Saturday, July 28, 2012

About Your Host....

I was inspired to create this blog by another watch enthusiast, 'HandyDan', who has been putting together a blog of his experiences collecting Hamilton watches.  I hope to do something similar, chronicling my experiences as a collector of Elgin watches.

I started collecting watches in the late 1980s, after impulsively buying a crappy old dollar pocket watch at antique clothing show.  I started delving into all the information I could find on watches, back in that 'Pre-Internet' era.  I was especially drawn to American watches, particularly Railroad watches. As a Pennsylvanian, I was drawn to Hamiltons.  I had never known that America was, for a time, the foremost producer of high quality, yet mass-produced, watches in the world.  And I was fascinated by the beauty and ingenuity that goes into them.

This was my first, and best railroad watch, a Hamilton 950B.  Made after WWII, with all the technological advancements available at the time - the pinnacle of American watchmaking.

Years passed, and my interest in pocket watches faded.  I sold off most of my collection, including that one, and an even more beautiful specimen...
....a Hamilton 922MP Masterpiece, Hamilton's entry in the Prestige Watch market of the 1920s.  23 jewels, 14kt gold jewel settings and train, jeweled motor barrel, sapphire pallet stones, and the plates and bridges plated in white gold.

There's a reason wrist watches rapidly displaced pocket watches.  Pocket watches are  inconvenient.  It takes an effort to check the time.  You can't leave them in the same pocket with your keys and change or they'll get scratched, so you need pants with watch pockets.  Chains often catch on doorknobs and such.  So I found myself wearing a succession of crappy quartz watches.  I longed for a mechanical one, though.  For a while, I thought I'd buy a new Hamilton, even if it were really just a Swiss watch called Hamilton.

By this time (2005) though, the internet had blossomed, and with it Ebay!  One day I was looking at Hamilton wristwatches there, and there was one that caught my eye.  It was simple, round, and not very expensive.  Best of all, it was packing a 22 jewel 770 movement.  I bought it.

It became my daily wearer for a couple years.   Then, in 2009, I picked up three more vintage Hamiltons.  I found Watch Talk Forums, which at the time was home to some of the most knowledgeable Hamilton collectors out there.  I thought, 'I'll collect Hamilton wrist watches, too!'  I started learning more, and following them on Ebay.  They always seemed to go for over $50, and often over $100, and every piece I was interested in got lots of bids.  This was not going to be easy, or cheap.

One day, on a whim, I checked out Elgins on Ebay.  Elgin was another American watch company, older than Hamilton. I noted that Elgins were a lot cheaper on Ebay than Hamiltons, even for watches of similar specs.  I bid on, and won, a Lord Elgin from 1951.

I liked it.  It had a 1950s style, and it ran well.  I liked how it looked on my wrist.  And it was MUCH cheaper than any of the Hamiltons I saw.  In good working order, with a 21j movement, it cost less than the Hamilton Nielsen I'd bought that had needed $150 of service to run accurately.

I started researching Elgins, and soon realized that they were good watches, well thought of at the time, but that for a variety of reasons, they never acquired the prestige of Hamiltons.  I also discovered that there was FAR less information about them available.  No catalogs, no production figures, no wealth of information on the internet.  No book by Rene Rondeau!  As a result, the field of Elgin collecting was largely unplowed ground!

I made the decision to become a collector of Elgin wrist watches.  I started out just collecting watches from the 1950s, but since then I've expanded.  Now I define my collection as Elgin American made wrist (and pocket) watches from the introduction of the 8/0 series in 1935, through the end of production at the Elgin factory in 1964.

Since then, I've amassed a pretty good collection, and made some interesting discoveries about Elgin's stylistic and technological advances, which I hope to share with whoever visits.  I hope you enjoy this blog!


  1. Nice looking blog! Keep up the good work!

  2. Hi,

    Would you please call me regarding a question I have about dial variations for an Elgin 50,000,000th. I have one and based on my research there appears to be three different versions of the dial.

    Lance Daniel

  3. I have a Lord Elgin with the 680 movement in a 14k gold filled case. I'm curious what the movement plates and bridges, etc... are made out of. The movement looks brand new. Mirror polish around the jewels, perfect color on the plates, swirl polish on the wheels.

    For the age, there is no way they can be that nice in plated brass or nickel silver, is there? Are they made out of stainless steel?

  4. Greetings. I have come across my grandfathers 25 year watch from the Elgin Watch Factory. It is a Lord Elgin 680. I have the movement and case back that is engraved with "Over a Quarter Century Loyal Service, Elgin National Watch Company 1952. Do you know where I might find a case for this as I need to front half with the crystal. sn p500877