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!
In making up small watch parts it is often quite necessary to drill small holes for the steady pins or screws. I have always found it an awkward job by doing it in the watchmaker's lathe. It is so hard to' see where one is drilling and also awkward to hold a small piece while drilling that I decided to make up a small drill press where the work could be laid flat on the plate and conveniently held down and holes drilled without getting out of upright or out of place.
The work is fed up to the drill by means of a sliding spindle and the plate is attached to the top of the spindle to lay the work on. The lever feed is light and very sensitive so small holes may be drilled without danger of breaking the drills or the holes becoming out of upright.
The photograph is self-explanatory and I am sure many of my readers will appreciate the benefit of a small drill press and with a little ingenuity convert the old Swiss bow lathe into to something useful.
The diameter of the driving pulley is one inch and one-half inch, the overall length is six inches and the angle piece or shoe for clamping the press to the lathe bed is set up two inches from the lower end of the frame. Diameter of the drill plate is three-quarters inch.
Diameter of chuck for holding drill is three-eighths inch. The feed lever is two inches long with a fulcrum placed one half inch from end. The stroke of feed is three-quarters inch and the length of the spindle for holding drill plate is three inches. The top of the spindle is brought to a point and runs in a bearing similar to the balance staff in an alarm clock.
Mr. Fred J. Cooper, Jeweler, 113 South 12th Street, Philadelphia, Pa., told Mr. Herman R. Pedrick, President of the Horological Guild of Philadelphia, upon a recent visit, that he is gratified to find that the fact that he employed a Certified Watchmaker has increased his business in the Watch Repair Department to such an extent that he has been obliged to add another watchmaker to his force.
Mr. Cooper, it may be said, is an outstanding believer in having high craft standards, and he is a very skillful advertiser; so he has been successful in impressing the public with the fact that his establishment is out-of-the-ordinary in its technical service on timepieces. So the two things together having superior service, and telling the public that he has this-are having the inevitable effect in making business more profitable for Mr. Cooper's establishment.
We suggest that Certified Watchmakers, and their employers generally, would profit by making more of a point of impressing upon the community what Certification is; and what it means to watch wearers, as a safeguard, to seek a Certified Watchmaker.
Receipt of constant inquiries indicates that Associations of Watchmakers and Jewelers in every part of the United States desire protective legislation similar to that enjoyed by Wisconsin Watchmakers, and in most cases they are at a loss to know how to obtain its enactment.
The following suggestions are made for the purpose of helping you get started.
To start with, three committees should be appointed or chosen. Each must be manned by men willing to work hard. Your success depends upon how well these committees do their job. The committees and their jobs are:
1. Legislative committee of not more than three men with chairman of unquestioned ability, loyalty and integrity. The actual work of obtaining the enactment of our legislation is the job of this committee.
2. Legislative Finance committee to raise funds for the expenses of the Legislative committee. Contributions can be solicited from all watchmakers, jewelers, material supply houses, jewelry wholesalers and watch manufacturers. The material supply houses and watch manufacturers were most helpful in the Wisconsin program.
3. Special Membership committee.
Now is the time you need members as you have never before. Ask every watchmaker in your state to join his organization to help NOW. A really active association is necessary to succeed.
The first job of the Legislative committee is to contact every watchmaker in the State, obtaining his sentiment for or against the proposed legislation.
This is an important step and the results will be used constantly later. I suggest that a generous quantity of "pledge" cards be printed so that they can be signed by every watchmaker possible, to indicate his support. Ask salesmen and material supply houses to assist in distributing, obtaining signatures and returning the cards to the committee.
The second step is to find the greatest number of politically influential friends for your cause and especially, friends in the legislature.
After you have done the work outlined, if you will write to me at length, explaining fully the results of your work, I will, without obligation, suggest ways and means of going further.
If you want protective legislation, determine to "go and get it" and start TODAY.
Dear Brother Craftsmen:
Having accepted the office of Vice-President, I now find myself bound by the rules of Honor and Fair Play to accept the obligations and duties of President. Frankly the requirements of this office are beyond my available time and ability. Your Executive Board has expressed its unwillingness to accept my plea that I be relieved of this office and some other person chosen.
