 1939.

The Elgin National Watch Company will make the presentation, through· the medium of an elaborate exhibit housed in a modernistic structure of novel design. Success of the Elgin Watch displays at Chicago's A Century of Progress exposition, and at the Dallas, Texas, Centennial fair prompted the decision to present an even finer exhibit at the New York exposition opening April 30, next year.

The Elgin Exhibit in New York will be educational in character and will illustrate by means of working models and photomurals various types of time-pieces beginning with those used in prehistoric times, such as the burning rope, continuing down through the ages to antique and modern watches and ending with a glimpse of the timepiece of tomorrow. Many other interesting exhibits will be shown, among them a large scale model of the watch in actual operation and a microscopic display of various small parts which make up the modern watch.

The exhibition will be housed in a semi-circular exhibition hall which will surround a central circular building. This building will contain an actual astronomical observatory and will show how correct time is determined from the stars.

While time is a subject which vitally concerns everyone, very few people know how correct time is determined and that it is determined from star observations and not from the sun.

On clear nights the dome of the observatory will be opened and actual star observations will be made. During the day and on cloudy nights the demonstrations will be made using an artificial star which will have the appearance and the apparent motion of a real star. The observatory will contain two astronomical clocks, which are among the most accurate in the world. These clocks will be mounted on concrete piers to eliminate vibration and will be hermetically sealed in glass jars to eliminate atmospheric pressure changes. They will be electrically wound every 36 seconds and have a mean variation of daily rate of about eight one-thousandths of a second (0.008 second) per day. The observatory will also contain all necessary auxiliary apparatus which is commonly used in time determination.

The walls of the observatory and the inner walls of the exhibition hall will be of glass and between these two sections will be a circular cascade of water. At the end of the cascade will be a water clock, illustrating one of the most ancient of timepieces. Here will stand a statue of a slave holding a large club in his hands and watching a bowl which rests upon the water. In this bowl is a small hole through which the water slowly enters. The bowl sinks into the water and at the instant that it disappears, the slave strikes a gong with his club, thus signalizing the beginning of another hour.

In passing from the exhibition hall to the observatory, the visitor will walk over a glass bridge underneath which is a model of the Elgin National Watch factory, thus obtaining the illusion of a view from an airplane.

The building is so designed that it emphasizes the meridian, or north and south line, in a striking manner. The meridian itself will be marked by a pier apart from the building with an arrow pointing to the true north.

New Loupe

This new 16x loupe came yesterday.  I've needed this for awhile.  It compliments the 2 1/3x and 10x I use most.

Down Again (Still)!

Yesterday evening I realized that the ISP changed my IP address on me, so the watch serial number look up page has been inaccessible, probably for more than 48 hours.  I went and changed all the DNS entries.  It's there again now, and busy again too.


Lookup Down

The computer running the Elgin serial number data web page just stopped and shutdown yesterday afternoon.  I noticed it this morning and rebooted, it's fine now.  I guess I'll have to replace it soon.


Mystery Clock

From Horology magazine, November, 1937

The New York Herald Tribune recently described a "mystery" clock with which the late Phineas T. Barnum puzzled audiences in the '70's'. The clock is now owned by Edwin Franko Goldman, the band director. The dial of the clock is mounted on a glass cylinder. The hand of the clock is mounted on a glass disc with teeth formed in its circumference and is connected with the movement in the base by means of a bevel gear drive.

A number of so called "mystery watches" have also been made. These watches have a small movement concealed in the case near the pendant. The minute hand is fastened to a glass disc which has teeth in its circumference and is turned by the movement. The case is made with a crystal on both sides so that seemingly there is no mechanism to account for the turning of the hands.

Tightening Cannon Pinions with Plugged Ends

From Horology magazine, November, 1937

Tightening Cannon Pinions with Plugged Ends

HOROLOGY, Los Angeles, Calif.
Since many new watches have the plugged end cannon pinions it has probably occurred to many just how to tighten them. That was my worry a few months ago. Here is my solution.

Grasp the cannon pinion in a pair of cutting pliers with the pinion well over to one side of the jaws. Place a tapered broach next to the pinion, toward the inside of the jaws but not beyond the center. Give the broach as much freedom as you would were it through the center of the pinion and clamp the pliers. Try on center pinion, if not tight repeat operation. I have also found it necessary, in cleaning a watch by machine, to put a very little oil on the center pinion or the cannon pinion is apt to freeze.
Springfield, Ohio

Editor's Note: As the object of the broach is to provide a stop so that the cannon pinion will not be cut in two it would be a convenience to use an optician's cutting pliers, which is provided with an adjusting screw to regulate the minimum distance which the jaws can be closed. 

