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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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"No American Watch" Situation Denounced

From The American Horologist magazine, May 1946

"No American Watch" Situation
Denounced By Reader
Editor, The American Horologist:

It has been six months since the fighting stopped and not an American watch do I have in my store to sell! Now is the time we need them! If we are ever going to be able to make up for sales lost during the war it is now. I say sales are lost rather than merely delayed. Lost because customers have been buying imported watches while our own American manufacturers of watches were devoting their production entirely to war work.

A great many of my customers have gone out of town and bought watches and proudly brought their new timepiece in for me to regulate or something. They tell me they would have liked to buy a watch from me but I did not have any.. However, at So&So's in the next town they got a waterproof, shock-proof, non-magnetic watch for only $49.50 The name was one they never heard of but it must be a good watch for that price. What a shame it is to find that many of these watches are pin-levers or some other junk. Does any watch repairer try to repair these things - I, for one, do not! But some jewelers are making profits on them while others of us are losing sales waiting for real watches by refusing to sell such an inferior grade of time-piece.

I know very little about the problem of reconversion and I have been asKked this· question many' times. "Were not the American watch factories producing men's wrist and pocket watches full blast all during the war? Why are there none of these models available even though ladies' watches are not ready yet?" I don't know the answers.

Let me repeat, we need American watches NOW!

First: Because there is money to buy American watches now that soon will be going for automobiles, homes, new household appliances and even gambling.

Second: Because the sooner we have American watches on our shelves and in our show cases the sooner there will be a decline in the importing and selling of inferior grades.

Third: Because we retailers, who have remained faithful to our own makers of fine watches, deserve all the sales possible, while the money still is available, to help make up for sales lost during the war emergency.

While we are waiting, let us all do everything in our power to hold as large a market as possible for American watches to show our appreciation to the factories for doing what they did to help us win the war.

John H. Merrill, 
Franklin, 
New Hampshire.


Another Missing Pin

This is one of those older 18 size Elgins, a Mat Laflin grade 55, where the movement is held in the case by just one case screw.  In the opposite edge of the movement, from the screw, is a pin that sticks into a hole in the inside edge of the case.

For whatever reason, these pins are frequently missing and I end up making one.  Sometimes, the watch has been rigged to stay put without the pin, as this one has.

A small bit of copper has been set under one of the barrel bridge screws as a makeshift case washer.

Copper is a surprising material to find any place near vintage watches.  It is a very soft and highly reactive metal, without much use in old horology.



Antique Clock

From The American Horologist magazine, May 1946

Antique Clock
By W. H. Samelius

A clock that was made by hand in Mora, Sweden about 150 years ago was recently discovered in an old barn, where it had been £or fifty years or more. Although some parts of the plate were almost rusted through, this interesting timepiece was restored to running condition at the Elgin Watchmakers College. The sheets are made of sheet iron and all bearings or bushings of bronze. The only thread or screw on the entire clock is the nut that holds the bells to the standard.

Instead of the conventional four pillars or spacers, this clock has only three pillars, although the plates are square. The wheels are made of bronze or bell metal. The pinions are of steel and all are hand filed. This clock has a verge or recoil escapement and strikes the hours only on two bells.

These bells were cast from bell metal having very clear and lasting vibrations, although the double strike or two tone bells are not new. These clocks were made and sold at County Fairs in Norway and Sweden. They had the dials and hands attached complete, but the purchaser had to have his own cabinet work made. The steel work or striking parts were all and forged and finished by filing.



A Practical Course of Instruction in The Science of Horology

From The American Horologist magazine, May 1946

A Practical Course of Instruction in The Science of Horology Or The Construction and Repair of Time-Measuring Instruments
By Orville R. Hagans and D. L. Thompson
(Continued From April, '46)

21. MAKING A FLAT STEEL BURNISHER

A flat steel burnisher, which is shown in Fig. 8, is used for burnishing or smoothing pivots. It is made in the same manner as the flat grinding slip, described in Article 4, of toolsteel or drill-rod, of 1/4" in diameter and about 3 1/2" in length, and hardened and tempered to a pale straw color, or it may be left hard. It should be filed to the shape shown in the figure; ground smooth on all faces on a flat stone; hardened; and then given a line finish on a coarse piece of emery paper which has been glued to a flat board. As an alcohol lamp and a blowpipe would not produce enough heat to properly harden such a large object, it will be necessary to heat this tool in a gas flame or a fire, such as a charcoal burner. It should be cooled endways to prevent it from warping badly, which can be accomplished by wrapping the end of a piece of iron wire around it with which it can be handled easily. It can be tempered on a flat strip of brass or iron held over an alcohol flame.

Fig. 8 shows the shape of a burnisher to be used on straight shouldered pivots. For coned pivots, one edge should be rounded off a little. For use on both small and large pivots, one edge should be rounded off only slightly and the other a little more so. The use of these burnishers will be shown and explained under the subject of pivot turning.


