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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!

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Google+ has given me a URL with my actual name instead of a big long string of numbers.  Thanks Google!



Elgin Grade 295, Animated

Here's an Elgin grade 295 movement that has received Google's Auto-Awesome treatment.

The grade 295 is a 6 size, 15 jewels watch, this example made about 1904.

Elgin Grade 345


Here are a couple of close-ups of an Elgin grade 345 movement, not completely assembled.

This is a 12 size watch movement, 17 jewels, this one made about 1927.

Elgin Grade 303 and Why a Watch Needs Cleaning

This center wheel from a 12 size Elgin  grade 303 pocketwatch  shows the reason it's not a good a idea to run a watch without proper service to clean and change the lubrication.   The upper pivot on the center wheel is very badly grooved - all cut away on the side.  This happens because of grit in the pivot slowly wearing away at this part as it rotates once every hour for who knows how long.  Eventually this would stop the watch.



I think about this every time I read about a watch "runs just fine."  I'm sure this one ran just fine too.  But now this part has to be replaced.


Elgin Grade 303 Animation

This is the balance wheel of an Elgin grade 303 movement.

It a 12 size movement, fairly common, having 7 jewels.  This one was made about 1919.

Elgin sold an awful lot of these.

Cannon Pinion Fit

The outer diameter of this replacement cannon pinion, which took a while to find, has to be reduced a bit. Here it is friction fit on a piece of scrap. Frequent trial fit to the hour wheel is required. If you take off too much, you can't put it back... After the fit is nearly right, the surface is polished to a nice shine. 

It is often the case with replacement parts that they aren't exactly right, particularly the older ones, even when they are supposed to be "the right part". Even during the original assembly at the factory, parts were hand-fit. And it's one the rules of this sort of work that we never modify other parts to find the replacement, always alter the replacement.

When you open up an old watch, you'll find 100 years worth of repairs of all sorts and all sorts of parts, often hand made from scratch. I am sometimes asked by potential customers if I use only factory original parts. It's hard to explain the many reasons that this question doesn't even make sense, not the least of which is that the factories that made these parts have not existed for decades or longer.


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