Saturday, November 18, 2017


During Elgin's first decade, in addition to 18s keywound watches like the BW Raymond and others (see Luis Casilla's excellent presentation), Elgin also made 10s women's keywound watches, and for a while, 17s keywinders.  These seem to date to 1875-1878 (see slide 92 of Casilla's presentation)

 17s is an odd size.  These days, it's nearly impossible to find a 17s case, and the movements just don't fit either a 16 or 18s case.  I became interested in these after acquiring a handful of the 18s keywinders.  They're very hard to find as cased watches, but I did manage to grab a couple bare movements on Ebay.

The dials are one-piece, with no sunken sub-dial.

They're essentially full plate, with solid balances.  As far as I know, all of them were 7 jewel.

The TM Avery is named for Elgin's second President.  Note that the balance on the Avery is larger than the Leader, but they're otherwise largely identical.  The Leader's balance staff is broken, so I took the Avery apart for cleaning and hoping to get it running.  

No such luck.  This old boy will never run again.  The lower balance pivot is bent all to hell, and I can't find any replacement staff for these.  If I were a better watchmaker, and had a lathe, I might cut a new staff.  But I'm not!

Since the watch was dirty from neglect, I decided to clean it and then document the rebuild.

Like the 18s keywinders, the Avery has the serial number stamped on numerous parts, including the barrel floor and cap.

First things first - reinstalling the balance jewels.

Next, installing the balance in the cock.  If you've been paying attention, you may have noticed that every Elgin I've shown made before 1955 has a triangular stud, which goes into the stud hole in the balance cock and is held in place by the stud screw.  On these cheapies, Elgin went with a pressed-in stud (red arrow), requiring you to unpin and re-pin the hairspring to the stud each time it was serviced. To ensure you repinned the hairspring at the same point, there's a 'witness mark', by the green arrow.  Note also the gouges and crow-pecks in the foot of the balance cock to raise it for more endshake (blue arrow)

The balance is put in place in the jewel, with the hairspring in the regulator, then you carefully feed the hairspring through the hole in the stud.  Next, you feed it through till it reaches the witness mark, then insert the pin from the coil side.


Next, the ratchet wheel, click, and click spring are installed in the barrel bridge.


With those two tasks done, we're ready to put the whole thing back together!

Notice that there are only 3 pillars, versus the usual 4.  More economizing.

First we install the train.  Unlike most full plate watches, the barrel is not removable once the plates are together.  The balance bridge just holds the click.  So, we have to put the whole train in before installing the upper plate. 

Next the upper plate is installed.  Make sure all SIX pivots are in place before adding the first screw. And yeah, you can really only add one screw at this point...

As always,check all the pivots are in place before tightening down the screw.

Next, the barrel bridge is installed.  This means putting in the second pillar screw.  The smaller barrel bridge screw just threads into the upper plate.

The hole next to the barrel arbor exposes the click.  You let down power with a key on the barrel arbor, and insert something pointy in to push the click out of the teeth.  If there's any actual power on the mainspring, of course, you hold onto the key!!

I wound it up a few clicks, and sure enough, the pallet flicked to the opposite bank with a gentle nudge, in either direction.  Since the balance staff is irretrievably bent, AND there are no cases to fit it, this breaks my heart!

Next we installed the balance, making sure to rotate the jewel pin into the pallet fork.  This allows you to add the 3rd pillar screw, in the foot of the balance cock.

Now it's time for the dial side.  Key set watches are usually pretty simple - cannon pinion, minute wheel, hour wheel, and that's it.  No setting bridges, no clutch, no clutch lever, no setting lever.

And that's it!  Now for the dial. 

The dial is held in place not with dial foot screws, but rather with tapered brass pins that fit through holes in the dial feet which are drilled so that the pins pull the dial up snugly.

The hands go on like all hands, with the following caveat - you need to determine where the minute hand is, relative to the corners of the key square on top of the cannon pinion.  In this case, the corner lines up exactly.  Unfortunately, I had set the hour hand off just a little.  If this were to be a working watch, I'd correct it.

