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.
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The new staff is shown here being riveted on to the balance wheel using the staking set.
Earlier American pendent-set pocketwatches have the mechanism that snaps in and out as part of the case. In the neck of such a case there is a "sleeve" with spring fingers that grip the winding arbor. A shoulder on the arbor snaps to one side or the other of the fingers when you pull it out or push it in.
Later watches have an improved design where the snap is part of the movement instead. The winding arbor is free in the neck of the case, but held in the movement by something called a "detent" which acts as a lever, changing from winding to setting.
This is how the vast majority of mechanical watches work to this day.
This pocket watch has a detent. Interestingly, I found the broken remains of a sleeve threaded into the neck of the case. This case may be older than the movement, or perhaps it was designed to work either way. But it does seem that at some point an older style movement was in this pocketwatch case.
I included in this photo a normal (not broken) sleeve for an example.
Later Elgin movements are sometimes marked with a serial number starting with a letter. The letter is a code for various number of millions. For complete information about these codes, look here.
Elgin convertible models were designed to be assembled in either hunter case, or open face design. It was hoped to save money by allowing the company to produce only one set of parts, instead of two versions of each watch. But this innovation proved too complex to make and service, and was deemed not cost effective.
Here in this image the bottom plate, dial side, of the Elgin grade 100 convertible. The difference between the hunter and open face configurations is that the stem is 180 degrees from the seconds dial (the forth wheel) in an open face watch, but 90 degrees from the seconds in a hunter case movement.
This plate allows the winding arbor to be in either of two positions, 90 degrees different from each other.
In this image we can see a linkage of two similar parts connecting both stem positions to the "snap" mechanism for the crown to snap in and out. Among the many unique features of this movement, the "snap" is here in the movement, rather than provided by a sleeve spring in the neck of the case.
The "snap" is provided by the business in the upper left. The hunter position for the winding arbor is directly pointing left. The open face position is facing down in this image. The jewel for the lower forth wheel, which is the seconds hand, is at the upper most in the image.
This movement has its ratchet in between, inside, a two part barrel bridge. The trick to converting from hunter to open face is that a main wheel, which turns the ratchet wheel, which winds the mainspring, can be positioned at one side of the other inside the bridge - a 90 degree difference.
This watch is being assembled in open face mode. The stem is facing down in these images. The unused void for the hunter configuration is to the right.
Adding to its uniqueness, the winding mechanism is on the top, or back side, of the movement, opposite the dial.
When in setting mode, a pin pushes up from the other side and lefts an arm, causing a main wheel to move up, off of the ratchet wheel, and engage a wheel in the center.
The cannon pinion on the other side rides directly on the arbor of this exposed center setting wheel, thus turning the hands.
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