Question Box

From Horology magazine, November, 1937

Question Box

Hairsprings Catch

Dear Sir:

Please be kind enough to tell me the reason why we are having so much trouble on the hairsprings of a ladies' wrist watch.

Many times the hairspring is caught on the regulator pins, and sometimes the hairspring is caught on the end of the balance bridge, and also on the end of the regulator.

Thanking you for your kindness, I am a subscriber 
E. E. G.

Answer: Hairsprings usually become caught because the watch has been given a violent jar, looping the outer coil or coils over the regulator or bridge. When a spring catches this way there is little that the horologist can do to prevent it.

The diameter of the spring and general design of the regulator and bridge are contributing factors in making it possible for the spring to get caught.

In other cases a coil of the spring may catch on the burred end of a regulator 

pin, or if the pins are slightly too long an extra coil may jump in between them.

These minor faults can easily be corrected. The regulator pins must have no appreciable excess extending below the portion of the spring which they straddle and the ends of the pins should be free from any sort of burr.

Question Box

From Horology magazine, November, 1937

Question Box

Dear Sir:
At various times I have read articles on position adjusting but I am still at a loss to understand what to do if a watch does not run right in positions. Some writers claim that if a watch is in good mechanical condition, freshly cleaned and oiled, it is bound to perform well in positions. A great portion of my work consists of railroad watches. I use a watch cleaning machine for cleaning and _____ oil for lubrication. Until recent months I used _____ oil. The reason I changed to the present brand is because I had a number of watches which ran well for a little while but started to act up shortly after being put in service. My greatest difficulties are in getting the flat positions to run alike, and no small amount of grief do I experience with the pendant up position, which, as if for spite, always runs slow. Sometimes I question whether the factories do anything to adjusted watches outside of stamping them "Adjusted." The reason for my suspicion is that I have as many difficulties with supposedly new watches as I do with those I repair.

An example of my grief is the case of a trainman, whose old watch I have condemned and recommended the purchase of a new _____ watch. I have been trying to regulate it now for the last three months, and just when I think that I moved the regulator the right amount it comes back the next week with a much greater variation.

I gave up a good position which I held for many years, on account of the difficulty in repairing the small baguette watches only to jump into something far more troublesome. I apologize for my lengthy letter but I can assure you that there are many others who experience the same difficulties and would also like to know what to do when a watch does not regulate, what books to obtain for information on this subject and how good timekeeping to expect of a railroad watch.
R. M. S.

Answer: In order to fully cover all of the difficulties pointed out in this letter it would consume the pages of a good size book. Indeed one could go on indefinitely just explaining why a watch may vary in the flat positions only. In the limited space of the Question Box we can touch only briefly on the subjects in question.

The brand of oil you have been using, as well as that which you are using now, is considered to be of good quality. It has already been pointed out in the article "Oiling a Watch" (See August issue of HOROLOGY) that there is just as much in the manner of oiling a watch as there is in the brand of oil.

The statement that "a watch which is in good mechanical condition will have a good position rate" is very true. The difficulty is to be able to recognize when the 
watch is in such a condition. Just as there is a definite mechanical reason why an automobile engine stops, knocks, or consumes too much gas, so is there a particular cause for every peculiar position rate of a watch. Some of the most common faults which cause variation in the flat positions are as follows: A pitted or out of flat endstone, the end of one pivot may be flat while the other is rounded; one pivot may be freely projecting through the jewel while the other chokes on the cone. A slight burr on one pivot will sometimes also cause a variation in the flat positions, especially if the balance has too much end shake and the pivot hangs up on the burr and prevents the opposite pivot from reaching the endstone. Unequal sizes of hole jewels in the balance or even in the fork will cause a variation in the flat positions, to say nothing about excessive endshake in any escapement member, level of the hairspring and a host of other reasons too numerous to mention here.

Among the common causes for slow pendant positions are open regulator pin.  No eye loupe is too powerful for examining regulator pins. All upright positions may be accelerated or retarded by the slightest touch of the regulator pins. Other important points to observe are good poise of the balance and perfection in pivots. When a balance does not seem to come to poise there must be something wrong with its pivots. A balloon chuck for examining and touching up pivots is good enough. The best, however, is the old-fashioned contrivance illustrated in Figure 2. In this tool the pivot rotates on its own cone and by putting the heavy number 8 Dumont tweezer against the parallel section one can easily tell whether it is bent or perfect.