22. MAKING A ROUND OR NEEDLE-POINTED BURNISHER

A round burnisher, which is used for smoothing iron and brass pins, is shown in Fig. 9 It is made of a piece of tool-steel or drill-rod, of 3/16" in diameter and about 4" in length, by filing or turning to the shape shown, the tapered end being made about 11/4" long. If filed, the rod is held in a hand-vise and the end shaped on a filing block, as explained for taper filing in Article 6, and smoothed in the same manner with a hand stone, after which the tapered end is to be hardened and tempered to a pale straw color and then stoned smooth again. It should now be well polished on diamantine on a leather strip so that, when tested by running the little fingernail along it, no roughness can be detected anywhere on its surface.

If turned, it should be turned, tapered and then ground smooth with oilstone paste on an iron grinding slip, or with a hand stone, while rotating at moderate speed in the lathe, after which it is to be polished in the same manner, but using diamantine paste on a bell-metal slip. The use of this tool will be explained later.

23. MAKING A JEWEL BURNISHER

A jewel burnisher, which IS used for burnishing the bezel of a jewel setting over the edge of the jewel to hold it securely in place in the setting, is shown in Fig. 10. It is made of toolsteel or drill-rod, of 3/16" in diameter and about 4" in length, by turning or filing to the shape shown in the drawing, for about 1" of its length; grinding the face to an angle of 450; and then hardening the end for about 1/2".   The face is then to be ground flat and the cylindrical section ground smooth for some distance back from the face, after which the face and ground section are to be well polished.

Another style of this tool is made by filing or turning to the same shape as shown in Fig. 10 and then filing and grinding the cylindrical section flat on opposite sides, leaving only a narrow flat strip of about 1/32" in thickness. The end is then ground to an angle of 450; the edge next to the point slightly rounded; the end hardened for about 1/2" and tempered to a pale straw color; and the face and rounded edge then given a high polish on dry diamantine on leather. The use of this tool will be explained under the subject of jeweling.

The student should make one of each of the burnishers above described for use later on in these lessons and to learn how to keep them in proper condition for use.


(To Be Continued)


A Study in Time

From The American Horologist magazine, May 1946

A Study in Time
By Ted Douglas

The time we live by is known as civil time and is based on the apparent motion of the sun over the earth. This motion of the sun is too irregular to permit the construction of clocks set to follow the sun exactly. Such a clock would have to tick off less than 60 minutes for some hours of the day, and more than 60 minutes for others.

Our 24-hour day, with each of its hours containing 60 minutes, is arrived at by means of averages. For our convenience, we have worked out the idea of an average sun which apparently moves across the earth with a regular rate equal to the average rate of the true sun's movement.

If we could see both the true sun and our average sun in the heavens, the two would be in exactly the same position at only four instants during the year, although they never would be very far apart.

The division of the earth into 24 time zones is another idea based on averages. It saves us untold inconveniences, and makes possible the conditions by which we can accurately compute time by our clocks and watches.


Watch Dirt

From The American Horologist magazine, May 1946

Watch Dirt
By H. E. Adams

Do you dread starting on that next watch repair job? Has your watch repairing become a regular humdrum existence for you? If it is, you are not getting the interest out of the jobs you take in for repair.

If you are really interested in this watch repair business, your job is one of the most interesting professions that any individual can hope for and not just a trade.

In the following, I will illustrate a few simple cases of deduction that make each job more interesting for me.

A lady walks in with a gent's strap watch. I see it has a badly bent pivot, a cracked jewel and needs cleaning. Just regular routine-Oh no! That dirt is very interesting. I see immediately that the man who wears this watch is a bricklayer. How ? Well, this dirt is lime and cement dust with small particles of red brick.

A man brings in the next job. I see he works in a brick yard; the dust in the watch is from red brick; no lime or cement.

A man with the next job: I immediately see he works in a print shop probably a typesetter as there are particles of inked fiber and dried printer's ink in the watch.

Next job: I see he is an auto mechanic as I see black auto grease in places in the watch.

Next job: This man works is a tire shop-probably a vulcanizer as there are small particles of rubber and tire talc in the watch.

Next job: A ladies' watch. She works at a candy counter or a place where candy is made. Sugar crystals and starch are in the watch.

Next lady is a filing clerk. Small particles of:. fiber from bonded writing paper are in her watch.

Next lady is a typist. Small particles of fiber and rubber from the eraser are in her watch.

Next lady works in a laundry. Cotton fiber and starch are in the watch. 

Next lady works in a pressing shop.  Wool fiber minus the starch are in the watch.

Next job: This person works in a bakery. Flour, that is coarser than starch, is in the watch.

