Shortly after Christmas one of my uncles, Alex, visited with his daughter and granddaughters. It had been years since the last time I saw my uncle or cousin and had never met her daughters, so it was great to spend time with them. Hopefully, it won’t be quite so long before we meet again.
Alex also brought several family treasures to pass down to me for safekeeping and sharing with our relatives. One of these heirlooms was a pocket watch carried by Julio Angel Fernández Cordero, my great grandfather, who lived in Costa Rica from 1885 to 1950. Julio gave the watch to my grandfather, Frank Stephen Hinek, who kept it until his passing in 2000. The watch movement was manufactured by the Elgin National Watch Company and is housed in a Fahys Oresilver No. 1 case.
I learned from members of the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors, Inc. that watch companies just made the movements and case companies made the cases, but both used industry standard sizes. The practice at that time was to go to a jeweler, select the quality of the movement, and then pick out the desired style and quality of case. The jeweler would then fit the movement to the case in a matter of moments. I also discovered that you can look up information about an Elgin watch using its serial number. The details of my great grandfather’s watch are listed in the table below. If you hover your mouse over the row title it explains what each means.
|[abbr title=”The unique identification number engraved on the movement”]Movement Serial Number[/abbr]||24805700|
|[abbr title=”The estimated production year of the movement within +/- 3 years”]Estimated Production Year[/abbr]||1922|
|[abbr title=”The size of the movement”]Size[/abbr]||18s|
|[abbr title=”The number of jewels the movement contains”]Jewels[/abbr]||7|
|[abbr title=”Identification of the level of quality to which the movement is finished”]Grade[/abbr]||288|
|[abbr title=”Factory model numbers group similar movement designs”]Model[/abbr]||5|
|[abbr title=”An internal notation used by a watch factory to note the level of production and type of a watch movement”]Class[/abbr]||106|
|[abbr title=”In an openface movement the face is always exposed”]Movement Configuration[/abbr]||Open Face|
|[abbr title=”The setting of a watch movement notes how the hands of the watch are moved
to align with the correct time”]Movement Setting[/abbr]
|Pendant Wind and Set|
|[abbr title=”The metallic finish on the movement plates. A nickel damaskeened finish
means the nickel plates are brushed or decorated by hand or machine, thereby increasing the grade and value of the movement.”]Movement Finish[/abbr]
|[abbr title=”A watch movement is constructed so that wheels are held between bridges or plates. A full plate movement contains two plates of metal with gears between them.”]Plate[/abbr]||Full Plate|
|[abbr title=”The barrel of a movement is the area containing its mainspring. Going barrel is the form used in modern watches, is wound by turning the arbor and drives the watch movement by a ring of teeth around the barrel. This enables
the mainspring to continue running the watch while it is being wound.”]Barrel[/abbr]
|[abbr title=”Whether the movement has been adjusted to positions, temperature, and/or isochronism”]Adjusted[/abbr]||No|
|[abbr title=”Range of years the movement was manufactured”]Production Dates[/abbr]||1903 to 1928|
|[abbr title=”The number of identical movements manufactured in sequence”]Run Quantity[/abbr]||2,000|
|[abbr title=”Quantity manufactured of this particular grade”]Total Grade Production[/abbr]||531,800|
Elgin National Watch Co.
The Elgin National Watch Company was a major U.S. watch maker from 1867 until its closure in 1968. The company was incorporated in August 1864 as the National Watch Company right as the civil war was coming to an end. The founders of the original company were all Chicago businessmen, including then-Chicago mayor, Benjamin W. Raymond. In September of the same year the founders visited the rival Waltham Watch Company in Massachusetts and successfully convinced seven of Waltham’s makers to come to work for their new company. The growing young city of Elgin, Illinois, some 30 miles to the northwest of Chicago, was chosen as the factory site and construction was completed in 1866. The first movement, delivered in 1867, was named the B.W. Raymond. The company officially changed its name to the Elgin National Watch Company in 1874, as the Elgin name had come into common usage for their watches.
During World War II all civilian manufacturing was halted and the company moved into the defense industry, manufacturing military watches, chronometers, fuses for artillery shells, altimeters and other aircraft instruments and sapphire bearings used for aiming cannons. After the war ended increasing competition from overseas manufacturers such as the Swiss contributed to continued decline of the company, and the original Elgin factory finally closed in 1964 after having produced half of the total number of pocket watches manufactured in the United States. According to the Illinois State Historical Society over 60 million watches were produced during the 100 years the factory was in operation.
The Elgin National Watch Company content was adapted from the linked Wikipedia article under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license. Featured photo is of the the Elgin National Watch Company plant circa 1914 in Elgin, Illinois (Haines Photo Co. / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain). Elgin “Father Time” logo (Wachholder0 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0).