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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 170063

This is an example of Elgin's grade 417, 3/0 size, 7 jewels, made about 1916.

The balance cock was pretty damaged from prior repairs. The threads on the stud screw were stripped and so someone put in a larger screw with a very uneven, worn out slot - very difficult to turn...


Then the hairspring was damaged too, bent at the stud and a cracked collet. I just replaced the spring assembly altogether. These smaller Elgins are so difficult to get going.
See the whole album for this project here.

Find more content about vintage watches here.


Job Number 170125

Here's a nice later model Hamilton, 992b, 16 size, 21 jewels, made about 1957.

Later American pocketwatches are interesting to work on because of how refined the designs are. Springs that needed to be stronger finally are. The steel seems higher quality. On this watch the difference between lever-set and stem set has been significantly simplified, no doubt reducing costs.


See the whole album for this project here.

Follow vintage watch service and repair projects here.



Find more content about vintage watches here
Also, there the Vintage Watches Community on Google+ here.

JS090


Left Behind

In all my time servicing watches, 6 have gone on paid for.  For some reason, they are all from several years ago. This hasn't happened in a long time.

Today, I got them all out of where there have been sitting "completed" for 7, 8 maybe 10 years. All need cleaning again.

Elgins from Walmart

Here's a question I get, more or less just like this, every couple of weeks...

Hello,
I purchased an Elgin mechanical watch from Walmart for $125 almost four months ago and it stopped working. Walmart offers a 90 day warranty with the watch purchase but I'm just passed that time and I lost the warranty booklet that came with the watch and can't find the information online anywhere. Knowing this watch has a 10 year warranty makes me feel good knowing that I can get it repaired. Please contact me anyway you choose all my contact information is below.
Thank you in advance

As readers here likely know, There is no Elgin company, not any longer. It doesn't exist. The mighty Elgin National Watch Company, as we knew, it ceased to exist in 1968. The factory was demolished not long after. Elgin has not made watches for over 50 years.  Since then though, the name has been owned and used by other companies for clocks and watches, but those products have no connection to with, and nothing what so ever in common with, the products of the original Elgin company.  Today as far as I know, the Elgin name is owed by a conglomerate called MZ Berger Inc. They have a website, but I have been told that they do not offer spare parts or repair services, but I don't personally know.

I think it's actually a high compliment to Elgin that the name is still of value for its association with timekeeping even after all these years. But I am also a little surprised that anyone looking at my website would think I could help them.

Although in all honesty, I truly have nothing against low cost watches. If you like the looks of a watch, and it keeps time, fine. I have, personally, no reason to bang around everyday wearing a work of art or a rare antique just to know when it's lunchtime. But I am a little surprised at the surprise of others when they learn that Walmart doesn't offer much after-sale service for a $100-$150 Chinese wristwatch.

Here's another one:

Dear Jeff,
I have tried to contact (in VAIN) where a complaint and/or having a Elgin watch PROPERLY fixed or replaced.
My partner bought a watch for my birthday, last year. To keep time, this model is a "self winding," which (as you know) does so when worn. I LOVE the idea and design. I had worn the watch for 2 months. It seemed to progressively loose 5 minutes about the third month. I would set it ahead, figuring a "hiccup" may have occurred. I have another standard watch I wear so I switch them out. The Elgin NOW goes from 8-10 minutes off. The issue has become WORSE.
I do NOT believe in blogging and "bashing" a corporation, without giving a chance to "make it right!" I would appreciate your intervention, on this issue and convey how to proceed. 

Or this one:

I bought an Elgin Watches at Walmart NJ 2 years ago the warranty of that watches is 10 years and the watches got rusty, stain on it and i dont get why. I worn it only 1 year and i stop worn it because the metal of the watch change significantly. I went to Walmart with it and they asked me to contact Elgin company.
I hope to hear from u asap


I save these emails. I have 100s or them.

New Arrival

Swiss made ladies wristwatch...

I don't usually do these.

Job Number 170061

Here is a South Bend, 16 size 21 jewels, grade 227, model 2 made about 1925.

It has an open face case, gold filled, with an unusual snap dust cover, and a double sunk dial with 24 hour marks.
As is typical of American bridged movements, the train bridge is really one parts, designed to look like three.

This watch has an interesting case. The back is threaded. Inside is a snap-fit dust cover though; completely separate parts.

Job Number 170060

These Walthams sure have a lot of winding/setting parts.

See the whole album for this project here.




These animations are made from 20 or 30 images taken in "burst mode" with my OnePlus One. Unfortunately, sometimes it decides to shift expose or white balance in the middle of a set of photos.
This is a 0 size, 15 jewel Waltham Seaside 1891 model, made about 1896.

Job Number 170058

Here is an Elgin grade 291 pocketwatch, 16 size, 7 jewels, made about 1929
See the whole album for this project here.


Find more horological content here!




Job Number 170056

Here are a couple "before" images. This is why watches need to be serviced regularly. All this dirt becomes abrasive and while ruin parts.
There is a lot of wear on this watch. The nickle finish is completely gone in places.
This is a look at the lever-set mechanism, under the dial.
Here is the underside of the balance cock, where divots have been raised, and then removed, perhaps multiple times. It'll never be "like new".

We can also see the serial number prefix Elgin used on all the major parts. It's a 'W' in this case.

It really unusual to see this dial and hand combination in such good condition.
This is a grade 102 Elgin, 18 size, 11 jewels, made about 1892

See the whole album for this project here.


Find more horological content here!


Job Number 170054

This spring is really often broken on six size Elgins. Fortunately I had a replacement handy.
Here's the replacement spring in place.
 ...and the rest of the rather over-complicated setting/winding mechanism on this grade. On more worn watches, more typical of this vintage, it can be difficult to get all this to work. Smaller Elgins from this era are notorious for not switching between winding and setting mode well, mostly due to the flat springs loosing their strength.
The wear and tear on this watch is remarkably low. In fact, I don't recall seeing an example of this mechanism in such good condition (I've gotten some really horrifying example to more or less work over the years). On this watch the "keyless works" works perfectly.

It might be that early on in this watch's life that spring broke, and nothing more was ever done to it.


This is an Elgin grade 134, 6 size, 15 jewels, made about 1896

Job Number 170052

This watch had a surprise. It's one of Elgin's 18 size designs were one of the plate screws is covered up by the barrel bridge. When I went to remove the screw, I found that the head was completely loose - broken off. It was just sitting in there, in the recess, held in place only by the bridge that covered it.
Fortunately the body of the screw was pretty loose too. I was able to just set the head on and get a turn or so in to start the body coming out, then remove it completely with tweezers. Weird...
The lower balance jewel was all chipped out on this one. It's hard to get a photo... There was some damage to the staff as a result of the hole in the jewel being ruined, but I think we've gotten to it in time (get watches serviced! Just because they run doesn't mean they are OK). The staff will be usable. I really don't like to replace parts unless it is really necessary. The world is running out of them.



See the whole album for this project here.

More content here.
This watch is a grade 288, 18 size, 7 jewels, made about 1908.


New Arrivals

New arrivals, including a Seth Thomas pocketwatch and a Bulova wristwatch.

I don't normally do these but it's a repeat customer that has sent several watches in the past.

New Arrival

This one arrived loose in its swing-out case, and missing the balance cock screw. Its in an unfortunate condition, but other than the staff and roller jewel being broken, and the hairspring damaged, it's in OK shape.

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

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