I therefore pledge myself to uphold the principles and obligations of this Association, dedicated to the American Watchmaker. I ask that each of you reaffirm your faith in our aims and purposes, and your obligations to carryon our work now successfully begun.
There is no expectation on my part that I shall prove myself a Good President. I therefore ask each of you to work a little harder to carry forward our plans for the betterment of our fine craft. Inactivity, not incompetence, is the enemy of a successful association. If we will all put a little more into our association work, we will all enjoy the fruits of success.
With the knowledge that it is humanly impossible for all to see our various problems and their solutions in the same light, but that we are all nevertheless striving toward the same end, let us each determine to do more than ever before to strengthen and unify our National Association.
A BALANCE staff which has been riveted to the wheel should not be punched out in the staking tool. Even the method of turning off the riveted part, followed by punching in the staking tool, is not to be recommended. For, in spite of the removal of the riveted portion, the remaining stock inside the hole is still tapered in an unfavorable direction, and cannot be punched out without further spreading of the hole. Horologists often wonder why a standard balance staff cannot be found to fit a standard wheel. It is because balance staffs have been repeatedly punched out of the wheel. The hole has, thus been enlarged to the extent that a regular stock staff will no longer fit it.
Proper equipment for making a balance staff should include such measuring instruments as micrometers and end gages (see Suggestion Department in this issue), a pivot polisher or wig-wag and a good supply of hand gravers. A special pivoted slide gage is also very useful.
Before any work on the staff proper is begun one should make a sketch of the staff, and fill in all the measurements as taken from the sample, at their designated places. If the old sample has been lost measurements may be taken direct from the watch in the following manner.
A micrometer is used for determining the length of the staff. The thickness of the watch is measured with the balance bridge screwed to the main plate and both endstones in place. From the total measurement the thicknesses of both endstones, which are measured separately, are now subtracted, giving the length of the staff.
The height of the roller table may be measured with the special slide gage shown in Figure 1. In a similar manner the location of the balance can be obtained. The dimensions of the roller table hole and that of the hairspring collet are obtained by measuring them with a round tapered broach. For the sizes of the pivots the jewels are measured with a jewel gage, allowing a small amount for freedom, a half of one hundredth of a millimeter being considered a close fit.
The same method of turning the staff for finishing with the pivot polisher is used for the wig-wag. The upper portion of the staff is turned to shape first. It is to be noted that all sharp corners are left undercut. An especially deep undercut is made for riveting the balance. Each cylindrical or conical portion is left about .02 of a millimeter larger in diameter.
A steel or cast iron lap is recommended for grinding. Diamantine should be used on bell metal and tin laps. A set of laps suitable for all occasions is shown in Figure 2.
All cylindrical and conical sections or the staff are ground and polished with the spindle of the pivot polisher set parallel to the bed of the lathe. Such set-up is shown in Figure 3. The conical pivots of the staff, however, are finished with the pivot polisher spindle set at right angles to the bed of the lathe. The length and shape of the cones are determined largely by the amount which the lap is set above or below center, as shown in Figure 4.
The pivots should be made with the parallel section long enough to project through the jewel a sufficient amount.
The ends of the pivots arc burnished with a steel burnisher which is moistened with oil. Contrary to instructions found in some publications that the ends be made absolutely flat a slightly rounded pivot end is the correct form. After completely finishing the upper part of the staff it is cut off nearly to length. The shape of the staff before it is cut off from the rod is shown in Figure 5. The other end is then stoned off to exact size while frequently checking with the micrometer.
For finishing the lower half the staff is held in a chuck by the collet hub. The various shoulders are now turned to the measurements indicated in the sketch (Figure 6) and are ground and polished in the same manner as described above.
The tapered portion on which the roller is fitted is best finished with a lap having a corresponding taper. If one desires to finish this taper by setting the spindle of the pivot polisher at an angle the flat front of the lap should then be made conical. Failure to observe this rule will result in a cupped and scratched roller seat.
