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.

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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.

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