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 223

This is an Elgin grade 223.  It's a 0 size, 15 jewel movement.  This example was made about 1900.  It's in a silver hunter case, unfortunately missing the front bezel.

Elgin Grade 96

This is an Elgin grade 96.  A large, 18 size, movement with 7 jewels.  This example made about 1897.  It's lever-set, in an open-faced case, threaded front and back.

Waltham Grade 645

This is a Waltham grade 645, made about 1908.  It's a 16 size, 21 jewel movement, in an open-face silverode case, threaded front and back.  The movement is lever-set.

A Nice 16 Size Hamilton

This lever-set Hamilton is 16 size, 21 jewel movement, made about
1910.  It has an especially good double-sunk dial.

Elgin Grade 471, as a Bedside Clock!

For years I have been telling people that Elgin never made clocks, not as such.

They made instruments for military applications, and car clocks, where were really normal 16 size pocketwatch movements with crude finishes. Late in the history of the company, they sold some travel alarm clocks and other items using imported movements, not made in the American factory.

And along comes this obviously quite rare example, made about 1923...

As we can see, it's clearly an early clock, probably for the bedside. The stand portion folds up flat against the back. The stem is at the bottom as it would be on a car clock of that time.

I've never seen anything like this before.  The large square dial with luminous hands and markers, marked Elgin, and rather nice nickle plated case indicate that this was indeed made and sold as a clock. It's not something done by a dealer or jeweler.  Did Elgin actually make this case at the Elgin Illinois factory?  It would certainly seem so.

Elgin Grade 471, Animated

The Elgin grade 471 is a very large 8-day movement used in clocks.

Here is a detail.

Elgin Part Number 861

These are Elgin balance staffs.  The factory number is 861, "new style". There are a couple of variations of this part though, shown here.  The neck of the upper part, to the left in this image, is a hair longer on the upper example.

The upper part is used in the grade 471 movement that I am working on today.

The 861 part come in "new style" and "old style", which are slightly different lengths.  This is a sub-variation.

Can't Get Parts for It?

"We can't get parts for it" is what they say when they don't want to do this sort of work.  Antiques are a specialty that require skill and equipment most shops don't have.

The Elgin company, once the largest of manufacturers, hasn't existed for almost 50 years, they can't just call up their normal suppliers and any get drop in replacement part needed.  It just doesn't work that way.

ElginGrade 217, Animation

The grade 217 is a large 18 size movement, with 15 jewels.  This example was made about 1903.

Elgin Grade 217, Twisted Jewel Bezel

The upper balance jewel here is loose and sitting what looks like a normal jewel bezel that has been mutilated into a sort of cup.  I have here images of the bezel, what's left of it, face up, face down, and one showing a proper replacement jewel.

In addition, the cap jewel was turned 90 degrees off, so that the screws held it down a lot further, lowering the jewel, into the balance cock. You can see the semi-circle cut aways on the cap bezel that the screw heads fit into what the bezel is in the proper position.
My Grandfather said many times "you never know what you'll find when you get into an old watch."

He wasn't kidding...

This is a grade 217 Elgin, 18 size, 15 jewels, this one made about 1903.

Elgin Grade 317, Repaired Click

The pin that the mainspring click sits on, on the other side, must have broken off at some point.  It's been soldered in place.  It didn't hold, the pin is loose.
This is an Elgin grade 317.  It's a 18 size, 15 jewel movement, this one made about 1903.

Hamilton 911, Animated

Here's an animation of a Hamilton 911, lady's wristwatch movement, 22/0 size, 17 jewels.

Look for more watch photos here!

New Lens

I'm experimenting with a new Nikkor 40mm lens for macro shots...  So far so good.

A Replacement Pallet

This is from an 18 size Elgin pocketwatch that is in a bad state. Here's just one surprise it presented.

The pallet has been replaced with... I don't know, something. The upper one is what I found in the watch. It's a little hard to see but the guard pin is even broken off, probably to make it (sort of work). The lower one is the correct part.

This is from a grade 73, 7 jewel model.

Elgin Grade 303, Animation

Here are a couple of good Google+ auto-awesome animations of an Elgin grade 303.

This is a popular 7 jewel, 12 size movement, this example made about 1926.

Ground Down Pallet Bridge

We sometimes see the top of the pallet bridge ground down so that the balance wheel doesn't rub.   This is actually pretty common, unfortunately, and this watch is a prime example.  The original finish is gone for good.

The correct adjustment is such a case would be to true the balance wheel.  It's an important general principle of watchmaking never to alter a good part to correct for a problem elsewhere.

This particular watch movement is a 12 size Elgin grade 303.

Click "Older Posts" just above for more, or use the archive links right here.

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