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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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Database Updated

Want to know more about your Antique Elgin watch?

Look up your movement serial number here!
http://home.elgintime.com/elgintime/SnumLookup

I just updated the system with loads of new images, links and several important corrections!

Elgin Grade 214, Veritas

This is without a doubt one of Elgin best products, and an all around beautiful movement. The Veritas, railroad grade 214, 18 size, 23 jewels, made about 1902.  


Hamilton, "The Union"

This is an 18 size Hamilton, 17 jewels. It's "The Union" model.  Made about 1906.



Elgin Grade 555

This was a successful wristwatch movement for Elgin. The grade 555 is an 8/0 size, 17 jewel, product, this example made about 1951.


Waltham Riverside

Here's another fine American Waltham. This is a rare two-tone 1888 model, Riverside. It is a 16 size, 17 jewel, movement  in an open face, gold filled case.


Waltham 1890 Model

The 1890 model American Waltham is a small 6 size, 7 jewel, movement. This one is in a stunning 14k gold hunter case showing very little sign of use.


A Practical Course of Instruction In The Science of Horology

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, October, 1946

A Practical Course of Instruction In The Science of Horology
By Orville R. Hagans and D. L. Thompson

Basic Mechanics - Lesson 4

31. MAKING SMALL STEEL SCREWS 

Small steel screws can be bought in assortments for any make of American watch, and for most of the Swiss models, however, it is often the case that the screw needed is not on hand, or not easily secured, therefore, it is a convenience to be able to make one or to refinish a marred or rusted one.
As in making taps, it will be necessary to have an assortment of screwplates or dies, if the correct thread is to be made. If a screw has been lost, the thread diameter and pitch can usually be determined from another screw from the movement, of which there are generally two or more of the same diameter and pitch of thread, which is used to select the correct hole in the screw-plate or die. Otherwise, a tap of the same diameter and pitch of the thread of the screw hole . will have to be used to select the proper die.

To make a small screw, select a piece of staff-wire, or drill-rod, which is a little larger in diameter than the head of the screw which is to be made, or of the counter-sink made for it, and heat it to pale blue. Turn the tap and, as .shown in Fig. 21, at a, in the same manner as in making a tap, but with a square shoulder and then turn on the threads, as shown at b. The length of the head is now to be marked and the diamete of the head turned to correct size, allowing a little for grinding and polishing, after which the screw is to be severed from the wire with a cutting-off graver, as shown in Fig. 21, b, or with a square graver as shown by the dotted lines. 'l'he screw is then reversed in the lathe and held by the tap, closing the chuck on it lightly, and the flat of the head turned true, after which the thumbnail is placed on the center of the flat to guide the file and the slot filed as shown in Fig. 22, being careful to file the slot to the same depth 011 each side of the head.

The slot can also be cut with a small thin circular-saw, as shown in Fig. 23, the screw being held in a pin-vise which is to be rested on the T-rest.

The screw is to be hardened in the usual manner and then tempered to dark blue on a bluing slip. This temper is sufficient to give the threads the proper strength; to prevent the slot from being easily burred by a screwdriver; and to take a good polish. If a screw is to be given a high polish, it should be tempered to a bright blue, but screws having very small taps will break quite easily when so tempered.

Found! Diamonds Looted by Nazis

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, October, 1946

After lying unclaimed for a year in a garage at Goettigen, in Hanover, fifteen trunks were handed over by the garage owner to the British military government. They had been left behind by a Wehrmacht unit a few hours before the surrender of Germany and were found to be filled with diamonds, believed to have been looted from the Antwerp diamond bourse. They have been placed in the vaults of the Reichsbank at Hanover. 


A Practical Course of Instruction In The Science of Horology

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, October, 1946

A Practical Course of Instruction In The Science of Horology
By Orville R. Hagans and D. L. Thompson

Basic Mechanics - Lesson 4

30. MAKING A SET OF FLAT DRILLS 

The drills used by the horologist are usually the so-called flat ones, though twist-drills are sometimes used for the larger work. Like taps, they can be bought in assortments suited for the work, and, being' very small and delicate, they are easily broken.

