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!

Finer Results at a Saving

From The American Horologist magazine, May 1940

Finer Results at a Saving 

Watchmakers report savings and finer results after using new L & R Waterless NOFOME Watch Cleaning Solution.

Just a month ago in an extensive national advertising campaign, L & R introduced, for the first time, a waterless non-foaming watch cleaning solution known as L & R Waterless NOFOME.

Already, according to L & R. watchmakers report that the superior cleaning action of the new solution is producing results that before hardly seemed possible - really removing every known kind of movement muck, leaving the parts bright and sparkling - clean. In addition, they are bearing out the manufacturers claim that Waterless NOFOME increases the life of their rinse, because it dissolves - does not float or settle in the rinse.

L & R Waterless NOFOME is carried by every major distributor of watch materials and supplies from coast to coast. 

Getting Started Collecting Vintage Watches

Want to know how to Collect Antique Pocket watches?

It will soon be 2015 and while the usual resolutions will be as common as always, why not add something new, or old as the case may be, to the mix?

Start a collection of pocketwatches.  Or, if you already have a couple, why not take it up a notch?

Why Collect Antique Pocketwatches?


Mechanical watches are fascinating machines, but if you are reading this, you likely already know this. But they also have a rich history of invention and are integral in the industrialization of both Europe and America. It's hard to imagine, but there was a time when knowing the time was quite unusual. The measurement of time makes it not only possible to meet someone at noon, but indeed is critical to a modern work day as we know it.


In the late 19th and early 20th century, timepieces experienced a technological boom. Thanks to improved manufacturing techniques, and innovations in the technology, costs reached the point where most working people could afford a watch - they were perhaps comparable to buying a nice laptop today. Because of this, there are simply a lot of watches out there, and particularly most American watches of the period are commonly available at reasonable costs.

Getting Started

Some tips that would apply to any collectible, apply well to pocketwatches.

1. Most watches are not an investment.
While values of pocketwatches have increased significantly in the past few years, the main reason to collect them remains personal enjoyment. Antique and collectible markets are notoriously unreliable. Buy watches you like, don't expect to get rich, and you'll sleep better at night. This is often said of collectibles, and it's quite true.

2. Don't just buy anything and everything.
Buy items you like, but buy very good examples of various types, not just anything. It's better to have one really fine example of a certain style than six wreaks.

3. Pick a focus and learn about it.
There's various angles to take to get started.  For example, military watches, railroad watches, ladies watches, or watch accessories like chains and fobs. American products like Elgins are a good choice because they, for the most part, are affordable and reasonable to repair. Parts are still around.

4. Read everything you can about the topic.
With a focus in mind, get educated on it. This is part of the fun. Learn the terminology, the companies, the personalities - important watchmakers and businessmen... There is a deep history to discover, and the more you know, the better collection you will build. I highly recommend the Engle, Gilbert guide, it's a great resource!


The most important thing is to have fun with a new hobby. There is always more to learn, and the learning never stops. There are mysteries, there are characters, history, and of course the objects themselves. Have fun with all of it!

2014's Most Popular Posts

Here's the list, this blog's most popular posts for this year (it's a lot like last year's).

#1 Watch Running Too Fast? Too Slow?
#2 How To Open A Pocketwatch Case
#3 Elgin Serial Number Beginning with a Letter
#4 How Accurate is a Vintage Watch?
#5 What Is a Safety Pinion?
#6 12s, 16s, 18s, What Do Watch Sizes Mean?

Government Buys Timing Machines

From The American Horologist magazine, May 1940

Government Buys Timing Machines 

In the Government Air Service, where seconds are precious and timepieces must be accurate, WATCHMASTER watch rate recorders have been designated to keep timepieces on time.

After extensive trials and tests of Western Electric recorders over a period of years, the Army Air Corps has just ordered nine WATCHMASTERS from American Time Products, Inc., New York.

These instruments will be used at important air bases where they will produce printed records of watch rates and performance and indicate the causes of any irregularities.

