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!

New Technical Member

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, April, 1942

New Technical Member

Mr. Jacob L. Hagelow has been appointed a member at the Technical Board.

Mr. Hagelow is instructor at Elgin Watchmakers College, is a Certified Watchmaker, has received his Certificate of Recognition from the American Time Products, Inc., indicating his proficiency in the operation of the Watchmaster Watch Rate Recorder and its use in repairing and adjusting watches. Mr. Hagelow also has watch factory experience, having worked in the Elgin National Watch Co. He has also had Retail Store Experience. In the past he has written several articles for the American Horologist and we are pleased to have Mr. Hagelow on the Technical Board.

Westclox Big Ben

Westclox Big Ben alarm clock...

Elgin Grade 345

Here's an example of Elgin's grade 345, 12 size, 17 jewels, made about 1924.  

Waltham 1883 model

This is an 18 size American Waltham, 7 jewels, 1883 model.




Ladies Bulova, black dial...

Accro and Orvin

Here are two ladies wristwatches, Swiss makes, Accro and Orvin...


Here's an Elgin with a lot of character. Still ticking...

You can check out this entire series on old wristwatches here!

Two Elgins

Two old Elgin wristwatches...

Information Please!

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, April, 1942

]S: - 1 have been a subscriber to the American Horologist for several years and enjoy reading questions and Answers. Here is one I have not seen answered yet: I sometimes find a cannon pinion that is tight all the way down; until it just gets to place then it is loose. Please advise how to remedy this trouble. 

Ans: - The illustration shows a center arbor with a groove, or relief. As you state the cannon pinion goes down tight part way and then becomes loose when finally seated. If is it a cannon pinion that is not slitted for tongue tension, you will have to insert a brass wire into cannon pinion, laying the cannon pinion on small V-block and with center punch, create a bulge inside the pinion high enough so it just goes over the edge of recess in center arbor. In other words, the bulge, or tongue in cannon pinion tube must come down just below the slanted, or tapered groove of center pinion. If this does not remedy your trouble, I would advise procuring a new center arbor. The illustration shows, one side of the cannon pinion Fig No.1, where the bulge of the cannon pinion rides free in the recess and Fig. No. 2 where the bulge in cannon pinion rides below the edge of groove of center arbor. The February issue of American Horologist also. deals with this subject.

FS: - Occasionally I want to remove engraving from inside of rings, also from top of signet rings. How can I do this easily and quickly?

Ans: - For removing engraving from the inside of rings, first use half round file to cut dawn the engraving. Then use round ring buff or emery stick in lathe to smooth off file marks. Follow this up with a felt buff charged with rouge.

Far facing off signet, make a wooden wheel about 4" in diameter and 1/2 to 3/4" thick. One that will fit the arbor of your polishing lathe. Charge one side of wheel with tripoli, the other side with rouge. File out engraving from signet ring, press signet ring against side of lap that is charged with tripoli. This operation will remove the file marks and leave the surface flat, when you can finish the job by polishing the surface of the ring an the apposite side of lap which is charged with rouge. Use a moderate speed in polishing which will bring excellent results. Where a quantity of rings is to be faced, a lead lap is used.

RW: - 1 have a fine French clack with an Onyx case. The onyx is very dirty and somewhat discolored. Can you tell me how I can clean and restore the onyx to. its original appearance?

Ans: - Make a paste of plaster of paris and benzene. Apply a coating of this aver the surface of the onyx. As the benzene evaporates, the grease and dirt will be drawn into the plaster of paris, which is then rubbed off. If there is considerable grease in the onyx, the process may have to be repeated. To polish the case, dissolve beeswax in benzene. Apply and polish vigorously, using a flannel cloth.

WO: - At a meeting, one of the speakers referred to a "Clock Watch."' Is this a trade term for some special timepiece?

Ans: - The term "clock watch" takes its name from similarity of construction to our common alarm clock. That is, the clock, which is non-jewelled and in many cases, has lantern pinions, and the balance unit is supported by a balance arbor with cone pivots running in hollow steel screws.
We might say a "clock watch" is a clock reduced to pocket size.

PL: - A friend of mine has an antique verge watch, key wind, chain drive. He says it has a Shagreen case. Please tell what a Shagreen case is made of?

