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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!

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!

Adjusting Bar and It's Use

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, April, 1942

Adjusting Bar and It's Use

By W. H. SAMELIUS

It is well known among horologists the advantages a fusee has over the regular going barrel, especially in the older watches.

The first fusee invented, is credited to Jacob Zech of Prague and introduced about 1525. It's purpose was to convert the various forces of the mainspring into a constant driving force. All early English watches and chronometers were equipped with a fusee.

The fusee as constructed today has maintaining power, the principle of this maintaining power is to maintain power to drive the train while the fusee is being turned backwards, or the 'watch being' wound, This style of fusee is called "going Fusee", to distinguish it from the plain fusee as found in the verge watch. The maintaining power was invented by John Harrison of England in 1750, a clever horologist and his improvement is regarded as an outstanding contribution to horology. All marine chronometers employing a fusee as well as high grade weight driven clocks are equipped with maintaining power today. As the mainspring always has more turns of power than are actually used, same means of adjusting or regulating this surplus power in order to obtain constant power throughout the 24 hours, was necessary. This brought about the invention of an adjusting rod.


The adjusting rod consists of long rod with a socket an one end, having a square opening and so made that it can be securely attached to the winding square of the fusee. On this rod is a sliding weight that may be held in place by means of a lock screw or tension spring, holding the weight friction tight. The overall dimensions of the rod varied from eight to twelve inches in length.

To adjust the fusee to it's mainspring, assemble the watch complete with the exception of the fourth wheel, which can be put in place later by removing the small bridge from the lower plate. English watches and chronometer, are all constructed making the third or fourth wheel removable without disturbing other parts of the watch.

Proceed to hook the chain fast to the drum, winding the chain an to. the drum then hooking the chain into the fusee, wedging the third wheel. When the chain is fully wound, set the mainspring up and a half turn. Attach the adjusting rad to the winding square of the fusee, Fig. No. 1. Wind the spring by rotating the rod until all the chain is on the fusee and the stop works have arrested further winding. Hold the movement on edge and slide the weight along the rod until a point is reached at which the weight neutralizes the force of the mainspring so the whole rests in equilibrium when left to itself. Turn the rod backwards one turn at a time and if equilibrium is maintained throughout each test, the fusee is well adjusted. If the weight seems to be too heavy for the lower coils of the mainspring, set the spring up another half turn, or more if necessary to increase the tension. In the converse case, of course, the spring tension must be Jet down. Many times the equipoise cannot be obtained due to a spring being set to much, or possibly, too short or too long. It is profitable and time saving to supply a new mainspring.

To Trace the Form of Fusee 

Having ascertained the distance between plates, mark off on a brass plate the height XY of the cone portion of the fusee, that is to say, of the portion on which the chain is to be coiled. The base of the cone, which is XZ, is the radius to be traversed by the Axis AB at right angles. Divide XY into four equal parts, as there are four turns and draw the parallel lines 3, 5 and 7. Now mount the barrel with it's spring and arbor, between the plates and attach the adjusting Bar, Fig. No.3, to mainspring arbor. Before the spring is brought into action, the adjusting weight "C" must be placed at such a position that the lever rests horizontal. Then wind spring one complete turn, taking note of the required amount of weight necessary to bring the lever into equilibrium. Wind the spring through two turns and add weight until equilibrium is secured, noting the total weight added and so on. When the operation is concluded, there will be five weights in the pan "P". The radii of the fusee will be inversely as these weights and it is easy to determine by a simple proportion by taking the radius XZ as unity, what are the radii C3, D5 and G7 and B9 through the points 9, 7, 5, 3 and X, thus obtained. draw a curve, which will give the form of the fusee for that particular spring.


Watch Built By Student

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, April, 1942

Watch Built By Student


The illustration shows a 165 watch built by Jacques Lingenfelter, student at Elgin Watchmakers College.


The watch was built up from blank plates, uprighting for train and recessing for jewel settings. The jewels were all hand set, the settings then frictioned into the plates. The balance staff, and hairspring were made to order and the watch adjusted to five positions. The position error was five seconds.

The train bridges were of special design. It has a line finish, silver plated, settings and all steel work highly polished. There is also a special regulator dome. In all, Mr. Lingenfelter is to be complimented for the fine workmanship displayed. 


Setting Up An Escapement

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, April, 1942

Setting Up An Escapement 

By JACOB L. HAGELOW JR.

