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!

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Wrist Watch

New arrival...

Life of Watch 3 Months In Southwest Pacific

From The American Horologist magazine, June, 1945

Life of Watch 3 Months In Southwest Pacific

The necessity of channeling 2,600,000 wrist watches, with movements 8 3/4 ligne or larger, to Army post exchanges and ships' service stores in 1945 for resale to service men, and possible methods of assuring that importers can meet this requirement were discussed at the recent meeting of the American Watch Importers Industry Advisory Committee, the War Production Board reported today.

This quantity of imported watches - almost double the number required last year and about three times the number needed in 1943 - is intended almost exclusively for overseas distribution, for use in connection with combat operations, military representatives said. More watches are needed this year, they explained, not only because more men have been sent overseas, but also because increased distribution of watches results in a correspondingly larger requirement for replacements.

The average life of watches used under battlefront conditions is extremely short, military representatives emphasized. They said that a watch lasts only about three months in the Southwest Pacific, and somewhat longer on the European front.

Currently, under Order L-323, WPB assigns for distribution to the Army Exchange Service for Army and Navy resale 50 per cent of all imported, men's wrist watches with movements 8 3/4 ligne or larger and 50 per cent of all uncased movements in the same size range.

Committee members estimated that importation of watches and movements in 1945 would total between 5,250,000 and 5,500,000 units. Of these about half are expected by the committee to be men's watches. Since only 50 per cent of those suitable for military purposes, or less than 1,350,000, would be channeled to the Army Exchange Service under present WPB policy, military requirements could not be met, committee members said.

The difficulty of meeting total 1945 military requirements for imported watches was emphasized by committee members. Since watches normally cannot be delivered from abroad until about a year after they have been ordered, they explained, orders for increased quantities that might be placed now could not be delivered under 1946. Committee members pointed out that transportation difficulties and the scarcity of raw materials are additional complicating factors in the commerce between Switzerland and the United States.

The possibility of placing military orders for imported watches on a firm basis, by means of long-term contracts, similar to those placed for most other types of war goods, was discussed. Committee members said that orders from individual post exchanges and ships' service stores, since'they provide no guarantee of purchase, offer importers no protection against possible cancellation of orders following the defeat of Germany.

Military representatives emphasized that requirements for watches are expected to remain high until both Germany and Japan are defeated. They said, furthermore, that while it might be possible to place procurement of imported watches on a contract basis, importers then would be required to meet definite delivery. dates. Committee members said that the uncertainty of delivery of watches to importers would prevent them from meeting such contractual obligations.

Committee members mentioned that the supply of repair and replacement parts for civilian's imported watches is improving. They pointed out, however, that repair service is limited by the decreased supply of manpower. 

Elgin Grade 287

Here we can see the pivots on the balance staff, broken.
The pivots are very small needles of hardened steel, and are easily broken if the watch gets a sharp jolt. Often the jewels that form the bearings of the balance also get cracked if something happens. But on this watch they are fine.

The old staff is removed in the lathe. The back hub is first cut down to almost nothing.
The replacement staff is riveted to the balance wheel.

This shows checking the balance, and the new staff, for free motion in the movement, prior to putting the hairspring back in place. In this case I had to slightly adjust the arms of the balance down, and then make sure it was true to round and flat again.

Then the roller table and hairspring are then installed and the balance assembly is complete.

Elgin Grade 315

This is a typical Elgin grade 315, 12 size, 15 jewels, made about 1923

This watch had the balance staff replaced as part of its service and repair. The balance wheel then has to be true to flat and round. This caliper is used to check.

Material Supply

From The American Horologist magazine, July, 1944

Material Supply

Members of the Jeweled Watch Manufacturers Industry Advisory Committee have estimated that the supply of repair parts for civilian jeweled watches will be about the same in 1944 as it was in 1943, the War Production Board reported today.

WPB has declared a blanket MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Operating Supplies) rating invalid for clock and watch repair materials, including mainsprings, and does not contemplate assigning any preference ratings for such materials on Form WPB-541, WPB representatives told committee members. This section was effected by amendment of Priority Regulation 3 on June 23. 1944, they said, and is expected to result in more widespread distribution of clock and watch repair materials.

The continuing: need for increased quantities of railroad watches for use by railroad time service employes was emphasized by a representative of the Office of Defense Transportation. Unless the labor shortage in the industry increases in severity, deliveries of railroad watches are expected to be stepped up in the latter part of 1944, industry members said.

The time required to make railroad watches, they explained, averages about nine months. Increased demands therefore cannot be met quickly.