Particular attention should be given to the following points. The balance must fit the staff with no side play or it will not be riveted on true. The amount projecting through the arm should be no more than actually necessary for riveting. The rollers must go on to the staff freely so that when placed on the staff with a tweezer the space between the roller and its position when being pressed on in the staking tool will be no greater than its thickness.
A tightly fitting roller may either split or bend the staff when being driven on.
We are all familiar with the term WigWag, describing a method of pivot polishing used in some factories. A small device which may be used by hand can easily be made by anyone desiring to do so. No special skill or equipment is needed.
In connection with this wig-wag it is necessary to prepare a taper with an eccentric pin, which allows adjustment to different sizes of pivots as shown in Figure 7.
In Figure 8 is a wig-wag made from a section of a tube. Two blocks with cross holes provide means for fastening the handle.
For square pivots the wig-wag is held as squarely as possible to the bed of the lathe. For conical pivots the corner of the wig-wag is slightly rounded and the tool is held at angle which corresponds closest to the shape of the cone. Figures 9 and 10 show the wig-wag in actual use. The fact that this device can be used on the most delicate pivots even when they cannot be made to run true makes it a desirable accessory even to the workman who owns a regular pivot polisher. The same grinding material which is used on the pivot polisher may be used on the wigwag.
Hammel, Riglander & Company has issued a new 64 page catalog of the "Quick-Fit" Swiss material system. Also included are many watchmakers' tools and other types of watch materials. It is completely illustrated and will be found of value by every horologist. A copy of this catalog may be obtained by writing to Hammel, Riglander & Co., Inc., 209-211 W. 14th Street, New York City.
This device, for which a patent application is pending, eliminates the costly installation of a separate motor control. An illustrated booklet showing the various types of sign and street clocks made by this firm may be obtained by writing to the Glo-Dial Clock Corporation, 1864 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles.
Hairsprings Touched by Rust
By CLARENCE D. HINES
I have, on a 12, 16 or 18 size watch, taken the spring, when not too rusty (and sometimes they were pretty bad,) and cleaned it. I remove the spring, slip the collet on a slender pegwood or broach slightly tight, grasp the coils in the left hand between the thumb and finger and push slightly forward, enough to expose the coils.
Rinse in benzine and dry. Then place upon a screw-bluing copper strip, put a good drop of clock oil on the spring and hold over the alcohol lamp until the oil smokes a little. Remove, rinse again in benzine, replace spring on balance, re-vibrate because it will be weaker Do not shorten spring or alter collet pinning, but make the wheel slightly lighter by removing timing washers. If there are none lighten by placing balance screws in the lathe and with a sharp graver removing material under the head. Do not shorten the heads, however.
I have springs in use many years with no further rusting or bother of any kind. But unless one is skilled in handling hairsprings he had better practice.
Removing Connon Pinions
By H. W. PETTENGILL
There are many ways of removing cannon pinions from small wrist watches and most of us, at some time or other, have broken a center post in so doing. For some time I have used a four- jaw pin-vise.
First remove the balance wheel, hands, dial and hour wheel. Then tighten the vise on the cannon pinion. With a slight turn and gentle pull the tightest fitting cannon pinion comes off easily, quickly and safely.
By Jos. B. OLIPHANT
I am a Philadelphia watchmaker, but not personally acquainted with Leonard P. Coggin. I can't express my gratitude enough far the valuable information that the watchmaker is going to receive through the suggestion of Leonard P. Coggin.
Here is my first suggestion, and contribution to this valuable cause and may be the answer to. L. W. S. problem of "watches balk." After watch is properly cleaned, ailed and assembled as far as the escape wheel, don't have the cannon pinion attached, but have the main spring barrel ratchet wheel attached. Take a screw driver, insert in the screw slat, turn as if winding and the train wheels will back lash, the better the watch is jeweled the greater the back lash. Of course this takes a little experience as to how a watch in good condition will back lash and one that is defective and not to forget to bear in mind the amount of jewels this particular watch may have. If the watch does not have the proper back lash the trouble is in one of the train wheels; if an the other hand the watch has the proper back lash the trouble is to be traced from there on.
