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 arrival...

There's a very good hunter case on this one. It was missing a crystal for awhile, hence the damage to the hands.

This is one reason getting a crystal for a watch that needs one is very important, even if you do not have the full service done at this time.

Two Elgins

These two B. W. Raymonds are in for routine service.

The Oregonian Clock

The Oregonian newspaper newspaper was originally headquartered at SW Sixth and Alder, in downtown Portland, from 1892 to 1948. In the tower of the building featured a clock manufactured by The E. Howard Clock Co. of Boston, Mass. It is a Number 4 Heavy Duty Hour Striker, serial # 1629, made in 1892,

In 1948 The Oregonian moved to a brand new building and the old building was boarded up to be demolished. The clock was to be sold for scrap.

Dr. Sam Graf,, then head of the engineering department at Oregon State College (now OSU) bought the clock for $300 and had it moved to Corvallis where it was stored in a garage for many years until its donation to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) back in Portland, where the clock was displayed but not maintained.

In 1995, OMSI moved to a new building, and again the clock was left behind.

In 1996, finally, due to the efforts of local members of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, the clock was completely restored in every detail. It is now located to a balcony at OMSI, in a marine sciences section, running and striking. It's hard to get good photos of it, but it's really something to see in person.

Suggested Jeweler and Watchmaker Price List of Genuine Elgin Watch Material

Suggested Jeweler and Watchmaker Price List of Genuine Elgin Watch Material, 1957

Adjusting Hands

From The American Horologist magazine, July, 1944

Adjusting Hands
By Hamilton E. Pease

During my twenty-eight years of experience in repairing watches I have noticed that horologists do not give as much attention as they should to fitting and adjusting the hands.

This would seem a very simple matter, and many seem to think that perhaps it is not important - that it does not matter much if the hands catch and the customer has to bring the watch in two or three times to have them properly adjusted. However, it seems that the average owner of a watch is quite ignorant of its mechanism and that if the watch stops on account of the hands catching, it makes little difference how carefully the rest of the work has been done, the job is unsatisfactory. The careful work that may have been put into resetting the escapement, poising the balance, etc., becomes entirely wasted. I have found that the following steps will eliminate all hand trouble, and all but the last one should be followed each time in assembling a watch.

They really begin with the cannon pinion, seeing that the friction and taper for the hand is right. Then, when the dial is put on, the holes must line up with the center staff and the fourth pivot. Next it is necessary to make absolutely sure that the dial is perfectly tight so that when the watch is turned over, the weight of it will not allow it to touch the second hand, or side play allow it to touch the second hand pipe. Then the hour wheel should be tested to see that it is absolutely free and the taper for the hand is right. It should be carefully tested for sideshake and endshake. I do not make a practice of using dial washer's unless they are necessary. If the top of the hour wheel pipe comes close to the minute hand shoulder on the cannon pinion, no washer is necessary. But if it is a cheap watch with too much space at this point and a considerable amount of space between the hour wheel and the underside of the dial, it is well to put on a dial washer. Now the second hand may be fitted. It should be friction tight when it is pressed on to a level close to the dial, but high enough above it so that light may be seen under its entire length. The watch should be allowed to run for a full minute and the second hand watched carefully to see that it does not touch anywhere on the dial. Although the second hand must be fitted tightly, it should be possible to turn it around to set the watch. It might not be out of place to mention here that in setting up the watch, the endshake of the fourth wheel should have been tested so that the up and down play of the second hand together with its pinion will be the correct amount.

The next step is to put on the hour hand. This should have a tapered hole to conform with the taper of the pipe, so that when it is pressed into place it will be rigid and not have a tendency to rock from side to side with the slightest pressure. The freedom of the hour wheel should now be tested again, as an hour hand put on tightly will often contract the hour wheel tube and make it bind although it was perfect before fitting the hand.

Next the hand should be adjusted to run as close to the second hand as possible, allowing for a safe amount of clearance, the test always being made with the second hand raised as high as the endshake of the fourth wheel will permit. The hour hand should be straight and parallel with the surface of the dial its entire length. The watch should be set around so that the hour hand will travel over the entire seconds bit, as a great many times an hour hand will be all right in one or more places, but the wheel carrying it will allow it to dip down onto the second hand at other places.

The minute hand may now be fitted. With most high-grade watches this should be pressed down on the cannon pinion as far as possible, but one must use his judgment on the individual job, as on some cheap watches it must be pushed only part way on to allow sufficient endshake in the hour wheel and hand. It must be carefully tested to make sure that it is absolutely tight. Some minute hands have become very slightly loose from being taken off and put on so many times, and can be made secure by just tapping lightly on the bottom with the three cornered punch. This hand also should be' straight excepting at the end, and there it should be curved down to conform to the curve of the crystal.
The watch should now be turned dial down over a mirror for the purpose of watching the hands, and be set. 

A Horological Review

From The American Horologist magazine, July, 1944

A Horological Review

It appears that some safeguard must be provided for the American public and American watch manufacturer against the flood of cheap, unreliable, unrepairable time pieces that are coming and will continue to come into the United States, the only cash market the world will have when the present war ends. Some agreement should be reached to eliminate America as the dumping ground for the country that produces immense quantities of the low grade, unrepairable imitation time pieces. Millions of these are now in trade channels and many hundred thousands have been sold to our armed forces. Several hundred thousand more were sold as waterproof, shockproof, and non-magnetic at exceedingly high prices, an unconscionable event and serious indictment of a section of American retail business.

We, therefore, beseech you in high esteem to search- your brave judgement for prompt adequate action.

The Horological Advisory Council have recommended and adopted the following proposals and are searching for a means of bringing them into effect on that segment of importation requiring regulation-the importation of watches, clocks, chronometers, chronographs or other time devices.

