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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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Watch Bench Problems

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, January, 1946

Keep Bench Apron Out

To keep the bench apron out while working. take a coil spring, fasten the ends on each side if the slide of apron; slide a piece of a chain, metal, or a piece of leather with 2 or 3 holes, over the spring to adjust the tension. Fasten' the hook exactly in middle of the apron frame; hook up the spring and the apron stay out. Unhook to push it back. Of course, it can be made in many different ways; use your own ingenuity, See sketch.

Truing Calipers

Herewith is a "Truing- Caliper" idea which I think is self-explanatory. 

I have been using my staking tool in practically the same way so I know this will work so much better. Besides you have so many combinations of stakes to choose from.


Waterproof Crowns

This is about a watch that has a two-piece stem, where the receiving part stays in the movement and the other part stays in the crown, but fit together in a tongue shape, which must be disassembled by a forceful pull of the crown. an put together or assembled by pressing the crown down, or in reverse manner.



This watch has a fake back which you can pry off, but you will find a solid back under it and cannot get at the movement from the back. In order to get at the movement you must first pull the stem apart by the crown and then lift the crystal off, and the movement will be ready to fall out. In other words-when the stem is broken in this watch it becomes a major problem because it has been most difficult to get this part from the present source of supply. Therefore, here is where I find the fake back of the case to be of real service.

After the movement is removed from the case and the fake back is also removed, we can locate the position behind the detent screw of the movement and drill a hole in the same location of the solid back of the case. This will allow us to loosen or tighten the detent screw with a screwdriver, and therefore allow us to fit a one-piece stem, supply of which are more abundant, or much easier to- make.


The fake back of the case now becomes of real service because it actually covers up a hole and enables us also to remove or fasten the stem through the back of the case, which was not possible before. 

To Tighten Cases

The number of cases that 'we do not close tight and leak dust into the movement, that have been coming to my bench, have made it necessary to construct the following tool:


I took an ordinary pair of chain nosed pliers and ground them off to give a short, stout, square ann smooth jaw. Next, I had soldered a small steel rod to the inside of one jaw near the end and ground a groove in the opposite jaw so as to make a positive and negative die to renew the snap grooves found on the case. I found that in order to get around all types of cases, it best to grind a hollow t back from the tips to allow me to work around rolled edges in the case, etc.
The illustration will help to explain the design.

To Fit Crowns Properly 

From time to time articles have appeared in your magazine on the proper way to fit crowns to watches.

Now I know that at times it is impossible to fit the crown as it should fit and a compromise must be made. However, none of your articles have made mention of the proper way to fit crowns so that they will not unscrew and become lost.


Illustrated above is a way to fit a crown so that the friction at (b) is not the only friction preventing the crown from unscrewing. The majority of the friction should be at (a) and the diameter of the crown tube should be no larger, at the lower end, at least, than the diameter of the shoulders of the stem, as at (c) in the first illustration.

If the diameter of the crown tube is too large at the lower end. friction with the movement plates of the watch will be the result as is shown by the arrow in (c) at left.


I have seen many crowns lost that have been fitted as in illustration (b) but I have never seen one lost when the fitting was as in (a). In fact, I have fitted them as in (a) and found them very difficult to unscrew intentionally while the stem was maintained in a mandrel. 


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