The problem of maintaining production of watches for the armed forces was also discussed. lAC members emphasized the importance of receiving orders at least six to nine months in advance of the date on which delivery is expected. The many operations required in the production of a jeweled watch are performed over a period of six to twelve months, they explained. Each operation requires a special skill, and workers cannot be shifted from one department to another. This means that at least a skeleton force must be maintained in each department. Unless orders are scheduled long in advance, workers in all departments cannot be kept busy at all times, and they may leave for other jobs. If the staff of any department is depleted, operations in that department as well as all succeeding operations, are delayed, and delivery of future orders is jeopardized, committee members said. 

To Prevent Oil From Creeping

From The American Horologist magazine, July, 1944

To Prevent Oil From Creeping

For clocks, meters, and other work which it is not desirable to immerse in the solution, it is sufficient to apply to the pivots, bearings, holes and other rubbing surfaces a pegwood nib or pencil brush dipped in the Epilame solution and allow the parts to dry before assembling. Remove, if necessary, any residue after evaporation, as described for watches.

In spite of its infinitesimal thickness, the Epilame deposit which covers the surfaces offers considerable resistance, and only a severe scratch or passing the parts through benzine would remove the coating, in which case it would be necessary to prepare the parts afresh in the bath after cleaning and before reoilng.

If after prolonged use the bath becomes cloudy owing to the presence of foreign matter deposited by the parts which have been immersed, all that is necessary is to pass the liquid through filter paper to restore it to its original condition.

Unfair Market practices Stopped

From The American Horologist magazine, July, 1944

Unfair Market practices Stopped

The Hamilton Watch Company, Lancaster, Pa., won another legal bout against unfair market practices on June 8, when the Superior Court of Cook County, Illinois, signed a decree prohibiting the Hamilton Ross Industries from using the names of Hamilton or Ross, or any combination or simulation thereof in the selling or advertising of their watches, thus ending such unfair competition.
The Hamilton Watch Company complaint was supported by an affidavit by W. Ross Atkinson, Vice President of the Company. It named the defendents as Hamilton Ross, Harry Zeidler and Henrietta Ross, co-partners, doing business as Hamilton Ross Industries.

The complaint contended that the defendents recently sponsored programs over Radio Stations WQXR and WL W, appealing to and urging the public to purchase the "Cary Grant" model of Rossmore watches, a division of the Hamilton Ross Industries; that this had caused distributors and dealers handling Hamilton Watches and the public to believe that the business of the defendent was the business of the plaintiff, and that the defendent thus attempted to unlawfully palm off their merchandise as that of the plaintiff, contrary to his express wishes and demands.

Hamilton Watch Company has won favorable court decisions on several occasions in recent years. Each time action was taken when the fine public acceptance of Hamilton Watches was challenged by unethical market practice by outside interests whose product promotions tended to confuse the public and infer such products were related to Hamilton products.

This constant vigilance to protect the name and· fine reputation that has been built through more than fifty years of successful merchandising of "Hamilton, America's Fine Watch," is assurance to the retail jewelers of America that their past investments in Hamilton are being safeguarded-that in the future finer Hamilton watches will continue to be potent with profit possibilities for them and set new standards of performance to assure even greater public satisfaction. 

New Transcontinental Speed Record Set By Two Army Planes, Timed Exclusively By Longines

From The American Horologist magazine, July, 1944

New Transcontinental Speed Record Set By Two Army Planes, Timed Exclusively By Longines

Colonel Clair Peterson, the personal Pilot of Lt. General "Hap" Arnold, piloted a P-51 North American Mustang fighter plane, fully equipped as if ready to go into battle with the Packard Rolls Royce 1520 h.p. Merlin Motor, arrived at LaGuardia Field 6 hours, 31 minutes and 30 seconds, after leaving Los Angeles, California, on May 12, 1944.

The official time as taken from a Longines stop watch which passed timing tests according to the rules and regulations of the Federation Aeronautique 'Internationale according to the Neuchatel Observatory Bulletin was 3:32 p. m. Eastern War Time, and exactly seven minutes later Lt. Colonel Jack Carter arrived in the same type plane, after making a non-stop flight.

Colonel Peterson spent six minutes and 25 seconds refueling in Kansas City and by having a lighter weight carrying plane actually made the record seven minutes faster than Lt.

Colonel Carter, who lost five minutes circling over the Los Angeles airport to check his retracted landing gear.