For those who are fortunate enough to own a regular microscope the device illustrated on page 11 of the January 1937 issue of HOROLOGY, is recommended.

The correct pinning point of the inner terminal of the hairspring plays no small part in the good rate of a watch. However, manufacturers of modern railroad watches are fully aware of this fact and the average horologist will do well not to tamper with it, outside of observing whether the hairspring runs true in the flat and the round.

Watches stamped "adjusted" are actually- adjusted. Occasionally, however, one runs across a seemingly new watch which gives trouble. In many cases an investigation may reveal that it has been tampered with since it left the factory. If one finds scratched bridges, nicked jewel settings or chewed up screw slots it is a sure sign that the watch has been in the hands of a poor workman, for these are not factory trade marks.

A watch which runs within five or six seconds between the dial up and dial down positions and does not vary over fifteen seconds in all five positions may be considered an excellent commercial timekeeper.

A good book on adjusting is "Rules and Practice for Adjusting Watches" by Walter J. Kleinlein.

Watches Presented to Lord and Lady Elgin

From Horology magazine, November, 1937

Watches Presented to Lord and Lady Elgin

A gala program, broadcast on two continents, Thursday, October 21st, introduced the new Lord and Lady Elgin Models.  These watches represent the newest achievement of the EIgin National Watch Company. The Lord Elgin is a 21-jewel model and the Lady Elgin a 19 jewel semi-baguette.  

The Right Honorable EarI of Elgin and Kincardine, K.T., C.M.G., and his lady, the Countess of Elgin and Kincardine, were recipients of the first watches named in their honor. They were a gift from the city of Elgin, Illinois, named for the illustrious family of the present title-bearer. The watches were presented in silver boxes, inscribed with the Elgin crest, in London, England, by Mr. Francis Powell, president of London's American Chamber of Commerce.  

Through the facilities of the British Broadcasting Company, Trans-Atlantic Radio and the Columbia Broadcasting System, the dedication speech of T. Albert Potter, president of the Elgin National Watch Company, and the expression of gratitude by Lord Elgin were heard on 50 American stations. The program was climaxed by Lord and Lady Elgin setting their watches to the "time from the stars" tonebeat-exact to hundredths of a second-radio-transmitted from the Elgin National Watch Company Observatory at Elgin. 

The American broadcast emanated from the Red Lacquer Room of the Palmer House where several hundred civic leaders, wholesale distributors and company officials banqueted. Toastmaster Harry C. Daniels, president of Elgin's Association of Commerce, traced briefly the history of Elgin through the days of Chief Blackhawk, Joliet and Marquette to the settlement along the river in 1835, the start by a handful of skilled workmen --of the Elgin N ational Watch Company and the founding, in 1865, of an industry that was to attain world-renown. 

Elgin Grade 670

This grade 670 is a 15/0 size, 21 jewels, Lord Elgin model wristwatch, in a 14k gold filled case.  It was made about 1951.

The serial number on this movement is R345687.  In later years, Elgin used letters for a number of millions in their serial numbers.

More about that here...

Elgin Grade 387

The grade 387 is a 16 size pocketwatch with 17 jewels.
This example was made about 1928.

Elgin Grade 554

This grade 554 Elgin is a 0 size, 15 jewel, wristwatch. 

It was made about 1947.

Question Box

From Horology magazine, April, 1939

Question Box

Bent Centers, Demagnetizing and Poising

Editor Horology, 
Dear Sir:
How can I straighten the shaft the cannon pinion fits on, in 12 size very thin Elgin and Illinois watches? Most everyone that comes in has the center post bent. Watchmakers apparently bend these posts while crowding the hands on.

A Parker wrist watch that is very strongly magnetized has been brought in.  I have taken this watch in to Cleveland to four watchmakers. No demagnetizer will take out the electricity. I suppose I will have to take the watch apart and demagnetize each piece separately.

What oil shall I use in winding and setting of pocket and wrist watches? I have been using clock oil, but I have been told that I should use grease as thick as vasoline.

Please tell me how to poise a balance.

I have my balance wheel before me on my agate poising tool, balance, staff and rim with screws. Where do I go from here? Should I have balance, staff and rim with screws, roller collet and roller jewel with hairspring and stud? All watchmakers do differently. I would like to know the right way.
D. F. J.