Prosecution of violators of New Yark State's second hand watch law became a fact upon the conviction and sentencing of nine defendants. A number of others have already pleaded guilty and are to come up for sentence shortly. In the indictments 14 counts were for the use of counterfeit dials, which is a violation of the copyright law.
The public has long been victimized by the sale of old worn out movements in new cheap cases. Similar action is expected by other states which have just passed "second hand" watch laws.
By George Henry Abbott Hazlitt, 1893
By Federal Writers' Project. Illinois, 1939
1. The ELGIN NATIONAL WATCH FACTORY (reception room only open, ), National St. and Grove Ave., is set in spacious landscaped grounds along the Fox River. In the reception room is displayed every model produced, from the first in 1867, a railroad movement named the B. W. Raymond for the companys first president, through the key-winders of the late sixties, down to the current models. The factory interior, which has a special dust removal system, resembles a huge watch itself, what with the whir of belting, miles of shafting, and the myriad wheels running in precise synchrony to the master ticks transmitted from the observatory. Much of the work is done under high powered lenses, because some of the screws used are so small that 20,000 would barely fill a thimble. Weighing a pencil mark on a piece of paper would be a comparatively rough operation for some of the balances employed. The plant has produced more than 40,000,000 watches since its establishment.
2. The ELGIN WATCHMAKERS COLLEGE (open to members of the trade only), 267 S. Grove Ave., was established in the 1920s in response to a demand for skilled watch-makers, particularly in repair departments of jewelry stores. A non-profit institution controlled by the Elgin National Watch Company, it provides training in clockmaking, watchmaking, engraving, and jewelry work. The courses of 12 to 15 months' duration teach the drawing of patterns, tool making, and the manufacture of parts. Every type of clock and watch a watch-maker would be called upon to service is available.
3. The ELGIN OBSERVATORY (apply Elgin National Watch Company for permit, Watch and Raymond Sts., is housed in a small white stone building that caps a green hill. The observatory was built in 1909 by the Elgin Company to obtain sidereal time for the regulation of Elgin watches. From a list of 800 fixed stars, Io or 12 are chosen nightly, and are followed across the heavens. An automatic electric recording device graphs time on a revolving drum. Variations of one-thousandth of a second in the master clocks can be checked. These clocks, of the Riefler type, are mounted on a concrete pier, separate from the building, in vacuum glass cases maintained at a temperature varying not more than one-tenth of a degree from 85°F. Secondary clocks relay the impulses by which workers time watches in the factory. A direct line conveys the impulses to the Chicago office of the company in the Pure Oil Building, where they are relayed to radio stations, utility companies, and other agencies requiring exact time.
President T. Albert Potter and Professor Frank D. Urie of the Elgin Watch Company, inspect model of the modernistic structure which will house the watch company's exhibit at the New York World's Fair in 1939. The history of time from the dawn of civilization to the present era will be presented in the exhibit.
Time's dramatic story, from earliest history to the present day, will be presented for millions to see at the New York World's Fair in 1939.
The Elgin National Watch Company will make the presentation, through the medium of an elaborate exhibit housed in a modernistic structure of novel design. Success of the Elgin Watch displays at Chicago's A Century of Progress Exposition, and at the Dallas, Texas Centennial Fair prompted the decision to present an even finer exhibit at the New York exposition opening April 30, next year.
The Elgin exhibit in New York will be educational in character and will illustrate by means of working models and photomurals various types of timepieces beginning with those used in prehistoric times, such as the burning rope, continuing down through the ages to antique and modern watches and ending with a glimpse of the timepiece of tomorrow.
Many other interesting exhibits will be shown, among them a large scale model of the watch in actual operation and a miscroscopic display of various small parts which make up the modern watch.
The exhibition will be housed in a semi-circular exhibition hall which will surround a central circular building.
This building will contain an actual astronomical observatory and will show how correct time is determined from the stars. While time is a subject which vitally concerns everyone, very few people know how correct time is determined and that it is determined from star observations and not from the sun.
