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!
To slow down the resulting run-away watch, a very large amount of weight has been added. Where eight or less timing screws, to each arm, would be typical, this one has a whopping eleven on both sides!
They're almost all huge screws as well. This thing probably weighs twice what it should.
This one, with a heavy silver, open face case, with hinges, was made in about 1906.
This is a 16 size, 15 jewel movement, made about 1900.
Imagine a dainty wrist watch weighing 3 ~ pounds! Just such a timepiece, a much enlarged replica of a diamond set Elgin, will be on view in the Elgin exhibit at the National Credit Jewelers Convention.
If the "gems" of this mammoth chronometer were real, each would weigh 500 karats. The "grande dame" who would wear it would tip the freight scales at little more than a ton. Her altitude would be a mere 96 feet. Her elegant little evening sandals would be ' in the fashionable size 90. And her petite hands would be garaged (probably with the aid of a traveling crane) in a neat size 117 glove.
Madame's waist would measure a perfect 40~, but you would have to measure in feet. Her pert little head, with its mop of curly baling wire-we mean "hair"-would look too divine in a tiny chapeau, size 444, no less and no more. Hose length would be something a little less than 13 yards.
And think of the charming scene when the fair owner of this mighty Elgin extended her arms some 95 feet, and wrapped them around the "boy friend," as he presented her with an engagement ring, size 99!
Miss I. A. Burki, Los Angeles hairspring specialist, states that the continually diminishing size of wrist watches has somewhat complicated the fitting of hairsprings. No longer is there just one standard of 18,000 vibrations per hour, but in order to accommodate the great range of beats now being used she uses seven different standard vibrators.
She thereupon came to New York and for six years was employed by the Bulova Watch Company where her brother is manager of the watch department. Later she went to Chicago, staying there for about two years, but seeking a change of climate left for Los Angeles where she has now been for about three years.
During all this time Miss Burki applied herself assiduously to hairspring work and today is highly respected for her skill in manipulating the tiniest of springs, performing many operations which fine horologists would consider difficult. She takes quite an interest, in horological developments and is an active member of the Horological Association of California. The accompanying photo shows her at her bench in the act of fitting a spring.
From Horology magazine, September, 1938
Very few modern horologists will recognize the tool illustrated here. Some of the old timers may perhaps remember having seen a fusee cutting tool.
Near the center of the bed may be seen the tool carrier and the earn which serves to regulate the diameter being turned. The tool is moved longitudinally by a lever system connected to the hand driven lead screw on the spindle. The wing nut on the projecting bar at the lower right serves as a fulcrum for the lever which moves the tool. By raising or lowering it the pitch of the fusee is altered.
The modern horologist, in spite of his superior equipment and knowledge, must recognize the ingenuity and skill exhibited in this old tool. We are indebted to J es Hansen of Denver, Colorado for the opportunity to photograph it.
Will you kindly publish an article on pinning a hairspring to the stud or collet in your next issue of Horology?
Next insert the inner end of the spring in the hole of the collet and with a tweezer put in a hairspring pin as far as it will go. Pins used for regulators are . best for they have a more gradual taper and will hold better. Now check the spring to see if it is level before fastening the pin permanently.
If satisfied with its appearance grasp the small end of the pin with a fine flat pliers and pull it until it is forced tightly in the hole. Then by giving the pin one or two sharp twists with the plier break it off. If done right the pin will break off cleanly at the edge of the hole in the collet. The large end is then broken off in the same manner. So much for the collet.
The tool shown in Fig. 2 is very convenient for holding collets while pinning springs. A broach is held in the center of a white disc by means of a set-screw.
The handle is hollow and contains a compartment for extra broaches of various sizes. It is manufactured by L. F. Acker, Springfield, Ill.
Update: The next day, the address had changed, again, so I updated the DNS, again...
Also, check out this forthcoming book from Michael Clerizo on Daniels life and work.
Michael Clerizo is the author of this amazing book on the thoughts and work of independent watchmakers.
This is a 16 size, 7 jewel movement, in a nice hunting case. It's also a "private label" watch.
A private label is a watch with a movement or dial, or both, custom marked with some name other than, or in addition to the make, the make being Elgin in this case. This example was made about 1904.
This really nice example was made about 1911.
Further tests in Horology's laboratory confirm the claims that the Elgin's Beryl-X balances have the hardness of steel. Thus the statement in last month's issue of Horology regarding the softness of all solid balances needs qualification.
It is apparent that the success of the grooved staff used with this new balance is due not only to its design but to the hardness of the balance arm as well.
