New to me Elgin 571 and an introduction

Thread: New to me Elgin 571 and an introduction

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  1. #1
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    New to me Elgin 571 and an introduction

    Hello all. My name is Brian. I'm 27, married with 5 wonderful kids. We live in Central IL. I've always loved mechanical stuff, and loved the immediate pre- and post- war era items. I love fountain pens, pocket knives, straight razors, and pocket watches.

    My first foray into pocket watches was with a "dollar watch" I bought at an antique store for $40. I wound it, it kept time for 10 minutes, so I took it home with me. 24 hrs later it was behind 3 hours. Even adjusted as fast as possible, it lost 30 min in 24 hrs. I was advised it wouldn't be cost effective to have it repaired. So, I took it apart, which was fun.

    Education costs money. It cost me on razors, on pens, on knives, and now on watches.

    Hopefully I'm not going for a "master's in poor watch buying" with my latest purchase. I'm a paramedic full time, but recently started at a local pawn shop. I love it. Lots of opportunities for good "picks". I hope this counts as one. As with all online forums, I'm sure it's verboten to ask about value, but I paid $97.20 out the door for this beauty.

    As far as I can figure from my limited research it is an Elgin 571, BW Raymond type II, the last of the Elgin RR watches. It is obviously a 21 jewel. Based on the fact that it is a lettered and numbered serial, and after looking up what that means, places it at about 1950 production, a a 48,000,000 serial number.

    I would like to get it serviced, and would like to replace the lens with a glass or polycarbonate lens, as it would make the watch much nicer looking.

    How do I set the time? I couldn't figure that part out. I timed it against my phone for 6 hours and it stayed true as I could tell, down to the minute. I set my timer and I'll look tomorrow and see how well it keeps time.

    I want to make this a daily user.

    Hopefully I did ok. Here's the pictures.


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  2. #2
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    Re: New to me Elgin 571 and an introduction

    First, Congrats! Nice looking watch! I'm looking to add a 571 to my collection at some point. It should be possible to make it into an excellent timekeeper!

    Second, DON'T TRY TO PULL THE STEM OUT! It WILL break a part that's nearly impossible to replace.

    The 571 is lever-set, meaning that instead of setting by pulling up the crown, you unscrew the bezel (the part that holds the crystal), and at about 1:00 there will be a little lever you pull up to put it in setting mode. Set the time, push the lever back in, and replace the bezel.

    The 571 is unlike most pocket watches, in that the stem and crown are part of the movement, not the case. In other PWs, you remove the case screws and the movement will come out of the case, leaving the stem and crown attached to the case.

    If you do that with a 571, you'll either break the stem, or the detent lever that holds it. There's a screw (the little one right under the crown) that one unscrews just until the stem is freed, pull the stem out, and then you can remove the movement from the case. Make sure your watchmaker knows about this! The breaking of the detent lever has happened so many times that there are essentially no more of them left - all the spares have been used up.
    Don't take life so serious, son. It ain't nohow permanent - Pogo

    My Elgin Blog...

  3. #3
    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: New to me Elgin 571 and an introduction

    I think that you did alright!

    Without getting too specific on values-as I'm sure you know, condition is king, especially on more common later watches like yours. With that said, I've sold rough ones for more than you paid for yours, and can regularly sell nice 571s for $175-225.

    As far as setting the time-unscrew the bezel, and you should see a notch at around 6 minutes with a small tab in it. Pull the tab out and away from the dial, and then turn the crown to set the time.
    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.

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  5. #4
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    I think that this watch would be rated as fair. Maybe a 2.5-2.8 out of 5. However, I could care less. I can't afford a $300+ pocket watch like all the Illinois RR watches seem to go for in antique stores around here.

    It's from my favorite era, and will be a watch I'm not afraid to carry, like I might be with a 1920s Illinois.

    As with all things, regardless of "actual value" I feel that I paid a fair price, and am confident I will get $100 worth of joy out of it. That's the real test. :)

    Can you all recommend a qualified watch servicer, and can you all recommend a fob, preferably one made in the US.

  6. #5
    Member Bezelbub's Avatar
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    Re: New to me Elgin 571 and an introduction

    Hi Brian,

    First of all there is allot of information out there on the internet about American pocket watches!