In selecting a drill for a hole which is to be tapped, its diameter is very important. A comparison of the drill diameters with the screw-thread diameters in the above table for "Waltham scre"ws will show that the drills are gauged definitely for the size of the screw. For instance, the size "of the drill for the No. 1 tap is 1.32 mm, which means that the diameter of the tap at the bottom of the threads is 1.32 mm and that this tap will cut a full, clean thread of 1.50 mm in a hole of this diameter, as shown in the sectional drawing in Fig. 16.

A set of drills, to fit t.he set of taps which the student has made, can be gauged by t.he same holes in the screwplate

To make a flat drill, select a piece of drill-rod of somewhat greater diameter than the hole to be drilled, or of the largest drill to be made, and cut off a length of 2.5 cm. Turn the end down to the exact size of the hole in the screw-plate having the number of the largest tap made, and then taper it slightly from the end back for about 8 times the diameter of the drill, as shown in Fig. 17, at a, which is to relieve the cutting end to allow the chips to clear away from the hole which it makes. The drill blank is then to be placed in a square block and the blade ground flat on opposite sides to the shape shown in Fig. 17, at b, leaving it somewhat thicker than necessary, after which it is to be hardened and then tempered to pale straw in the same manner as for taps.

After hardening and tempering, the blade is to be further ground until the end is of the proper thickness, which· should be only sufficient for strength and varies with the size of the drill. The cutting edges are then ground so that they will be relieved as shown in Fig. 17 , at c, this being done by holding the drill in a pin-vise and up to the emery-wheel in the manner shown in Fig. 18.

Drills smaller than 1 mm in diameter should be sharpened with a soft Arkansas stone, the drill being held in a chuck in the lathe and the stone being applied to the end at such an angle to the blade as to form the proper angle of the cutting edge and to at the same time slightly relieve it, the stone being drawn downward, as shown in Fig. 19. '1'he drill can be held in a pin-vise on the edge of the bench, and sharpened in the same way.

One cutting edge is to be sharpened and then the drill turned a half-turn and the other one sharpened, being careful to get the point central with the axis of the drill, so that it will have a proper guide to drill a straight hole.

The correct and incorrect angles of the cutting edges of a drill are shown in Fig. 20. The correct angle is shown at a, which is an included angle of 120 degrees, and will cut fast and drill a straight or true hole. The shape shown at b is too acute and the drill will break easily. That shown at c is too obtuse and will not drill a true hole as it does not have a proper guide point. 

The set of drills should be numbered on the shank in the same manner as the taps, using the corresponding plate hole numbers.

A pivot drill of very small size is to be made in substantially the same manner as the larger ones. The tapered end is to be ground to size and shape with a soft oilstone slip; the drill hardened by wrapping a piece of iron wire around it and holding the shank in a flame until the tapered end is heated to dull red, then quickly cooled, which is best done by holding the water or oil in a test-tube or a wide-mouthed bottle and close up to the flame; and the blade ground flat and sharpened on a soft oilstone-wheel running in the lathe. The smallest sized pivot drills need not be tempered, as they are usually used on tempered steel and are, therefore, required to be especially hard. Small drills are easily sharpened as shown in Fig. 19. The use of these drills will be shown and explained under the subject of pivoting.

The student should make a set of pivot drills from .5 mm to a .05 mm in .05 mm steps.



OPA Price Revision

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, October, 1946

OPA Price Revision

Effective, August 19, 1946, a Price revision of clocks and watches with less than 7 jewel was established by the Office of Price Administration.