From the name, appearance and properties it would seem that Beryl-X is a beryllium copper alloy, although the exact composition has not yet been published. Beryllium copper alloys can be hardened by heat treatment and are nonmagnetic and resistant to corrosion. They also make excellent springs and have a fatigue strength equal to spring steel.
Would you please tell me the cause of a watch mainspring breaking shortly after cleaning the watch? In one watch I cleaned, the spring broke about two hours after assembly. I usually don't clean the spring, just put in fresh oil. This doesn't happen in very many watches and I thought perhaps the watch had been laid away wound tightly for some time before cleaning, causing it to break when put in use again.
Will you please give your opinion on this?
Answer: The exact cause of mainspring breakage is not definitely known. According to one theory it is due to minute imperfections in the steel itself which are introduced during manufacture. We do not believe that the process of cleaning had anything to do with the breaking of the spring. As a matter of fact, mainsprings often break in the packages before they are ever placed in watches.
May I submit a question to the Question Box? It concerns the mechanism of a sweep second wrist watch, the type which has a wheel placed above the train bridge, pressed onto a pivot of the third wheel and engages a pinion running through the center wheel staff. The question is, "By what procedure is this wheel removed when taking the watch apart for cleaning?"
Answer: In a factory, where just one type of movement is handled by an individual a special fixture would be used for this' purpose, but the repairer must be able to handle all makes of watches. A safe and simple method of removing the extra third wheel is to first take off the bridge and wheel. By holding the wheel with one hand and the regular third wheel with the other hand the two can be separated by gently twisting and pulling them apart.
The 992 Hamilton movement is designed so that the level of the hairspring is below the center wheel. In fact, unless a watch has been somehow mutilated it does not seem possible that anyone could alter this relation.
All the Elgin advertisements, with the exception of those in the "Atlantic Monthly," are full-page in full-color.
The general theme centers around the unusual values which Elgin is offering this Christmas-said to be the best in 74 years of fine watchmaking. In the popular weeklies and women's magazines, personalities will be used. These comprise three attractive young ladies, of interesting social position and pursuits, whose families have been Elgin owners for generations. The first advertisement of this type, illustrated on this page, appears in "Collier's," November 4.
In the "Atlantic Monthly," the dramatic story of Elgin's technical achievements will be continued.
In its original state Lucite is a powder, from which the crystals are molded under tremendous pressure in precision dies.
The result of the molding operation is a transparent crystal ready to be inserted in the watch. Laboratory tests show that Lucite, while not as hard as glass, is nevertheless harder than celluloid and is resistant to hydrochloric and sulphuric acids. It can be readily ground or filed.
Glastex crystals are being made in the attractive flat top style which is now so popular. They are available in 520 different shapes to fit the most popular models of watches and may be obtained in one or two gross assortments. The numbering system is designed to enable one to use them with any crystal cabinet.
Of prime significance is the new solid balance and self-compensating hairspring.
The Beryl-X balance, as it is called, is made from a heat treated alloy, which has the required characteristics of resistance to distortion, stiffness and wear. Both Beryl-X and Elginium, the alloy from which the hairsprings are made, are nonrusting and non-magnetic. Either the balance or hairspring of this combination may be replaced without altering the temperature adjustment.
A new type of balance staff with a grooved hub greatly simplifies the replacement of a broken or damaged staff. The barrel assembly has a new design and the mainspring is provided with a new brace. The unit will drive the watch for 40 hours with one winding, thus providing a more uniform balance motion.
The jeweling has also been improved and it is now possible to clean the watch without removing the balance hole jewels from the plate and bridge. Another feature is the coarser screw threads, to prevent overturning.
The bulletin is well illustrated and shows the proper methods of replacing a balance staff and jewels as well as tightening jewel settings and replacing hands.
- ► 2017 (119)
- ► 2016 (465)
- ► 2015 (452)
- ► 2014 (291)
- ► 2013 (281)
- Too Much Weight!
- Elgin Grade 317
- Elgin Grade 152
- Elgin Grade 287
- Elgin Grade 301
- Elgin Grade 387
- A Watch For A Giantess
- Hairspring Expert Uses Seven Vibrators
- An Interesting Old Tool
- Pinning Hairsprings
- Back Up
- Elgin Serial Number Application
- All In Good Time
- Serial Numbers Application Updated
- Private Label Elgin Grade 290
- Elgin Grade 314
- Elgin Grade 336
- Hamilton 992
- Beryl-X Balances
- More Down TIme
- Question Box
- Elgin Inaugurates Xmas Campaign in National Magazi...
- New Resinoid Watch Crystals Now Available
- Service Bulletin Released
- ▼ November (24)
- ► 2011 (135)
- ► 2010 (75)
- ► 2009 (96)
- ► 2008 (25)