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 170025

Take a look at the history of many scores and divots under the balance cock in these "before" images. This movement has been through some trials.

Elgin made an awful lot of 12 size pocketwatches, but this is a slightly less common, and higher end, grade 477. Made about 1926.

Elgin Grade 214

This next watch is an Elgin grade 214, 18 size, 23 jewels, made about 1903

The movement is a great example of one of Elgin's Veritas models.
These are among the best watches of their time.

Find more examples here.

This is a 23 jewel watch; the barrel arbor is jeweled on both ends.
There's a lot of extra finish work on this movement.

 The rounded tops of the pallet jewels are sure a nice touch.
There is even a brushed finish on the top of the center wheel.
This view of the top of the mainspring barrel shows the three screws holding the ratchet wheel.
This movement has all the bells and whistles, including a motor barrel. One of the three upper screws for the barrel has been replaced with this one that has the incorrect thread and also the head is beveled on the underside. These screws are really small and I suspect watchmakers lose them. I has seen them missing or replaced many times on these watches. I replaced this screw with a correct one.

More about the motor barrel here.

Here is an image showing the setting lever mechanism on the dial side.

Here the lever is pulled out causing the clutch to slide in toward the middle of the movement where it engages with the setting wheels.
Here the lever is pushed in. The clutch moves out engage the beveled pinion, which winds the watch.

It would be nice to put these two images in one post but the "classic" Google+ interface can't do that anymore, while the new interface can not create this post as a link the the album.

Job Number 170015

This is an example of Elgin's grade 390, 18 size, 21 jewels, made about 1911. It is a high grade B.W. Raymond model, railroad approved.
The upper barrel arbor on this watch (it has a motor barrel) has an unjeweled bezel that sits just like in the jeweled version of this assembly.

This shows the upper barrel arbor in place, which the barrel bridge installed.

Elgin Grade 221

Here we can see the center wheel and how it engages, by safety pinion, the mainspring barrel. Next along the train are the third wheel, the fourth wheel (the second hand) and the escape wheel.
This is what they mean by marking the movement "safety pinion". The center wheel pinion is threaded on, rather that riveted. If the mainspring breaks and the mainspring barrel flies in the opposite of normal direction, it rapidly unscrews this pinion which in just a few turns lowers enough to disengage from the barrel. When it does, the train "down stream" is then isolated  and saved from potential damage.
 Assembled and screwed together; the complete center wheel and pinion.

This swing-out case has a stem, and sleeve, then a washer or spacer, then a cap, and then the crown.

Note that the stem on this case is not adjustable.
The movement mounts to a ring that is hinged to the case. The back and middle of this style of case are one solid part.
This movement has a small issue in that when the crown is snapped inward it does not always fully engage winding mode. Vintage American watches like this are negative setting. On these, the snapping in and out is a function of the case entirely. The movement is spring loaded to naturally be in setting mode. pushing the stem in pushes the watch to winding mode and the "snap" holds it there. The snap is a function of a spring in the case neck.

This setup makes cases mostly interchangeable, but to work the stem sometimes has to go further inward, or less inward when snapped in. Cases provide a way to adjust the sleeve in and out so the motion of the stem adjusts to the particular watch.

Here we have a problem. This case is not adjustable, not at all! The sleeve, usually threaded, just sits on a cutout inside the neck of the case. It's position is fixed.

The watch is just going to have to live with the slight engagement issue.

Aside: Swiss style *positive setting" mechanisms, such as modern wristwatches have, avoid this problem by making the snapping mechanism a function of the watch movement. Cases are not as interchangeable, but no adjustment is needed either.

This watch is an Elgin grade 221, 16 size, 15 jewels, made about 1902

Waltham 1894 Model

This movement is a Waltham 12 size, 15 jewels, 1894 model, grade 220.

This is the balance wheel with the single roller and the hairspring removed. It's a little hard to see but the hub in the center is blued steel. This signifies, on these Walthams, that this is a friction staff. It should not be cut off in the lathe. The hub is actually part of the balance wheel, not the staff at all. The old staff is to be pushed out in the staking tool.
The balance wheel gets push on to the new staff. It's critical to have the right sized stacks for this job to avoid distorting the balance wheel, or worse. It is also pretty snug, so it's important to go slow.
 This is the balance wheel, broken staff removed, the hairspring, roller table, and the replacement staff. The replacement part has a tiny bit of rust. It will just take a minute to clean it up in the lathe. Quick polish is all it needs...
 These are the parts of Waltham's "shipper" mechanism used for winding/setting on many models and sizes of Waltham pocketwatches. It's a little tricky to work with, without sending the shipper spring flying, but it's not bad once you get used to it. Correctly assembled it works better than other designs I have seen too.
 Here is the arbor and clutch.
And here are all these parts carefully put in place. They get covered and held by a clamp.

These are the parts of a Waltham motor barrel, or safety barrel.

This case is called a "cushion case" because of the rounded square shape.

Job Number 170014

The motor barrel arbor bearings are jeweled on this movement. Normally, I would not have the jewel in place at this point in assembly. The jewel bezel sits in a recess in the barrel top. Nothing really holds it until the barrel clamp, with its three screws, is in place. Now and then though I run into one of these where the jewel seems somehow stuck to the barrel. As far as I know they did not do anything to fix these in place, but a few of them just don't want to come off. There's no harm in servicing the parts this way, so it's fine. It just takes a little extra care. It hate to damage, or lose, one of these parts.

This is the pallet fork. Note all the chamfered and polished edges... All that extra finish work of course does not have a direct impact on the performance of the watch. But it is meant as an indication of the care and attention to detail in the design and production of the timepiece.

Also, all these polished surfaces are easily damaged with scratches and tool marks. Their condition in a vintage watch says a lot about the skills of the watchmakers that have serviced the movement over its life.
Here is the motor barrel in place and secured.

More about the motor barrel here.

Find out more about Lord Elgin watches here.

See the complete album for this project here:

This is a 23 jewel, 16 size Lord Elgin grade 351, made about 1907.

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

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