On clear nights the dome of the observatory will be opened and actual star observations will be made. During the day and on cloudy nights the demonstrations will be made using an artificial star which will have the appearance and the apparent motion of a real star. The observatory will contain two astronomical clocks, which are among the most accurate in the world. These clocks will be mounted on concrete piers to eliminate vibration and will be hermetically sealed in glass jars to eliminate atmospheric pressure changes. They will be electrically wound every 36 seconds and have a mean variation of daily rate of about eight one-thousandths of a second (0.008 second) per day. The observatory will also contain all necessary auxiliary apparatus which is commonly used in time determination.
The walls of the observatory and the inner wall of the exhibition hall will be of glass and between these two sections will be a circular cascade of water.
At the end of the cascade will be a water clock, illustrating one of the most ancient timepieces. Here will stand a statue of a slave holding a large club in his hands and watching a bowl which rests upon the water. In this bowl is a small hole through which the water slowly enters. The bowl sinks slowly into the water and at the instant it disappears, the slave strikes a gong with his club, thus signalizing the beginning of another hour.
In passing from the exhibition hall to the observatory, the visitor will walk over a glass bridge underneath which is a model of the Elgin National watch factory, thus obtaining the illusion of a view from an airplane.
The building is so designed that it emphasizes the meridian, or north and south line, in a striking manner. The meridian itself will be marked by a pier apart from the building with an arrow pointing to the true north.
W. H. Samelius, Chairman
Science of Horology and Technical Board
A clock, having several dials, each dial showing the correct time in principal metropolitan cities on both hemispheres is called a "Meridian Clock."
Elgin, a city in Illinois, has the world's largest watch factory, The Elgin National Watch Company.
A wheel whose teeth are parallel to its axis and whose axis is at right angles to the axis of the wheel into which it gears, is called a contrate wheel.
During the early part of the 18th Century, Nicholas Grollier devised many curious and mysterious timepieces. One was a metal dish, the hours and minutes marked on it's edge. The dish was filled with water in which the figure of a tortoise floated, always keeping his nose to the correct time.
It is estimated some $50,000,000 in gold is used throughout the world each year for manufacturing jewelery, and mechanical purposes.
Antique bronzes-One can give bronze the green stain of verdigris by covering the surface with ground horse radish saturated with vinegar. From three to four days will turn the bronze into an antique so far as the mockery of age can make it look old.
It is recorded that in 1888 Messrs. Fremay and Vernenil of Paris, Chemists, were the first to produce synthetic rubies.
The largest stone they were able to produce at the time was the size of a pin head, and was produced at a great expense. Today we can produce synthetic rubies that are about 2 1/2 inches long by 1.2-inch round and this material is almost exclusively used for making watch jewels and jewels for instruments.
A jewel hole should be .0002" larger than the pivot that works into it.
One of the earliest tower clocks in New York City was erected in St. George's church in Beekman Street. This clock was constructed by Simon Willard in 1815.
Small crystals of emerald were found at the mines at Stony Point, Alexander county, North Carolina.
Diamonds have been found at Morris Station, 10 miles. South of Atlanta, Ga.
Prospecting near the top of Mt. Antero, Colorado, at an altitude of 12,000 to 14,000 feet above the sea level resulted in the discovery of Beryl, Phenacite and Topaz.
Garnets were discovered by the Navajo Indians in Arizona and New Mexico.
Specimens of Epidot in brilliant crystals were found near Raburn Gap, Raburn County, Georgia.
Agatized and Jasperized wood IS found in Arizona.
Some beautiful specimens of fire opals have been found near John Davis River in Crook county, Oregon.
From Newcome, Essex county, New York, some fine specimens of Tourmaline have been discovered.
It takes as much brains, energy and vision to sell an article, to make people want it, as it does to manufacture the article itself.
According to the United States Patent office index, John P. Blakewell of Pittsburgh, Pa., was granted a patent on October 1, 1830, covering glass wheels for clocks.
