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!

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An Injury at The Factory

From The Valley Chronicle (St. Charles, Illinois), July First 1881

W. P. Radcliffe was severely injured at the Elgin watch factory, on Tuesday last. In some unexplainable way he punched his hand through the window in front of him while oiling his lathe, and lacerated his thumb very badly.

Elgin Grade 291, Animation!

Elgin's grade 291 movement is a 16 size, 7 jewel model.

This example was made about 1911

What Is It?

These gadgets are a classic watch school project from the early 20th century.  They are the enamel sub-seconds parts from pocketwatch dials, on a brass base.  They can be spun like a top.  the top of the upper shaft is threaded and fit with a nut and the nut has a tapered body, facing down.

This tool is an aid in truing hairsprings.  A hairspring, with collet, can be held by the nut.  The taper centers it.  The white dial makes it easier to observe the spring, while turning the tool causing the spring to expand.  Hairsprings need to expand and contract evenly, and without their coils ever touching.

Elgin Grade 313

The grade 313 is a 16 size Elgin pocketwatch, 15 jewels.   This example is in good condition, but has a broken balance staff.

It was made in about 1921.

New Arrivals

Here are a few photos of new arrivals to be repaired.  This is what they're like when I first see them.

I guess I have not posted many of these pictures here, but I regular put them up, as things come in, over here.

Elgin Grade 69, Animation

Here's an Elgin grade 69.  It's an old design, 18 size, B. W. Raymond model, key wind and key set, with 15 jewels.

This example was made about 1871.

Elgin Grade 69, And Another Missing Pin

Here's an older Elgin, grade 69, 18 size, 15 jewels, made about 1871.

The oldest Elgin 18 size pocketwatches have just one case screw holding the movement in the case. 

Opposite this screw there is, or should be, a little brass pin in the edge of the movement that goes into a little hole in the inside edge of the case.  One advantage of this design is that the case can have two hole so that either an open face, or a hunter case movement can sit in the correct orientation.
A disadvantage is of course that this arrangement is not as secure as one would like.  And the pin is often missing, as it is on this example.

As a fix for this, rather than make a new pin, someone has replaced one of the barrel bridge screws with a longer one, and added a handmade brass washer large enough to go over the edge of the case.  But I'll replace the pin instead.

Elgin Grade 755, Animation!

Toward the end of Elgin's existence they sold many imported movements made by other companies.  These are mostly Swiss, and mostly wristwatches. This one however is a French-made 16 size pocketwatch, Elgin grade 755.  Not a lot is known about these, including what company actually made them.  

The finish work is simple and relatively crude.  And it has a number of characteristics typical of European watches, the style of the dial screws for example.  There's also simple shock resistance balance jewels.  

I find it odd that there is a cap on the lower escape jewel, but only the lower.  Also, nearly all the screws in this watch are identical, including the case screws.

Elgin Grade 540, Animation!

Elgin's grade 540 is a high end 16 size, 23 jewel movement, lever-set and railroad grade.

This quality example was made about 1940.

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

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