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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.

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Waltham 1857 Model

This is a Waltham 1857 model, actually made about 1867.  These are often a challenge, and this one is no exception. These Walthams are really about the first attempt in the US to make watches in a factory setting, using standardized parts and procedures. And it took awhile to work out the kinks.


Each one of these seem to have left the factory just a little different, and they changed over time. Add to that that they are not well documented and the repairs that have been done on them over time, and these become less like working on a factory made watch and more like working on a hand made watch.

This particular watch had a couple of odd issues right off the bat.

We can see here the outer regulator pin is pressed closed, over the other pin, such the the regulator can not be removed from the hairspring.
To separate the regulator, I removed the outside regulator pin. On some watch with this type of pin, the pin is supposed to turn to release the spring, but that's just not going to happen here. The brass looks like it's been smashed down, while being friction fit to the regulator arm. I think it's more likely that someone replaced that pin at some point with this larger part, possibly doing so from the top without removing the regulator. Other 1857 model Walthams I have seen had two simple pins only, and so I am going to replace these with the usual configuration.

Also note that the upper pivot is a bit short.  At first I thought it was broken. But I am not so sure. The staff on this watch is not the original part. It is a different staff that has been rigged to fit. It looks like the upper pivot was shortened.

These watches originally took one of two staffs, which are quite different from each other (and both hard to find). Since this watch does not have the original, it's hard to tell for sure what configuration it had. It's also very possible that the entire pallet was raised or lowered to made the replacement staff work.

The upper balance jewel is badly cracked, so I am going to try to fit a replacement jewel just exactly right so that the short pivot will work.

Here is a view of the dial side of the Waltham 1857 model. Everything is in good condition. Notice how on these early watches all the lower train pivots are on a separate, replaceable, bridge. That part was probably also easier to make, than to put precise holes in the plate.


True to these oldest American watches all being a little shaky, the screws on the lower bridge and the ratchet wheel clamp are all a bit different and only fit in their original place.
Here is the 1857 model, ticking! The upper balance jewel placement is extremely tight due to that short upper pivot, but there's just enough to make it work.

The regulator is not in place in this photo, it doesn't have its new pins yet. But we can see, at the upper left, the bar that reaches in to hold the outside end of the hairspring, below the balance wheel arms, rather than above like most of the watches I have posts about. On this watch the hairspring is below the balance arms.

Watches like this are closer to English designs of that time.

The next images show the regulator is in place, with a pair of new pins. There is very little clearance, and everything has to be just right to work well both dial up and dial down. It's easy to see why this design gave way to placing the regulator on the upper side and pinning the hairspring to the balance cock.








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