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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 49, Convertible

This watch initially had a broken mainspring. This is the old, broken spring and the new replacement.
An Elgin convertible grade can be assembled in two ways. It can be either a hunter movement, having the stem 90 degrees from the seconds hand, Or as an open face movement, having the stem at 180 degrees from the seconds.

These parts make up the barrel bridge of the Elgin convertible. The wheel to the left sits in the middle, the smaller wheel below can go in either of two locations inside the two halves of the bridge. It is a beveled wheel, so it engages the winding arbor.
This close up of the lower plate shows the two cut outs available for the winding arbor, one to the right, and one at the bottom.
In this instance the watch is assembled with the winding arbor sticking out below.

Also of note is that Elgin convertible movements have a male stem in the movement and call for a case with a square hole in the stem. Most Elgin watches are the reverse in that the case will have the male part.

Cases for these Elgins are very rare. There are many bare movements out there whose cases were destroyed and lost forever.
This wheel is set in either of two places. It engages the arbor, and the mechanism in the middle of the barrel bridge.

This is the pallet fork and its bridge. The next image shows these parts in place.



With the dial installed, we can see that the winding arbor sticks out at 12:00.
There are many types and variations of pocketwatch case designs. This one is a very heavy, high quality open face case, in gold, with a triple-hinge body. The back include an inner cover called a "dust cover", and an outer cover. The front is also hinged to allow access to the setting lever (under the dial at about 5:00). This case has the unusual addition of a front bezel ring, under the crystal instead of holding the crystal. This bezel protects the edge of the dial when the front is open.
Here is the case, having the square hole in the stem.

On a more typical American pocketwatch, a square arbor would be sticking out from the neck of the case.


The unique convertible grades were designed by the Elgin National Watch Company to save manufacturing costs. The company could make just one version of the movement, rather than both a hunter and an open face model. And all the parts are the same in either configuration.

This didn't really work out in practice. These watches are trickier to work with and have more parts than the usual types. The idea of making just one movement for both types was dropped.
This watch is an Elgin grade 49. It is 16 size, 15 jewels, made about 1879.

See more examples of the convertible grades here!

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