    Here is your Elgin:

    The Pocket Watch Database: Hamilton, South Bend, Illinois & Elgin Serial Number Lookup

    I started out collecting wrist watches but for the past 2 years I have become addicted to American pocket watches. I consider myself a mod to low range collector and Elgins represent the largest part of my collection. They made more pocket watches than the rest of the major manufacturers combined. Your 571 is a rail road grade B.W. Raymond made in 1951. By this time all manufacturers were using an Elinvar type balance wheel which made them immune to temp. variations and very accurate. With some 560,000 built yours is not rare but is still an example of a fine American made pocket watch from one of the great makers. Elgins are very collectable because the allow a person of a limited budget to collect. I have 24 of them. I would suggest that rather than looking in antique stores you bypass the middle man and go to ebay. The market for pocket watches is quite depressed now and you can get Elgins very cheap. You are very correct in saying you will get much enjoyment out of the watch as you own a very special part of American history, a true railroad grade watch.

    Once you learn how to set the watch it can be very easy to test's it's accuracy by going to :EST: Eastern Standard Time (USA & Canada).. What's the current time now in EST? (EDT in Summer)

    and compare it's timekeeping over a period of days while you wear it to get it's error. Watches were made to run about 40 hours, but as the main spring weakens and the oil in the jewels gums up they start to run for less time. For a the price of your watch you may find it difficult to find a watchmaker that will clean, oil and adjust it for under $300, which makes it far to expensive. If you find it keeps decent time, don't bother. On the other hand you can save a ton of money by doing it yourself. I started by buying junk movements on ebay for about $10 bucks to practice on. You have to invest in a decent set of watch screw drivers, tweezers, loupes, high grade oil, oilers, and a cheap cleaner like lighter fluid (naptha) to get going. I was surprised how simple a watch mechanism is. It's handling the small parts that you need to practice.

    I was lucky to have a good watchmaker near me. I knew him a long time and his prices were ridiculously low. But he's retiring. As an example I brought my Illinois Bunn 60 hr. special to another shop and they wanted $75 to look at it and $525 to replace the main spring. My guy did it for $100 and cleaned it! OK, it took 4 months, but that's pretty standard as far as time goes. He also replaced jewels, balance staffs and rollers at prices that were so low I had to force extra money on him. But as I say he's retiring so now I've learned to do cleaning and adjusting myself.

    Another thing you should buy is Shugarts Complete Price Guide to Watches 2012. This will give you a ball park value of your watch but it also will give you valuable insight in how the watch works and how to make simple adjustment easily.

    Regulating and Adjusting

    As far as fobs go it all depends on how you want to wear the watch. I use a heavy SS chain with a large clasp on one end and a smaller clasp on the other. This allows me to thread the smaller through the larger around a belt loop ans attach the watch to the smaller clasp to put in my jeans watch pocket. Avoid the type with a clasp that hooks onto your belt as these can get pulled of. When wearing a vest I usually wear a vintage gold filled chain with a T-Bar that fits through the vest's button hole and you wear the watch in the vest pocket. You can find cheap vintage gold filled chains on ebay and SS ones on Amazon and ebay.

  7. #6
    Member perby's Avatar
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    Re: New to me Elgin 571 and an introduction

    Hi Brian,

    You have a good reliable BW Raymond, I believe the last American made Elgin RR watch was the 571. I am sure bezelbob has most of the right info above, but I do take exception with not having it
    cleaned, if you are unaware of the last time it was serviced, please get it serviced before running it to much, as if it is dirty, it will cost far more, and do damage to the intricate parts inside, possibly causing the replacement of worn jewels etc. Yes servicing can be rather expensive, but likely less expensive than repair. By all means get some inexpensive watches and attempt to take them apart, and clean if you are so inclined.
    If you look around there are still some good, qualified watchmakers of the old variety around, and they will do a COA for less than $300. if there are few parts to replace.
    My 2 cents only,
    Bill

  8. #7
    Member Paleotime's Avatar
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    Re: New to me Elgin 571 and an introduction

    Very nice pick. I can add nothing to the discussions and advise given above, but I did want to say Welcome.

  9. #8
    Member georges zaslavsky's Avatar
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    Re: New to me Elgin 571 and an introduction

    very nice catch
    Omega the sign of Excellence since 1848. Jaeger Le Coultre Horlogerie de Luxe depuis 1833
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  10. #9
    Member alfredhitchcock's Avatar
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    Re: New to me Elgin 571 and an introduction

    You are really lucky to find this watch, congratulations

  11. #10
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    Re: New to me Elgin 571 and an introduction

    This posting is wonderful example of a new collector supported very nicely by the very supportive enthusiastic experienced members of this excellent forum. Makes an old man of 50 years collecting feel good about humanity and this activity. I am a superficial collector without watchmaker skills and do not practice this hobby very well as so many do. I really like and respect the people that do. Brian would be a fine NAWCC member. Old timer p.w. collectors seem to accumulate many Elgins. I believe these 3 are last of Elgin rr:Name:  bwr 43,47 d copyx.jpg
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