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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!

Job Number 170048

This watch is a grade 290, 16 size, 7 jewels, made about 1914.

Here's a look at the secondary serial number stamps on the underside of the pallet bridge (Elgin called this part a bridge, a cock is probably more technically correct? Since it does not anchor on both sides of the pivot...).

See the whole album for this project here.

Much more here.


Even More New Arrivals

Four more in for service, including a Burlington, which you don't see everyday...

Job Number 170047

This one is a grade 479, 12 size, 17 jewels, made about 1928.

It's one of the "thin" as size designs that were popular at the time.
This is a one-piece double roller. These are easier to work with than the two-piece versions.




Job Number 170045

Here is a grade 291, 16 size, 7 jewel Elgin pocketwatch, made about 1918
Here's a detail showing the broken pivot on the balance staff. This balance features a double roller - meaning there are two disks below on the balance. The main one, with the roller jewel, or pin, and the guard which protects against over-banking. On this balance the roller is one piece. That makes it easier to get on and off, and there's no worrying about the alignment of the guard.

See the entire album for this project here. And more horological contents here. Also, follow along with vintage watch repairs here.

The new staff is riveted to the balance wheel using the stacking set.


New Arrivals

Two E. Howards (Keystone) in for routine service...

The Howard brand is sometimes a source of confusion. The E. Howard Watch Company began in 1858 in Boston. But all its trademarks, and no patents, were sold to the Keystone Case Company in 1902.

Keystone then continued on producing E. Howard branded pocketwatches, although the later products are completely different from the earlier Howards. Watches from the earlier incarnation of the Howard company are significantly more rare than the later examples like these.

See more examples here.

Job Number 170043

Here is the dial side of an Elgin grade 266, 18 size, 17 jewels, made about 1897.
This a blob of brass solder (?) on the underside of the arm that switches winding/setting when the lever is pulled out. I'm not sure what that's all about. I guess it would hold the minute wheel down, but what's it fixing?

Creative repairs...


The underside of the mainspring barrel has a Geneva stop. As is so often the case, it it missing the cam. This is so common on Elgins that I think either they left the factory that way, or watchmakers frequently removed and discarded them for some reason. The part missing does not impact the watch functionally at all.


See more examples of Elgin's Father Time movements here.

See the entire album for this project here. And more horological contents here.




Job Number 170042

 Here's some details of this watch's lever-setting mechanism, under the dial
This is a grade 367, 18 size, 21 jewels, made about 1911.  
A motor barrel of course... More about that here.




Both the upper and lower cap jewels on the balance staff are diamonds. This is the lower one, under the dial.


See more examples of Elgin's Father Time movements here.

More horological contents here.


Job Number 170041

Here is a grade 252, 18 size, 21 jewels, made about 1901
Assembling one of these is not for the faint of heart. The pivots of the pallet and escape are very fine, all with cape jewels. Sleight pressure will snap them. Everything have to be lined up for the upper plate to go one.
After putting the upper plate in place, I noticed that one of the pallet stone was loose! Well, apart it come again to fix that. The stone are held with melted shellac, heated over an alchol flame with this warmer.
This plate screw has an unfinished head. It gets covered up by the balance cock when the movement is fully assembled.
Here is the fancier plate screw, polished and chamfered.

The pivots on the replacement staff are just a little too large. I took them down a little to get the balance wheel to move completely free.

The old broken staff is removed using the lathe to cut away the hub, opposite the riveted side. Normally, this is cut away to almost nothing, then popped off with he staking set, leaving the old staff and a tiny washer that is all that's left of the hub. With a real sharp graver though, on larger watches like this, I sometimes free the balance completely with the lathe. It takes just the right touch to do this without scraping the balance arms, but it can be done.

I went to put the balance on and saw that one of the regulator pins is missing! More to do...


The roller table is then reseated. This one is missing the roller jewel. I'll replace that next.
This is the tool used to hold a balance assembly, hairspring removed, and heat the roller table, melting shellac, to hold a roller jewel.
I got lucky this time and got the new roller jewel positioned just right on the first try. I usually have to reheat the shellac and straighten the jewel a couple of times.

See the complete album for this project here.

See more examples of Elgin Father Time watches here.

Find more horological content here.

Here is a pretty clear image of the ruby-red roller jewel (also called an impulse jewel or pin) on the roller table, on the completed balance assembly.




Job Number 170040

This one is another to feature Elgin's motor barrel. More examples here.

The watch is a grade 367, made about 1911.



This is a Father Time model, a name Elgin reserved for it's most high-end products.

See the whole album for this project here.
Find more horological content here.


It's hard to see, but the upper balance cap jewel is a diamond chip. There's no functional reason for this, it's just a nice touch.

Again it's hard to photograph, but there appears to be a watchmaker's mark left near the main wheel. Odd location choice...



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

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