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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!

Elgin Grade 252

Here's an Elgin Father Time railroad grade watch.  It's an 18 size, 21 jewel grade 252, made about 1900.  It has a double sunk dial, a micro-regulator and other high-end features.

JS078

An Elgin Grade 303 from Australia

This Elgin grade 303 was sold in Australia originally.  I have seen a few watches like this sold overseas.  They are generally marked "Made in USA" on the dial, as this one is.

This is a 7 jewel, 12 size watch, made about 1929.  It has a nice engraved back with a lot of character.


Elgin Grade 239

Here's a few images of the works of an Elgin grade 239, a Veritas model.  It's an 18 size, 21 jewel railroad grade movement featuring a motor barrel.

Quite a lot of extra finish work went into these high-end products.

This example was made about 1900.






Ingraham

This is an Ingrahm "dollar watch" as they were called. These were very inexpensive unjeweled watches that are often not designed to ever be serviced. I sure recommend against ever taking one of these apart. They were originally assembled with special jigs, and without that, assembly can be next to impossible. 



Some "dollar watches", so called because early ones literally cost one dollar, are riveted together and can not be disassembled.

Elgin Grade 303

This is an Elgin grade 303, 12 size, 7 jewels, made about 1926.  

This grade was one of Elgin's most popular products.

A 10 Size Howard

This is a product of the Howard Watch Co. (after being purchased by the Keystone Case Company).  It's a 10 size, 17 jewel watch, made about 1921.  It's in an open-face 14k while gold case with a hinged back.


Elgin Grade 462

This is a military Elgin product, having the black dial.  The movement is a grade 462, 3/0 size, 7 jewels.  This one was made about 1927. 

Elgin Grade 97

Here's an Elgin grade 97.  It's an older 18 size, 7 jewel model, made about 1887.   It's key-wind and key-set. 






More Handmade Tools

A bit ago I posted here about a handmade loupe I came across in a box of assorted antique watch stuff.  

Going through the box further I found what appears to be a matching handmade screwdriver.

Same wood, same carving technique...

Elgin Serial Number Lookups

I just found out that the Elgin watch serial number lookup site has been inaccessible for some time.  

The ISP changes my IP address from time to time, for no apparent reason and without warning.  I have to manually update the DNS servers.  I've just done so...



Handmade Loupe

This was in a lot of old watch stuff I bought recently.  You never know what you'll find, and I just couldn't believe this...  

This is a handmade loupe, carved out of wood with one lens.  It appears to be about 5x magnification. 


California Scientists and Horologists Welcome Maker of Free Pendulum Clocks

From Horology magazine, February, 1938

California Scientists and Horologists Welcome Maker of Free Pendulum Clocks

"IF A SOCIETY was formed for the prevention of cruelty to pendulums, Mr. Hope-Jones would be its first and perpetual president." So said Sir Frank Dyson, the former Astronomer Royal of Greenwich when the first of his free pendulum was installed there in 1925. Since then no less than 60 of the world's observatories have been equipped with them and Mr. Hope-Jones has been enjoying a "busman's holiday" in going around to look at them with his hands in his pockets. 

Leaving England in September he has visited Ceylon, Colombo, and the capitals of every state in Australia; Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and finally the Commonwealth Observatory at Canberra. As a member of the Rotary Club of London, he was in demand for after-lunch talks at all these places and the radio authorities soon got to hear that he was a witty speaker and had him on the air in many a broadcast talk. Thus, what was intended as a holiday, developed into a lecturing tour and he has been discoursing on the science of precision time measurement in the societies and universities all the way round.

New Zealand heard his voice from the Dominion Observatory at Wellington and so did Fiji, who are not overburdened with distinguished visitors and demanded a show of their own.

Since his arrival at Los Angeles via Samoa and Honolulu he has been much engaged with the astronomers and scientists at Pasadena and it is unfortunate that there was no meeting of the Los Angeles Guild of the Horological Association of California during his short stay. However, before leaving for Mount Hamilton on the 2nd of February, two dozen of the leaders of our profession, hastily called together by the secretary, entertained him at dinner at the Los Angeles Athletic Club under the chairmanship of Mr. J. McAuliffe and were well rewarded by a fund of stories, reminiscences, horological lore and philosophy.


In the East, Mr. Hope-Jones is to be the guest of Mr. John J. Bowman of the Bowman Technical School, Lancaster, Pa. He is billed for a lecture at the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, on the 11th of March, after which we understand that the Horological Society of New York has designs upon him. He returns to England on the Queen Mary, sailing on the 24th of March.


Students Build Timepieces

From Horology magazine, October, 1938

Students Build Timepieces

W. H. Samelius, director of the Elgin Watchmakers College believes that a student of horology should be able to design and make a complete timepiece, since such knowledge is an asset in performing everyday repair work.

Many students take advantage of the mechanical drawing classes which are conducted at the Elgin Watchmakers College to plan and build complete instruments, in addition to the regular course of horological study. A number of other students have used the experience and knowledge gained at the college to make some outstanding pieces long after leaving the school. 


