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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.

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!

New Arrivals

 Two of the latest Elgins in for service...

Elgin Grade 540

This is Elgin's motor mainspring barrel, used on railroad watches, and higher end movements generally.

The moving part for winding and for running, in this design, are separate. The jeweled bearing on which the barrel turns in independent of the winding arbor.


Threes screws attach the ratchet wheel to the arbor, for winding.

This watch is a grade 540, 16 size, 23 jewels, made about 1940. It is marked for marked for Benjamin Wright Raymond.



There are several types of pocketwatch cases, but one of the most common open-face types has three parts. There is a front bezel with the crystal, a middle ring that holds the movement, and a back. The front and back tread on to the middle part.
They don't get much better... These watches represent the height of timekeeping technology of their day.


Open face vs Hunter

What are the differences between open face and hunting movement and cases?


Elgin Grade 291

In the past someone must have either lost or striped the screw in the balance cock that hold the hairspring stud in place.
There's a great big screw in there, looks like a dial foot screw.

The "beat" was way off on this one. A watch is said to be "out of beat" when the idle, centered position of the balance wheel is not centered in the pallet folk. As a result, the wheel turns more to one side than the other, wasting power. You can actually hear this in the pattern of ticking without much difficultly if you get used to it.

The fix is to rotate the hairspring collet a tiny bit until the balance wheel is even.

This is Elgin's grade 291, 16 size, 7 jewels, made about 1907

Elgin Grade 541

These parts are from a grade 541 Elgin. It's a 21/0 size, 15 jewel movement, made about 1949




Photography is unforgiving on small items like watches. And for the really small ones, it's difficult to get a good photo (without breaking out a real camera).

Blogger Broken

Today I noticed that Google Blogger has stopped displaying the side bar. Completely. The layout is an uncustomized Google provided template. It just doesn't working anymore.

So for the time being I moved everything that was on the side bar down to the bottom. The layout is now awful, but at least all the content appears, until I can figure out a work around. Sorry for the mess. I don't expect Google is actually maintaining Blogger at this point.

Elgin Grade 315

Elgin's grade 315 was one of their most successful products. It is a 12 size movement, 15 jewels, this one made about 1926


Silver-Lined Blackout Bulb Designed

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, February, 1942

 Silver-Lined Blackout Bulb Designed


Designed for blackout lighting in air raids, the new Wabash Blackout bulb just announced by the Wabash Appliance Corporation, Brooklyn, N. Y., provides downlighting in a soft beam of blue light that is safe for indoor visibility during blackouts. The bulb is lined inside with a pure silver reflector lining that hides all filament glare and projects the light down·ward. Light leaks are prevented by a black silicate coating that covers the bulb up to the extreme lighting end which is a deep blue. The new bulb consumes 25 watts and will list at 45c. 


Waltham Grade 625, 1908 model.

This balance wheel is not only seriously dirty but is has, not too long ago, been slathered in some sort of ordinary oil. In fact the whole movement was nearly dripping with it. That doesn't work. And it's a pain to get clean.

This Waltham has the "keyless works", the winding/setting mechanism, that a lot of Walthams have called a shipper. It has to be assembled with care to avoid losing the spring.
In this image, the round clamp holding the shipper is in place.




Watch Conversion

Here's a nice article about the increasingly popular conversion of antique pocketwatch movements to wristatches.

http://www.wbur.org/2016/02/22/startup-waltham-watchmaking

Two things...

First, wristwatches and vintage pocketwatches are different in several ways. It's important to know what you are getting into before buying something like this.

Second, it seems like most of the people doing this don't know much about the repair and service of vintage watches.


Elgin Grade 320

This is a great example of Elgin's grade 320. It is a 0 size, 7 jewel movement made about 1905

These movements are found cased as both pocketwatches and early wristwatches.
This watch's serial number begins with "111", and the prefix on the underside of the balance cock looks more like three lines.

These hand done inlay dials are fragile and often cracked, mostly due to over tightened dial foot screws. This one is in excellent shape!


Elgin Grade 94

Here is a nice example of Elgin's grade 94, 6 size, 11 jewels, made about 1890




New Arrivals

Two Elgins new in the queue...

Elgin Grade 96, Before Images

I took some "before" images of this one while disassembling it. This condition is pretty typical of a watch that has not been serviced in awhile.
You can see the old oil, gummed up with grid and lint. Often they look like this and actually run - which is really bad for them. This one did not run, but it looked mechanically OK.

In this image, we can see the lever setting mechanism.
I didn't find anything broken. There's a small amount of rust on the lever setting parts, but it was not bad and came right off.





The watch is Elgin's grade 96. It is an 18 size movement, 7 jewels, made about 1886




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