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.