These proposals are based upon a premise: "The time piece is prime factor in every field of human endeavor." This being the case every watch imported to this country, either as a complete mechanism or to be assembled in this country should meet with requirement standards for dependable watches. Those watches smaller than 8 3/4 Lignes should be a jewelry item-not a dependable time piece. Those watches 8 8/4 Ligne and larger should be dependable time pieces.

We therefore propose that all watches 8 3/4 Ligne and larger imported to the United States shall upon receipt by the customs office be sent to the Horological Laboratory, Time Division, National Bureau of Standards, Washington, D. C. for test.

Those rating within limits of requirement standards shall receive seal .of approval to remain attached to the watch till its final sale, and shall be returned to the customs office subject to release for distribution and sale.

Those watches not rating within limits of requirement standards, customs, office shall order such watches returned to point of origin, or the watches may be released to importer for sale and distribution only as jewelry items. For every such model watch or time piece imported to the United States there shall be included in the import of watches an adequate supply of replacement or repair parts for such model watches as are in the shipment. 

It is therefore proposed that rating within requirement standard, and an adequate supply of replacement or repair parts for each model watch imported shall be deemed as evidence of admissibility. That every model watch imported into the United States shall have printed bulletins or catalogues showing size, shape, model, and number of all replacement parts. That such printed bulletins or catalogues shall be adequate for distribution with replacement parts to all supply houses dealing in replacement parts at the same time watches clocks or other timing devices are offered for sale or distribution in the United States.

These proposals are a fair and equitable· basis for a continued importation of watches, clocks, chonometers, chronographs, and/or other timing devices. They are fair to the exporter, importer, the American public, and our American watch factories. The American watch manufacturers have sacrificed the entire war period and the sale of their time pieces to the imported time pieces. It is high time the American manufacturer of watches was given a little elbow room in his own market, among his own people, for the sale of his product-the world's finest time pieces. These proposals are of _ the essence that a time piece carrying the laboratory rating seal shall come to have the same value to the time piece as sterling does to silver.

R. W. Applegate, Washington, D.C., Special Representative, United Horological Association of America.

Elgin Grade 349

Here's a nice Elgin grade 349, 18 size, 21 jewels, made about 1907.  
This movement features an unusual damascene pattern on the upper plates.

A new balance staff was needed to get this one going. It is a bit hard to see in this picture but the lower balance staff pivot (pointing up in this image) is bent over almost into a hook shape. How this happened I can't image. The jewels and the other pivot are OK.
The screws on this watch are nicely detailed with a chamfered edge.

Google Photos made this image from my pictures. It does that sometimes, randomly.

Horological Videos

I just added several good items to my links to horological videos, from this list. Looking for something to "watch"? Check out my Collection here!

Elgin Grade 350

There's an interesting prefix on the secondary serial number stamps on this movement. It's a stand in for "127".

More about Elgin serial numbers here.

This movement is a fine example of Elgin's railroad grade 350, 16 size, 23 jewels, made about 1907
This is a detail of the movement's motor barrel. See more examples here.

This is the top of the motor barrel, showing the mainspring arbor which is jeweled on this watch.

It's always a pleasure to see one of these fine timepieces.

Elgin Grade 93, Convertible

This is the train bridge from this 16 size Elgin convertible model. The watch had several problems. Here we can see that the upper 4th wheel jewel is missing. It was actually badly broken. In these photos, I have already thoroughly removed the old bits leaving the hole empty. In the closest image, it's the hole at the right that needs a new jewel.
Finding a replacement takes awhile, but it's not an unusual jewel so it's not too bad. The hole has to be the right size obviously, and the jewel has to be the right diameter. But the jewel also has to have the right profile on the outer edge for being bezeled into the plate, and it has to be the right thickness to get correct end-shake (up and down play) on the 4th wheel.

Also, yes, I do this repair the old fashioned way using the tool set shown.

 ...And the wheel moves freely.
This watch seems to have been assembled incorrectly at some point in the past. The mainspring was backwards, and in distorted from being (likely) finger-installed. It will be replaced.

This shape is a classic result of improper installation of the spring.
Elgin convertible grades were designed to be assembled in two configurations; either open face, or hunter. This was supposed to save on costs as the factory would not have to create two separate versions of each model. But it didn't really wok out that way as this movements has quite a few extra, specialized, parts and can be tricky to service correctly. The convertibles were eventually discontinued for that reason. Still it's a clever design, there is much to be admired.

Here we see the two layers of the barrel bridge, and the two alternate cut outs, one to the right and one below, for the winding arbor and main wheel. This watch, I am assembling in hunting case mode, with the winding arbor to the right.

The lever setting mechanism used by Elgin convertible grades is significantly different from other Elgins.

This watch had a broken setting lever spring. The remaining bit, and the replacement part, is shown here along with the screw that hold the spring in place.
Most of the lever action is actually on the back side of the movement rather than under the dial. Pulling the lever pushes up a pin that lifts a setting wheel (in the middle of the upper part of the barrel bridge) so it engages a back side center wheel that extends through the center, rather than the winding wheel.

A pin that pushes up through the movement to lift the setting wheel on the other side. I found the pin was jammed inside the hole that is used to let down the mainspring for some reason, instead of where is was supposed to be. At least it wasn't missing. The pin was also bent, but it will still work.

This movement is an Elgin grade 93, 16 size, 11 jewels, made about 1884.  
Find more convertible examples here!

Elgin Grade 478

This is an Elgin grade 478, 16 size, 21 jewels, made about 1924

This movement is one of Elgin's B.W. Raymond grades, a name the company used throughout its history for better lines.

Find more examples here.
Like any railroad grade watch, this one is lever-setting. It is not set by snapping out the crown. Lever setting movements were thought to be less prone to an accidental time change.

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

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