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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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Elgin Grade 279, Overland Model

This is an Elgin Overlandgrade 279, 18 size, 17 jewels, made about 1904

This is a highly refined 18 size design - very "modern" in style and features.

The serial number of the movement is stamped on each of the major parts.

There is a row of divots on the underside of the balance cock. Someone did this, using a graver, to raise the balance cock slightly, likely to give the balance wheel more freedom. In general, a better solution is to adjust the balance staff pivots.

I see this all the time. If it's been done, undone, redone, etc, a lot, then it becomes extremely difficult to get the balance cock flat, stable and correct again.
This watch has a broken lower pivot on the balance staff.

Also, the lower balance jewel is badly damaged, as often happens when the staff is broken.
Here are the lower balance jewels. We have the cap jewel, the screws that hold it, the old broken pivot, or hole, jewel, and the replacement.

Note the round cut-aways in the cap jewel bezel. This is where the screw heads hold the jewels in place securely.

Note the damaged jewel on the left.
The old staff is removed by cutting away the back hub in the watchmaker's lathe. the staff is riveted on the other side of the balance wheel.

Here is the old staff, and the replacement.

It is not known for certain, but "Overland" likely refers to The Overland Trail, or Overland Stage Line. This was a stagecoach and wagon trail in the American West during the 19th century. The Overland Trail was used in the 1860s as an alternative to the Oregon Trail, as a route connecting to Oregon, California and Mormon trails in Wyoming.

The Overland Trail was famously used by Ben Holladay's Overland Stage Company to connect to Salt Lake City in the early 1860s.

Holladay's stage company operated until 1869 when the Transcontinental Railroad started carrying the mail instead. And the "Overland Route" then became a important mail by rail route from Omaha to San Francisco.

In the era of this watch, references to the development of the American west and the railroads were highly valuable for marketing purposes because of their associations with progress and technology. It is likely that this was the association Elgin was going for here.

But back to this watch...

This warmer is used to cement the roller jewel in place. The hammer like end is held in an the open flame of an alcohol lamp. The heat transfers slowly, in a controlled manner, to the roller table and melts a tiny bit of shellac to hold the jewel.
The roller table is installed with the staking set using a special slotted, hollow, punch. The slot sits over the roller jewel (sometimes called a roller pin).

The balance staff in place, and the roller table installed, the balance is then checked for true round, true flat, and poise - which is even distribution of mass.

This ruby-jawed vice is used to test the poise. The balance wheel should sit still in any rotation. If it turns it will be because one part is heavier and will want to face down.

This caliper is used to check that the wheel is round and flat.
Here is the complete balance assembly.

The "new old stock" (NOS) seconds hand was far too loose and needed to be tightened. There are a few ways to do that, I usually use the tool shown here. The hour hand was also a bit loose. There is a different technique for that fix using the staking set.

Elgin factory parts are as standardized as they get, for their time. But they are not that good. It is very common to have to slightly alter a replacement part to work, even for factory parts.

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