1907 Elgin Needs New Balance--What to do?

Thread: 1907 Elgin Needs New Balance--What to do?

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  1. #1
    EPS
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    1907 Elgin Needs New Balance--What to do?

    Last November I bought a 12s, 17-jewel 1907 Elgin pocket watch. The seller reported that it worked. I haven't been using it since I haven't had it cleaned yet, but it does wind up and keep (slow) time for at least 30 hours on a wind, and I discovered upon bringing it to a local watch shop for the cleaning that the balance was broken. I've attached a picture of the balance. I'm no expert, but I'm assuming that the two gaps at 1 and 7 o'clock are not supposed to be there.

    As far as functionality is concerned, the watch works, but I have to give it a gentle jerk to get it to start running. Also, I'm somewhat concerned because the ticking seems somewhat uneven. All of the antique pocket watches I've heard seem to tick evenly, but this one swings slightly, i.e., it alternates between long and short ticks. The watch is consistently off by about 5 minutes a day, which could probably be fixed, but it's this balance that I'm concerned about.

    So now to the questions I have for you. Would one expect this kind of service plus a cleaning to cost $236? This was the quote the watch shop gave me. The fact that a major part like the balance is broken seems to concerns me somewhat; how often do balances go bad like this? Would I be better off buying another watch and praying that it only needs a cleaning? I really just want to make sure that I'm considering all my options, since I'm new to pocketwatches and I'm having to make a major repair decision at the very beginning. Thanks!
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  2. #2
    Member AbslomRob's Avatar
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    Re: 1907 Elgin Needs New Balance--What to do?

    The cuts you're referring to are suppose to be there; this watch has a split bi-metallic balance (the outer rim of the balance wheel is copper on top of steel; these two metals expand differently when temperatures rise, which causes the end of the rim (the "cut" part) to flex in and out. This changes the period of rotation, which helps compensate for the difference in the action of the hairspring).

    I dont' see anything wrong with the balance, but the part that usually breaks is the pivot on the end of the balance staff. Normally, that would stop the watch from working at all, but it may have simply deformed. For $236, I'm assuming the watchmaker is simply buying a replacement complete balance and swapping it in, since the cost of doing an actual staff replacement would likely be more then that.

    A strait cleaning/service is normally in the $100 range, and you should expect to pay that (or more, if its complicated or rare) for any vintage watch you acquire.

    As for the quote, find out exactly what they think is broken and more importantly, how exactly they're going to repair it. I've seen shops swap the entire balance, including the balance cock on stuff like this, which effectively ruins any value the watch might ever have in the future.
    My growing collection of "affordable" vintages: http://www.abslomrob.com

  3. #3
    Member radger's Avatar
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    Re: 1907 Elgin Needs New Balance--What to do?

    Deleted because posted basicaly same info as Rob at same time
    Last edited by radger; June 7th, 2010 at 00:23. Reason: duplicate info

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  5. #4
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    Re: 1907 Elgin Needs New Balance--What to do?

    My local watchmaker quotes $80 to fit a new balance staff. If EPS's watchmaker is at the high end of cleaning charges at $150 you get the $230 quote.

  6. #5
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    Re: 1907 Elgin Needs New Balance--What to do?

    What's the serial number on your movement?

  7. #6
    EPS
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    Re: 1907 Elgin Needs New Balance--What to do?

    Enough, it's 13254561:

    http://elginwatches.org/cgi-bin/elgi...&action=search

    So I'll have to find out a little bit more about what was broken. I just did a little bit of reading about these balance staffs. Also, I'm still unclear as to why the ticking alternates between long and short ticks. Is that normal?

    Thanks for all the advice, everyone, and I still would be delighted by any more information that comes in.

  8. #7
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    Re: 1907 Elgin Needs New Balance--What to do?

    Out of beat, chipped pallet jewel, cracked roller jewel, distorted hairspring, bent pivot, etc, etc. Possibly one or a combination of more than one.

    This might be a great opportunity to learn a little watchmaking! Might be a very minor repair or adjustment or just a cleaning/lubrication issue. [These are terribly common and as such don't command much of a price.]

  9. #8
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    Re: 1907 Elgin Needs New Balance--What to do?

    If it was my watch I would take it somewhere else. To me it appears that the watchmaker is trying to pull the wool over your eyes and make a killing.

  10. #9
    Member mrsnak's Avatar
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    Re: 1907 Elgin Needs New Balance--What to do?

    In my experience having many vintages watches repaired, including Elgins, I would agree with Rob on this.
    Sometimes you can find a watch repair that specializes in a particular brand and has amassed a large collection of spare parts because of it. They might be better priced because of it.
    "My grail showed up today"

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