Escapement work is considered by many watchmakers as something that is quite mysterious and if not too badly out of adjustment, to be left alone. However, the occasion arises at times where a pallet stone is chipped or becomes loose, or if it is quite an old watch the pallet stones may show signs of wear or be pitted where the escape tooth has dropped on same, and there is no alternative but to insert new pallet stones 01- re-shellac the one that has come loose.


If taken step by step escapement work will not only be found easy but also quite fascinating. First, examine the pivots on the balance staff, pallet and escape wheel. See that they are straight and well polished.

The end shakes and side shakes on same must be very close. After this has been done check the roller jewel and see that it fits the fork slot properly. It should have about .01 mm to .02 mm clearance for free action, allowing the roller jewel to enter and leave the fork slot. The roller jewel is now set upright and square and in line with the crescent as shown in Figure 1.

Now to adjust what is commonly referred to as corner freedom. This is accomplished by turning the banking screws so that the roller jewel "'ill clear the corner of the fork slot as it enters and leaves by about one degree. (On a pocket watch approximately .002 of an inch.) See Figure 2. Banking pins are placed in a watch to hold the lever in the proper position to receive the roller jewel, when the lever is up against the banking pin. They also determine the angular motion of the lever, and the angular motion of the lever determines the strength of the lock. The more corner freedom given to an escapement the heavier will be the lock ,,,,hen we set the stones. The closer the corner freedom, the lighter will be the lock.

Now should the watch receive a jar or jolt and the lever be drawn away from the bank the lever would not be in the proper position to receive the roller jewel. For this reason a guard pin is placed in the lever and it will hold the lever in the proper position to receive the roller jewel should the watch receive a jar. This guard pin can be filed out of a piece of brass wire, slightly tapered and burnished to insure a tight fit awl then filed to its proper length. The guard pin freedom should be about 1/2 the corner freedom. This test can be made by turning the balance wheel until the guard pin has passed out of the crescent of the safety roller (See Figure 3). The end of the guard pin should have about a 90 degree angle so that should it come in contact with the safety roller due to a jar or jolt it would be tangent to he roller.

Having taken care of the roller jewel, corner freedom and guard pin action the setting of the pallet stones is in order. These are most commonly referred to as the receiving stone and the discharge stone. The receiving stone or the one that receives the tooth first has the lesser angle, and the discharge stone the greater angle. In setting the stones place the pallet in a pallet warmer upside down. This will insure the stones being flush with the top of the pallet. Set stones in place and heat sufficiently to cause shellac to flow. In order to check the pallet stones to see that they are set properly, place pallet into the watch and give the main spring a few turns of power. By leading the lever from one side to the other with a pair of tweezers we can check the drop lock, and slide. As the escape tooth drops off one stone and on to the other, the lever should be a slight distance away from the banking pin. (See Figure 4). The distance that the lever travels after the drop to the bank determines the slide. If there is too much slide on one stone, it is easily corrected by moving the opposite stone out of the pallet and in to the escape wheel. If there is no slide or not enough slide the opposite stone must be moved back in to the pallet. The drop lock, and slide should not exceed more than 1/4 to 1/5 the width of the pallet stones.

After this work has been completed be sure to clean off any and all excess shellac that may be found on the roller jewel or pallet stones. This to be done with a nickel shellac scraper.


Serial Number Stamps on A 16 Size Waltham Pocketwatch

Antique American watches generally have their serial numbers stamped on various parts, in addition to where the number appears prominently on the works.

Here are some images showing the serial number stamps on this 16 size Waltham pocketwatch; on the top plate, under the balance cock, under the pallet bridge, and under the bottom plate (on the dial side). 





Elgin Grade 324

This is an Elgin grade 324, 0 size, 7 jewels, made about 1905





Watch or Clock Repair in Chicago?

I was contacted by a freelance journalist working with Chicago Magazine on their annual "Best Of" issue. He's interested in profiling someone in the watch/clock repair business in the Chicago area. Anyone have any tips?

The Elgin Observatory

The Elgin company was the only watch company of its day to construct an observatory, in 1910, dedicated to measuring time. This was of course long before atomic clocks.

According to my Grandfather who toured the observatory in 1936, there was in use there a fixed telescope. An operator would lie on his back and observe the transit (meridian crossing) of stars. Later images show a seated operator at the telescope, it may have been updated at some point. At the moment of the transit, the observer would press a button activating an electrical relay and setting two Riefler chronographs to exact time. 