Ans: - Shagreen is a leather made from skin of sharks. By wetting the leather, it becomes soft and pliable and was used to cover the outside of watch cases and many other articles. It was dyed in various colors, watch cases were usually covered with dark brown, dark green or black leather. 

HA: - I recently made a trade and secured an old American Clock, something I have always wished for. After setting it up to run, it continually gains time. I have lengthened the pendulum to the limit, added weight to pendulum, but to no avail, it still gains time. Can you suggest what I can do to make this clock keep time?

Ans: - In building wooden clocks, the wheels were pressed and glued fast to the arbor. Some of the wheels were merely pressed into place without glue and with age, they sometimes work loose. If you will examine each wheel, it is very likely you will find one or more of the wheels loose on their arbors. Sometimes, we have found the small pin that holds the escape wheel fast to it's arbor, has fallen out, allowing the escape wheel to slip. This should solve your problem.

PD: - The watchmaker who held the place before I came here, held the position for some 25 years and he I evidently never threw away a thing. He left a lot of worn out files, drills, broken punches, etc. Is there anything I can do with them. 

Ans: - There is. Broken gravers, too short for turning may be just right for engraving, carving, chasing or stone setting, by slightly altering their shape. The files may be softened by heating red hot and allowing them to cool off slowly by burying them in ashes. You will then have the finest steel for making springs and various other parts of the watch or pallets for clocks or other clock work. Broken punches may be softened by heating to dull reel. When cooled, they may be redrilled, hardened and tempered to a dark straw.

No doubt many of your drills could be resharpened and used, or they could be annealed to a rich blue color and used for turning staffs. The old man saved them because he knew all this and of the value to use the old files, punches, etc., for other purposes, where they would again be useful.

Sudden Setbacks

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, April, 1942

Sudden Setbacks

(Meeting Them Hinges on Frame of Mind Formulated in Advance)

What is success?

Easy enough to answer that, you may say. In a nutshell, to pull off what you want. The Limey Lugger wants to beat the Oklahoma Hammerer - or whoever the latest victim may be. He does it, and there you are. Or Shakespeare wants to write plays. He writes some of the best ever, and that's his satisfaction. You want to run a store or manage for the boss; may you achieve it, whatever it is! I want to please you with these articles, and more, to make you feel that here is a man of commonsense with something to say and able to say it in a way that gets a fruitful idea over.

But of all things, I count success to be finding out about yourself.

Administer the K. O. to every pugilist near your weight in creation, pile up the shekels so that they have to get a shovel to dig you out from underneath - and you have failed if at the end you don't know absolutely what you are.

Self knowledge. To reach that any and every experience is worth while.

Here's a concrete case. It happened last week. A business man I had admired for working his way through, met a sudden setback. To my astonishment, it cracked him. I had imagined this type of man could stand up to such a blow easily. But he went to pieces. I not only felt sorry for him. I had a kind of shame on his behalf that he had not been able to take this lesson along with his other lessons. The reason simply was that he did not know himself on that side. He had not prepared himself for just this sort of contingency and visualized in advance how he would surely react to it. It was like a little child weeping when for the first time he got cold feet in the snow. 

Of course we don't know how precisely we would act in, say, an earthquake. But we can know in advance what attitude of mind we need to have tovvards it. We ought to be able to tell - if we come through - what is best to be done to recover from the disaster. .

We ought not to be caught out and left walloped.

It was equivalent to an earthquake, in his world, which got this man down so sensationally.

I am not judging, only trying to clear up the point about success saying that although he had reached the top he was, unhappy, intrinsically a failure. He had not explored all that he was. There were forces in him, responding to this trouble, that came out of his depths, took him by surprise, rose up against him and ended him. Had he been able to live it down then, at least, he would have been nearer to being his complete personality. Only part of him had got through, for there was at least one experience to which he was liable at any moment that could floor him.

Perfect realization of self I count success.

A man must be able to say it with conviction about himself; it is no criterion whatever what the world thinks. We may look magnificently sufficient from outside, but what is the stage of completion within?


Flora and Gruen

Unknown Clock

The porcelain is marked "Madrid 3" on the back...

