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Serial Number Lookup Example Explained

The output from the Online Elgin Database is very terse. It was designed to be quickly read by knowledgeable Elgin watch collectors and needs a little explaining for everyone else.

Here is an explanation for SN4231541 which is a fairly typical example. Each section of the output is broken out and all parts are discussed, generally in a left to right order as found in the output.

Matching Serial Number Run Lines

Serial Number   SN Range Quanty Name Year grade size code   jewels Adj/reg/etc.
--------------  -------- ------ ---- ---- ----- ---- ------ ------ ------------
       4231541   4230001   2000    ? 1890  82*   18s hfg2l  13-15j e

If you enter just a serial number, you will only get one line here. However, if you use question marks ("?") for wild cards in the serial number, or use some of the Advanced Search Options, you can end up with many lines here.

This line says that the serial number 4231541 is in a run of 2000 watches that started at 4230001. There were many runs of this grade of watch. Below, in the next section, the total production quantity and the total number of runs are listed.

The database doesn't have enough information to correctly determine if this watch should be marked as G. M. Wheeler or not, so it shows this by listing a "?" under the name. A "Nameless" watch is one that is simply marked with "Elgin Ill.", with no reference to a name or a grade number. If the database could tell that this watch was nameless, then this field would show "None". Otherwise, one of the Elgin Names would be listed.

This watch was probably made sometime around 1890, the exact date can't be determined. High quality watches, the first production of a particular grade number or grades that were produced in low volumes are much more likely to have an incorrect date listed here. For more information, see the Watch Serial Number web page.

The grade number of the watch is 82. The star by the 82 means there are notes on that grade, please see below.

The watch size of this watch is 18s.

The watch code "hfg2l" says that it was designed for a hunter case (h), it is a full plate design (f), the plates are gilded (g), it is a model 2 (2), and it is lever set (l).

The Grade 82 movements had either 13 or 15 jewels.

Because no adjustments are listed under the "Adj/reg/etc" column, this watch is unadjusted. See the watch adjustments web page for more information.

This grade also had an "Elgin style micrometric regulator" denoted by the "e" under the "Adj/reg/etc" column. This was a very common style of regulator used on higher grade Elgin watches. It has a little spool/nut on the curved rod and it is a little unusual for a watch to have this kind of regulator and be an unadjusted watch. See the watch regulators web page for more information.

The regulator information is only listed if it is "unusual" in some way. Wrist watches (those that are smaller than 0s) are assumed to have a free regulator. Watches that are adjusted are assumed to have an Elgin style regulator. Watches that are unadjusted are assumed to have a free regulator.

Because no mainspring barrel information is listed, this watch has the normal "going barrel." See the mainspring barrel web page for more information. Going barrels are the norm, and the barrel information is only listed if it is something else.

Grade Information Lines

grade total runs   first yr  last yr class  size  code   jewels Adj/name
----- ----- -----  --------  ------- -----  ----  ------ ------ ----------
 82  163000  68        1878     1895    4    18s  hfg2l  13-15j GMW -

The next line tells you about the grade 82. It says that there were a total of 163,000 produced in 68 different runs. Production of this grade started around 1878, although the first watches were probably sold several years later. The last of this grade was produced around 1894.

The "number of runs" is kind of a book keeping thing. Elgin made watches by machines, so it was much more efficient to configure the machines once and create all the watch parts needed for a large number of watches all at the same time. Most of watch parts would be assigned a serial number and mostly finished. The final finishing, assembly and timing would happen when Elgin's stocks of that grade were running low.

Elgin typically would allocate "blocks" or "runs" of serial numbers in multiples of 1000. So, for example, all the serial numbers between 11,222,001 and 11,223,000 are grade 297 watches. If a watch grade sold well, Elgin would assign additional runs and high volume watches might have 10,000 or 20,000 serial numbers in a single run.

Sometimes you see the number of runs listed as two numbers, separated by a dash. For example, grade 12 lists the runs as "59-11". This means that there are 59 runs of grade 12 watches, but that 11 of those are consecutive. When Elgin listed two runs of a grade, one right after the other, it almost always means that there is something different about those runs. Often it is something like the runs being marked with different names, or one run was converted to that grade from a different grade. Some sources of Elgin information, such as Roy Ehrhardt's Elgin book, consider consecutive runs to be just one run, so it lists grade 12 as having only 48 runs (59-11=48).

The fact that Elgin would sometimes assign a run of serial numbers to a certain grade long before all the watches from previous runs were finished is why the production dates based off the serial numbers can be off by many years.

The grade 82 is in class number 4. Classes were used by Elgin to distinguish what kinds of parts were used in this watch. Different classes could have parts made from different materials (brass vs steel vs gold), they could have different finishes, and they could have different tolerances. See the Grade and Class Information web page for more information.

Grade Notes Lines

(*) notes on grade 82:  Marked: GMW or None.
               # not sure which naming is more common   # REG_FREE also

The notes on the grade 82 say that watches of this grade can be marked as either a G. M. Wheeler (GMW), or as a Nameless grade (none), and that I'm not sure which marking is more common. Besides having an Elgin style micrometric regulator, it can also have a freely movable regulator (REG_FREE).

Some grades appear to have all of one run marked as one name and all of another run either not marked, or marked with another name. In the case of the GMW grades, this appears not to be the case. Apparently Elgin would randomly mark some watches in the grade 82 as GMW and others as Nameless. The grade 144 also has very random markings.

Class Information Lines

Class 4:         18s HC fp
     16        400 made key model 1  7j  Marked LAF or RYR.
                   gilded slow train (4.5 bps)
     17        500 made key model 1 11j gilded slow train (4.5 bps)
     56       1100 made key model 1 11j gilded slow train (4.5 bps)
     57      75146 made key model 1 11-13j  Marked GMW, ADV, None or CAL.
                   gilded slow train (4.5 bps)
     63      10973 made lever model 2-4 11-13j  Marked GMW or None.
                   gilded slow train (4.5 bps)
                   "transitional" Either Keywind or pendant wind.
                   are any really 13j?
     81      53000 made key model 1 13-15j  Marked None, GMW or FRY. gilded
                   not sure which naming is more common
     82     163000 made lever model 2-4 13-15j  Marked GMW or None. gilded
                   not sure which naming is more common   # REG_FREE also
    103      74000 made lever model 2-4 15j  Marked GMW or None.
    125      13000 made lever model 2-4 15j Adj gilded
    126      11000 made lever model 2-4 15j Adj
    143       7000 made lever model 2-4 15-17j U-A  Marked GMW or None. gilded
    144      41000 made lever model 2-4 15-17j Adj  Marked GMW or None.
                   not sure which naming is more common
                   are any of these actually 15j?
    278       2000 made lever model 2-4 17j ?  Marked OVR.

Finally, there is a summary of what other watches are in class 4. All class 4 watches are 18s hunter case style full plate watches . The last grade to be added to class 4 was grade 278, of which only 2000 were made. These are supposed to be marked as "Overland" (OVR) and have 17 jewels.

See the Grade and Class Information web page for more information.

Unknown Data Warning


This is a note to remind me that the grade 82 can be found as either 13j or 15j and I should update the database with this information. Kind of useless for anyone else though.

Links to Similar Watches Sold Lines

Search eBay logs for grade 82 watches.
You can click on this to get a list of grade 82 watches that I've seen on ebay.

While I'm not an expert, I believe the information on this page is correct. Please send suggestions and corrections to the webmaster.
This web site runs on 100% Open Source Software. This web page was last changed on 10/04/2002 at 00:42:24.