So, there you go!  An oddball, and an orphan, 140 years old!  Someday, I hope to find one cased, but for now, I'll keep this one.

Sunday, April 9, 2017


Recently, I've returned to my original interest - Railroad Pocket Watches!

This time, though, I'm sticking with my primary interest - Elgins from post-1935.  By the late 1930s, Elgin had dropped all the 'Named' movement grades, including the Father Time and Veritas high-grade, railroad-quality movements.  They continued to use the B.W. Raymond, once again as the highest grade of 16 sized Elgin pocket watch movements.

By 1942, the B.W. Raymond name applied to only two grades, the 21j 478, which had been in production since 1922 - quite a long time for Elgin!  In 1937, Elgin introduced the last of their 23j pocket watch movements, the 540, which they called the Timemaster.

Here's the Transportation watches page from the 1942 catalog.  

Here's the extracted part, about the Timemaster.

I've had my eye out for a 540 for some time, and recently, I finally snagged one!  There were only 3 pictures in the listing, and they weren't very good.  I took a chance, and ended up getting it for considerably less than I was willing to pay!  

Here it is!  And in the cool, 3053 case!

I took pictures of the movement of my collection of Elgin's last 4 16s B.W. Raymond commercial grades, with the balance stopped, so you can note the differences.

Let's start with the 478.  This particular one is from ~1943, and has the 'Gold-Flashed' or gilt finish.  Apparently during WWII, Nickel was in short supply, and Elgin produced a number of movements in gild finish.  Most of these were made for the military - the 580, a 7j 8/0 sized wristwatch movement; the 582, a 16s Elgin Timer movement (see And Now For Something Completely Different), and the 581, a 22j, 16s version of the 478 with hacking and center seconds.

The movement has screwed-down gold jewel settings and gold center wheel (which clash slightly with the gilt of the plates, honestly!).  The hairspring is white alloy, presumably Elginium Y, a change from the blued steel of pre-1942 478s, but the balance itself is still a cut, bimetallic compensating type with the cut in the usual place next to the balance arms.

Next, the 540 'Timemaster'.  Same screwed-down gold jewel settings and gold center wheel, but note also the jewel in the center of the ratchet wheel.  This is Elgin's jeweled Motor Barrel.  I'll discuss this more when I do the teardown, in a future post, but suffice to say that the Motor Barrel was considered a higher grade feature.

The hairspring, like the one in the 478, is white alloy, Elginium Y.  The balance is bimetallic, but instead of steel on the inside and brass on the outside like the 478, it's made of Invar alloy and brass.  Invar has a different coefficient of expansion, which allows for the cuts in the balance to be more in the middle of the arms, about 2/3 of the way around.

Next, the 590.  The 590 shares almost all parts with the 478, except the balance and hairspring.  Hamilton had introduced the Elinvar hairspring in 1931.  This alloy did not change elasticity within the normal range of temperature, so there was no need for a bimetallic compensating balance.  Elgin had introduced a similar alloy, Elginium, in 1938, and quickly adopted its use in all their movements, except the 16s pocket watch grades. By 1945, Hamilton had introduced two new Railroad grades, the 992B and 950B, both much more modern than the 478.  Apparently, Elgin felt the need to introduce a railroad grade to compete, so they fitted an Elginium hairspring and monometallic balance in the 478, and rechristened it the 590.  This was produced for 2 years, 1945 and 1946.

In 1946, Elgin rolled out a completely reengineered line of 16s movements, the 570 series.  This is the highest grade of these, the 571, the last of the B.W.Raymond pocket watch grades.  These used friction-set jewels instead of the screwed-down, bezel-set ones used in BW Raymonds since 1867.  Cap jewel settings also used friction-set jewels, and screwed down from underneath, so that instead of polished screw heads, they had to polish the tips.  White alloy 'Elginite' hairspring, monometallic balance.  Very different keyless works, so that the stem was now part of the movement, not the case (see Elgin's Postwar 16 Size Pocket Watches)

Top row: 23j 540 Timemaster in 3053 case; 21j 478 in 3051 case
Bottom row: 21j 590 with Canadian RR dial in 3051 case; 21j 571 in  3055 case