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.

Here are a few of my favorites!

There are some large images on some posts, so that might impact your load times, bit I think you will find it worth the wait. Thanks for visiting!

Elgin Grade 55

There are a few good tricks to getting a very difficult threaded pocketwatch case open. This case was one of the toughest I have encountered. The back was fine, but the front bezel resisted every attempt. I finally went with this method. It is usually the backs that are problems.

It's just what it looks like, a nut super-glued to the crystal. The crystal, luckily, is very tight and secure, it did not itself turn. If it had, I likely would have had to give up on this one.

Once the glue had sat for a day under some mild pressure to hold the nut still, the wrench opened the case. Amazingly, it still wasn't easy!

To do this, it has to be the "super-glue" type of glue. It is strong against lateral force and so will stay put while slowly applying pressure with the wench. Afterwards this type of glue releases and disappears easily in Acetone.

After removing the bezel, there was no clue as to why it was so tight. I expected to see glue or something, it was that tight. However, there were a number of little chips from the damaged dial. I think one of these might have been wedged in the threads.

How about some "before" images of the disassembly? We can see the condition is pretty rough, but it is all there.

Under the dial there are two secondary serial number stamps, all matching.
 All the teeth are broken off of the cannon pinion. It is completely destroyed.

This watch had a broken balance staff. This setup is used to remove the roller table. This is different from the tool I usually use because the solid balance wheel has three arms instead of two.

Also note that in the front facing part of the balance wheel there is a slight carve out along this, the under side. This is to poise the wheel, making its weight even on all sides.
Removing the balance staff proceeds as usual by cutting off the back hub. Extra care not to damage the silver balance wheel is called for.
Here is what's left of the staff after popping it off the wheel.
 The new staff is riveted on as usual.
This tool is used to tighten the collet of the hairspring slightly.

This watch is now running OK, but it is going to be very slow. There's nothing I can do about it. The balance is a bit out of flat and these are just too risky to try to adjust. They can't be replaced.
Here is the replacement cannon pinion. It is not exactly the right part, but we have to make do with what we can find.

The replacement cannon pinion is too tight.

I decided to go ahead and reduce the center arbor to fit a replacement cannon pinion. This is tricky because the friction-fit cannon pinion has to be snug enough that the hands turn as the center shaft does, but loose enough to allow slip when setting the time.  You can't put metal back if you reduce too much.
I gave the center wheel arbor a nice shine while I was at it
 Looks good.

This is one of those older American movements that uses one case screw with a pin on the other side. On this one the pin is intact for a change. It's the one problem this watch didn't have. It's amazing how often these are broken off. I have no idea why.
This watch has one of the heaviest solid gold cases I have ever seen.

Whew, a lot of non-trivial work went into this one. It's far from like new, but it's running.

This is an Elgin grade 55, 18 size, 7 jewels, made about 1871. It is a W. H. Ferry model. Unnamed versions of this grade have a split balance wheel.

Post a Comment

Click "Older Posts" just above for more, or use the archive links right here.

Blog Archive