Injunction Against Price Cutter Granted

From Horology magazine, October, 1938

Injunction Against Price Cutter Granted

The Supreme Court of New York State, on September 17th, sustained the charges of the Hamilton Watch Company brought against the Wholesale Watch & Jewelry Company of New York City and granted an injunction restraining the defendants from "offering for sale or selling the product of the Hamilton Watch Company, the plaintiff herein, or any part thereof, either directly or by subterfuge at prices below the minimum fixed by the Hamilton Watch Company, in accordance with the Fair Trade contracts and scheduled prices annexed to the complaint in this action."

The injunction states, "The accepting of articles of nominal value and the giving of a trade-in allowance therefor in excess of the reasonable value thereof as a 'trade-in' is hereby declared to be a subterfuge to escape the provisions of the Law and is hereby enjoined and restrained.

"The selection of isolated models of the plaintiff's product and advertising them for sale as 'close-outs' is hereby declared to be a subterfuge to escape the provisions of the Law, and such action is hereby enjoined and restrained." Thus, in a court test New York's Feld-Crawford Fair Trade Law was upheld and the Hamilton Watch Company was successful in its effort to prevent price cutting. 


Informing the Public

From Horology magazine, October, 1938

Informing the Public

Editor Horology, Dear Sir:

With all the activities of several states for licensing of watchmakers, I am just wondering why Certified Watchmakers throughout the country don't start some kind of movement to let the public know that there are Certified Watchmakers. 

In this country, with no trade restriction, I believe the public will be interested to know there is one organization whose certified members have passed a test and received their certificates by merit, to whom the public can trust its timepieces without any doubt. If we can bring this before the public it will make our certificates really valuable, much more so than asking or waiting for retail jewelers to have their watchmakers certified, when the public will ask the retail jeweler, before leaving the job, "Is your watchmaker a Certified Watchmaker?" This would exercise a certain amount of pressure on the retail jeweler, and he would be anxious to employ a Certified Watchmaker.

Some of your readers may have the acquaintance of or influence with some weekly or monthly periodical or possibly some daily paper which might be glad to print something of the functions of the Horological Institute of America and its Certification work.
M. Klein, C. W.
New York


Seeking Profits

From Horology magazine, October, 1938

Seeking Profits

Some persons still have the notion that modern watches are not made as well as those produced in the "old days." Why anyone should have such an idea is not very clear, unless he clings to the old standards of performance as a basis of comparison. Actually, quite the contrary is true.

We must marvel at the beautiful finish, interchangeability of parts and general perfection of the modern timepiece. Adjustment of an escapement is now seldom necessary unless it has been tampered with, usually by a novice. What a contrast between the nicely fitted pallet stones of the average present day watch and the crudely cemented ones found in the older watches.

Despite the improvement in manufacture, however, too many timepieces are subject to early deterioration. The factory finishes are rarely retained undamaged after a watch gets its first treatment in a repair shop. The damaskeened plates, polished surfaces and screw slots become covered with a mass of nicks and scratches. The responsibility for this may be laid directly to the retail jewelers.

For many years the watch department has been considered non-paying and a necessary evil. Just why, no one seems to know. Modern competition has compelled jewelers to adopt more efficient business methods and they realize that all items carried in their establishments must bring a profit. Thus, they have also proceeded to make their repair departments more profitable. In all too many instances the change has been for the worse and instead of plugging the real holes, such as unreasonable guarantees or service for which a charge should be made but is nevertheless rendered free, they have placed the watch departments on a percentage basis. The repairer gets a percentage of the charge made to the customer, if the job is paid for, and nothing if the store decides to give the job away.

During the last few years this situation has become known to many patrons of jewelry stores and, thinking to get better service by paying the full cost of the repairs direct to the horologists, they have endeavored to trace the shops where the actual work is done. Perhaps this is why many watches purchased in exclusive establishments find their way into irresponsible repair shops. 


Hamilton 924

This Hamilton grade 924 is an 18 size, 17 jewel movement, made about 1901.  It's dial was is pretty poor condition.  


Elgin Grade 291

This is an Elgin grade 291.  It's a 16 size, 7 jewel grade, this one made about 1932.  It's in an open-faced case, with a metal dial, fancy hands.  These types of dials are often found pitted and corroded, but this one has survived in quite good condition. 

Elgin Grade 315

This is an Elgin grade 315.  It's a 12 size, 15 jewel model, this one made about 1925.  It features a fancy dial and a decorative case back.  These multi-color dials have hand-done gold inlay.  The are quite fragile.


Gunk

I've noted in a few post here about burs raised under the balance cock to change it's height...  

Well on this 18 size Elgin movement I found some sort of rubbery gunk under there, probably there for the same purpose.  I'm not sure what it is.  

Glue?  Rubber cement?

Elgin Grade 303

This is one that I see a lot of, the Elgin grade 303.  It's a 12 size, 7 jewel movement, this one made about 1920.




Elgin Grade 575

Another later Elgin model...  This is a grade 575, 16 size, 15 jewels, with an open-face, 10k rolled gold case, and heavy hands.

Elgin Grade 206

Here's an Elgin grade 206.  It's a 6 size, 7 jewels movement.  This one was made about 1900.  It features a triple hinge hunter case, 20 year gold filled, nicely engraved.


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