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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!

Mail Bag

I service antique American watches, which includes a lot of Elgins. After a 100 year run, The Elgin National Watch Company went out of business in the late 1960s. But I regularly receive email inquiries about modern Elgin branded watches.  This one was from awhile ago, it seems worth sharing.

Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2015 19:09:26 -0600
Subject: My elgin watch
From: ****@gmail.com
To: jsexton@elgintime.com

I bought an elgin watch about 3 years ago that i have had problems with since day one. I bought it at walmart and took it back three times in the first week i had it. The third time i took it back i asked them if they would exchange it for one exactly like the one I had because that's the reason i bought it - i like the way it looks. They exchanged it. This time it ran for three whole months before it stopped again. Again i put a new battery in it and it ran maybe three weeks this time. I went through this process for long enough that i didn't feel i could ask for a refund. About a month ago i took it to a jewel to ask about a repair. He told me it would be about $125.00. That's not an option since the watch only cost about $45.00 plus tax at walmart. Sometime back there not too long after i bought it, i looked up elgin on the internet and sent an email asking if they could do something to correct the situation. I didn't hear from anyone then went in the hospital for surgery. When i got out and recovered i still had not heard from anyone. Six months later i went in hospital again for another surgery and still have not heard from anyone. By now it's been at least three years or more. I no longer have the receipt. Have i just lost the $45.00 plus tax that i paid for a WORTHLESS watch? After bringing it home from the jeweler today and paying yet another $16.00 plus tax to have yet another battery put in for it to work maybe two weeks - three if Im lucky, i have a very bad taste in my mouth when i say the word ELGIN. Is there anything that can be done for this worthless piece of junk. (Im trying to keep it clean because that's not the word i use when referring to it.). Out of the three years I've had the watch, I've got to wear it a MAXIMUM of probably six months. The rest of the time it has not worked. My stomach knots up when i hear or even think the word "Elgin". Boy, did i get a lemon! With no help from anyone!



Database Update

I've just finished rolling out a month's worth of changes to the Elgin serial number database!


I have decided to do this monthly. During the month, I update an internal version of the website that I use, then update everything in one go while switching the server target in the router. This way there's no chance of anyone seeing anything strange while the update is in progress.

There are a couple of database changes in the wristwatch ranges, and quite a few new pictures, but no code of page format changes.

Elgin Grade 114, With A Case a Adaptation



In this photo, near the screw at the right, to the fore, you can see some faintly engraved characters. These are "watchmaker's marks". They were made by someone that serviced, or possibly sold, this watch. They had meaning only in a context of that person's records, but are today part of the character of the piece. Watchmakers' marks are not usually on the visible part of the movement. They'd typically be under the dial, or most commonly, inside the back of the case.
The way most American pocketwatches, and Elgins in particular, fit into a watch case, there is a female arbor in the movement, and a square male stem in the watch case.  The snapping in and out of the crown is a function of the case entirely.

Some earlier lever-set watches are the opposite.  There would be a square arbor, male, sticking out of the edge of the movement.  The stem part of the case would have a square hole in the end.  On such cases the stem does not snap in and out.

You can't really mix and match these two types.  But now and then I see something like this watch.  This movement has the female part.  But it's been fitted into the older type of case.  Some watchmaker made a square "adapter" that fits in each hole and joins the movement with the stem. 



It's worth pointing out as an aside that for the most part, American watch companies never made pocket watch cases.  A customer would select the movement and the case separately at the time of retail sale.  The shop fit the two together.  In some instances, there may not have been a lot to choose from.

The way most American pocketwatches, and Elgins in particular, fit into a watch case, there is a female arbor in the movement, and a square male stem in the watch case.  The snapping in and out of the crown is a function of the case entirely.

Some earlier lever-set watches are the opposite.  There would be a square arbor, male, sticking out of the edge of the movement.  The stem part of the case would have a square hole in the end.  On such cases the stem does not snap in and out.

You can't really mix and match these two types.  But now and then I see something like this watch.  This movement has the female part.  But it's been fitted into the older type of case.  Some watchmaker made a square "adapter" that fits in each hole and joins the movement with the stem. 



It's worth pointing out as an aside that for the most part, American watch companies never made pocket watch cases.  A customer would select the movement and the case separately at the time of retail sale.  The shop fit the two together.  In some instances, there may not have been a lot to choose from.





This watch is an Elgin grade 114. It is a 16 size, 7 jewel, movement, made about 1895.  



This watch is an Elgin grade 114. It is a 16 size, 7 jewel, movement, made about 1895.  


Elgin Grade 293, And A Creative Mainspring Repair

This mainspring is no good, it's way out of flat. This sort of thing is usually the result of installing spring without using a correct winder.
But this spring has another surprise!

A break has had a make-shift repaired with a little buckle of sorts. That's a new on me...






The watch is a grade 293 Elgin, 16 size, 7 jewels, made about 1917


Elgin Grade 184

Elgin's grade 184 is a large 18 size, 17 jewel movement.





This example was made about 1898

Elgin Grade 291

Elgin's grade 291 is a 16 size movement, 7 jewels, this one made about 1922.  




Dials were largely a matter of personal choice on the part of the original buyer, along with availability of course. This one has an outstanding example of hand done decorate inlay fired into the dial.


Elgin Grade 387 With An Odd Bushing

You never know what you're doing to find when you get into a watch...  Here's what I found on removing the dial from this one.  At some point in the past a really large piece was cut out of the bottom plate, where the lower balance jewel mounts.  I round piece of brass has been fit there like a sort of giant bushing.  I'm not sure what problem would prompt this...  




This watch is an Elgin grade 387. It's a 16 size, 17 jewel movement, made about1914

The case is a slightly unusual, for a 16 size watch, swing-out type.


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