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Watch Code Documentation

The watch code is a short way of describing the watch. It is similar to the EA codes developed by Roy Ehrhardt and used in many of his books, so they should look familiar to many experienced pocket watch collectors.

For example, a code of "h3g6p" means the watch movement was made for a hunter case, it is a 3/4 plate style, the plates are gold plated (gilded), it is the 6th model of this size of watch and it is pendant set and pendant wind. The code "ofn15l" means that the watch movement was made for an open face case, it is a full plate style, the plates have nickel damaskeening on them, it is the 15th model of this sized watch and it is lever set and pendant wind.

The code is a series of letters, and numbers packed together. You need to look at the letters one at a time.

First letter: the movement "type"
hhunter case (or keywind)The second hand is 90 degrees to the pendant
oopen faceThe second hand is opposite (180 deg) from the pendant
cconvertibleThis movement can be either open face to hunter case
ssweep secondThe second hand is in the center with the other hands
-no secondThere is no second hand
?unknownAccurate information about this watch is unknown
Notes:
  • Keywind watches are classified as "Hunter Case" because that is how Elgin classified them.
  • Keywind, convertible, sweep second and watches without second hands can all be correctly placed in either a hunter case or an open faced case.
  • Elgin classified the "bridge layout" as part of the style instead of the plate layout.
Second letter: The plate style
ffull plateOnly the balance wheel is visible and is above a plate
33/4 plateThe top plate is cut so the balance wheel can be sunk down to the same level as all the other gears.
bbridgeThe gears are held in place by small bars instead of plate that covers much of the watch.
?unknownAccurate information about this watch is unknown
Third letter: The plate finish
ggold gildedThe plates will have a gold color to them
nnickel damaskeeningThe plates will have a shiny silver color with patterns and designs that change as you move the watch around. The patterns are known as "damaskeening".
ttwo-toneThe plates will have damaskeening in both nickel and gold.
fflat (matte)the plates will have a dull, flat silvery finish.
?unknownAccurate information about this watch is unknown
Fourth digit: The model number   (This can sometimes be two digits)
Fifth letter: How the time is set and the watch is wound.
kkey setTo set the time, you need to use a small "key" and to wind it.
llever setTo set the time, you need to open the front of the watch and pull out a small "lever" and then turn the pendant to set. To wind it, you turn the pendant.
ppendant setTo set the time, you need to pull the pendant out and to wind it, you turn the pendant.
aauto-windThe watch will automatically wind itself by moving the watch around. To set it, you use the pendant.
hhack setLike pendant set, but by pulling the pendant out, you stop the watch. This lets you set the time exactly.
?unknownAccurate information about this watch is unknown
Note: Some grades were "transitional", and had both keywind parts, and could be wound by the pendant.
Sixth letter: How quickly the watch ticks
 quick trainIf there is no seventh letter, then the watch beats at 5 beats per second.
sslow trainThis watch ticks at only 4.5 beats per second
bbothSome versions of this watch beat at the slow 4.5 bps and some beat at the quick 5 bps
jJitter BugDuring WWII, Elgin produced a very accurate stop watch that beat 40 times per second. It ticked so quickly that people nicknamed it the "jitter bug".
?unknownAccurate information about this watch is unknown

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.