Help identifying early-mid 1900's vintage Elgin pocket watch

Thread: Help identifying early-mid 1900's vintage Elgin pocket watch

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  1. #1
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    Help identifying early-mid 1900's vintage Elgin pocket watch

    Hi all, I'm new here. I was doing research online regarding a family heirloom which led me here to seek the advise of fellow watch enthusiasts.

    This Elgin was my Great Grandfather's and has been kept in dry storage for the last 30+ years. When my Grandfather passed away, his place was stripped to bare by vultures and this was left behind and became one of the few keepsakes I have of him.

    The reason why it escaped discovery was it had been sealed in a plastic container with cotton balls usually reserved for small gemstones or mineral samples. It was taped shut and on the outside of the tape was the origin of the watch, which has unfortunately faded and worn away.

    From what I remember reading, it was given to my Great Grandfather or Great Grandmother as a gift on their first anniversary in what I think was 1933 before the ink faded. :oops: It appears to have a Simmons railroad chain circa '46-52' but I could be totally off on this.

    I took these pictures with an 8MP camera phone and have higher res if needed. I wound the crown twice (not sure why I did this, probably because I'm a moron) and was SHOCKED when it sprung to life and has kept up with time the last two hours.

    I'm going to take it to a friend who has a modern and vintage watch store in the next day or two and see if they can service it or at least open it for the SN inside. I would love to have the crystal replaced from another pocket watch, if that were possible.

    Your thoughts are appreciated! Thanks in advance.

    Sunny






  2. #2
    Member Erik_H's Avatar
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    Re: Help identifying early-mid 1900's vintage Elgin pocket watch

    Erik_H
    Member NAWCC Chapter 149

  3. #3
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    Re: Help identifying early-mid 1900's vintage Elgin pocket watch

    I thought so too. I tried the between palms method and it won't budge. I do love a good mystery though!

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  5. #4
    Member Shangas's Avatar
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    Re: Help identifying early-mid 1900's vintage Elgin pocket watch

    Hey Jaguar, that's a stunning watch you have there. It certainly looks 1930s'ish, looking at the dial. The chain looks to be solid gold, can't say about the case, unless we see the insides.

    I agree with Erik that it's probably a screwback & bezel style of case and yes, these can be a bit tricky to get off. To get the caseback off, palm the watch in your right hand (dial down) and then, using three or four fingers on your left hand, press down on the edge of the caseback and twist your hand and the caseback in an anticlockwise direction. With a bit of luck, the friction created by pressing your fingers on the edge of the caseback, will be enough to move the lid around the threads inside the watch-case to unscrew and open the caseback. Don't try and grab the watch with fingers from your right hand as well, as this isn't very secure and the last thing you want is your grandfather's antique flying out of your hands and smashing onto the floor!

    Once you've got the caseback loose, 4-6 half-turns should be enough for it to unscrew completely and reveal the movement. Once we've got the serial-number inside the watch (it should be something like a six-to-eight digit number engraved on the side of the movement), we'll be able to tell you at least how old it is.

    Your great grandparents must've had a very loving relationship, this is a beautiful 1st Anniversary present for your grandfather to recieve! Look after it well, get it serviced and wear it in good health. Oh and yes, get the crystal replaced. I daresay your watch-shop friend might be able to help you with that.
    Last edited by Shangas; March 2nd, 2010 at 05:08.
    "Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest...nothing has more individuality save, perhaps, watches and bootlaces."

    - Sherlock Holmes.

    'The Yellow Face'.

  6. #5
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    Re: Help identifying early-mid 1900's vintage Elgin pocket watch

    Success! Thank you all for your advice.

    I tried once more to unscrew the back using just my fingertips with the crystal facing down and the crown butted up against my thumb.

    The "trick" was to use the tips of my fingers while avoiding contact with the side of the case.

    The inside was incredibly clean and shows how well things were sealed inside. There was no onion skin kind of protective flap between the back of the case and the movement, however it must have been serviced and than sealed to stay in such good shape.