The next lady is a housewife. She has a rayon bedspread on the bed she sleeps under; the color is light blue with green and rose flowers or design, with traces of brown. Yes, she sleeps with her watch on her arm and the shades of color of the rayon fiber in her watch are uncommon in garments worn by the fair sex.


From the preceding you can see how it is possible to reveal the habits and daily routine of an individual by merely inspecting his watch.



A Grade 345 Elgin, With Some Ugly Corrosion

This watch had just a touch of actual rust visible on one of the case screws, but inside it was another story.

 As is often the case, it's not as bad as it looks.  Gold, brass and nickle plated parts can look rusty and stained, but they actually don't rust at all, and clean up quite well.

The movement is a grade 345 Elgin.  It's a 12 size, 17 jewel, product, made about 1924



Pro and Con

From The American Horologist magazine, May 1946

Pro and Con
By EMANUEL SEIBEL

Why do men go to school rather than servft an apprenticeship?

Who is better prepared to serve?

When is a man finished at school?

Why does friend Jeweler urge his friend to quit school and come to work for him!

We will try to answer these questions in an unbiased manner:

Men go to school rather than serve an apprenticeship because they feel that they can get more of the basic knowledge necessary to follow their pursuit or profession successfully. They can, if in earnest, have access to material that they would not usually get in serving an apprenticeship, unless apprentices were located in a city where a good library existed.

Schools usually have a goodly number of those books which are really good but out of print and not to be had otherwise.

If a man goes to school, his only thought is to acquire all the knowledge he can, and not how he can hold his job by satisfying the boss as to what he is earning, because the boss is primarily interested in how much work he is getting for the salary he is 'paying the apprentice.

At school he does not have to spend any time at anything but the work he is learning to master. He does not have to clean the store, the windows, run errands and go to the post office.
At school he is taught how to perform his work in a correct and workmanlike manner, and not according to some whim of the boss or by his shortcuts, which usually mean slipshod tactics.

This answers question number two also, provided you go to a legitimate school that is founded and exists, not mainly for profit, but for service. Of course, you must have profit to keep going, but it is a fact that the profit motive is predominant in some schools and is the sole reason for their existence.
When is a man through school t When is a student finished learning 1 I will answer the latter question first:

Never, and I hope no one will dispute' this, for if a man thinks he knows all, he is a bigger fool than the one who does not want to learn more. In the first place, there is always something new coming up. There are always new methods of doing things, and as long as men are doing anything, someone will come up with some new use for your goods and something which someone thinks he is improving. The ambitious man wants to keep ahead or, at least, abreast of the times. Only in this way can he be a leader in his calling. Only in this way can he be a man to whom the public looks for satisfactory service and be sought out above his fellow workman for such service. He is the man who can command top salaries, which we all desire -but it must be earned. The world does not owe us a living, we must wrest it from the world, and the price we must pay for it is constant vigilance and study to keep up with the latest advances in our profession. You cannot stand still; you either forge ahead or go backward. The only one who stands still is the one who is dead.

This answers the question as to when you are through school. Never. Your formal schooling ends when you have mastered all ope'rations expected from you in the performance of the duties of your profession, but never until you are laid away with your hands folded on your chest, six feet under the sod, are you through school. For, all of life is a school, and none are so misguided those who think, "Now that I have graduated, I am through with my education."

It is a curse of our profession that , so many are lured away from school, before they have come near what we may, call-matriculation. Lured by some Jeweler friend who tells them that they can have more at the bench than they can in school - " Why stay in school and pay hard cash to learn, when I'll pay you a salary and you can learn just as well."  This is a snare and delusion into which so many fall, and so few learn it until it is too late to make up for it. Too many of these Jeweler friends are looking for a cheap employee. "Of course, I know you have a lot to learn, therefore I cannot pay a journeyman's salary, but as you improve I will pay you more." But they not tell you of the heartaches of the man trying to work at his chosen line when he had incomplete knowledge and no experience. As one man addressing a group recently said - "The line which demarcates the proficient one from the mediocre, is a fine one and they are not very far separated." 

A short time ago a student got up to ask his instructor, saying he was not trying to be funny or wise-cracking, "Is it necessary to learn this and what good is it going to do me?" He did not know that the more knowledge he had, the better an artisan he would be; the better chance he would have to excel in his chosen line; to be the fellow who would be sought out to be offered the really desirable position. The man who would eventually stand out ahead of his fellow craftsmen.

My advice to all students who are lured or enticed to quit school before they have mastered the complete course" is to say to friend Jeweler:

"Get thee behind me Satan," for he is not thinking of your best welfare, but only of how he can get a cheaper employee.

We all know that a grade school student entering the commercial field cannot find the same remuneration, nor as desirable an occupation as a high school boy, nor can he, the high school boy expect as lucrative and desirable an occupation as the college man, nor can the college man expect as fine prospects as a man who avails himself of highly specialized study in some line.

