Making the Elgin Grade 6

This watch is an Elgin grade 6, serial number 1407218. It was made in 1882 and is an 18 size, 7 jewel watch. It's big and heavy. The watch is stem-wind and lever-set. This particular model is also a "slow beat" watch (4.5 bps), giving it a distinctive sound.

Here's how this watch is put together...

This watch is pretty dirty but nothing appears broken. It has a nice three hinged coin silver case, and a good hand painted dial and nice hands, all in good condition. The balance is not broken, but is not moving well.

There's quite a bit of dirt and wear in the setting mechanism. It looks like everything will work though, without replacing any parts. I'd guess this watch saw a long period of use, and a long period of storage. But there's no sign of rust or mistreatment.

Here's all the part after a basic cleaning. This piece include a dust cover with a cutout for the barel.

The setting parts look a lot better now after a detailed hand cleaning. A couple very tiny dots of watch grease and we get a nice smooth motion. Just like it should be.

This watch has a one-piece bridge over the winding arbor. Interestingly the bridge includes a little cut out that provides for one of the dial feet that comes up right under it. Getting this dial pin in and out is a little trickier than normal, since there's not much room for the tweezer tip. But luckily the pin is in good condition.

This shows the parts in place prior to fitting the three-quarter top plate. Note the english style lever escapement found on many older Elgin 18 size watches. Getting the plates assembled on a watch like requires no small amout of practice. All the pivots have to line up right and the lever has to go inside the housing on the top plate, which includes the lower balance jewel. It's real easy to break a pivot.

The plates look a lot better now. The gilding has cleaned up well.

Closer inspection of the balance reveals why it wasn't moving freely, and unfortunately it's not just dirt. The upper balance pivot is slightly bent and scored by the jewel. I decide to attempt to straighten and re-burnish the pivot rather than replace the staff. This isn't a watch I plan to carry around, so if I just get it running well, I'll be happy.

Straightening a pivot is a delicate job requiring a modified pair of parellel pliers. No other tool will do. The jaws must be polished smooth and at left one tip very slightly rounded to fit the staff shoulder.

The piers have to be heated with an alchohol lamp, and repeatedly warmed while the work is done.

Actually altering the pivot is more like pulling it into shape - slowly drawing it, while bracing the round corner of the pliers' jaws on the shoulder of the staff. The whole process takes about half an hour.

The dial and hands look great, all cleaned up. There's almost no marks (from tools or otehrwise) on the blueing, and no watchmakers' marks on the watch case. I wonder if this watch has ever been cleaned before?

The job has taken a lot of extra time. Now it's time to leave this watch for the night, and finish up tomorrow.

To finish the pivot, it'll take a very light polish and burnishing. The big 18 size balance is too large for my dedicated pivot lathe, so I'll use my Grandfather's lathe and also his pivot jig for the job.

First a light touch up with the (red) jasper stone. Never use arkansas stone with this sort of pivot jig as those stones create dust that will ruin the pivot hole in the tool. Also, jasper stones are used without oil.

This is followed by burnishing with a steel burnisher. It should be polished to as nice a perfect surface as possible. There's a whole technique to this that's another story...

The end result is a pivot polished to a mirror finish, having a hardened surface.

Installed, the balance now works perfectly, with good end-shake, at all watch positions. A slight anjustment to true the hairspring to flat is all that's required.

This watch has an unusual feature. The case screw has a "washer" fashioned from an old rachet wheel. Whenever I run into something like this, I leave it in place if at all possible. The history of these pieces is something to respect and preserve.

* Back to the Elgin Virtual Museum
* More About Elgin Watches
The Elgin National Watch Company and other information
* Elgin watches restored, cleaned and serviced
Regarding the care and cleaning of pocketwatches
* Elgin watch mini-FAQ
Frequently asked questions

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