It took almost seven years to beat the record established by Howard Hughes in 1937, when he flew from Burbank, California, to Newark in 7 hours and 28 minutes, averaging 327.1 miles an hour. The epochal flight of Howard Hughes was also officially timed in 1937 with Longines watches, which are the only watches available in this country with the proper Certificate of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale Bulletin, issued by the Neuchatell Swiss Observatory.

John P. V. Heinmuller, President of the Longines- Wittnauer Watch Co., Inc., is also Chief Timer for the National Aeronautical Association. He was assisted in officially timing this flight by Fred Wilkinson, who acted as Timer for the National Aeronautical Association.

Following the last war Mr. Heinmuller helped organize the Timing Contest Board of the National Aeronautical Association, in harmony with chronometric specifications of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale and became Chief Timer of this organization, the position he still holds today. Among the outstanding flights he timed with Longines watches were those of every major wor1cl record established in the last fifteen years. Mr. Heinmuller's new book "Man's Fight to Fly" with the chronological history of aviation has just been published by Funk and Wagnalls. It is heralded as the most outstanding aviation book published thus far. These one motored fast pursuit planes called "MustangP-51" will no doubt in the near future fly directly to Europe. The plane has a wing span of 37 feet and a four blade propeller. It can travel 30,000 feet high at which approximate altitude the Transcontinental flight was made.

Accredited Horological Schools

From The American Horologist magazine, July, 1944

Accredited Horological Schools

American Academy of Horology,
226-228 16th St., Denver, Colorado American School of watchmaking, 3903 San Fernando Road, Glendale, 4, California.

Bowman Technical School, 
Duke & Chestnut Sts., Lancaster, PennsylvanIa.

Bradley Polytechnic Institute, 
Peoria, Illinois.

California School of Precision Instruments, 
2002 Venecia Ave., Los Angeles, 25, California.

Elgin Watchmakers' College, 
267 So. Grove Ave., Elgin, Illinois. 

Kansas City School of Watchmaking, 
109-111 East 31st St., Kansas City, Missouri.

Milwaukee Vocational School, 
1015 N. Sixth St., Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

St. Paul Vocational School, 
14th & Jackson Sts., St. Paul, Minnesota.

The above schools have been accredited by U. H. A. A. Schools Accrediting Committee. All accredited schools have been examined by a personal committee and not via correspondence.
Only schools duly accredited by U. H. A. A. are recognized by Oregon, Minnesota, and Wisconsin Licensing Boards. 

That's My Invasion

From The American Horologist magazine, July, 1944

It's your invasion too, buy more bonds today

The Separation of Static and Dynamic Beat

From The American Horologist magazine, July, 1944

The Separation of Static and Dynamic Beat
By Emanuel Seibel

To begin with, we are speaking of a good grade of watch in good mechanical condition.

What is good mechanical condition, you may ask.

First, it must be clean. Then we must have positive train freedom, but this freedom must be correct, not because pivots are sloppy but endshakes and sideshakes must be correct; these pivots must be well polished. Wheels must be absolutely round. Barrel arbor must fit as snugly as possible without bind. Center wheel must be upright; all wheel teeth straight without burs; pinions polished so that all frictions are reduced to a minimum.

Then your escapement must be set up as light as possible with safety.

Drops equal, lock and slide as light as you can make it, draw positive.

Roller jewel properly fit to fork slot and your guard sure, and the closer you can make pallet and balance shakes alike, the better you are off.

Now we are ready for poise. Most watchmakers poise to a square that is four points,-some to eight points or a double square. First, the balance must be absolutely true, round and flat. Before we attempt for poise, if the watch has the original staff in it, it should not require much, if any, poising; if a staff is being replaced, and old staff is turned out of wheel and properly staked fast, it should not need any, or very little, but poised it must be.

When you are satisfied it is as close to poised as it can be ,gotten, you have your static poise, or poise in rest.

Now, you put on your hairspring and your static poise is disturbed because your collet, to begin with, is not poised in itself and cannot be, for it has a slot in it, and if it is not a proper fit to Hairspring shoulder and is forced on staff, it is spread and the condition is aggravated. 

The spring, which is spiral, cannot be poised. Remember, the wheel itself is in poise at rest, but the complete assembly of wheel and spring has disturbed this static poise and we must get this assembly in dynamic poise (that is, in poise under power, or in motion). This is where the Watchmaster comes in.

Now, remember, the Watchmaster will not do it, and cannot do it. It can only indicate the trouble; and how you may correct it, is in your ability to interpret the readings of your Watchmaster and make the indicated adjustments.

