verification about RR watches

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  1. #1
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    verification about RR watches

    I am new at this but I'm currently looking for a railway pocket watch, specifically Canadian RR, and I've been looking at various web sites with items for sale and I'm a bit confused.

    From my reading I understand that RR watches should/must be lever set. Is this the case with all? Given watch dates from about 1910 on, I have seen some retailers describe watches as RR 'grade' and note that a specific watch is not lever set. Is this just a bit of retail 'marketing'?

    Is it possible that a pocket watch is a railway watch without being lever set?
    Thanks

  2. #2
    Member AbslomRob's Avatar
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    Re: verification about RR watches

    "Railway watch" is one of those terms that gets tossed about a lot, but is rather ill defined. There was a standard set out, but it was a voluntary standard. Each individual Railroad had its own requirements that, while usually based on the common standard, could vary in the details. Final say on if a given watch was "Approved" was the Railroad company. Watch companies would manufacture watches based on the common standard; these can be described as "Railroad grade". But being railroad grade doesn't mean it was Railroad Approved. In particular, you could have bought a watch in 1890 that was "Railroad Grade" at the time, but if you didn't get a job with a railroad until 1920, chances are your watch wouldn't have been "Railroad Approved" by your new employer.

    In answer to your specific question, it's certainly possible, but rare. Being lever set was one of the fundamental requirements, designed to ensure that the time on the watch wasn't accidentally changed during regular use. Its probably the one truly defining element of a railroad grade watch.

    Having said that, if you're looking for Canadian RR watches, you'll hear about (and lust after) the Candian Pacific branded watches, which were Pendant set.

    http://people.timezone.com/msandler/.../Railroad.html
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  3. #3
    Member photog-shooter's Avatar
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    Re: verification about RR watches

    Quote Originally Posted by AbslomRob View Post
    "Railway watch" is one of those terms that gets tossed about a lot, but is rather ill defined. There was a standard set out, but it was a voluntary standard. Each individual Railroad had its own requirements that, while usually based on the common standard, could vary in the details. Final say on if a given watch was "Approved" was the Railroad company. Watch companies would manufacture watches based on the common standard; these can be described as "Railroad grade". But being railroad grade doesn't mean it was Railroad Approved. In particular, you could have bought a watch in 1890 that was "Railroad Grade" at the time, but if you didn't get a job with a railroad until 1920, chances are your watch wouldn't have been "Railroad Approved" by your new employer.

    In answer to your specific question, it's certainly possible, but rare. Being lever set was one of the fundamental requirements, designed to ensure that the time on the watch wasn't accidentally changed during regular use. Its probably the one truly defining element of a railroad grade watch.

    Having said that, if you're looking for Canadian RR watches, you'll hear about (and lust after) the Candian Pacific branded watches, which were Pendant set.

    http://people.timezone.com/msandler/.../Railroad.html
    AbslomRob is right.

    May I suggest you seek out a copy of Shugart's price guide for more details about RR watches. It has a few pages of what is a RR watch and may have the answers you are looking for. It even has a list of CP rail approved RR watches from 1899-1910. You can find this book at the library or local book store.

    Clayton
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  5. #4
    Member Shangas's Avatar
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    Re: verification about RR watches

    Hi Jazz,

    From my reading I understand that RR watches should/must be lever set. Is this the case with all? Given watch dates from about 1910 on, I have seen some retailers describe watches as RR 'grade' and note that a specific watch is not lever set. Is this just a bit of retail 'marketing'?

    Is it possible that a pocket watch is a railway watch without being lever set?
    Thanks

    Railroad watches had to meet STRICT manufacturing and operating criteria. They HAD TO BE lever-set. If they were not, they were not considered railroad watches.

    A Canadian RR watch has a twenty-four hour dial. Numbers 1-12 in big bold numerals, numbers 13-24 in smaller numerals. Every minute and second marked out on the dial, along with the additional 24-hour ring of numbers.

    24-hour dials were not a criteria in the USA, only in Canada.

    Keep in mind that RR grade watches changed over time, as Rob pointed out. The original criteria called for 17 jewels. By the 1940s, this had risen to 21 jewels (or higher). Watches had to keep very good time and had to be adjusted to 5 or more positions (max = six positions), plus temperature & isochronism. They had to have a micrometric regulator and they had to be 16 or 18 size watches.

    I recently purchased my own RR watch, which, by coincidence, IS a Canadian RR watch, here it is:



    It's a ca. 1960 Ball. 21 jewels, 16 size, eight adjustments (six pos + temp & isoc), micrometric regulator, twenty-four hour dial and dozens of other little doo-dads that the other, more experienced members can fill you in on.

    One should be aware of terminology here...

    RR STANDARD & RR Chronometer = Same = Certified for official RR use.

    RR GRADE =/= RR standard = NOT certified for RR use.

    RR GRADE means that it's up to the LEVEL of RR standard, but it doesn't cover ALL the requirements. For example, it might only be a 12-hour dial, or it might be pin or crown or key-set, instead of the necessary lever. It might only have 17 jewels, when the recommended number was 23, stuff like that.
    "Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest...nothing has more individuality save, perhaps, watches and bootlaces."

    - Sherlock Holmes.

    'The Yellow Face'.

  6. #5
    Member Noisy Nova's Avatar
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    Re: verification about RR watches

    Here's my Grandfather's watch. A Waltham Riverside, railroad grade, lever set, 19 jewel watch. When it was made (1918?) it could have been used on the RR. (it wasn't)





    Here's my 1945 Hamilton 992B that was used on a Canadian RR.




    -Dave

  7. #6
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    Re: verification about RR watches

    Thanks sooo much for all this info, guys, I very much appreciate the reference links as well [some I was aware of but others very useful]. This clarifies a few things for me and certainly the RR Approved vs Grade issue that was confusing me.

    I guess in my quest for a 'real' Canadian RR pocket watch, things have gotten much clearer. I was actually considering a couple of 'grade' watches from a retail site for a significant price compared to what I really want which is 'Approved'. I realize that much of the price is also related to the condition but for my first RR watch, I'd rather pay the price to get the 'real' thing.

    I've been poking around this site over the past couple of weeks since I found it and it is such a great resource. Thanks again. Love the pics!!
    Ralph

  8. #7
    Member Shangas's Avatar
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    Re: verification about RR watches

    Noisy Nova, your grandfather had excellent taste in watches!! I checked the serial-number. Yes, your grandpa's watch was made in 1918.

    Glad we could help, Ralph. By all means, come back and ask more questions as your quest continues. We're happy to assist you however we can.
    "Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest...nothing has more individuality save, perhaps, watches and bootlaces."

    - Sherlock Holmes.

    'The Yellow Face'.

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