Answer: We suggest that you check your method of removing cannon pinions. Make sure that the pull is straight upward without side pressure. It would appear to us that some of the bent center posts you encounter are probably due to your own method of removing the pinions.

There is no easy method for straightening a bent center. The usual procedure is to hold the post in the lathe chuck and forcing the wheel in the desired direction with the fingers. In some instances it is possible to force the post direct in the watch.

Every horologist should own a demagnetizer and thus save the trouble of sending out a job which can be done in a few seconds. Modern demagnetizers work efficiently and one should not need to take a watch to pieces for mere demagnetization.

We suggest that you follow the oil manufacturers' advice as 'to which oil to use on the winding parts. Practically all makers of oil specify this on the instruction circulars which are supplied with each bottle of oil. They make recommendations as to which one of their grades to use on the train, winding and escapements.

When poising a balance, the unit placed on the jaws of the poising tool should consist only of the balance, staff, rollers and roller jewel. No poising can be done without removing the hairspring.

Question Box

From Horology magazine, April, 1939

Question Box

Finishing Pivots 

Editor Horology, 
Dear Sir:

Your advice is earnestly asked in the following problem.

My present method of restoring rough or damaged balance pivots is to remove the hairspring and roller, mount the balance wheel in the split chuck and go to work on the pivots with oil-stone powder, diamontine, iron and bell metal slips. This method is satisfactory in producing results but is slow, particularly in adjusting, where it is sometimes necessary to grind the cone of the pivot back.

The balloon type of chuck is unsatisfactory except for working on the pivot end. I have concluded that the American type pivot polisher as made for the American lathe would be slower than my above method as used in general repair work.

The Jacot lathe seems to be the answer but while I have studied your articles on this tool which appeared in Horology, also the article in "Practical Benchwork," I still do not understand its use thoroughly. It is clear that no grinding or polishing compounds can be used in connection with this tool as the rests and the lanterns would soon be ruined.

It is stated that pivot files are to be used. But how? Are they drawn to and fro over the rests while the staff is rotated with the bow? It seems to me that this would soon ruin both file and rest. Also I find that watchmakers' files will not cut all staffs. Before burnishing a pivot with steel it has been my belief that it was first necessary to prepare it for burnishing by polishing with diamontine. Assuming that I have the pivot filed to the desired size how am I to proceed to polish it on the Jacot lathe? Am I to understand that a proper polish can be had by burnishing only?
P. A. H.

Answer: Most American balance staffs are too hard to be filed in the Jacot lathe. Neither is there any reason why American staffs should require filing.

Any make of balance staff may be burnished on the Jacot lathe with a burnisher to which oil is applied. Dry burnishing should never be practiced. The burnisher will also reduce the pivot in diameter and if a burnisher with a cone file is used, the pivot may thus be lengthened. The degree of cutting which a burnisher will do depends on the grade of emery paper on which it is dressed.

If much material is to be removed from a pivot a burnisher dressed 011 coarse paper should be used. Finer polishing is done with a burnisher dressed on fine emery paper. Diamontine or cutting stones should never be used on the Jacot lathe except for touching up a pivot when supported by the lantern spindle. The pivot files, if properly used, will not damage the tool.

Elgin Opens Spring Season with 19 New Watches for Men

From Horology magazine, April, 1939

Elgin Opens Spring Season with 19 New Watches for Men

In response to growing demand for a moderately priced I5-jewel watch for men, the Elgin National Watch Company has just announced the appearance of seven new IS-jewel Elgin "Lancers," to sell for $29.75. Twelve other important additions to the line, including three new 21-jewel Lord Elgins, are ready for distribution.

Four of the "Lancers" are 8/0 size; three are 18/0 size. The Lord Elgins are 8/0 size.

The other new models include two new "Crusaders," one of which is flexible lug model, advertised nationally as the Elgin "Flexon." Both of these watches are 8/0 size, contain 17 jewels, and sell for $37.50.

Elgin is also offering new styles in 8 /0, 7-jewel "Cavaliers" and 17-jewel "Streamlines." The new models will be strongly promoted in Elgin's national advertising throughout the spring.

Spring Officially Ushered in at New York Fair

From Horology magazine, April, 1939

Spring Officially Ushered in at New York Fair

A flash from the Elgin observatory building on the New York Fair grounds at 7:28:30 o'clock E.S.T. on Tuesday, March 21, officially ushered Spring into the great exhibition enclosure and constituted a feature of the dedication ceremonial arranged for the Elgin building at the Fair.

