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!


This month I placed an order with society6.com. The order arrived in a timely manner, in good condition, and a good level of quality for the price. There was one problem.

I was sent a completely different item.

The email acknowledging my order had the correct item listed. But the packing slip in the package, and the item itself, were something else, something I really didn't want. 

Here's the thing though, there is no way to contact society6.com. They have a form on their website to report problems, and I did, including my order number, a description of the problem, their exact description texts of the product I order, and the one I received, and an image of the email acknowledging my order, with the correct description, and all my information. I received an automated response immediately, saying they would get back to me within 24 hours. They did not, ever. 

There is no other way to contact the company. In fact, after some digging, I would conclude that society6.com has deliberately made sure there is no contact information for them anyplace on the internet. Avoiding completely the cost of any sort of customer service what so ever, I assume, is part of their business model.

I have an item I don't want, and I am out the money.

I recommend avoiding society6.com.

Update: Several days later I received a package from Society6 with the correct item inside. No email, no note inside, no other contact. But they sent the item.


Here's a Waltham Seaside in for service.

Sometimes with watches like this, I am asked about the green (or yellow) dial. The dial is white enamel. The crystal is an early type of plastic, cellulose or acrylic. This material discolors with age.

This crystal should be replaced as they give off corrosive gases. The hands on this watch are already slightly impacted and damaged by this.

Two New Arrivals

Two Elgins in for service...

Elgin Grade 374

This detail shows the top of the motor barrel, without the barrel bridge. It's possible to see here how the top and inner walls of this type of barrel move separately from the outer wall where the teeth are.

See more examples here.

This is a high end Elgin, Father Timegrade 374, 16 size, 21 jewels, made about 1911

Elgin Grade 97

All of the secondary serial number stamps on this movement are prefixed with a square.

The older Elgin 18 size watches use just one case screw. Opposite the screw there is supposed to be a pin that sticks into a hole in the inside edge of the case to secure the movement. I have mentioned a number of times here that for some reason this pin is almost always broken or missing and I have to make another one. It is supposed to be threaded into the edge of the case, but where the hole is destroyed (often is) I friction fit them.

This watch movement has the pin, but it's obviously a rather crude replacement. It's just a little snip of brass wire, looks like, stuck in the hole. It's not snug, it came right out. When cased, this works fine.

This is the older, English style, tangential escapement. Elgin and other American makes used this design in earlier watches, but soon transitioned to the more stable Swiss style, perpendicular, pallet arrangement which remains the type used in most mechanical watches to this day.

The watch is an Elgin grade 97, 18 size, 7 jewels, made about 1888

An Elgin 303, and Glue

This watch seemed like it would be straight forward, but the balance wheel did not move freely. The reason was not at first obvious.
On very close inspection, I found that the one-piece double roller was not straight. It was seated at a very slight angle. On removing the hairspring and the roller, I found that the roller table had been glued on, and a dot of glue to one side kept it from fully seating on that side. It was then too low, and touched the pallet fork, just in one spot. It was enough to make the balance very sluggish, but somewhat run.
The contact was so slight that it was not perceptible when watching the balance. I removed the glue and properly seated the roller table. Everything then worked fine.

This and the somewhat distorted hairspring lead me to believe that someone has changed the balance staff on this watch, but perhaps did not have the right tools for the job.

There was an interesting problem here. The dial was offset for some reason, just enough that the base of the second hand and the hour hand can touch the inside of their respective dial holes - and stop the watch.

The usual technique for "bumping" the dial over won't work here because the dial sits inside the rim of the base plate. This calls for a creative problem solving... It's always something.
This watch is an Elgin grade 303, 12 size, 7 jewels, made about 1919

Illinois A. Lincoln

This Illinois pocketwatch  is an "A. Lincoln",  16 size, 21 jewels, model 9, made about 1917.

Here we see the ratchet wheel and click spring.

This is a typical broken mainspring. Fortunately I had a replacement on hand - but only one.

Vintage Illinois Watch Company products tend to be quite well made and go together nicely. Parts are scarce though.

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

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