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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!

The Elgin Pension Fund, and Employee Relief Fund

I've just received these two booklets.  These are from the Elgin National Watch Company, for employees, from the ballpark of 1940s.  They should make for an interesting webpage when I get around to it.

Camy Advertising, 1955


Malware, Yet Again

This morning I once again received an email from Google informing me that my adwords account was suspended for malware on my site (my site which is hosted by Google, by the way).  This is the scary looking warning people are getting, right now, when visiting any of my web pages.


Google has a tool for testing URLs (sites) for their current "safety".


My site shows clean.


However the reason on the warning is, once again, the links I have to the website of the American Watchmakers and Clockmakers institute (AWCI).  The Google site check tool for that site is currently showing a different story.



Contacting Google adwords about this requires filling out an online form that requires some information from your adwords set up.  When I go the adwords page however, it appears Google is done with me.


Regarding the malware warning, there is no way to contact Google, that I am aware of.

I can only state here, yet again, that my pages are safe, according to me, and according to Google's inspection tool.  However I do not know when, if ever, or under what conditions Google will remove the warning status.  And as for adwords, I guess my account is history, but I wasn't really using it anyway.

Update:

Couple of things...  First, there is a link under "health" and "malware" on Google's webmasters' tools page that supposedly allows one to request that Google check your site again.  I did not see this link though because the webmasters' tools site reports my site as clean, no malware!

Anyway, after about half a day of this, my sites now load freely in Chrome, as does the AWCI site.  So I guess it's cleared up (?)

Juvenia Advertising, 1955



Phenix Advertising, 1955



The American School of Watchmaking

From American Horologist magazine, March, 1945

The American School of Watchmaking

The American School of Watchmaking, Los Angeles, has just released details of its training in a new 12 page folder for prospective students.  The folder is profusely illustrated, showing the school, some of the personnel, students, and future fields of opportunity for watchmakers.

The watchmaking school is associated with the American School of Aircraft Instruments, oldest school of its kind in America. Both schools are located on the nationally-famous Aero Industries Technical Institute campus in suburban Los Angeles. Association of the watchmaking school with the other Aero Tech schools is cited as an advantage, in that students may benefit throughout the training period by their work with men specializing in allied professions.

Instruction offered at the school is entirely individual. Instructors work with each student to train him thoroughly. The student puts all technical instructions into actual practice, working with modern equipment, performing the same operations he would in professional watchmaking.

The school is approved by the United Horological Association of America, and has the full recommended curriculum of URAA, including study and shop training over a period of one year.

Herbert W. Hartley, president of Aero Industries Technical Institute, addresses students in a personal message in the booklet, in which he says "Never has a career in Horology offered greater opportunity, for never before have timing mechanisms been such an important factor in everyday life." 


Helen Sheehan, secretary at the American School of Watchmaking, Los Angeles, exhibits a large watch escapement. It is a working model made at the school by instructor Millard Nendel. If a wrist watch were to be built around it, the watch would be large enough for a modern Paul Bunyan-a man with a wrist 16 inches across, weighing 1200 pounds and standing 48 feet tall. 






Waltham Watch Company Awarded Army-Navy "E"

From American Horologist magazine, March, 1945

Waltham Watch Company Awarded Army-Navy "E"

To assure the speediest timing of attacks for complete victory, Waltham will continue to produce the maximum war material, Ira Cuilden, president of the Waltham Watch Company declared on January 21, 1945, in accepting the Army-Navy "E" Award at ceremonies conducted at the Embassy Theatre in Waltham. 

The award conferred by Robert P. Patterson, under Secretary of War, in recognition of excellence in the production of vitally needed war materials, was presented by Brig. Gen. H. F. Safford, U. S. A., and was accepted by Mr. Guilden, in the name of all employees present and those now serving in the armed forces.

Peacetime makers of outstanding watches for the past 95 years, the Waltham Watch Company is now geared for total war production, manufacturing precision instruments for all branches of the armed services.