    It's 5sec fast per hour and considering it's age, I don't know what to say about that. I'm amazed it's working. :)

    I took more pictures and came up with this info on the movement SN.

    Serial Number SN Range RunQty Name Year grade size code jewels Adj/reg/etc.
    -------------- -------- ------ ---- ---- ----- ---- ------ ------ ------------
    25774514 25760001 23000 1922 303 12s o3n3p 7j


    grade total runs first yr last yr class size code jewels Adj/name
    ----- ----- ----- -------- ------- ----- ---- ------ ------ ----------
    303 2215000 371 1903 1939 114 12s o3n3p 7j

    So, it's a 1922 7j with a 2.2mil distribution. There are probably half that or maybe a quarter of that still out there? Parts will hopefully be attainable with patience and searching.





  7. #6
    Member Erik_H's Avatar
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    Re: Help identifying early-mid 1900's vintage Elgin pocket watch

    Ensure you have it cleaned and oiled before you run it further, or it will sooner or later self destruct by lack of lubrication.
    Erik_H
    Member NAWCC Chapter 149

  8. #7
    Member Shangas's Avatar
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    Re: Help identifying early-mid 1900's vintage Elgin pocket watch

    Huzzah!!

    Nice work, Jaguar!

    You've got a fine, 1920s Art Deco styled pocket watch with a good, 20-year gold-filled case (probably 14kt gold-fill). A seven-jewel watch was on the lower end of the quality scale, but it's a good watch, nonetheless. Properly serviced by an expert, it should keep decent time. I've got a 7-jewel Waltham from 1899 and it keeps time to a minute a week. Yours may or may not be able to keep this kind of accuracy; I've no idea if my watch's capabilities are representative of a typical 7-jewel watch!

    As Erik says, the watch MUST be serviced. It hasn't been touched in thirty years and after so long, the oils inside the watch have dried out. If you run it now, you could rick serious metal-on-metal friction and wear, and this could do irrepairable damage to the watch.

    The National Elgin Watch Company made millions of millions of millions of watches (60,000,000, I think), so spare parts should not be TOO hard to find, but brace yourself for an unpleasant shock anyway, just in case.

    You have a 12-size watch. In the 19th century, larger, 18 size watches were the rage for men. Back in the late 19th centuries and the turn of the century, a real man wore a nice, big, chunky pocket watch. But in the 20s and 30s, fashion began to change and men started wearing smaller and smaller watches, starting in the 1910s with 16 size and then shrinking down to 12 size by the 20s and 30s. My own 7J Waltham is a 14 size (one bigger than yours) and it was made in 1899, which seems a bit odd for the period. But yours is a man's watch, nonetheless.

    If nothing in the watch is broken, then a standard servicing should not cost TOO much. Have it overhauled and wear it in good health :)

    Here's a photo of my 14-size 7J Waltham...



    The insides:

    "Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest...nothing has more individuality save, perhaps, watches and bootlaces."

    - Sherlock Holmes.

    'The Yellow Face'.

  9. #8
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    Re: Help identifying early-mid 1900's vintage Elgin pocket watch

    You have definitely convinced me and will have it serviced tomorrow afternoon! Hopefully there won't be any lasting damage running for a day.

    I'm more concerned about parts availability than price. A good service should run in the hundreds and that might buy me a year or two to see how well the rest of the components have held up. Or, the service might reveal the things that have to be replaced and I'll be on the hunt immediately for spares!

    Thanks to all.

    Sunny

  10. #9
    Member Shangas's Avatar
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    Re: Help identifying early-mid 1900's vintage Elgin pocket watch

    Hi Jaguar,

    You needn't worry too much. A good watchmaker will inspect the entire watch. If nothing is broken or in need of immediate replacement, he'll clean the watch and reassemble it, lubricate it and time it to the best of his ability. If something in the watch is needing replacement, he'll find it and replace it, if he has the parts. If not, you'll have to find another watchmaker.
    "Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest...nothing has more individuality save, perhaps, watches and bootlaces."

    - Sherlock Holmes.

    'The Yellow Face'.

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