Elgin Grade 291

This grade 291 has a fantastic and unusual, open-face, sterling case with a hinged front and back.

It's a 16 size movement, 7 jewels, made about 1904.

Elgin Grade 293

The grade 293 is a 16 size Elgin movement with 7 jewels. 

This example, made about 1912, has a very nice inlay dial and gold hands. This type of dial is particularly fragile, and not usually seen in such good condition.

Hansen Poising Tool

From The American Horologist magazine, May 1940

Hansen Poising Tool 

In a recent issue of THE AMERICAN HOROLOGIST there appeared an article on the Hansen Poising Tool. This was merely an advance notice in regards to this particular tool. Mr. Hansen is endeavoring to get into production and meet the many demands which have been received since this article appeared.

All who have made inquiry. or those interested in this latest design of poising tool, he asks for your patience; and just as soon as the tool is ready for distribution - those who have ordered, or requested samples, will receive them.

The "Long Ago"

O a Wonderful stream is the river of time,
As it runs through the realm of tears,
With a faultless rhythm and a musical rhyme,
And a boundless sweep and surge sublime,
As it blends with the Ocean of Years.

-- Benj. P. Taylor

Elgin Grade 487

The grade 487 is often found with an early wristwatch case, like we see here. This is a 4/0 size movement, made in 15 and 17 jewel variations. This one was made about 1931.

Elgin Grade 290

The grade 290 is a 16 size movement, with 7 jewels. This example, in a worn but still fully functional, gold filled hunter case, was made about 1907

New Chart!

I've added a new chart to the Elgin watch database site.  Now it can show the production of watch movements, by year and size, as a percentage of the total factory output.

For example, click here for the data for 18 size products.

As of yesterday, there have been a large number of small details updated in the database as well, and more images.

Elgin Grade 462

Elgin's grade 462 is is a 3/0 size movement often found as a wristwatch, and commonly as a military watch with a black dial.

This example has a more commercial version of the dial.
This is a 7 jewel product, this one made about 1930

Consumer Advertising for Ingersoll's Sweep Second Watches

From The American Horologist magazine, May 1940

Consumer Advertising for Ingersoll's Sweep Second Watches 

The first of a series of advertisements for Ingersoll Sweep Second watches appears in the American Weekly on June 9th. The advertisement features the pocket watch at $1.95 and the wrist watch at $3.95 and stresses the many extra uses brought about by the large "second hand that sweeps the dial." These new models, announced to the trade a few weeks ago have been distributed with colorful display card tying up with the national advertising. The Ingersoll-Waterbury Company reports that the numbers already proved very popular.

J. B. Matthews Appointed Watchmaster Representative in Southwest

From The American Horologist magazine, May 1940

J. B. Matthews Appointed Watchmaster Representative in Southwest

Mr. J. B. Matthews formerly of C. & E. Marshall Company. has joined the sales organization of the American Time Products, Inc. Mr. Matthews brings with him a broad knowledge of jewelers' problems and will cover the Southwestern section of the United States, including Texas, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas. Matthews will cover the Southwestern section of the United States, including Texas. Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Copper Humming Bird

Here's a Christmas humming bird, made in copper and brass, for Deann.

Elgin Grade 132

This is an especially good Elgin grade 132. It's a 6 size, 15 jewel, movement, made about 1896
The gold hunting case on this one is as close to mint as you're likely to find!

Elgin Grade 10

This grade 10 Elgin movement was made about 1888.

It is a large, heavy, 18 size, 11 jewel, lever-setting movement.  

There's a lot of drama in carrying a watch like this, but honestly, they as so big and heavy they'll put holes in your pockets in no time.  Originally watches like this would most likely be carried in a leather pouch.

Elgin Grade 211 in a Gun Metal Case

This 16 size Elgin watch is in an unusual case.  The front bezel and the back have been finished (likely re-finished) in a gun-metal color. I'm sure this is someone's customization from way back when. It looks pretty good actually! 