So, if a student will count on taking 18 months of earnest training rather than 12, or 9, or 6, he will be able to command better opportunities and remuneration. If he can stretch it out for more so much the better are his chances.

* * *


A motion picture camera has been developed, which operates at 8,000 winks a second-160 times faster than the wink of the human eye.

* * * 


A bamboo shoot, ,has been known to grow as much as 24 inches in 24 HOURS. 


Stem-Setting and sleeves and Detents and Pocketwatch Cases

Earlier American pendent-set pocketwatches have the mechanism that snaps in and out as part of the case.  In the neck of such a case there is a "sleeve" with spring fingers that grip the winding arbor.  A shoulder on the arbor snaps to one side or the other of the fingers when you pull it out or push it in.

Later watches have an improved design where the snap is part of the movement instead.  The winding arbor is free in the neck of the case, but held in the movement by something called a "detent" which acts as a lever, changing from winding to setting.  This is how the vast majority of mechanical watches work to this day.

This pocket watch has a detent.  Interestingly, I found the broken remains of a sleeve threaded into the neck of the case.  This case may be older than the movement, or perhaps it was designed to work either way.  But it does seem that at some point an older style movement was in this pocketwatch case.

I included in this photo a normal (not broken) sleeve for an example.

Challenge Yourself To Become A Better Merchant

From The American Horologist magazine, May 1946

Challenge Yourself To Become A Better Merchant
By Max Anson

One of the greatest motivating forces that can stir a human being is a challenge to do something. Somehow, a challenge seems to call forth superhuman effort on the part of most people, getting them to perform tasks they might not otherwise do. Remember this, Mr. Jeweler.

The challenge of one athletic team to another causes a flurry of great local excitement and usually results in much preparation for the game. A challenge, because of its directness, brings action almost immediately.

In olden days, when dueling was popular, a man flung a challenge into the face of an adversary. He slapped him with gloves. And he got quick action!

The world, with all its beauty and treasure, is a perpetual challenge to all thinking people, to see what they can make of it.

The mind, with all its moral and spiritual values, is a challenge to people to seek the higher things of life, while they also pursue economic gains.

Challenge - the great things of life are accomplished because of it.

The jeweler can use challenge in his business operations every day, and can get profit out of it. Take your problems, for example. Don't look at them as big obstacles of which you are afraid, something you cannot solve. No, look at them as a challenge to your brains, your courage, your resourcefulness. Accept the challenge. Tackle such problems as a challenge, as a game. Y qu 'II be amazed at the difference this will make in your outlook. 

Your real strength lies in your mind, not in your muscles. Always remember this. It is ih your mind that must be born the desire for success, for perfection, for improvements, for advancement. You can give birth to these desires if you wish. I challenge you to do so. If you do, you will live a more prosperous, a more adventurous and satisfactory life.

Mr. Jeweler, are you satisfied with your present situation 1 Are you getting smug with what you have accomplished? Don't be that way. I challenge you to aspire to an even greater success. Challenge yourself to go a couple of steps higher. You can do it. There is no status quo in this life.

You either go forward or backward. You can never stand still.  

There is much for you still to accomplish in your business. Your work is not done.

Are you overcome with the sense of failure ~ Are you thinking that no matter what you do your business' does not grow? If so, do not entertain this disastrous state of mind any longer. Challenge yourself to get out of this thinking rut. It can be done.

Challenge yourself to this effect every day, and you will find some great power in you rising up and responding to this challenge. There is no limit to the reasonable things you can do, if you only think you can. But first you must take that self-imposed padlock off your mind and spirit. If you are depressed, you made yourself that way. Nobody else. You locked your mind. Nobody else did it. You can unlock it. A challenge persistently repeated will do it. Try it!

The great accomplishments of civilization will come when man realizes how to control his mind, how to make it work for him, how to make it respond and conquer every reasonable problem that faces him. Especially will this be true in business. No matter what your situation, what your job, what your problem, challenge yourself to do better today than you did yesterday. Challenge yourself tomorrow to do better than you did today. Start out the morning with a challenge. Repeat it several times during the day. It will make you rise to greater heights, to greater efficiency, to greater satisfaction with life. It will bring many more customers into the sphere of your influence.

The wise jeweler who wishes to make the best of the challenge idea will take his business apart piece by piece in his mind. He will look at every section of it, subject it to minute scrutiny. No matter how perfect some parts of the business may seem to be, he should challenge himself to make those parts still better. It is amazing how the mind will react when thus challenged. It will often come up with better ideas than those you are now using.

The challenge idea is not going to make a nervous wreck out of you or send your blood pressure leaping to new heights. No, you will find that the challenge technique will reduce your duties because it will employ the best ideas possible and thus give you more business and profit at less expenditure of time and worry. The challenge technique releases powers in the average man that he often does not know he possesses.