The ceremonies conducted on the theatre stage with Lt. Governor Robert F. Bradford as master of ceremonies and Gov. Maurice J. Tobin delivering the address of welcome also included the presentation of Army-Navy "E" pins by Capt. John J. Hyland, U. S. N., and the "acceptance of the insignia pins by John W. Handrahan, vice president of the Waltham Watch Workers' Union. Pins were formally presented to 1. E. Abbenzeller, Mary A. Gibbons, Waldo C. Hill, Frederick C. Graves and Henry B. Weston.

More than 2500 employees of the Waltham Watch Company marched in a body headed by company officials and honored guests, from the plant to the theatre for the ceremonies. The previous night employees and their friends were guests of the management at a gala vaudeville show and dance at the Totem Pole ballroom in Auburndale, while others attended an evening performance at the Embassy Theatre. Company officials were also hosts at a reception to distinguished guests and Army and Navy officers at the Algonquin Club in Boston.



How Much For Cleaning?

From Horology magazine, June, 1939

How Much For Cleaning?
(A true story, as told to the editor)

In my work as a traveling representative for a distributor of watch repairing equipment I happened to make a call at the We Grab 'Em Watch Factory. The true name does not matter in telling this story. The "factory" was a small retail store with a show case containing a few watches and an assortment of bracelets and straps. On the walls, as well as the street window, were signs proclaiming "Watches cleaned - 60c." In the rear, behind a partition, were several watchmakers whose manufacturing operations consisted of making a watch tick in the shortest possible time.

Business was apparently good as I was forced to wait for some time while the proprietor waited on several customers.

The first to draw my attention was a young man who evidently did not believe in signs for he immediately asked, "How much do you charge to clean a watch?" "Sixty cents," was the reply. "Let me have a look at it." 

The young man handed over his watch and glanced about the store while the factory expert peered into the movement through his loupe.

Returning to the counter with the watch he said, "How did your watch happen to stop?" "I don't know," was the reply, "I drove through the mountains last night and it was pretty cold. Maybe that had something to do with it."

"I'll say it must've been cold. Why, you've got two cracked jewels. That'll cost you sixty cents for cleaning and a dollar and a half apiece for the jewels, three sixty altogether."

Seeing that the proprietor had finished I was about to speak to him when in came another customer. Again there was that disbelief in signs when he said "How much do you charge for cleaning?" "Sixty cents. Let me examine your watch a moment and I'll see if that's all it needs." 

Unbuttoning his overcoat the man reached into his pocket and took out his watch. After a brief perusal through his loupe, the horologist said, "How did your watch happen to stop?" "I dunno. She just quit last night."

"Do you always wear that overcoat?" asked the jeweler.

"Why yes. I've been wearing it regularly during the cold weather."

"Well, that explains it," was the reply. "The hair from your coat has gotten into the movement and become twisted around the gears. It's ground down the teeth and now we'll have to replace three of them. It'll cost three sixty to repair your watch, sixty cents for cleaning and a dollar apiece for the gears."

Before I could get off my chair in came another customer.
"How much for cleaning? My watch just stopped."

Once more the horologist asked, "How did it happen to stop?" "Oh, I just noticed that the crystal was dirty so I wiped it off with a handkerchief that I moistened in alcohol and a couple of hours ago it stopped." With a triumphant gleam in his eyes the jeweler exclaimed, "So you wiped it with alcohol! Don't you know there's nothing worse for a watch than alcohol?" About this time I decided that I had spent enough time waiting, so I left, intending to return some other day. 


Hamilton 950

The 16 size, 23 jewel Hamilton 950 has to be one of the nicest looking high grade watches of the golden era.

Elgin Grade 446

Elgin made the first Charles H. Hulburd, Lord Elgin, models around 1922.  Mr. Hulburd was the president of the company at that time, and these seem to have been a "special project" of his.  Elgin's Huburd watches have a unique case and dial combination, fit at the factory, and are a bit off from standard 12 size.  They originally sold for $325 to $500.  In 1923, a platinum cased model was added for $750.

The average price of a car in the 1920s was around $300.

The Hulburds feature an innovative minimalist design that stands out for this period.  Earlier versions did not have seconds hand, as this later example does.
Elgin marketing claimed that no two Hulburd pocketwatches are alike.

The bridge layout is unlike any other Elgin product, as is the finish and the regulator style.  Hulburd watches are also extraordinarily thin; the thinnest movement Elgin ever made.

