Vintage Elgin stops when not worn...

Thread: Vintage Elgin stops when not worn...

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  1. #1
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    Vintage Elgin stops when not worn...

    Hello there! New to the forum, this being my first post. I have always admired vintage watches, particularly Art Deco era ones and so recently bought five on eBay, four Elgins and a Bulova. My question relates to one of the Elgins which sets and runs well, loses about five minutes a day if you wear it, but if wound and left on the table it will often stop after a few hours... sometimes. Is it likely to be due to worn parts inside, a balance wheel issue or similar? I called a couple of watchmakers in town and basically got answers like "bring it in we charge $50 - $300 for a clean and service". Not sure I want to commit to spending $300 on a $50 eBay find which may have deeper issues, I haven't contacted the seller yet either, any advise for a vintage watch newby?

    Thank you

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  2. #2
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    Re: Vintage Elgin stops when not worn...

    I haven't a clue what's wrong with it, but... I always (well, since a year, because I haven't been into watches that long yet) send them to Christian at watchguy.co.uk
    He charges about £80 (which comes to ± $130) for a full service, BUT he doesn't charge anything if he opens it up and finds he doesn't think he can fix it.
    If he thinks he CAN fix it, he will give you a quote first, so you can decide what you want to do while only risking shipping costs. And that shouldn't be too ad if you use a padded envelope?

    If you do send it, and he does fix it, there's the added bonus of seeing the photos online :)

  3. #3
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    Re: Vintage Elgin stops when not worn...

    If the watch is dirty, balance amplitude might be low, and without the swing of the arm to keep the balance moving it will stop. Usually, however, with low amplitude, the watch will GAIN time, because the shorter swings of the balance take just a tiny bit less time than larger swings, which adds up to gaining time. Perhaps your watch is stopping and restarting when it's being worn and you're not noticing it.

    The watch itself is at least 70 years old, and looks in pretty good condition, externally. If you intend to wear it at all, it should be serviced, since losing 5' a day is actually atrocious performance, far less than the movement in good condition is capable of. In addition, the pivots are being ground away by running dry and dirty.

    This is the big hidden cost of vintage watches - servicing them. Our ancestors took their watches in every year or so to be completely disassembled, and the parts cleaned and inspected before being carefully reassembled, lubricated, and regulated to keep good time. There were watchmakers everywhere - most jewelers had one on the premises. Nowadays they're hard to find and they charge a lot more. That's why I learned to service my own watches - I could afford to collect watches, or I could afford to service watches, but not both!

    If you found a watchmaker who will do a cleaning for $50, I'd go for it. But, before you leave it with him, have him make sure the balance staff is intact, and expect that he'll have to replace the mainspring. If the staff is broken (sometimes that's what makes them run like yours) that's another expense.
    Don't take life so serious, son. It ain't nohow permanent - Pogo

    My Elgin Blog...

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  5. #4
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    Re: Vintage Elgin stops when not worn...

    Nice looking watch overall. There are a variety of issues that could lead to the problem you describe. As stated by others - if you would like the watch to run for a long time then it should be serviced.

    This is the big hidden cost of vintage watches - servicing them...That's why I learned to service my own watches - I could afford to collect watches, or I could afford to service watches, but not both!
    +1...I have also learned to do my own basic service and repairs. This requires some additional up front costs in the necessary tools and materials (oils, springs) but is rewarding in its own right.

  6. #5
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    Re: Vintage Elgin stops when not worn...

    Quote Originally Posted by Paleotime View Post
    +1...I have also learned to do my own basic service and repairs. This requires some additional up front costs in the necessary tools and materials (oils, springs) but is rewarding in its own right.
    Very true! The first time you put a movement back together, drop the balance into place, and it takes off running you feel like a frakkin' genius!

    It also allowed me to expand my purchasing criteria. I can now buy nonrunners with at least SOME confidence that I can make them work. A surprising number are just plain dirty, and once cleaned run really well.
    Don't take life so serious, son. It ain't nohow permanent - Pogo

    My Elgin Blog...

  7. #6
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    Re: Vintage Elgin stops when not worn...

    Thank you all for the input. We have a 3rd generation watchmaker here in town (population 80k) who quoted me $40-$100 to replace the crystal on my Bulova depending on how long it took him to find the crystal which he claimed was in his stock, that didn't impress me. Apart from him everything else here needs to be sent off to the 'big city'. I intend to learn to do my own servicing in future after I collect tools and supplies, there are some fine articles on this site about that.

    Also, there are a few nicks and scratches on the case as you can see from the pic, how safe would I be to attempt to polish them out with a Dremel/felt wheel or would I likely polish through the gold plating?

  8. #7
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    Re: Vintage Elgin stops when not worn...

    Quote Originally Posted by Watchmecollect View Post
    Thank you all for the input. We have a 3rd generation watchmaker here in town (population 80k) who quoted me $40-$100 to replace the crystal on my Bulova depending on how long it took him to find the crystal which he claimed was in his stock, that didn't impress me. Apart from him everything else here needs to be sent off to the 'big city'. I intend to learn to do my own servicing in future after I collect tools and supplies, there are some fine articles on this site about that.

    Also, there are a few nicks and scratches on the case as you can see from the pic, how safe would I be to attempt to polish them out with a Dremel/felt wheel or would I likely polish through the gold plating?
    Not safe at all. What you probably have is gold filled, which as you may know has more gold than simple gold plated, but it's still only about 1/20 of the thickness. The details of the engraving are already worn off on the lugs and the corners of the bezel. I'd use a polishing cloth, and hand polish only. I have 2-part polishing cloth with Jewelers' Rouge on one cloth. It does a good job on things like this without wearing through the gold.j
    Don't take life so serious, son. It ain't nohow permanent - Pogo

    My Elgin Blog...

  9. #8
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    Re: Vintage Elgin stops when not worn...

    Also, there are a few nicks and scratches on the case as you can see from the pic, how safe would I be to attempt to polish them out with a Dremel/felt wheel or would I likely polish through the gold plating?
    Don't do that! As Genejockey said the risks are quite high that the result will not be good. In addition to the polishing cloth that was mentioned - I use a high quality soft polish like is used on fancy flatware. Hand polish only and go slow.

    The first time you put a movement back together, drop the balance into place, and it takes off running you feel like a frakkin' genius!
    Right on...And for me everytime thereafter. Also - when you start to puzzle out the why a movement doesn't run or doesn't run well it is a point of pride. It adds a dimension to collecting and wearing vintage watches.

    Sorry to hear your local watchmaker is disappointing. I don't know where you are located but here in the western US service costs for a basic mechanical wristwatch is $100-$150.
    Last edited by Paleotime; December 3rd, 2012 at 00:37. Reason: appalling grammar

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