The watch is a grade 211.  It's a 16 size Elgin, 7 jewels, made about 1901. 

Hamliton Watch Names Three New Officers

From The American Horologist magazine, May 1940

Hamliton Watch Names Three New Officers

Lancaster, Penna., April 16. - At their reguIar April organization meeting, the Board of Directors of the Ham i I ton Watch Company elected W. R. Atkinson and George P. Luckey, Vice President in charge of sales and Vice President in charge of manufacturing, respectively, and H. R. Lawrence, Assistant Treasurer.

Serving the company since 1921, Mr. Atkinson has been identified with the sales department as Assistant Sales Manager, Sales Manager and Director of Sales. After an extensive three-year market study, Hamilton, while Mr. Atkinson was Sales Manager, adopted its Zone Distribution Plan. Hailed enthusiastically throughout the industry, the plan since its inception has helped Hamilton to enjoy a consistent sales increase.

Coming to Hamilton in 1927 to head its Tachometer Division, Mr. Luckey subsequently became Director of Research, Assistant General Superintendent and, later Factory Manager. He organized a research department excelling any in the horological field. Hamilton's famed Time-Microscope, invented by Mr. Luckey in 1928, was the forerunner of the numerous rapid timing devices which have since become important factors in the watch industry.

In 1920 Mr. Lawrence was identified with cost and payroll work and later became Cost Accountant, Chief Accountant and Auditor. He is best known for his development of a work-saving tabulating system and for his efforts in the revision and modernization of accounting procedure at Hamilton.

Re-elected were Frank C. Beckwith, chairman of the Board; C. M. Kendig, President and Treasurer;
Charles C. Smith, First Vice President and Secretary, and R. B. Thompson, Comptroller.

Just prior to the organization meeting, the Stockholders voted almost unanimously to adopt a proposed Retirement Plan and re-elected the present Board of Directors, consisting of Mr. Beckwith and Mr. Kendig of the company, and W. J. Neuhauser, Frank K. Sener, William Shand. Charles G. Watt, J. W. B. Bausman, Jr., Dwight L. Armstrong and Co1. J. Hale Steinman, all of Lancaster, Penna. 

Another Waltham Scoop

From The American Horologist magazine, May 1940

Another Waltham Scoop

Waltham Watch Time announcements will be broadcast exclusively over the public address system every hour on the hour at the New York World's Fair for 1940. ·Waltham Watch Time announcements will also he broadcast in the American Jubilee Theater before and after every show.

Large clocks illuminated with fluorescent lighting and specially designed for visibility reading "Waltham \\latches" will be prominently displayed through out the fair grounds. All entrances, exits. bus and railroad terminals will carry the story of "Waltham Watches." Special clocks will be installed in the Jubilee Theater as well.

Everyone of the millions of people who visit the New York World's Fair will hear and see "Waltham Watch Time." 

Elgin Grade 96

Here's a Elgin grade 96.  It's an 18 size, 7 jewel, movement, made about 1896.

The case is a hunter case, actually. But unfortunately the front cover has been broken off and lost. This is a common problem with hunter cases, they are more fragile than their open face relatives.

Watchmaster House Organ

From The American Horologist magazine, May 1940

Watchmaster House Organ

"WATCHMASTER Messenger" is the name of the new house organ of American Time Products, Inc., 580 Fifth Avenue, J. Y. The first and second issues, which have just gone into the mail, state the policy behind this new organ . . . "to give jewelers news and ideas to effect greater profits at less cost." In appearance the sheet resembles a miniature tabloid. The feature article deals on the correction of dynamic poise in watches. Other pages carry merchandising and sales ideas. The publication is focused upon present users of the WATCHMASTER watch rate recorder, to help them increase patronage and utilize the machine to greatest possible advantage and profit. Subscription is free to jewelers who ask to be placed on the mailing list. 

Another Elgin Grade 303

Here's another example of the grade 303, Elgin's popular 12 size, 7 jewel movement. This one was made about 1928

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

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