Use the challenge idea in all your merchandising practices. Use it in your advertising. Challenge prospects who have not patronized your store to come here and buy and sample your products and service. Tell them that you challenge them to come here and buy and then to try to desert you. Say that you know your products and service will please them.

Such a challenge will evoke many responses. Quite a few prospects will be stirred to come and test you. That will be your golden opportunity to prove what you say. It is a challenge to you, too, to use better merchandising ideas, to look for new and better ways to help your customers.

The challenge idea makes you a different, a better merchant in your community. You will be talked about.
People will be attracted to your store. They will want to see for themselves if you are what you say you are. The root is up to you.

Help your customers to raise their sights high. You will be amazed how many of them will respond. People often need leaders to direct them to planes of higher activity. Be such a leader in your community. You will never regret it.

In our personal lives, in our business lives we often need a challenge. The challenge to know more about the source of life has sent thousands of scientists searching for a whole lifetime for some of the secrets of life.
This search has kept up for centuries, and will continue. It is one of the most powerful motivating forces in the world. 

Why did you enter the jewelry business? Let's be honest about it. Didn't you see some store somewhere that looked prosperous? Didn't the owner look as if he were making money and enjoying life? A_nd wasn't this a challenge to you to do likewise? Wasn't this why you worked hard to get where you are today?

If you have lost some of the zest of that original challenge, just get into the habit of challenging yourself every morning when you go to work. In a short time you will recharge your mind until it again becomes a powerful business force. What if you have reached the goal that you set your eyes on 10 years ago? Put up another, a higher goal and work for it. I challenge you to do so!

This nation has gotten where it is today because men challenged themselves to find and build a nation where liberty, freedom and justice would prevail. America is the result. Would it have been built if those pioneers had not challenged themselves? I don't think it would.

The world may laugh at America for its boasting about its power and wealth. Well, let some other nation have what we have and see if they wouldn't boast a little. America's scientists, leaders, business men and common people - are not sitting back on their oars, despite their tremendous accomplishments. They are challenging themselves to build a better and more prosperous future.

This nation can do it. We can do it. You can do it. Challenge yourself with this goal every day!


Waltham Watch Company Executive Staff Dinner

From The American Horologist magazine, April 1945

Waltham Watch Company Executive Staff Dinner

When civilian production is resumed, Ira Guilden, president of the Waltham Watch Company, Waltham, Mass., speaking at an executive staff dinner at the Hotel Manger, Boston, February 26, predicted that Waltham watches will lead the field in quality, styling and attractiveness.

In announcing post-war plans for the famous Waltham watches, Mr. Guilden revealed that the N. W. Ayer & Son, nationally known advertising agency, has been engaged to handle the company's advertising campaign, and that he has been assured by agency officials that the contemplated campaign to pro mot e Waltham watches will be one of the most complete and extensive in the history of the watch industry.

Nearly 100 company executives including foremen, superintendents and other key men, guests at the dinner, enthusiastically endorsed Mr. Guilden's progressive plans for Waltham watches and through their warm ovation accorded his message indicated they will support his foresighted preparations for the greater advancement of both the employees and the company.

Despite the fact that February, 1945 had but 28 days, 1. E. Boucher, Vice President and Manager, announced at the dinner that Waltham's war production hit a new high and that during February more war material was produced than in any other month since the start of the war.

Officials attending the dinner were also reminded by Francis P. Curtin, Superintendent of Maintenance, in a brief address of the necessity of maintaining the excellent record of the company in donating vital blood to the Red Cross for members of the armed services and pointed out that more than 600 Waltham Watch employees are regularly donating blood to this worthy cause.

In addition to Mr. Guilden and Mr. Boucher, Waltham executives at the head table included Esmond Bushey, president of the Waltham Watch Foremen's Associaton, and Fred Graves. an employee associated with the company for 64 years. The Three Williams, Erwin, Kilbourn and O'Donnell furnished impromtu entertainment during the dinner by displaying their individual talents at the keyboard of the piano. 


Gruen Swiss Plant Official Flies Here

From The American Horologist magazine, April 1945

Gruen Swiss Plant Official Flies Here

Henri Thiebaud, General Director of Gruen Bienne Factory Arrives After Arduous Trip

Traveling several days by motor and transport clipper, Henri Thiebaud, world famous inventor and Director General of the Gruen Watch Manufacturing Co. of Bienne, Switzerland, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Gruen Watch Co., arrived in Cincinnati Thursday, March 29th, and was met at the airport by Benjamin S. Katz, Gruen President. The Gruen Watch Co. is currently manufacturing precision instruments for war as well as watches for civilians and the armed forces.

The special trip was arranged with government approval to permit review of important Gruen postwar production plans. Thiebaud is the inventor of the famous Gruen Curvex and Veri-thin watches. 