Your balance under motion to function properly must have a turn and a quarter of vibration and we find that unless the hairspring is properly centered, positively true in round and flat and the pinning point correct so that it developes correctly, and breathes as it were, equally in all directions, you have unequal pushes and pulls in the spring, which disturb the rate and beat of your watch.

Just because your fork and roller are absolutely in line and in the absolute middle of the bankings, does not indicate that it is in beat, for the relationship of your pallets and roller may look correct in static condition, but when power is applied, your balance may pull to one side or the other and not start, and until you get this relationship of pallets to roller correct, it will not pull equally to either side and start. When this is correct, a watch in good mechanical condition will start off at the first twist of the crown. 

After a balance has been poised on a poising tool, equally weighted at every degree of the circle, balancing perfectly in all positions around the axis that balance is in "Static Poise" or in a state of equilibrium. (See Page No.6 in the Book. "12 Thousand Hours").

Counter poise, in the "Static Sphere" means you actually take off or add weight.

The average watchmaker will use four corners, or one square when poising a balance. The more critical workman will use eight corners or two squares. (See Drawing at Top).

It is true that often in poising a balance you start with the screws that are too far in to the center, and when you do this the balance will be under-compensated; naturally if you start with the screws that are too far away from center the balance will then be over-compensated. You must have compensation in "Static poise" or balance that will match as near as possible, the ability of hairspring in "Dynamic Poise", after you have this combination you never destroy static poise by moving or changing screws. 

After hairspring and collet have been added, and placed in watch, we then have the "Moving Element", when this, takes motion we are then concerned with "Dynamic poise".
(See Page No. 6 in the Book. "12 Thousand Hours").

Counter poise, in the "Dynamic Sphere" means, control of equilibrium in motion, and the control of this force is attained by changing the level of hairspring and push and pull under dynamic power. (See Page No.7 in the Book. "12 Thousand Hours").

Take a look at simple drawing at top. First we use the "Static Poise" and accept it as being correct. Then we check the watch on the Watchmaster. In motion we see the rate is good in all positions except P. R. & P. 1. Records show P. R. 5 Sec. slow and P. L. 5 Sec. fast. We instantly know that the "Push & Pull" of hairspring are not equal at these positions, where the "Push" develops towards the rim more than the "Pull", at that position the watch will run slow. Naturally at opposite position the watch will run fast. You simply cause the hairspring to have same ability in both positions. You do this with "Dynamic" counter-poise and NOT by changing screws and distorting your already correct 'static' counterpoise. 

Google Photos, Text, and Unfinished Elgin Plates

I didn't realize that Google Photos can add, and organize, text blocks interspersed with images in an album. This might provide me with a way to post the Watch Project images I currently collect on Google+ when Google+ drops the classic UI, finally killing off its photo support.

View my sample unfinished plates album here.

Elgin Employee Relief Fund

Elgin was a modern company in its day. It first adopted a "relief fund", a sort of insurance system, for employees in 1919. This guide to the fund is from 1941.

Alarm Clocks

From The American Horologist magazine, July, 1944

Alarm Clocks

The clock making industry, which has been almost entirely out of civilian production during the war period, will be represented by six men, whose appointment to the Clock Manufacturers' Industry Advisory Committee to the Office of Price Administration was announced today by the agency.

OPA said that the clock manufacturers have been doing an outstanding war production job, turning most of their facilities to making' precision instruments and other war materials for the Army and Navy. Only nonwar production was small quantities of "war" alarm clocks. 


From The American Horologist magazine, July, 1944

B. W. Heald, Jeweler Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Many Watchmakers were surprised and displeased upon learning that the President of ANRJA, addressing conventions of State Jewelers Associations, warned against Watchmaker Licensing.

It was difficult for me to understand how ANRJA could decide to oppose licensing without first making a full investigation of the success or failure of such legislation in the states where it is now in effect. To my knowledge the State Jewelers Association in such states are supporting the licensing program.

Investigation discloses that the President was actually opposing the recommendations of his own association and that the studied opinion of ANRJA supports licensing. In 1937 and 1938, the National Convention of ANRJA passed resolutions approving Watchmaker licensing. In 1939 at the National Convention, the following resolution was passed by ANRJA:

"Resolved, that the American National Retail Jewelers Association does wholeheartedly approve and endorse the trend towards the enactment of legislation Registering or Licensing Watchmakers, similar to that in force in the State of Wisconsin.