Consistent with the whims of northern Springs, the day was cold and raw and the young ladies who made up the Persephone dancing group, attired in flimsy, flowing bits of fabric, shivered through their interpretative dance before Jimmy Durante as Father Time. Despite freezing winds, however, Prof. Frank D. Urie, director of research for the Elgin Company, set the scene from the timing standpoint and brought into action an enactment of the Greek legend of the return of Persephone from the lower regions.

The spectacle opened with the arrival of Persephone at the new Elgin building, where Ceres awaited her. She came in a chariot, drawn by prancing black horses, and while her arrival was welcomed with affectionate warmth, the temperature did what it could to cool things off.

On hand to greet her, too, was Jimmy Durante in the role of Father Time, but missing was New York's No.1 Greeter, Grover Whalen. For the first time in the memory of the oldest inhabitant Mr.
Whalen did not rise to the occasion to greet a visitor. In fact, Mr. Whalen did not rise until an hour later, and Spring couldn't wait. 

Without him, however, cameras clicked, the shivering onlookers applauded and the Elgin building was officially dedicated.

Tuesday night at 10 o'clock, a time signal was given by Professor U rie from the observatory building to start the Coronation Scot, crack train of the London, Midland and Scottish Railroad, from Baltimore on its exhibition tour of this country. The signal was transmitted by wire to Baltimore.

When the exhibition hall surrounding the observatory is complete, a series of exhibits will depict the history of timekeeping. Prominent among them will be a mural painting, 110 feet long, a connected series showing the increasing importance of Time. Other features will include replicas of ancient time-determining devices, beginning with those used in prehistoric times, continuing down through the ages to antique and modern watches, and ending with a glimpse of the "Time Piece of Tomorrow."

Here the visitor may have his watch checked by means of a watch-testing machine which, in 15 seconds, shows the amount of the watch's deviation of 24 hours. Some of the interesting technical phases of watch manufacture will be featured in an exhibit showing scientific achievements of the Elgin factory.

That Hard to Find Knock

From Horology magazine, April, 1939

That Hard to Find Knock
By Glen Knauts

The writer is one who places great importance on the correct sound of a timepiece after it has been repaired.  The difficulty we are to deal with should be described as follows: After the timepiece we are to deal with has been carefully cleaned (in a cleaning machine), the balance is in poise, the balance pivots are found to be straight, well formed, highly polished, and fit their respective jewels, the balance is placed in position before the time-piece is assembled, and is found to have the proper end shake, the hairspring is trued in the flat and round, and care is taken to see that the Breguet coil is not rubbing or touching the balance cock at any point or in any position. The balance is then made to vibrate, and we find that the balance comes to a very gradual rest in all positions. The balance is then removed and the timepiece is assembled, the train found to be perfectly free and in perfect order. The pallet fork and bridge are then placed in position, checking for correct end shake in the fork arbor. The balance and cock are now placed in position. At this point the writer makes a series of examinations which he considers to be very important and they are as follows:

First, by the use of a slender feeler, reach into the movement and raise the slot and guard pin of fork as high as their end shake will permit, making sure that the lower balance pivot is resting on the foot endstone. If the guard pin touches the end of the roller jewel, more clearance must be provided and should be accomplished in one of two ways.

The simplest way is to shorten the roller jewel slightly, provided there is proper clearance between the slot and prongs of the fork and the top roller table. If this clearance is not to be had, then it will be necessary to remove the hairspring and roller tables from the balance, set the balance up in the lathe and remove a small portion of the hub of the balance staff. This brings the work to the place where the roller tables will stake onto the staff at a higher level than before and will account for the proper clearance in the parts under discussion. The good mechanic will not stop work in this direction until he is positive that these parts under discussion have proper clearance in the face up and face down positions.

The writer does not consider it permissible to bend the arm of the fork up or down unless he does so with the idea of putting it back to the same level that it originally had when it came from the factory, and he finds many new watches, both Swiss and American, that do not have the proper clearance in the roller and fork assembly as mentioned above.