Buying Material By Metric System

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, April, 1942

Buying Material By Metric System 


Through these pages I would like to make a proposal that has been in my mind for some time, and one that is in use in many of the trades that seem too be far ahead of the watchmaker.

For some time I have had the thought of abolishing the ancient and awkward "dozen" and more awkward "gross". This old bug-bear has been around long enough. Why not become modern and streamlined, and adopt the metric system of buying material in the lot of ten or hundred, or fraction thereof. It is most convenient in not only determining price but also odd quantities.

Very recently I had an opportunity of talking this idea aver with several material houses in this section of the country and they are only waiting for, and hoping that, some one will make the proposal.

The idea strikes me as this is a most opportune time in that the material houses, as well as the manufacturer's stocks are so far down on the supply list that it would not be too much of a job when this emergency is over, to begin packing in lots of tens or hundreds. The optician, the diamond merchant, the War Department, the Government, some drugs use the metric system. It has been in use for Centuries in Europe, and you, a watchmaker, use it yourself daily but in such small quantities you do not recognize it when you see it.

I do believe that if you will stop and look this idea over you will agree that the metric system is the most convenient method of calculation. Someone may object to the idea in that it will cause confusion in the packing and boxing of some items.

That is what I mean by the time being most opportune. From what I can gather from material houses they are pretty much out of dozen quantities, and so is the factory. This shows there is going to be a chance to start with a new "slate" when this war emergency is over.

I would like to suggest that this packaging begin with the close of the present war, and that the manufacturer be given time to adjust himself to the change-over. As for there being any great expense to this I fail to see from what angle he sees it.

This is an idea for which there can be some discussion, and I would like to see it proposed at the several state conventions of watchmakers, material dealers, manufacturers. Let's see some opinions in these pages.


Lathin 17 jewel automatic, antimagnetic wristwatch with incabloc jeweling...

An Early Waltham Wristwatch

In the early days of wristwatches there was no specific convention regarding where the 12:00 should go relative to the crown. This Waltham is an open face pocketwatch movement in a case that thus places 12:00 to the right, when worn on the left wrist.

Vintage Bulova

Great lug details on this Bulova case...

Nice Dial

Here's an interesting Elgin wristwatch, about 1914...

Interested in this sort of thing? For many more vintage wristwatches, look here.

A Hamilton Wristwatch Mainspring

Here are a few images relating to replacing a broken mainspring in a Hamilton wristwatch.

First, this is the barrel, cap and arbor after removing the broken spring and cleaning all the parts thoroughly.
This is the replacement spring.
This set of winders is for wristwatches. It is very important to use the right tool for this task.
Freshly installed, and ready for oil.
This watch was of course also completely overhauled, but that's a topic for another post, another time.

Westclox Ben Hur

Westclox Ben Hur...

Classic Watch Style from Gruen


Waltham 1883 Model

The American Waltham 1883 model is a 7 jewel, 18 size pocketwatch.

There is an English style tangential lever escapement on this lever-set movement. 

Novelty Clock

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, April, 1942

Novelty Clock 


This little eye-catcher of superb workmanship stands eleven inches high upon a black cast iron base, which in turn is mounted on a subbase of three-quarter inch thick black marble eleven inches long by five and one-half inches wide. It weighs twenty-two pounds and IS French made. 
The trimmings are bright brass, the piping and pet-cocks are copper, the governor is nickel and the fly wheel, three and one-half inches in diameter is black. The boiler is heavy quadruple plate. silver and has the right end removable to give access for winding the spring that drives the little engine (no connection with the clock) see fig. 3.

This mechanism is similar to that usually found in music boxes; is governed by a worm driven fan-fly, cranks the little engine through a about twenty hours with one winding, front and back views Fig. 3 and Fig. 4.

The clock movement - eight day French with well made cylinder escapement - is slightly less than two and one-quarter inches in diameter, strikes the hours and halves on a small silver bell. Front and back views Fig. 5 and Fig. 6. The name on the silvered dial is almost obliterated, but appears to have been "Clements Ha1iebush", "Cincinnati." The glass tube of the water gauge is a thermometer, calibrated for both Fahrenheit and Centigrade. On the right and matching the clock is an Aneriod type barometer. 

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

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