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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.

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Elgin Grade 239

These photos show old oil and grease in a watch.  It's pretty bad here, but every old watch has some of this.  This is why getting an old watch serviced is important, even if the watch ticks.  Grit mixed in the old, dry lubricants turns to a very effective abrasive and grinds away at the moving parts.  It does not take long to damage something that was previously fine.
This watch has a broken center wheel staff. This part is essentially extinct as far as I can tell but I managed to find one in some of my own unsorted old material (wow, really lucky).

For some reason the bearing portion of the replacement was a bit thicker at 1.16mm, where as the old one is 1.1mm. I took it down, and polished the pivot to a mirror finish. It will work fine.

These images are the "motor barrel" used in this movement. Elgin's is a very good system, superior in my opinion to motor barrels found in other makes.

Motor barrels fix the arbor to the part that drives the watch such that the two halves of the barrel move separately. In the event of the mainspring breaking, the train is protected. In addition, lower friction allows a stronger spring to be used, and power to the train is less impacted by winding.

This watch needed a balance staff replacement next.
The first thing in changing the balance staff is to remove the hairspring. When I did that though, the old staff just dropped right off the balance, it had never been attached! Well that saves me a step. Luckily I did not have much trouble getting the roller table off.


It also had the wrong staff. In this image the old staff is at the top, the correct replacement is below. The hair spring collet is badly over stretch, open, to fit over the larger staff. I'm amazed that the collet isn't broken. This roller table has a larger opening than the replacement staff needs. I'll have to use a different one.
The replacement staff is riveted to the balance wheel using the staking tool.
Here is the old hairspring (with the stretched collet) and roller table on the right, new on the left. Note the much smaller hole in the roller table on the left.

Repairs done (with the correct parts) and the watch runs fine.
This is by the way, an 18 size Elgin Veritas model. It's one of the best movements the company made.

It is a grade 239, 18 size, 21 jewels, lever-set railroad watch. This fine example was made about 1904





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