The chronographs were kept in a separate room which only two people were allowed to enter at a time in order to avoid temperature shifts. The room was heated to a constant 81 degrees by dozens of light bulbs all around the room. Each light bulb had an individual thermostat turning it on and off as needed to maintain temperature. To control air pressure, each chronograph was sealed in a glass enclosure connected to an apparatus allowing air to be pumped in or out as needed..  Each clock was mounted on a concrete pier that extended down into the ground 60 feet. 

The exact time, within 10-hundredths of a second, was transmitted electrically from this facility to the factory. Thus, using this facility, Elgin was able to accurately measure time to within hundredths of a seconds, and update clocks in the main building. This was a remarkable technological achievement at that time!

Elgin operated this system until 1958 when technology began finally providing better methods. The observatory structure still exists today at 312 Watch Street, Elgin, Il., just a block of National Street. It is owned by the city and operated by the Elgin school distinct as the Elgin U-46 Planetarium.



Elgin Grade 123, Before Images

Here are a few "before" images, showing the insides of a typical antique pocketwatch that has not been serviced in a very long time.


This movement is an Elgin grade 123, 18 size, 15 jewels, made about 1892

Stay tuned for more...




Another Student Project



The Watchmakers Lathe



Time For Humor

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, July, 1946

Time For Humor

Lunch Time-Piece

The applicant for a job hauling freight coast-to-coast was asked if he was acquainted with the several time zones.

"Sure am," he replied, "And I'm prepared, too! In my left-hand pocket I carry a watch for Eastern Standard time. In my right-hand pocket I carry a watch for Central time. On my left wrist I carry a watch for Rocky Mountain time. On my right wrist I carry a watch for Pacific Coast time.

And in my hip pocket I carry a big old size-18 hunting case!" "What do you carry that one for" he was asked.

"My lunch is in it," replied the applicant, "A guy gets hungry keeping track of all those watches!" 

-- Ted Douglas

* * * 

"Look, darling, here is a diamond engagement ring for you." "Oh, it it's beautiful. But, Honey, the diamond has a flaw in it!" "You shouldn't notice that. You're supposed to be in love-and love is blind!"


"Yes-but not stone blind!"

Floor Minutes Past Four!

Junior was playing watchmaker with the grandfather clock in the hall when his mother called from the kitchen, "Junior, what time is it?"

"I don't know exactly, Mom," replied Junior, "The little hand is on four, and the big hand is on the floor."
-- Ted Douglas

* * *

"I know he's the man for me, Mother. Every time he takes me in his arms, I can hear his heart pounding."

"Better be careful daughter. When your father was courting me, I was fooled for a year by his dollar watch!"

A Losing Battle!

The elevator pilot in an office building grew weary of repeated requests for the time. At last he put up a shelf in the corner of his elevator and placed a small clock on it. That stopped people from asking the time. Now they ask, "Is your clock right?"

* * * 

"Isn't it time he finished?" the weary pew-holder whispered as the preacher talked on and on.

"Time!" replied his companion, bitterly, "Time!" He's exhausted time and encroached upon eternity! 



Time For Humor

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, July, 1946

Time For Humor

The Cad

It was the second week of their engagement and they sat before the cozy fire planning their future life and dreaming of their happiness. He was fondling her left hand and twisting the gorgeous diamond ring with which they had plighted their troth.

As he was admiring the gleaming fiery gem, he asked: "Tell me, dear, has anyone remarked about your engagement ring? Have your friends admired it? "

"Why, yes, dear," she answered. "Two of them not only admired it, but recognized it!"


A wedding ring may not be as tight as a tourniquet, but it certainly stops the wearer's circulation!

Highway Robbery!

A man who was motoring along the highway offered a stranger a lift. The stranger accepted. Shortly afterward the motorist noticed that his watch was missing.

Whipping out a revolver which he happened to be carrying, he dug it into the other man's ribs and exclaimed: "Hand over that watch!"

'The stranger meekly complied before allowing himself to be booted out of the car. When the motorist returned home he was greeted by his wife.

"How did you get on without your watch?" she asked. "I suppose you know that you left it on your dressing table?"

 Well. . . He Asked for It!

Little Dot, age four, was visiting her uncle. She was very fond of playing with his large, open-face watch and heavy gold chain. One day he held the watch by the chain, swinging it back and forth like a pendulum in front of her, and asked:

"Dot, what is it that runs when I run, and runs when I walk, and runs when I stand still?" The answer was obvious.

Quick as a flash she looked up at him and answered, "Your nose!" 



Another Waltham 1894 Model

This is another Waltham 1894 model, 12 size, 15 jewels, also in an 8 side case.






