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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 7

Here's another Google+ Auto-Awesome image of an 18 size, 7 jewel Elgin pocketwatch movement, Grade 7.

This is a key-wind, key-set movement, and a very early design.


Elgin Grade 7

Here's some details of the ratchet mechanism on an 18 size Elgin watch.  This is their very early key wind design.  The hole in the lower part of the cover allows the watchmaker to reach in and release the ratchet to let down the spring for service.

Ad-Hoc Parts

Antique watches have very long histories of ad-hoc repairs. On this one it seems a proper case screw, or case screw washer was apparently not to be had. Someone has used an old star wheel an a plate screw to hold the movement in the case.

I was once asked if I use only factory new parts in watches. This question is off base in a couple of ways. One is that parts for these watches have not been manufactured for 100 years or more. There is no one you can just call up to order something or other. Secondly, parts were often not made in a factory to begin with. I see quite a lot of hand-made parts in watches. Even for machine made watches like Elgins, in the 18th century in particular it was much more cost effective to make a part than to have a "real" one shipped from the factory.



Elgin Grade 207

This Google Auto-Awesome image is a grade 207 lever-set Elgin pocketwatch, 18 size with 7 jewels

This one was made about 1903.

Assembling the Balance Assembly

The balance wheel is riveted onto a new staff using the staking set, first with a rounded hollow punch to spread the rivet, then a flat hollow punch to finish it.

Then the roller table is re installed, followed by the hairspring.




Removing a Broken Balance Staff

To install a new staff, the the shoulder is cut very nearly off the old one on the lathe.  Then it is popped off the balance using the staking set.

The result is a little washer - the last bit of the cut down shoulder.



Removing a Roller Table

This is an accessory for the staking set, use to remove the roller table from the balance assembly.  I was at a jewelry shop once that did watch repair.  They had a small display of antique, old-timey, watchmakers' tools.  The display included this very set I have, for roller tables.  I thought that was funny, I use this tool every week.  In a modern mechanical watch, they would replace the entire balance assembly.  A good one, all pre-adjusted, would be available from the factory.


Watch Oil

I see this quite a bit.  This is the winding/setting gears on a lever-set, 18 size, grade 207 Elgin pocketwatch.   The whole area has been slathered in what is likely a common household oil.  This doesn't work at all.

Watch lubricants have very specific properties, and are used in precise places, and very, very small amounts.  I use at least 3 and as many as 5 different oils on each watch.

Over oiling is one of the most common problems I see in antique watches.

Elgin Grade 902

Here's another product of Google's Auto-Awesome feature.

This is a grade 902 Elgin movement, 20/0 size, with 17 jewels.  It's from a small ladies wristwatch.


Illinois

Here's a 16 size, 17 jewel Illinois movement that's been given Google's auto-awesome treatment.

A 16 Size Waltham, Near Mint

This 16 size Waltham is very close to mint condition!

It's a model 1908, grade 625 made about 1917.

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