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 294, Animated

This experiment with directed lighting into the inside with a bright LED flashlight turned out pretty well!

Elgin Grade 294, Later

Here's a follow up on this watch, after cleaning the parts.
This is an 18 size, 7 jewel, Elgin grade 294.

The movement was made about 1909.

Elgin Grade 294, and Old Oil and Dirt and Debris

Here's some images of a watch before any cleaning.  Note the debris around the pivot holes and dirt generally collecting here and there on various parts.  This watch did not run, but it has no significant problems that I've detected so far.  The old oil is just gummed up.  Its condition is typical of watches that do "run", but have not been serviced.  If ticking, that gunk around the pivots would grind away at the metal until damage was done.

Running an old watch without getting the dirt out and replacing the old lubrication is very much like running a car without changing the oil.

This is an 18 size, 7 jewel, Elgin grade 294.

The movement was made about 1909.

A Rusty Elgin Grade 303

This watch has seen better days.  I am told it went down with the USS York at the Battle of Midway in 1942.

Elgin Grade 70, Transitional

This is a "transitional" pocketwatch movement.  It is key-wind, from the back, like older models, but it also works in cases that have winding arbor.  Note the square arbor in the neck of the case, and the square hole in the movement.
For the most part, American watch companies never made watch cases.

In those days, the customer would select a movement and a case separately at the point of retail.  Even though the winding/setting moving parts were often part of the case, like on this one, the two businesses achieved a remarkable level of standardization of movements and case configurations, so that they mixed and matched quite well.
This example is an 18 size watch, lever-set, 15 jewels, made about 1874.

It's been having an issue with "over-banking".  It takes a lot of tweaking and testing to get past that.

New Photos

The new lens I've been using for final photos of completed items works great!  It's a Nokon AF-S DX Nikkor 40mm,f/2.8G macro and it has made a huge difference.

This is a Waltham, 16 size, 21 jewels, 1908 model, in a 20 year gold filled hunter case.

Waltham Vanguard

Here's some images of a 16 size, 23 jewel, Waltham 1899 Vanguard movement.

These can be really stunning, and very accurate, movements.

These are hard to date exactly, but this example was probably made about 1900.

Looking Up Elgin Movement Serial Numbers

Yesterday afternoon there was an outage of the Elgin movement serial number look up website due to a good size (for around here anyway) thunder storm. It was out for a couple of hours, but it's back now.

This site offer production data, technical information and much more given the serial number of your vintage Elgin pocketwatch movement.  New information being is added all the time, check it out!

Elgin Grade 95, Animated

Here's an animated view of the balance wheel in motion on an Elgin grade 95 pocketwatch movement.

This is a 6 size movement, 7 jewels, this on made about 1888.

For much more on antique timepieces, take a look at my Google+ stream, here.

Old Style Stems and Cases, Elgin Grade 95

Older watches have a different style of winding arbor where the stem is part of the movement rather than part of the case.  This is an example.  The male stem goes into a square hole in the neck of the case, rather than the arbor being part of the case and going into the movement.  There is a set screw in the case that releases the crown and the moving part from the neck so that the movement can come out.

Cases for this type of movement are very hard to find.

Every time the price of gold is high, irreplaceable gold cases get destroy for a couple months' phone bills. And these were not real common to begin with.

The Elgin grade 95 is a 6 size, 7 jewel movement.  This example was made about 1888.

Waltham 1908 Model, Animated

Here are a few images of a 16 size, 21 Waltham, 1908 model.  These are sure some nice watches.  This type is very well designed, and elegant.

Elgin Grade 303

The grade 303 is a very popular, affordable and reliable design.  Elgin sold a lot of these.  It's a 12 size, 7 jewel movement, this one made about 1921.

You can find more information about this grade here: http://home.elgintime.com:8080/elgintime/GnumLookup?GR=303

Elgin Grade 288

This is another 18 size example.  It's a 7 jewel model made about 1929.

There's more about Elgin watch grades here at the elgintime.com website:


Elgin Grade 7

The Elgin grade 7 is an older, 18 size, 7 jewel movement.

This example was made about 1883.
This is a key-wind and key-set model.  The same size key that fits the winding arbor also fits the square arbor in the center of the hands.

This is a tangential escapement, also called an English lever.  It is less stable than the Swiss style levers, perpendicular, that Elgin and other American makers moved to later.

Tangential and perpendicular refer to the orientation of the lever to the escape wheel.
An old star wheel has been re-purposed into a washer for a case screw.
The click is rather elegant on these old ones, but it is prone to wear out the shark's toothed wheel.
There was a tooth broken off of the cannon pinion, visible here.  That's a shame, those parts are getting hard to find.

Hairsprings and Grease Don't Mix

There was grease, that had turned to putty as grease does, packed into the inner most coils of the hair spring.  Meticulous cleaning by hand is the only way to get it out.

If the coils of the hairspring do not expand and contract evenly and smoothly, if they touch at all, then the spring becomes effectively much shorter.  The spring behaves as a pendulum, so a much shorter spring reduces the period of the balance wheel and the watch runs very fast.  Magnetism can do this to a spring too by causing coils to stick to each other when they're close.  Gaining several minutes per hour is not unusual when this is the trouble.

This is an Elgin grade 345, a 12 size, 17 jewel movement.  This example was made about 1920.

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

Blog Archive