1950's Elgin Help

Thread: 1950's Elgin Help

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  1. #1
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    1950's Elgin Help

    I just picked up a midsize Elgin Automatic really cheap and in nice working condition. Using all of the decoders online with SN N50053 I come up with a 1951. I have been told that the serial number I am using is one digit short. It also pulls up the incorrect movement when decoded.

    The movement is stamped as being a 554 17 Jewel. The SN decodes as a 15 Jewel movement.

    I know the decoders are not foolproof, but if I add a 1 to the end of the stamped SN to make it N50053-1 it them shows in the decoder as a 17 Jewel 554 movement?

    The only real difference I can see in my 554 and other photos I have found online is that the adjuster arm (whatever that is really called) on mine is a light gray, almost white color. On all of the examples I have found it is black, but those were also examples of watches produced in the 40's. Also, all examples I can find have a SN of a letter followed by 6 numbers. Mine is N followed by 5 numbers. All other markings in the movement are identical.

    I have not been able to get photos to upload, but you can go to the following link to see photos. I threw it up on Ebay for a few days to se if it would garner any interest.

    1950's Elgin 17 Jewel Automatic Sub Second Dial Running | eBay

    The case and crystal are pristine on this watch, so is it possible that it is an older movement recased in a newer watch? Seems like alot to go through for a mid age low range Elgin. Also, I guess it could be a knockoff, but again, why knockoff a low range movement Elgin? I guess another option is that the factory just mis-stamped the movement. I tried amending the SN with other numbers (2,3 and so on). They did not yield the correct movement or jewel count.

    Anyway, help! I don't know what I have here. I mean a 5 digit SN would date this to about 1870, but I'm pretty sure that's not the case.

  2. #2
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    Re: 1950's Elgin Help

    Well, for a start, the case back can't be original to the watch. There is no way that that watch is automatic winding (where is the bumper or rotor?!!). For confirmation, see Ranfft who states clearly that it is manually winding:

    bidfun-db Archive: Watch Movements: Elgin 554

    ...and where the case has been tampered with, the movement may well have been too.

    Hartmut Richter

  3. #3
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    Re: 1950's Elgin Help

    Everything I could find said that a 554 was manually winding. Which is fine with me actually. The whole case is a replacement then probably. I don't think a 50's 554 in that size would have had a screwback case would it? tried to find any case info, but that is pretty much a useless quest.

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  5. #4
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    Re: 1950's Elgin Help

    Yes, the case is a replacement, as is the dial. A real Elgin case would be stamped on the inside of the caseback "Cased and Timed by Elgin Nat'l Watch Co"

    Yes, the 554 is manual winding, which you can also tell by the lack of a rotor for autowinding. 554 movements were sometimes cased in screw-back cases, but mostly these had 4 holes in the back for an opener. This particular one is 15j. You can tell by the brass bushing in the center, where a jewel would be in a 17j watch. The S/N is proper for the jewel count, and the movement pic is not clear enough for me to see the jewel count stamped on the train bridge, but you need to go by the number of jewels in the movement, not what is says on the dial.

    The 554 is a good quality, strong running movement, of which Elgin made over a million, many of which were for the military. Properly serviced, it should be a good timekeeper.
    Don't take life so serious, son. It ain't nohow permanent - Pogo

    My Elgin Blog...

  6. #5
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    Re: 1950's Elgin Help

    The movement is marked as 17 jewel as well. I know it is not clear in the photo, but I checked it while I had it open. It's the S/N that bothers me the most though. Why only N and then 5 digits? I mean I paid nothing for the watch, but there are many things that don't add up.

  7. #6
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    Re: 1950's Elgin Help

    The N and 5 digits is because in 1938 Elgin had reached 39,000,000, and started stamping their serial numbers with a letter to correspond to each different million. Thus, for example, 40,000,000 to 40,999,999 would be marked C0 to C999999; 41,000,000 to 41,999,999 would be marked E0 to E999999, and so on. Your watch is in the 48 million range.

    I can't quite figure out why your 15j watch is marked 17 jewels, but I see two possibilities. First, a factory mistake, putting a 17j-marked train bridge in a 15j movement; or maybe a later parts swap, either swapping the 17 train bridge into a 15j movement, or a 15j barrel bridge into a 17j movement. A lot can happen in 62 years.
    Don't take life so serious, son. It ain't nohow permanent - Pogo

    My Elgin Blog...

  8. #7
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    Re: 1950's Elgin Help

    Yes it's in the 48,000,000 range but that means it should have a S/N of NXXXXXX. It has a S/N of NXXXXX. Using the N as 48 but only having 5 digits following would date the watch to the 19th century. Could the factory have just mis stamped it?

  9. #8
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    Re: 1950's Elgin Help

    No, you're looking at it the wrong way. The 'N' doesn't just mean 48 in front of whatever the other digits are. The N means 48 Million, no matter how many digits are behind it, so N1 would be 48,000,001, for example.
    Don't take life so serious, son. It ain't nohow permanent - Pogo

    My Elgin Blog...

  10. #9
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    Re: 1950's Elgin Help

    Ohhhhhhh. Now I get it. All those accounting courses for nothing.

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