Mr. Katz and Mr. Thiebaud have not seen each other since 1940 when Mr. Katz made his last trip to Switzerland during the war. Mr. Thiebaud operated the Gruen Swiss plant entirely by telephone directives up to August 1942 when the government prohibited all transatlantic phone, calls, and since then by letter and cablegrams.

In expressing high hope for the results of his talks with Mr. Thiebaud, Mr. Katz said, "I am extremely optimistic about the continuing progress of our country and and full employment. By making our plans now for a greatly augmented production schedule of precision watches, we hope to prove our faith in the continued greatness and soundness of America's future." 

Mr. Katz commented also on Mr. Thiebaud's valuable contribution to the progress of the Gruen Watch Company's plant in Swizerland, "In spite of the hardships and the many difficulties of working in a country entirely surrounded by warring nations, Mr. Thiebaud has continued watch movement production at almost a prewar level, which has been due entirely to his foresight and and his stock-piling of vast quantities of all types of precision materials that go into the manufacture of Gruen watches.

World famous as an inventive genius, Mr. Thiebaud is descended from an old and distinguished watch family. His grandfather was manager of a watch factory in Europe, furnishing exquisite timepieces to the Russian Imperial Court. His father succeeded him in the manufacture of unusual timepieces. Thiebaud himself 'was educated in France and later at a technical university. He received a special diploma and was awarded first prize at the Observatory of Nauchatel.

An aviator in the first World War,Thiebaud's military career was ended by a plane crash which caused a lung lasion, He has aided the Swiss government materially during the present war period by continuing to train technicians, and has personally assisted in aiding thousands of war refuges who have sought a haven in Switzerland.

At the time of his last visit to Cincinnati in December 1937, when he addressed the Gruen Sales Convention, Mr. Thiebaud was accompanied by his wife. He has one daughter, Francine. He will remain in this country about a month. 


Information Please!

From The American Horologist magazine, April 1945

Information Please!
Directed by 
W. H. Samelius, Chairman
Science of Horology and Technical Board

JHN - You say you have been using water as a first rinse in cleaning machine and wonder if any harm might result and what the advantage might be?

Ans: I can see no harm in using water for the first rinse as that will remove the cleaning solution. Then by following with the first and second rinse of naphtha, all water will be removed and drying accomplished without danger of rust. The advantages I see in this would be that you would not have to use such an amount of rinse and the rinsing fluid will remain cleaner for a longer period of time. In any case, rinsing in water the first time would be cheaper than rinsing in regular solution.

]DW: No. I - How is the distance between the end stones and hole jewels measured so as to get an accurate measurement of the oil space.

No. 2 - How can I find correct width of mainspring for any given barrel if the broken sample is missing or incorrect?

No.3 - How can the banking be opened or closed on cheap watches that do not have banking screws without bending the pins?

Ans: I - The watch manufacturers gauge the distance that the jewels are set below the surface of the setting by using a depth gauge. This; is a very fine instrument and measures to one ten thousandth inch, an instrument that the average watchmaker could hardly afford to enjoy. When the watchmaker at the bench sets a balance or cap jewel, the surplus material is cut away until the jewel is approximately .001 inch below the surface of the setting and can be checked very close by eye measurement by laying a straight edge across the setting and observing the space between the straight edge and the top of the jewel. For comparison. the ordinary tissue paper is .001 inch thick.

No. 2 - By using the millimeter slide gauge and setting the gauge to the bottom of the barrel up to the ledge seating the barrel cover. This would give the exact width of space required for mainspring. By deducting about 1/10th millimeter from the full measurement, would give the correct width of spring for that particular barrel.

NO. 3 - In watches that have solid banking pins and alterations must be made without bending the pin, the proper way is to put in new banking pins instead of bending the pins inward, enlarge the holes in the plate and put in larger pins. This would naturally decrease the angular motion of the watch. If the pins have to be bent outward, allowing more room for the lever action, new pins might be inserted that would fit the hole in the plate but the part of pin that extends thru the plate should be turned down smaller in diameter or sometimes the side of the pin could be shaved off with a sharp cutting tool In either case the pins will be left upright

DN: I would like information art how to rebush worn plates, especially wrist watches. How can I rebush these with friction jewels and be certain the train will line up as when it was new? What tools do I need and what methods do I follow?

Answer: The ordinary procedure for setting the friction jewel is to select a reamer of proper diameter for the jewel to be used and then with a friction jeweling tool, press the jewel to place. This sounds as a simple operation however, many workmen take it for granted that it is simple and when reaming the hole, use undue pressure when placing the reamer in the hole and in that way will cut more from one side of the hole than the other, causing the hole to be out of upright. To correct this error, it would be necessary to place the watch plate in a face plate of a lathe and centering the lower jewel accurately. Then screw the bridge fast to the plate, using the slide rest with a fine boring tool, boring the hole so it is concentric and the hole parallel throughout it's length.