The amended order now stands as follows:

1. The second paragraph of section 2 (a) is amended to read as follows:
This order does not cover electric clock motors without time trains, timing devices or clock systems which are under RMPR 136, watches or clocks with 7 or more jewels, clock and watches with imported movements which are under the MIPR or RMPR 499, respectively, or used clocks and watches which are covered by the GMPR and MPR 429.
2. Section 4 is amended to read as follows:
Sec. 4. Retail ceiling prices. This section provides for the determination of retail ceiling prices of clocks and watches covered by this order. Manufacturers, except in the case of articles which are sold only to another manufacturer, are required to calculate the retail ceiling prices of their products in accordance with the provisions of this section and to comply with the tagging provisions of section 7.
(a) The retail ceiling price of any clock or watch which the manufacturer delivered to a purchaser for resale prior to August 19, 1946, shall be the retail ceiling price computed in accordance with the provisions of this order as in effect on May 13, 1946.
The retail ceiling price for any clock or watch which the manufacturer· delivers to a purchaser for resale on or after August 19, 1946, shall be determined in accordance with the following provisions of this section:
(1) The retail ceiling price is the "manufacturer's price" to a wholesaler plus the applicable one of the following percentages, the total to be adjusted to the nearest 5 cents:
(i) 77% in the case of watches and spring-wound clocks for which the manufacturer's price is less than $2.90;
(ii) 91% in the case of watches and spring-wound clocks for which the "manufacturer's price" is $2.90 or more but less than $5.56; and electric clocks for which the "manufacturer's price" is less than $5.56;
(iii) 116% in the case of watches and clocks for which the "manufacturer's price" is $5.56 or more.
(2) The retail ceiling price for a watch or clock for which the manufacturer does not have a maximum price to a wholesaler but does have a maximum price to a retailer shall be the manufacturer's price to a retailer plus a markup which will yield the retailer the same percentage margin as the discount which a wholesaler is required to give a retailer by section 5 (b) of this order, the total to be adjusted to the nearest :: cents. 
(3) The applicable Federal excise tax upon the retail price may be collected in addition 'to the ceiling prices determined in accordance with this section.
3. Section 5 is amended to read as follows:
See. 5. Wholesalers' ceiling prices. A wholesaler's ceiling price for a clock or watch which the manufacturer delivered to a purchaser for resale prior to August 19, 1946, shall be the wholesaler's ceiling price computed ill accordance with the provisions of this section as in effect on May 13, 1946.
A wholesaler's ceiling price for a clock or watch which the manufacturer delivers to a purchaser for resale on and after August 19, 1946, shall be the wholesale ceiling price calculated by the manufacturer in accordance with the following' provisions of this section:
(a) A manufacturer whose published price list in effect in October 1941 showed different prices for sales by wholesalers in small and large quantities shall determine the wholesale ceiling price for sales in smallest quantities by deducting from the retail ceiling price (exclusive of the Federal excise tax) the applicable one of the following discounts:
(1) 29% in the case of watches and spring-wound clocks for which the manufacturer's price is less than $2.90;
(2) 32% in the case of watches and spring-wound clocks for which the manufacturer's price is $2.90 or more, but less than $5.56; and electric clocks for which the manufacturer's price is less than $5.56;
(3) 37% in the case of watches and clocks for which the manufacturer's price is $5.56 or more.
The manufacturer shall calculate wholesalers' ceiling prices for sales in larger quantities by applying to the wholesale ceiling prices for sales in smallest quantities the differentials contained in his October, 1941 price list for sales in such larger quantities.
(b) A manufacturer who had no published price list in effect during October, 1941 or whose price list did not show different prices for sales by wholesalers in small and large quantities shall determine the wholesale ceiling price for sales of all quantities by applying to the retail ceiling price (exclusive of the Federal excise tax) the applicable one of the following discounts:
(1) 30.5% in the case of watches and spring-wound clocks for which the manufacturer's price is less than $2.90;
(2) 34% in the case of watches and· spring-wound clocks for which the manufacturer's price is $2.90 or more but less than $5.56; and electric clocks for which the manufacturer's price is less than $5.56.
(3) 38.5'% in the case of watches and clocks for which the manufacturer's price IS $5.56 or more.

PAUL A. PORTER, Administrator. 

Elgin Grade 309

This is Elgin's grade 309. It's an 18 size watch, 7 jewels, this one made about 1907

This watch is in a nice open face case, having engraving, and a thick beveled crystal.


Note the older English style, tangential lever escapement on this movement.

Elgin Grade 303

The  grade 303 is a 12 size Elgin, with 7 jewels.

This movement was one of Elgin's most successful products, and is found in many different case, dial and hands combinations.

This one was made about 1937.