By THEODORE B. DRESCHER
Vice President in Charge of Manufacture
The following gives some idea of the tolerances involved in the production of high grade scientific optical instruments.
One micron, 0.001 millimeter, in common measure is 1/25,400 of an inch. In other words, there are more microns to a single inch than there are miles around the earth at the equator.
Or getting closer to home-by actual measurement, hairs from five individuals in an adjoining office ranged from 65 to 97 microns. Imagine splitting a hair into 65 or 97 miniature planks as the case may be.
But in physical measurements and precision optical work, a micron is still too large. Accordingly, it is divided into 1000 parts. This small unit, the millimicron, which is used in specifying the wavelength of light, is used to measure the accuracy of optical surfaces.
In making these tests, light waves themselves are employed through the formation of "Newton's Rings" between the lens or prism surface and the highly accurate quartz test plate. The color and shape of the rings or fringes formed by interference indicate the extent and nature of departure from a true surface. The limit of tolerance in general use is a quarter wavelength of sodium light, or 147.3 millimicrons, and is applied to such products as photographic lenses, microscopes, spectrometers, and telescopes.
For certain applications, even this infinitesimal quantity is too large and the surfaces must be so accurate that when contacted no color is seen. Extreme care must be used in making this test, since such surfaces adhere so firmly that a direct pull of approximately 200 pounds per square inch is required to separate them.
Naturally, such precision in routine production requires great care in the selection of raw materials, the development of special processes, unremitting control and rigid checking at each stage in manufacture, from the making of optical glass to the final mounting.
Mechanical aids are helpful and employed. But, in addition, manual adjustments and manipulation are required.
For this, we must depend upon the experience of the finished craftsmen. Such men pass through long training and various stages of attainment in order to qualify for this work. For hand skill, in all probability, no substitute will ever be found.
- ► 2017 (94)
- ► 2016 (465)
- Elgin Grade 291
- Small Upright Drill Press
- Jeweler Finds Certified Watchmaker a Business-Buil...
- To Watchmakers Seeking Legislation
- To the Officers and Members United Horological Ass...
- Elgin Grade 372
- Making a Balance Staff
- Elgin Grade 220
- Notes of the Trade
- Hairsprings Touched by Rust
- Removing Connon Pinions
- Suggestion Department
- Violators of 2nd Hand Watch Law Convicted
- Elgin Grade 478
- Elgin Grade 315
- Elgin Grade 43
- Elgin Grade 55
- Repeating Attachments
- Points of Interest
- Early Watches
- Elgin Watch Exhibit Big Feature of 1939 New York W...
- Story of Time Told at New York Fair
- Do You Know?
- Every Watch a Compass
- Splitting Hairs
- Elgin Grade 295
- Scientific Elgin
- Elgin Grade 217
- Elgin Grade 313
- Studies in the Lever Escapement
- Pro Bono Publico
- Typhoid Fever In Elgin
- Typhoid Fever at Elgin
- An Unfortunate Experience
- Hairspring Truing Arbor
- "Mystery" Watch, Light in Display
- Official Time
- One Nice Hampton
- William Ellery
- Elgin Grade 471
- Longines Hear From Watches In Antarctica
- Elgin Announces 1941 Line
- Elgin Entertains U.P. Inspectors
- Watchmakers' Registery
- Davidson's Precision Clock
- Procedure for Altering Defective Draw
- Book Reviews
- Postoffices Go Horological
- Horologist of Royalty
- Repairing a Regulator
- Questions and Answers
- Matching Elgin Movement Serial Numbers
- An 18 Size Lancaster and a Setting Mechanism Repai...
- Elgin Grade 62, The Geneva Stop
- Elgin Grade 478, Repaired?
- A Mystery Staff on a Grade 239 Elgin, Vertas Model...
- The Horrors of Old Oil and Grease
- Roger Smith Workshop at High Speed
- Jewel Theives
- ▼ February (60)
- ► 2014 (291)
- ► 2013 (281)
- ► 2012 (406)
- ► 2011 (135)
- ► 2010 (75)
- ► 2009 (96)
- ► 2008 (25)