The Elgin Pocket Watch Collectors Site
This website is dedicated to helping people find out about their Elgin
pocket watches. These watches were symbols of
America's emergence from an agricultural country into an industrial
power. Watches are one of the few machines that were made 50 or even
150 years ago that, even today, can still be practical to use every
If you are a new collector, you will find answers to many
frequently asked questions (FAQs) in the Watch Help section. The What is a watch? web page is a
good, short, introduction to what you need to know about mechanical
watches. The Documents & Picture
section to be a fun place to get an idea of what Elgin was and a
glimpse into the past.
Advanced collectors will find the information in the
sections to cover many details not found anywhere else, either on the
Internet or in print. The Documents &
Picture section contains many scans of many hard to find books.
I encourage everyone to join the
National Association of Watch
and Clock Collectors, it is a great organization where you
can learn a lot about watches and horology in general.
There are also a couple of good message board systems where
people get together and chat about pocket watches.
I would like to recommend the
American Watch Co Pocket Watch BBS, which is a
research chapter dedicated to pocket watches.
A Quick History of the Elgin National Watch Company
Elgin was founded in 1864, right as the civil war was coming to
an end. The first watch Elgin made, an 18 sized B W Raymond
railroad grade watch, was finished in 1867 and over the next 100
years, they went on to produce about 60 million watches. Elgin
produced their first wristwatch around 1910, leading most other
American watch companies by many years.
Elgin was originally called the "National Watch Company". The
name never really stuck and in 1874, they changed their name to
the "Elgin National Watch Company" because most of the watch
trade and public were calling them "watches from Elgin". They
kept that name until the late 1960s when they stopped producing
watches and changed their name to the "Elgin National Industries".
Elgin was founded on the idea of mass producing high quality
pocket watches using machine made, interchangeable parts. Up until
around 1850, watches were made mostly by hand, which meant that
if a part broke, you had to find someone with the tools and
skill to make a new part.
Elgin realized that there was a large
market for good watches that could be sold and repaired
relatively cheaply using factory made replacement parts that
didn't require hand adjusting.
Located near the early railroad hub of Chicago, Elgin
specialized in making railroad grade watches. The famous
B.W. Raymond line of pocket watches was named after Elgin's
first president, former two-term mayor of Chicago, and a
director of the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad. Elgin
continued to produce railroad grade pocket watches almost to
the very end.
Elgin never made the very highest quality watches in the world, nor
did they make the very cheapest, but together with Waltham (aka The
American Watch Company), they dominated the vast middle ground
of the watch market.
Today, collecting Elgin watches is quite popular. Because Elgin
produced so many watches and produced so many spare parts, they
can still be easily bought and fixed, so even a 100 year old
Elgin can be used, with care, on a daily basis. While
mechanical watches can't compete with quartz watches for
accuracy, there is something about having a watch that ticks
that a quartz watch just can't replace.
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