Elgin Grade 452

Elgin's grade 452 is a 12 size, 17 jewel, product. 

This example, with some unusual hands, was made about 1923


What Is It?

I was sent these images by someone wondering what these are. Does anyone know?

The movements appear to be 7 jewel, 16 size products with limited finishing; very utilitarian. The dial side arbor, where the hands would be, looks like small tuning fork that would attach to something. They fit perfect in a vintage metal Kodak film canister. One is marked "6 hr" and the other "2 hr".



Military application?  Film application?




Elgin Grade 730, Futur

This is a grade 730 Elgin movement in a "Futur" model wristwatch. The distinguishing feature here is the "mystery dial" where the hour indicator seems to float around the hours.  The hour marker is really fixed on a rotating disc.

Also note the wrap-around crystal - no bezel.

The 730 movement is one of Elgin's best.  It features their balance that can be adjusted by sliding weights rather than timing screws.


Elgin made these mystery dial watches at the end of the 1950s.


Photo Editing

The latest Snapseed application for Android is a really nice package of photo editing tools.

Video!

I have started experimenting with 60 fps video taken with my OnePlus One, and a few special effects.

This gives a slightly more realistic impression of the balance motion.

An Old Bofton Watch Maker

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, October, 1946

An Old Bofton Watch Maker
By Harold B. Osborne

Richard Cranch was his name, and he was alive 200 years ago, for in 1761 he advertised in the Boston Gazette that he was "in bufiness" again, this time in "Bofton," having but recently moved there from Salem. His announcement also advertised the stagechaise which ran between Salem and Boston in 1767.

Cranch's ad, according to an 1892 issue of Putnam's Monthly Historical Magazine, was as follows:
"Richard Cranch, from England, Who lately carried on the WATCH MAKER's bufinefs at Salem, hereby informs the Public, That he has removed from thence to Bofton, where he carries on the fame Bufiness, at his Shop in Hanover-Street, a little to the Southward of the Mill-Bridge. And he would particularly inform the Gentlemen of Salem, Marblehead, and the neighboring Towns, who favour'd him with their Cuftom before he remov'rl that they may have their Watches bro't to him, and carried back again to Salem free of any Charge for Carriage, by applying to Mr. Boardman, who goes regularly three times a Week in the Stage-Chaife between Salem and Bofton."

Cranch was described by the historical magazine as "the father of the late Hon. Wm. Cranch, of the Circuit Court of D. C., whose son, Christopher Pearse Cranch, is the well-known artist and poet. Then Mr. Cranch resided in Salem he frequently received visits from John Adams. His house was in Mill street, near the corner of Norman street. It is said Copley, the painter, was often here in those days." 


Final Program on "Scientific Timing" Presented

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, October, 1946

Final Program on "Scientific Timing" Presented

Watchmaster Charlie Purdom, during his three weeks' stay in Denver, was aided by Mr. Hagans in preparing a comprehensive course in Scientific Timing for school and group educational use. Work was completed to the point that the courses could be finished and made ready for use in the very near future. 

Prior to Purdom's departure, all watchmakers in Colorado were invited to attend a meeting for watchmakers only, at which time the final program on this course was presented. The American Academy of Horology turned over its largest classroom for the meeting, which was held on a Sunday. Response was most gratifying; watchmakers from every section of the State were present. 





Elgin Grade 27, Lever Repair

Here are a few more images of this B. W. Raymond, grade 27, 18 size, made about 1888
These details of the dial side, and the lever, show a repair job soldering on a bit of metal to make the lever easier to pull out. It was probably worn away or broken off at some point.


Elgin Grade 27

Here's an Elgin grade 27, an 18 size, 15 jewel, lever-set movement made about 1888. This B.W. Raymond model also was made in a 17 jewel variation.  

The balance cock screw is a replacement. The threading is completely shot in the plate and so someone used this screw with coarser threads. It's not holding on 100% itself, but it should be OK. I looked around for a better replacement, but the hole in the cock itself does not allow for a larger diameter screw. 


Another Elgin Grade 291

This 16 size, 7 jewel, grade 291 was made about 1918




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