This particular example is a 19 jewel watch, with the seconds hand, made about 1928.  It features a platinum case, snap front and back.
JS077


Waltham 1889

This 6 size, 7 jewel American Waltham is an 1889 model.
 It's in a gold hunting case, in very nice condition.

Elgin Grade 303

This is a very typical example of a watch Elgin sold an awful lot of.

This is a grade 303, 7 jewel, 12 size watch, made about 1920.

It has a quite typical dial style, and a nickel alloy case, threaded front and back.


As I always like to point out, like most early watch companies, Elgin did not make cases.  The cases and the movements were selected separately by the customer.

Hamilton 4992b

Here's some detailed images of another Hamilton 4992b military timer.  It's always nice to see these in good condition.







Great watch!

Elgin Grade 97

Elgin's grade 97 is another older 18 size movement, with 7 jewels.  It is key-wind and key-set.

This example was made about 1887.  It has a very heavy case, and an unusual style of hands.

Elgin Grade 44

The grade 44 is an 18 size movement with 15 and 17 jewel variations (the center wheel is either jeweled or not).

This one was made about 1888.

Elgin Grade 344


The grade 344 is a 12 size, 17 jewel, movement.

This wonderful example was made about 1919.  It has a fancy dial and a gold hunter case with engine turned details, all in great condition.

These dials are rare in such good condition.  They are quite fragile.




Elgin Serial Number Application Restarted

I just noticed that the Elgin movement number look-up site halted last night.  I just restarted it...  It was down about 13 hours or so, for no apparent reason - or at least nothing worth looking into.

Hamilton 4992b


This is a military variation from Hamilton.  It features a sweep seconds hand, a black dial, and it's a 24 hour movement.  The hour hand goes around once every 24 hours rather then once every 12 hours.

These are very high quality movement in my experience.

Malware Warning, Again



For some period of time yesterday evening, the elgintime.com Elgin serial number look up site was flagged as suspicious, and folks did see a dangerous looking warning message when accessing the lookup pages.

The reason for this is that my pages include a link to www.awci.com.  This site, from what I can tell, was flagged because other unrelated websites hosted by the same service that physically hosts the AWCI site, were handing out malware.  So the connection is close, but not direct.

I can assure everyone that my pages are completely safe, and because of the way they are constructed, any sort of compromise is extraordinarily unlikely.  In addition, I have no reason to believe that there is, or ever was anything wrong with AWCI webpages, but I obviously have less insight into that.

My options for dealing with this are limited.  I have no connection to the hosting site that appears to be having problems.  I just have to wait it out, post updates here as appropriate, and hope for a timely resolution.  A number of other websites are in the same boat.

More on this matter here...

Hamilton 992b

Always nice to see these 21 jewel railroad watches...

This is an especially nice example.


Elgin Grade 55

This is a very early Elgin with a sub-ten thousand serial number.  It was made about 1868.

This is a grade 55, Mat Laflin model, 18 size, with 7 jewels.  It is key-wind and key-set, and features the original name of the company, just "National Watch Co" on the dial, and no "Elgin".
Of course the odd thing here is the case.  It seems to be a salesman's case, or sample case.  These had glass fronts and backs, to show off the movement.

It is perhaps worth mentioning here that watches were sold to end customers "bare" as it were.  Elgin, like most early American watch companies, did not make watch cases.  The customer would select the movement and the case separately at the time of sale.  This practice was the norm until well into the 1920s.

A typical salesman's case, looks like a normal watch case, with a crown and bow, and glass bask.  But this odd case has no crown, and no way to attach a watch chain.  I think this may be an early shipping container.  It is more durable than shipping containers commonly found.  It could be something that was used very early in Elgin's history.


JS076

Waltham Bond Street

This is an older American Waltham watch, a 7 jewel Bond St. Model, made about 1885.

This watch is pin-set.  There is a post to one side of the crown.  Depressing the post engages the setting mode.

The dial is not marked at all.  It's hard to say what the story is there...

JS074

Elgin Grade 150

The grade is a high-end 18 size movement with 20 and 21 jewel variations.  It is often marked "Father Time", or "No 150", although this one is neither.

This example of this highly decorative, high-grade movement was made about 1896.  It is the 20 jewel version.











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