That we respectfully recommend to all associations and organizations of Jewelers in all the various states of the Union that they exert their influence to obtain similar legislation in the irrespective states and to assist Watchmakers in the attainment of this end." 

The records of ANRJA do not show any reversal of this endorsement and I understand from other officers that the President is expressing his own personal opinion and not that of the Association. Also that he is opposed to any and all regulation, activity urging the repeal of Regulation Wand all governmental regulations. It is not clear whether this opposition extends to the Federal Constitution, the Bill of Rights and possibly the Ten Commandments.

Even though the President makes known the fact that he is expressing his own opinion, the fact remains that in appearing before State Associations of Jewelers, he is introduced as President of ANRJA and represents the National Association. In accepting the honor of the office of President, he also assumed certain responsibilities and obligations. Among these is the restriction oft his expression of his personal opinion before associations in the trade, if such opinion is contrary to the official determination of the National Association.

It is very apparent that serious, possibly irreparable damage has been done to the program of Watchmaker Licensing and that this damage has been done in the name of ANRJA. As a member of that Association, I protest the misuse of the office of President.

Might I invite ANRJA to study more fully the Licensing of Watchmakers, the Accrediting of Watchmaker Trade Schools and the entire program for the advancement of the Trade and raising of standards to the benefit of all persons legitimately engaged in the retail jewelry business.

Information Please!

From The American Horologist magazine, July, 1944

Information Please
Directed by 
W. H. Samelius, Chairman 
Science of Horology and Technical Advisory Board

HRG: I have an Illinois 60 hour Bunn Special watch. Please advise if this watch should be wound every 24 or 48 hours?

Ans.- In all watches the maianspring power delivered varies throughout the running period of the watch. By designing the watch to run 60 hours, the variation of power during the first 24 hour period is less than the variation of power during the latter 24 hours so for that reason, as the mainspring delivers more constant power for the first 24 hour period, it is advisable to wind the watch each 24 hours. If you accidentally omit winding the watch after the first 24 hours, it naturally will keep running until the end of its running time, but the time piece is very likely to take a different rate during the latter part of the run, therefore, we repeat, to obtain a constant rate, it is best to wind your watch each 24 

JIT: When a watch is marked adjusted to heat and cold, 5 positions and isochronism, what is meant by isochronism?

Ans.- The word "isochronism" is derived from the Greek word meaning "equal time." As applied to a watch or timekeeping instrument, the term "Isochronism" means that the time or rate would be constant throughout the 24 hour period, that is, it will have a constant gain or a constant loss for each hour of the day. Theoretically, a balance and hairspring should oscillate at the same rate whether the arc of motion is low or high, meaning that the balance should return to center in the same length of time, regardless if the arcs are unequal during the 24 hours due to the variation of power. The resistance of the hairspring must be equal to the force of the balance. As all hairsprings are not isochronal; it is some. times necessary to test several hairsprings before one is found that will prove itself isochronal throughout the range of balance arc. The length of the hairspring has a great deal to do when striving for isochronism.

HMU: A friend informs me he always puts oil on a roller jewel? 'Is this good practice?

Answer - Oiling the roller jewel is bad practice as the oil soon turns black or will thicken or gather dust, which will soon have effects on the watch. If oiling the roller jewel was the proper thing to do, I am sure all watch factories would adopt that method, however, up to date, you will find all watches as delivered by the manufacturers, are left with the roller jewel dry.

YKG: When inserting teeth m clock wheels, is it advisable to use hard solder?

Answer - When inserting a tooth in a clock wheel, a dove tail slot is cut into the rim, a wedge filed to fit the slot and held fast by spreading or riveting the wedge to place. If hard solder· is used, the heat would take the hardness away from the teeth of the wheels when they would very likely bend over and cause trouble when the wheel is put into service. It is even advisable to avoid using soft solder when inserting teeth into clock wheels.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, an HOUR glass was standard equipment in the church, so the sermon wouldn't last too long. 

Damaged Mainspring

This is a mainspring damaged likely as a result of installation with plain old fingers instead of a proper mainspring winder. Deformed and unusable...

Three New Arrivals

More Elgins in for service...

Also New

This is another Elgin in for service. This one is fresh from getting a new bezel made by Peter Wuischard. He is the source I usually recommend for case repairs.


New arrival, for service...

Pair of Elgins

New arrivals...

These two are not only the same Elgin grade, but also have the same cases.

Elgin Grade 320

This is Elgin's grade 320, 0 size, 7 jewels, made about 1904
The secondary serial number stamps are prefixed with an X with two dots.

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