Looking for info on this Illinois Autocrat pocket watch

Thread: Looking for info on this Illinois Autocrat pocket watch

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  1. #1
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    Looking for info on this Illinois Autocrat pocket watch

    Hi all,

    I came across this Illinois pocket watch that belongs to a friend's great grandfather and both she and I would like to know more info about it. It currently runs but only when the positioned with dial facing down so it will definitely need service. I was curious if anyone had any idea how old it may be and could give me a rough idea on how much it would cost to service the watch back into usable condition? The case appears to be brass(?) and the crystal is scratched to all hell, but I love the patina on the dial and wouldn't bother to refurbish that.

    Here are some photos I took of the watch in question.

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    Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Zenith Forum Co-moderator
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    Re: Looking for info on this Illinois Autocrat pocket watch

    The movement is definitely by Illiois themselves, compare e.g.:

    bidfun-db Archiv: Uhrwerke: Illinois 404

    Looks a little like inter-war, but I'm no expert, I'm afraid. Others might be able to do more with the serial number on the movement. If Ranfft's examples are representative, I would say it's around 1920.

    Hartmut Richter

  3. #3
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    Re: Looking for info on this Illinois Autocrat pocket watch

    Thank you Hartmut! I did a bit more searching online and based on the serial number, it appears to be a 405 movement dating back to 1919. I still have no idea what it would cost to service but that fact that it does still tick indicates to me that it might not be terribly expensive if I can find someone willing to service it.

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  5. #4
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    Re: Looking for info on this Illinois Autocrat pocket watch

    According to Jim Carroll's site "A Guide to Illinois 12 size Watches" the Autocrat is relatively rare with only 1000 being produced.
    Need parts? Tech manuals? Serial Number lookup? www.watchrepairinfo.com

  6. #5
    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: Looking for info on this Illinois Autocrat pocket watch

    Quote Originally Posted by clock40man View Post
    According to Jim Carroll's site "A Guide to Illinois 12 size Watches" the Autocrat is relatively rare with only 1000 being produced.
    Russ Snyder's database doesn't break the gr. 405 down by marking(probably because it hasn't been studied as much as grades like the Bunn Special). The total production of the grade is noted as over 390,000, and of those, I manually calculated about 78,000 gr. 405 Autocrats.
    Member National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
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  7. #6
    Member Shangas's Avatar
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    Re: Looking for info on this Illinois Autocrat pocket watch

    The fact that it only ticks in one position is possibly indicative of mechanical damage. Has the watch been dropped? If it has and some key part of the mechanism is damaged, this thing *may* be irrepairable. Or at least, the repair-bill will shoot through the roof.

    It might be a nice watch, and it MAY be repairable, but it will need a real professional to do this. Not your dime-store "watchmaker" who replaces batteries and does engraving, a REAL watchmaker. And good luck finding one of those. They're getting harder and harder to locate.

    The case is probably gold-filled, which is a layer of gold welded onto a case of brass.

    If the watch isn't running properly, I would hesitate to run it at all. Hold onto it until you can find someone to give it a professional assessment. And don't ever take one watchmaker's word for it. I went to three people before I found the one who could repair one of my watches. It's just a matter of experience and expertise.
    "Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest...nothing has more individuality save, perhaps, watches and bootlaces."

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  8. #7
    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: Looking for info on this Illinois Autocrat pocket watch

    A watch running as described in this thread is most likely(in my experience) the result of a broken balance staff or balance jewel(or very likely a combination of both).

    One good pivot will typically allow the watch to run in one position with severely reduced amplitude.

    Jewels are easy to fix, provided that you can find the correct replacement(with the correct hole size). Balance staffs are more involved. Provided that a correct replacement is available, a lathe and staking set are required, as well as an assortment of other tools. It typically takes an experienced watchmaker an hour or so to replace a balance staff, not including the additional time needed to overhaul the movement(which most will do along with replacing the staff). This is assuming that the staff doesn't need to be adjusted to fit properly(a process that can easily add an hour to the repair, depending on how much is needed).

    Sometimes, this can simply be the result of a bent or deformed balance pivot. Bent pivots can(usually) be straightened, but sometimes require staff replacement. Deformed pivots can usually be polished out on a lathe.

    Of course, there are other problems that can cause this, but in my experience, the above represent the majority of cases that present with a watch only running in one position. A watchmaker can usually diagnose the problem with reasonable accuracy with a minute or two of examining a watch.
    Member National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
    Member, NAWCC Chapter 149. Vice President and Secretary NAWCC Chapter 140. Member, NAWCC Convention Committee.
    Serious collector of American pocket watches-Waltham(and the predecessor companies) is my specialty.

  9. #8
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    Re: Looking for info on this Illinois Autocrat pocket watch

    Quote Originally Posted by clock40man View Post
    According to Jim Carroll's site "A Guide to Illinois 12 size Watches" the Autocrat is relatively rare with only 1000 being produced.
    I apologize! I misread the information provided. This run was identified as run number 33. There were 1,000 in this particular run (the run that includes your serial number), but there were 122,550 of this grade produced.
    Need parts? Tech manuals? Serial Number lookup? www.watchrepairinfo.com

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