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 59

These are an unusual, and early, style of Elgin products.  It it is key-wind and key-set, in the front, and features a solid silver balance wheel.

This grade 59, 17 size, 7 jewels, was made about 1875

Elgin Grade 207

The Elgin grade 207 is a large, 18 size, 7 jewel and lever-set pocketwatch movement.

This example features a fancy gold inlay dial and gold hands.  It was made about 1901.

It's rare to see these dials without some cracking, especially in the large size, which are rare anyway.

Illinois Precise

This Illinois, 16 size, 21 jewel, lever-set movement is their "Precise" model, made about 1925.

Elgin Grade 386

This Elgin grade 386 was made about 1917.  It a 16 size, 17 jewel model.

This type of hand inlaid dial is rare in good condition, particularly the larger ones like this.  These dials are quite fragile.

The complete set of fancy gold hands is also nice to see.

Elgin 303

This is an Elgin grade 303, one of the most successful Elgin product.  It's a 12 size, 7 jewel, movement.  

This example was made about 1927

Click here for more examples of the 303...

Waltham 645

The Waltham grade 645, this one made about 1908, is a 16 size, 21 jewel watch, lever-set.

16 Size Hamilton

Here's a classic 16 size Hamilton, 21 jewels, made about 1910.

Nice double sunk dial on this one...

Elgin Grade 100, A Convertible Movement with Animation

Here's the bottom plate, dial side, of an Elgin grade 100 pocketwatch, convertible. This unique movement can be assembled in either hunter or open face configurations.  The difference between the two is that the stem is 180 degrees from the seconds dial (the forth wheel) in an open face watch, but 90 degrees from the seconds in a hunter case movement.

This plate allows the winding arbor to be in either of two positions, 90 degrees different from each other. 

In this image we can see a linkage of two similar parts connecting both stem positions to the "snap" mechanism for the crown to snap in and out.  Among the many unique features of this movement, the "snap" is here in the movement, rather than provided by a sleeve spring in the neck of the case.
The "snap" is provided by the business in the upper left.  The hunter position for the winding arbor is directly pointing left.  The open face position is facing down in this image.  The jewel for the lower forth wheel, which is the seconds hand, is at the upper most in the image.

The Elgin convertible models have the ratchet in between, inside, a two part barrel bridge.  The trick to converting from hunter to open face is that a main wheel, which turns the ratchet wheel, which winds the mainspring, can be positioned at one side of the other inside the bridge - a 90 degree difference.
This watch is being assembled in open face mode.  The stem is facing down in these images.  The unused void for the hunter configuration is to the right. 

Adding to its uniqueness, the winding mechanism is on the top, or back side, of the movement, opposite the dial.  

When in setting mode, a pin pushes up from the other side and lefts an arm, causing a main wheel to move up, off of the ratchet wheel, and engage a wheel in the center.

The cannon pinion on the other side rides directly on the arbor of this exposed center setting wheel, thus turning the hands.
Find more examples of Elgin's convertible movements here...

Elgin Grade 150, Animation

This is an Elgin grade 150, a grade sometimes marked "Father Time" or simply "150".  

This one is unnamed, but it is the 21 jewel version.  It's railroad grade and one of the best watches of it's time. It's always nice to see one of these.

This example was made about 1896.

Elgin Grade 223

There's a lot of character in this silver watch case, but it's still working fine.

The movement is an Elgin  grade 223.  It's a 0 size, 15 jewel, design.

This example was made about 1900.

Elgin Grace 336, Animation

Elgin's grade 336 pocketwatch movement is an 18 size, 17 jewel design.  This example was made about 1911.

The Google+ auto-awesome turned out particularly well I think.  More here!

Elgin Grade 312, Animated

The grade 312 Elgin pocketwatch movement is a 16 size, 15 jewel product, often featuring gold flashed screws, as this one does.

This near mint example was made about 1911

Fitting Parts

Very often a replacement part is not available, but you can alter a part that is close to fit.  This is a stem from a pocket watch case.  It's an odd size; extra long with small threads for the crown.  The threads have a tighter than usual pitch, just to be extra different.  I found only one stem that was close.  It's a hair shorter but should work.  It has the right threads.  It just needs the shape changed a little.

Elgin Grade 308, Pretty Dirty

Here are some "before" shots.

How's a watch get this dirty. Interestingly, I have found nothing so far that is actually broken. This watch may have just been in regular use until dirt stopped it. 
This is a grade 308 Elgin, 18 size, 17 jewels, made about 1905

Elgin Grade 109, Animated!

Here's some images of a grade 109 Elgin movement.  It's a 0 size, 7 jewels, piece made about 1897

These movements are usually found in hunter cases, as ladies watches. 

Occasionally they are also found in very early wristwatches. 

These animated GIFs are created automatically by Google+ when multiple images are uploaded of the same content.  I just use the burst mode on my Samsung Galaxy S3 phone, and off they go, pretty handy!

Hairspring Stud Vise

This is a handy and hard to find tool for holding hairsprings for work.

I used it here to move the stud a little.  The outside end of the spring passes through a hole in the stud.  A brass pin follows and is driven friction tight.  The pin can be removed to adjust the stud.

This is not a real common task, and a tool like this is not used often, but when the need does come up, there's nothing like having the right thing at hand.

Elgin Key-Set Minute Hand Fitting

This is a key-set movement, meaning that the time is set using a key that fits over the square hub in the middle of the hands.  The hands are then turned directly.

Such watches have a minute hand with a square hole at the end (the "boss") to fit on the hub.  In this case it looks to me like a normal round-holed hand, for a stem-set movement, has had the hole filed roughly square.  It didn't really fit though, and would not go on far enough to allow the use of the key.

In order to preserve as much "as found" as possible, I expanded and squared to hole a bit rather than stick a new hand, or the expected type, on there.

This is a case where this past repair does no harm, and is just part of the history of the individual piece.

See more creative repairs here!


An old Lucerne, manual wind wristwatch, no frills... 

It has an interesting dial though.

Late Model Hampden

Here's an old Hampden with a 17 jewel French made movement.

Nothing fancy...

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

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