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!

How Much is My Elgin Watch Worth?

Several times a week I am asked "how much is my watch worth?"

Sometimes, the question is accompanied by almost no information. For example, "it looks like the one you have here," followed by a URL to a photo of a general pocketwatch on my website.

Sometimes it will include an Elgin serial number and nothing else.

Either way, it should be clear that the question can not be answered from such vague information. It's like saying "I have a Ford made in the '50s, how much is it worth?" The answer would be a range from $50 to tens of thousands of dollars. Sometimes I am tempted to answer the question that way.

But I don't. I am not an appraiser. Although there is no licencing requirements in the US, appraisers are credentialed by professional appraisal associations. There are also IRS rules regarding income for appraisals. 

Also importantly, in many states appraisals are considered domain expert opinions, and may be subject to litigation similar to malpractice. If a perceived, or self-represented, expert gives an opinion, and turns out to be wrong, they may be subject to a lawsuit to recover loses. A professional appraiser can get insurance for that.

If you want to know the value of an antique, contact a professional appraiser.  They will probably need to see it, so try to find someone local. For those collecting or working on vintage watches, either as a hobby or as a profession, be careful about statements regarding the value of watches.

Damaged Hairspring

Take look at this regular and hairspring. I had serviced this watch and returned it to its owner. It was then sent back to me with the complaint that it did not run, in the state shown here. The owner denied touching anything.

The regular is turned to extreme, and the hairspring is yanked clear out of the watch hard enough that it actually broke. It's harder than one might think to break a pocketwatch hairspring, it's steel after all. This damage took significant force.
My first suggestion was that perhaps there was a curious child in the household, but was told this was not the case.

This happened a number of years ago. The owner paid for the additional repair, but maintained ignorance of what had happened throughout.

New Arrivals

Not a thing wrong with them, just in for routine service...

New Arrival

Many say that these early plastic crystals de-gas as they decay and corrode hands and dial, and even inside the watch. This is true, I have seen it.

This watch appears fine though. It is also said that once the crystal has turned green/yellow, it is no longer de-gasing, after all those decades. I don't know. But glass crystals do show off the dial more and are getting harder to find.

I advice people to replace the plastic ones, while you can.

Job Number 170050

This is a grade 315, 12 size, 15 jewels, made about 1926.

This was a very popular Elgin product.
This watch needed a balance staff.
The old staff is separated from the balance wheel with the lathe and the staking set. The remains of the hub, once broken off, is a little washer. I like to save these, you never know...

See the whole album for this project here.

Testing the motion of the new staff, I find it works well. I did have to reduce the upper pivot some though first. Replacement parts are often not quite right.

I do find though that the balance cock does not sit securely flat. It wants to rock a little. There are two divots cut into the plate from some past repair (to raise the balance cock, likely because the upper pivots on the staff were too big for the upper jewel).
The hairspring collet does not fit the replacement staff. I use this tool to squeeze it closed a bit.

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

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