This completes the first step of examination.  The second of this series of examinations is made after the movement has been completely set up, the dial is off, the mainspring is wound one-half to three quarters of a turn, and the balance will begin to vibrate, provided the timepiece is in beat, and the remainder of the escapement is in proper order. We now stop the balance so that the incoming pallet stone has locked a tooth of the escape wheel. The balance is turned on around so that the roller jewel is well away and out of the fork. We now take the slender feeler again and check the clearance between the guard pin and the safety roller. This clearance should amount to somewhere between .05 to .10 of a millimeter. While the balance is still held in this same position, and the guard pin is pushed over against the guard roller, it must be observed that the incoming pallet stone still engages the escape wheel tooth on the locking surface. If this examination permits the tooth of the escape wheel to advance to the impulse surface of the pallet stone, the repairman should know immediately that adjustment is necessary. Of course, this same examination must be made in regard to the outgoing pallet stone. I t is not the writer's purpose to give a treatise on how to set an escapement if trouble is found in making this second series of examinations, so he will assume that any difficulty that might have been encountered has been taken care of correctly.

Now the balance is permitted to vibrate again, and after making the first few strokes, builds up its constancy and shows a fine vigorous motion. However, on listening to the timepiece, the writer is able to detect a knocking sound in the escapement, and it is around this difficulty that he should like to direct the emphasis of this article. He knows that he is not the only one who has encountered this "knocking" condition because he has talked to other men of high ability who have had similar experiences, and furthermore that the most of this trouble had been found in certain models of certain makes.

The remainder of this article will, therefore, be devoted to the correct method of procedure when this "hard to find" knocking trouble is encountered. The diagnosis of this trouble should be ascertained very carefully and in a systematic manner. First, remove balance from the movement, and remove the hairspring from the balance. Be sure the roller jewel is perpendicular to the roller table. Now put the balance back in the movement without the hairspring and replace balance cock. Turn the balance slowly, and with a high powered loupe determine whether or not the roller jewel has the proper clearance as it comes around past the prong of the fork and enters the slot.

If the proper clearances and depthing are not found, it is well to know that some watch companies make roller tables in assorted diameters, properly gauged, and the repairman should remove the former roller table and replace with another of the proper diameter. However, it is well to say that the trouble is not often found here, so we proceed with another examination.

Again remove the balance from the movement and the pallet fork also. Place the fork in a pallet fork holder so that it can be handled easily. Pick up the balance in one hand, hold the fork in the other and place the roller jewel in the slot of the fork. Does it have any side shake?

If not, it should have several hundredths of a millimeter, and it is well to say that this is where the trouble will most usually be found. We proceed to overcome this trouble by making the slot of the fork slightly wider. Best results can be obtained by polishing the slot of the fork with a very thin steel lap. After these adjustments have been made, the timepiece will not only have an excellent motion, but will also have the correct sound.

The writer has a low percentage of comebacks, and he attributes his success to the fact that he adheres rigidly to the rules of practice as mentioned in this article.

Can Cracks in Dials Be Repaired?

Cracks in vintage, white, enamel watch dials can not be truly repaired.  It's ceramic, so there is no way to re-do it. However, the reason the crack shows is not the crack itself, but because tiny amounts of dark dirt are embedded in the crack. Careful cleaning can get some of that out of there and make it show slightly less. Some use various concoctions of white material to fill cracks.  This may work, but I don't like the idea of deliberately putting stuff in there. It's like dirt and water getting into a crack in the sidewalk or some brick. It will work and work and slowly make the crack larger worse. I do use a dial patching material for worse damage, such as chips, because in that case it actually helps keep the problem from getting worse.

The Watches of Presidents

Here's a nice article on the timepieces used by various Presidents of the United States, from George Washington to Barack Obama.


Yes, George Washington had a watch.  Personally, I like Richard Nixon's Vulcain Cricket.

Elgin Grade 10, And a Creative Repair

This early Elgin grade 10, 1879, has a missing case screw.  You can see the empty hole in this first photo.

Watch movements generally come out through the front, so as you can see the head of the case screw, if it was there, overlaps with the edge of the case, thus keeping the movement from coming out.

To hold the movement in the case here, someone added small piece of steel under a near by plate screw.

All sorts of interesting "fixes" are found in old watches.  Somewhat counter intuitively, many type of spare parts are more easily obtained today than in the 19th century.  Perhaps a watchmaker that could make a replacement for the lost screw was not available.  Or maybe the watch owner came up with this solution on their own.

Some types of fixes like this, I leave in place as part of the history of the piece.  This solution wasn't very stable though, so I added a proper case screw.

This is an 18 size, 11 jewel movement, lever-set, with a very heavy silver hunting case.

More creative repairs here.

Unknown Small Swiss Watch

This is an 11 lignes lever-set, Swiss (most likely), unmarked movement, with an open-face case, engraved, and a fancy dial.

It's probably made about 1900, but that's a rough guess based on the movement style and finish.

...Good quality work, and a nice little watch!

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