Waltham 1894 Model - Animated!

This is a 12 size, 7 jewel, Waltham 1894 model, in a nice 8 sided case.



Engraving At The Watchmakers College



CPA Report on Tin Conservation

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, July, 1946

CPA Report on Tin Conservation

The Civilian Production Administration today advised manufacturers of jewelry and other novelty and luxury items that they must continue to be guided by the restrictions of the tin conservation order (M-43) in their output of these products.

Jewelry manufactured from tin has appeared in constantly increasing quantities in many retail stores' since V-J Day, the agency said. Many wholesalers and retailers seem to be under the impression that CPA Order M-43 has been withdrawn or relaxed. Tin conservation is still a "must" item, CPA emphasized, and Order M-43 remains in full force and will continue effective until the tin situation eases.

CPA said that the use of any metal containing 11/2 percent or more of tin is prohibited in the manufacture of jewelry, buttons, novelties and ornamental articles.

Manufacturers, wholesalers, jobbers or retailers may not buy or sell such articles containing tin unless the seller has authorization from the Civilian Production Administration to sell the particular item offered.

The Compliance Division of the Civilian Production Administration is investigating this situation.
Contributing to the trade perplexities regarding the tin situation are the stories that have appeared recently in some magazines to the effect that in formation received from Washington indicates that the improved tin supply will make possible the use of white metal by manufacturers for the production of tin-containing jewelry.


C. and E. Marshall Co. Operates On 40 Hour - 5 Day Week

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, July, 1946

C. and E. Marshall Co. Operates On 40 Hour - 5 Day Week


In order to give its employees an entire week end in which to relax and enjoy their favorite sports and hobbies, the C. and E.

Marshall Co. is now operating on a 40-hour, 5-day week basis. Along with the shorter work week, employees receive the same salaries as on the longer week basis, which means a 30 per cent increase for male employees and a 15 per cent increase for female employees, who work a shorter week.
Factory employees are now operating on a 47-hour schedule, instead of the 57-hour schedule maintained during the war. The entire company operated on a longer schedule during the war in order to fulfill their commitments of tools to the United States government . . . tools used by the government throughout the world. And also to supply their old and valued customers as efficiently as before the war. Now the company believes their employees have earned the opportunity of enjoying each week end as a vacation. 


New G. I. A. Glossary Will Aid Entire Industry

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, July, 1946

New G. I. A. Glossary Will Aid Entire Industry


"What is meant by 'split prong'?" "What are 'curb link chains'?" These and other questions, bothersome when asked of experienced jewelers or jewelry salesmen, often are posed by newer employees in the industry.

To help proprietors and employees expedite business GIA is compiling a glossary including answers to these questions as well as general information on retailing. The glossary, however, will help not only the beginner;. material will be so inclusive it will broaden the knowledge of everyone in the industry.


Alma Service Company Offers Extensive Repair Service

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, July, 1946

Alma Service Company Offers Extensive Repair Service


One of the greatest worries of a busy jeweler is piled up repair jobs waiting to be done. Naturally, he wants to accommodate his customers, but not by cutting in on the valuable time he should devote to making sales.


Al B. Greenberg, manager of a jewelry chain, recognized the great need for an outfit that could competently handle all a jeweler's repair jobs for him - yet leave him plenty of room for profit on these jobs. In March of 1944, he set up a "jeweler's service station" in a loft on the Bowery in lower New York. Starting with three employees, today he has twenty-four repair experts working continuously on the many common and unusual repair jobs that come into his shop. On his staff are six skilled watchmakers-trained in Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Switzerland and America, a diamond setter, a hammer setter, two jewelers and an engraver, besides a plater, polisher, and silversmith. In his office, Mr. Greenberg employs two secretaries, a shipping clerk, and three runners, whose job it is to go around the city seeking hard to get materials.

In addition to the usual watch repair work, the firm handles many unusual jobs, ranging from repair jobs on electric percolators and silverware to those on valuable antiques and perhaps a $40,000 diamond bracelet.

Alma boasts that nothing is impossible, and will undertake to repair anything, large or small. This often results in a greater expenditure of time and work-particularly in locating rare and hard-to-find parts than they can logically charge for the job in question. But Mr. Greenberg has found that it pays out in customer confidence that Alma can indeed do anything. 


Using The Lathe



Elgin Grade 94

Elgin grade 94 is found as a ladies pocketwatch, and also sometimes in an early form of men's wristwatch. It is a 6 size movement, 11 jewels, this pocketwatch example made about 1887.  

 


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