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!

Elgin Grade 210

This is an Elgin grade 210, 16 size, 7 jewels, made about 1904

Elgin Grade 413

This is Elgin's grade 413, 3/0 size, 7 jewels, made about 1915

Cased, the watch didn't sound right dial up. Turns out that the balance wheel barely touches the edge for part of the case, when dial up, during part of its motion. You never know what you will find...

The case is damaged. It was hinged, but the hinge is broken. The back still snaps in place securely anyway.

Elgin Watchmakers College Student Work

This is a brass plate with five different types of jewel settings used in train jeweling, in vintage watches. This was made at the Elgin Watchmakers Collage to show competency with the various jeweling techniques. All the parts, other than the jewels themselves are hand made from scratch as part of the project.
My grandfather made this during his time at the school in the 1930s.

Elgin Grade 315

This is an Elgin grade I see a lot of, grade 315, 12 size, 15 jewels, made about 1931.
This watch movement runs well now, but when it first arrived there was an issue of not being able to wind it. The crown just turned and turned. Usually, this is a broken mainspring, or the winding mode is not engaging at all for some reason. This one was a surprise though.

The crown threads onto the stem, and the crown in this case was totally stripped. Oddly, the crown did not just fall off, but the threads could not tighten, so it never really turned the stem. There wasn't actually a problem with the mainspring, or the movement generally. Even the stem is fine, it's just the crown.

I found a similar crown as a replacement.

There was one more issues though. The watch snapped too easily into setting mode. The fingers of the sleeve in the neck of the case grip the stem too weakly. Unfortunately, the top of the sleeve has been so hopelessly mangled that I don't think I can get it out without destroying it completely. At first I left it the way it was rather than risk damage to the inside of the neck of the case.

It wound fine, with a little inward pressure on the crown. I think a prior "repair" mangled the top of the sleeve trying to screw it in deeper, so the watch would go more securely into winding mode.

 After sitting for a bit, the winding problem started really bugging me.

The stem, or winding arbor, (part of the case, in the neck) just did not stick into the watch movement far enough, with the crown snapped in, to quite secure the watch in winding mode. Many watches are like this. A slight inward pressure on the crown while winding did the job. It was minor in this instance... But it should be better.

Normally, one would adjust the sleeve so that the stem as a whole sits a little further down in the neck of the case. But like I said the sleeve in this watch is hopelessly chewed up. It's a mess in there. That's a shame because the case over all is in great shape. I didn't even want to try to remove and replace the sleeve because I was afraid the threads in the neck of the case were too messed up too, and a new sleeve wouldn't secure.

The solution was to locate a stem that was the same, but had a hair longer square end - the end that goes in the watch. I found one, but the threaded end was too long. It was cut down and new threads added with the screw plate. Quick job, and it's all set.
 The screw plate...

Elgin Grade 349, "No 349"

The hairspring, and the stud, are gold-flashed on this watch.
The serial number prefix used on the secondary stamps is a 4 with three bars above it.
On this watch one of the plate screws is recessed. The barrel bridge covers up this screw. In these cases, Elgin used a screw with an unpolished, unchamfered head since you couldn't see it. It seems odd given how much finish they do on all sorts of other places where it can't be seen when assembled.

This is a fine example of Elgin's grade 349, 18 size, 21 jewels, made about 1908.

This one is engraved "No 349" as many of these are, not not all. It is also found labeled Father Time.

Elgin Grade 428

The first wristwatches were scaled down pocketwatch designs, pretty much as is, that were also used for ladies pocketwatches. They are extremely delicate, and in my experience often suffer from rarely being serviced, if at all, when they were in use. Getting one to tick, without the extensive replacement of parts, is a challenge.

This is Elgin's grade 428, 6/0 size, 15 jewels, made about 1919.

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