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.
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The regulator on a watch, if you look closely functions by moving a pair of pins through which the spring passes, along the outer coil. That makes the hairspring effectively longer or shorter, but only by enough to give it a swing of a +/- a few minutes per 24 hours.
A hairspring can get oil on it, become magnetized, or be out of shape or position to cause this. And you can usually the issue by watching the spring closely. It should expand and contract evenly with each beat, and not "snap" or expand out of round.
On this watch the spring's outer coil had crept upward somehow and was touching, just barely, the bottom of the regulator pins (this is an over-coiled spring, as opposed to flat so the spring does pass directly under the regulator pins). Adjusting the stud down a hair (probably less actually), and re-flattening the spring solved the problem completely.
Why this problem didn't manifest itself before I sent it back to the owner I don't know. The stud was secure, and so is the collet. It seems like no matter long I run watches for before returning them, the occasional mystery still occurs.
Watches can seem frustrating, but they are not mysterious nor magical. They are completely mechanical, governed by very basic principles of geometry and physics. There's always an explanation for a problem.
No so fast...
This information isn't complete, but it will grow as time goes on. There's more to come. I expect the data isn't 100%, but the listing for mainsprings, hairsprings and balance staffs should be pretty good!
grade 97, 18 size, 7 jewel, movement, made about 1891.
It has the earlier tangential lever escapement, also called an English lever. This was superseded by the more stable Swiss style, or perpendicular, lever design.
The click in this watch is a crudely made replacement part.
This watch is an Elgin grade 2, 16 size, made about 1895.
This one was made about 1887.
This particular watch would probably rightly be called a side-winder because it is a hunter case movement, placed in an open face case.
Hunter movements have the seconds dial at 90 degrees from the stem. Open face movements have the seconds dial at 180 degrees (opposite) the stem. This watch has had a dial installed with the number rotated 90 degrees from usual. As a result, 12 o'clock is at the stem, where it would normally be in an open face case. The seconds dial then locates at 3 o'clock.
There's also a unique ratchet, set in a recess under an extra plate, back side.
Then there's the solid silver balance wheel of course...
This watch is key-set from the rear, notice the square post in the center. A shaft passes though the center wheel staff, which is actually a hollow tube, and the cannon pinion mounts to that shaft on the front. Friction from the inside of the center tube moves the pinion, and hands, when the watch is running.
It'll be a long time before there's very many extra photos set up in the database, but I added a few this afternoon anyway, just to make sure it works.
More creative repairs here...
Anyhow, this watch had an odd irregular beat problem, and I finally realized that the roller jewel was loose.
The jewel is held in place with shellac. The part is heated with an alcohol lamp, while held in a certain tool, the shellac melts, and when it cools, it hardens and holds the jewel. Getting the temperature right is a matter of experience. Too hot and the shellac scorches. The roller jewel, which has a 'D' shaped profile, also must be perfectly straight and square to the balance staff. One gets very little time to move it before the shellac cools and firms up.
Finally I realized that someone previously had used what actually seemed to be some sort of wax (?!) on the roller jewel, which is why it was loose, and why new shellac would not stick to the resulting oily surface of the jewel. I had to disassemble the thing again and hand clean the jewel and the roller table with acetone. That did the trick, the jewel is now secure. On to the next issue...
- ► 2017 (135)
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- ► 2015 (452)
- One Thing About Hairsprings
- An Elgin Grade 148, with a Winding and Setting Pro...
- The Elgin Pocketwatch Database - Now Faster and Mo...
- Waltham Crescent St. 1870
- Elgin Grade 97 Details
- Elgin Grade 2, Animated!
- Elgin Grade 2, and a Crude Click Replacement
- Elgin Grade 2, and a Barrel Problem
- Elgin Grade 10, and An Interesting Dial
- Elgin Grade 59, Animated!
- New Feature!
- Elgin Grade 386 and a Creative Fix
- Greasy Roller
- Elgin Grade 288
- Dial Foot Pins
- Tighening a Key-Wind Pocketwatch Cannon Pinion
- Performance Upgrade
- Elgin Grade 50, Animation
- Elgin Grade 314
- The Elgin Watch Serial Number Site is Updated
- Elgin Grade 244, Three Fingered Bridge
- Elgin Grade 313
- Elgin Grade 92
- An 18 Size Hampden
- Elgin Grade 303
- Elgin Grade 29, Lady Elgin
- Elgin Grade 237
- Elgin Grade 312
- Elgin Grade 206
- Elgin Grade 463
- Elgin Grade 317
- Elgin Movement Serial Numbers Look-up, Updating!
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