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 170072

The replacement balance staff I had for this project had pivots that were way too big, both ends, and had to be cut down quite a bit.

As parts disappear, I get asked every couple of days now if I can provide someone with a part. One reason I do not do this is that replacement parts, even if they are labeled correctly, and even if the documentation about what the watch needs is correct, won't work "as-is" about half the time. Everything has to be tested, fit, altered and re-tested.
I don't know how many times I've replaced a balance staff in someones' watch. Many hundreds... A thousand maybe. There are harder tasks, but this common repair is one I never look forward to. It's a multi-step procedure with a dozen easy ways to ruin a part at every turn. This one went really, really well! Maybe I'm finally getting the hang of it.

This is a grade 314, 12 size, 15 jewels, made about 1917.

See the whole album for this project here.

Find more content about vintage watches here.

Job Number 170070

This one was completely straight forward.
See the entire album for this project here.

Find more content about vintage watches here.

This watch is a is a grade 387, 16 size, 17 jewels, made about 1921

Job Number 170068

The lever-setting mechanism on this Hampden was a pain to assemble. All the gears, a spring for the lever, and even the minute wheel have to be in place all at once.

The minute hand has been damaged at the boss with a punch. I'm guess this was an attempt to tighten the hand (that's not the way to do it). Also, there was just a tiny bit of glue on the hand and the top of the cannon pinion. The glue comes right off, not so much the marks on the hand.
I usually assemble the whole train, and then add the pallet. But on this watch, as I went to do that, I found that the center wheel blocks one of the screws on the pallet bridge. Weird...

See the whole album for this project here.

Find more content about vintage watches here.

The watch is a Hampden 16 size, 21 jewel, Wm. McKinley, made about 1912.

Job Number 170067

A common problem with many vintage Elgin watches is that wear on the moving parts of the keyless works can cause the case stem not to press into the movement far enough to securely engage winding mode. A fix I see all the time is to use a punch to extend one side of the setting cam so that it effectively turns further when the stem is snapped in. This watch has a couple dimples there where this has been done.

Elgin actually made versions of the cam, as a replacement part, with a slightly more extended ear on one side, to fix this issue.

These photos show the movement outside the case, in setting mode, the default if you will.

Most vintage Elgins used a very similar design for these parts, right across watch sizes and grades.
This movement was made about 1908. It's a grade 313.

See the complete album for this project here.

Find more content about vintage watches here.

Job Number 170165

This is an Illinois Watch Co 18 size, 15 jewel, lever-set, pocketwatch made about 1881. It's also a private label, markd "E L Thurber, Warrensburg, MO" on the dial.

This watch needed a balance staff and sometimes I have to dig deep into various old part assortments for what I need, especially for something that isn't Elgin.

In this instance I found a vial of about a dozen in this parts case, once owned by some long ago watchmaker. Now since I know for sure what they are, I'll inventory them elsewhere in my more organized parts.


I created an Ello account. I'm not sure what I will use it for, if anything, at this time, but it seems worth exploring.


New Arrival

In for service...


A watch owner sent me this photo of the box a watch arrived in. The watch was fine.

This is really exceptional though. I don't think I have seen anything like this in the over 10 years I've been shipping watches.

I send and receive multiple packages every week. Normally USPS does an exceptional job in my experience.

New Arrival

This Waltham is one of the last in the queue for 2017.

It's missing a crystal (aren't they all?) but likely I found one (one and only one) in my remaining inventory. Hunter crystals are vanishing from the world. I wish I could impress on people just how fragile they are. They are literally like eggshells.

Hunter cases, with a front cover, are not more durable than open face cases, quite the opposite in fact.

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