Select a jewel of proper size to fit pivot, set the jewel in a brass wire, check hole for truth and if the hole is true, cut the brass 'Wire down to a friction fit, cutting to proper length or thickness of plate when the top of the setting is polished flat and the inside stripped, leaving a bright cut.

The jewel can now be pressed into the plate when the wheel will once more be upright and depthings correct.

CD : Your request for information or advise on how to test for short and long fork, how to find bank or drop position, how to make angular tests, how to swedge the fork when testing the escapement, altering permanent banking pins.

Answer: Space does not permit to cover all these subjects you treat on. May I suggest you obtain a copy of "It's Timing That Counts" covering all these subjects. The book may be procured from your jobber or the American Horologist direct. 


5,000,000,000 Kilowatt Hours

From The American Horologist magazine, April 1945

5,000,000,000 Kilowatt Hours

The people of the United States have become accustomed to "daylight saving" TIME. And many may have even forgotten their TIMEPIECES are still running a full HOUR ahead of the sun. Even the protest of the dairy farmer has abated since heifers born on "day light saving" TIME have grown to milking age in ignorance of the deception.

But some members of Congress, like the elephant, never forget. The halls of legislation have been gently rocked recently by ridicule of W. P. B.'s statement that 5,000,000,000 kilowatt HOURS of electricity have been saved since CLOCKS were set and HOUR ahead in 1942. One congressman declared it silly "to say that juice is saved at one end of the day that is burned at the other end."

But with virtually every electrically operated industry in the country running 24 HOURS a DAY, it would seem this congressman has something when he says it is silly. 



Clocks Helps Legislators Recall Days

From The American Horologist magazine, April 1945

Clocks Helps Legislators Recall Days

There isn't much chance of Vermont legislators forgetting the day of the week, providing of course, they are in session, as the old English clock in the state house corridor at Montpelier keeps them informed by chiming out a different tune for each day of the week.

Sundays, it peals out "Old Hundred;" Mondays, "Johnny So Long at the Fair;" Tuesdays, "Auld Lang Syne;" Wednesdays, "Home Sweet Home;' Thursdays, "Annie Laurie.' Fridays, "Jennie Jones," and Saturdays, "The Minstrel Boy." 


Antique English Clock

From The American Horologist magazine, April 1945

Antique English Clock
By W. H. Samelius

The accompanying photograph is one of a very unusual clock. It stand's 15 inches high and about 4 inches in depth. The frame was made from quarter inch brass, hardened by hammering as was customary years ago, making the brass almost as hard as steel.

The back and front plates were identically designed, it has a fusee chain drive and a recoil escapement with an eleven inch pendulum. The plates highly burnished on all edges and the surface of the plates were polished. The dial was silver plated with enamel figures and the clock stands on a marble base with glass dome for protection.

This clock was evidently made as a masterpiece for some special purpose, possibly for nobility. In checking through the train, we find there was no maintaining power. John Harrison of England invented the maintaining power for fusees about 1750 so it stands to reason the artist that built this beautiful clock would have included the maintaining power were it in existence at the time.


The clock was brought to this country over 100 years ago and has been in possession of the same family ever since, passing from one generation to another. It is in wonderful state of preservation, shows practically no wear except the pallet which was restored. The clock is now running remarkably close. The illustrations show the front and back plates.

The Collector

From The American Horologist magazine, April 1945

The Collector

Mike was a United States soldier whose hobby was "collecting" gold teeth and watches from dead Japs on a South Pacific island. He didn't divulge this avocation to his superiors for fear of being reprimanded. Only a few of his closest buddies knew about it. But Mike was very cautious at all times as he crept over the jungle terrain toward the silent form of a Nip. His buddies warned him many times of the dangers involved but Mike retorted bruskly: "I can take good care of myself!" He was very proud of his collections. He had a small Bull Durham cigarette bag which he filled with the gold teeth and a wooden box which he used for the watches. Often he would dream of the day when he would return to his small town in Pennsylvania and show these precious souvenirs to everybody. Descended from a long line of Pennsylvania miners, he figured "collecting" teeth and watches was the next best thing to do.

But one day as he was about to make another haul, a Jap sniper shot a bullet into his back. Fortunately, it wasn't fatal. From that moment on, Mike decided not to pursue his precarious hobby. To show his appreciation for coming out of the fracas alive, he presented everyone in his outfit a gold tooth - or a watch! 


Elgin Ad, 1945

This Elgin ad from 1945 shows some of the products made at that time.  Like most of America's major factories, Elgin was devoted to war production during WWII.

Elgin Grade 304

The  grade 304 is one the less common 12 size Elgin movement. It's a 15 jewels design.

This one made about 1905


Elgin Grade 349, "No 349"

The grade 349 Elgin is a high-end model. It's an 18 size, 21 jewel, movement often marked "Father Time".  They are also found however, maked as this one is "No 349".

This private label watch was made about 1908. The dial is marked "Howell Bros". 


Private label watches were special orders made for important dealers of others. They are label either on the movement or the dial, or both, with some unique name.  This is usually the name of a jewelry dealer.

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Elgin Grade 234

The Elgin grade 234 is a 12 size, 7 jewel, movement, this one made about 1903

Elgin Grade 82, Mystery Chip

You never know what you'll find inside a watch.

At the edge of the crystal here there is visible what looks very much like a chip in the edge of the glass. Such chips are common, but that is not what this is.



Here's the chip sitting on the dial after replacing and removing the front bezel caused it to fall. It is a chip of glass, but it is not from the crystal on this watch.  In fact, I could find no chips out of the crystal at all, and have no idea were this tiny bit of glass came from.

This is an example of why getting a watch cleaned is a good idea.  This bit of glass is certainly not doing this watch any good floating around in there, and could harm something if it got inside.

So where did it come from?

That is a mystery.  But you sometimes see things like this when looking really, really closely at things.

This is an Elgin grade 82. It's an 18 size, lever-set movement that was made in both 13 and 15 jewel versions. This example was made about 1885.

Illinois Watch Company, 16 size, 21 jewels

Here's an Illinois "Santa Fe Special". 

It's a 16 size, 21 jewel watch, made about 1920. It's open-face, lever-set and railroad grade.  The double-sunk dial, marked with numbers to 60 is a nice feature on this one.

Elgin Grade 95

Elgin's  grade 95 is a small, 6 size, 7 jewel movement.  This one was made about 1888, and features blued screws, and another great hunter case in gold.

This is also another lever-set movement. 

Elgin Grade 70, Fancy Dial

They don't get much more impressive than this.

This is an Elgin grade 70.  It's a large, 18 size, movement made in 15 and 17 jewel configurations.  

This one, made about 1881, has a fantastic silver hunter case and a fancy inlay dial.  It's very unusual to see an 18 size dial of this type in great condition!


A Rare Antique Bow Fitting Tool

There are many obscure tools in watchmaking that are for very particular purposes.  They are not needed often, but they are very nice to have when they are needed.  I am lucky to have one of these tools use for milling down the studs of pocketwatch bows, to fit the case.
More tools here...


Elgin Grade 324, With An Odd Repair

Elgin's grade 324 is a small, 0 size, 7 jewel, movement.  This example was made about 1906
Proving once again that you never know what you'll find when you get into a watch, here's a rather interesting way to use a smaller balance jewel than the watch calls for.  In the balance cook was a tiny ring hand made to hold the smaller jewel.  The correct diameter jewel is on the right.

I didn't see the ring at first.  The jewel fell out loose with the balance. I saw it had come out because it was too small, but I couldn't get the replacement in there. This spacer ring was the reason.

Elgin Grade 291

Elgin's grade 291 is a 16 size, 7 jewel movement.  This example was made about 1922
Over the years, size 16 proved to be a very popular pocketwatch size.

More New Charts!

There now a couple more sections of on the Elgin serial numbers site.  These have to do with movement finishes.

The production history of gilded finishes:
http://home.elgintime.com/elgintime/GoldProdLookup

And the production history of damaskeen finishes:
http://home.elgintime.com/elgintime/NickelProdLookup


Oh, Canada!

A few months ago I received an inquiry about watch repair that asked "where in Toronto are you located?"

This is funny because I am in Portland, Oregon, but I didn't think anything much of it.  I get watches in from all over the world anyway.  But this morning I received another similar email, asking about Toronto.  So this time I asked the sender how they got the idea that I was in Toronto, eh?

It turns out that if one Googles "Elgin pocket watch repair Toronto", one of my pages is at the top of the results!  I have no explanation for this, it's a Google mystery.

A 15 Jewel Elgin Grade 207 - Wait, 15 Jewels?

This is an odd watch...  This is an Elgin grade 207, which is an 18 size, lever-set, 7 jewel movement.

However this watch has 15 jewels.

From close inspection, it appears that jewel bearings have been added. It doesn't look like factory work, but it is very good.
Here are a couple images of the dial side of the main plate. It's clear that then nickle plating has been neatly milled through and the jewels set in the usual manner.

The top side is similar.  It's a clean job, but clearly a modification.

The key giveaway that this is not a factory job is here.

Elgin is known to have altered stock, changed some ranges of movements, before shipping them out.  A few examples of errors made at the factory are also known.

But here on the top we see that some of the bezel screws are placed too far from the jewel bezels to function. The screws are supposed to hold the bezels in place.  So it is good work, and these look like Elgin parts, but it's something some watchmaker did on their own.

The movement is clearly marked seven jewels.

Is this an exercise?  Student work perhaps?  Could it be from the Elgin watch college?  There no way to know...  I have seen a good deal of odd hacks in watches, but this is well done.

The watch functions quite well.



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