Glossary: Serial Number, Grade, Model, Class, etc.
From the very beginning, Elgin was finishing and selling over 100
watches per day and were working on thousands more. So, it isn't
surprising that they needed some way of organizing and classifying
these watches to make it easier to manufacture, for marketing purposes
and for watchmakers to order parts to repair them. These three needs
overlapped, and in some cases conflicted with each other, more over,
things changed as the decades went by. The result is the somewhat
complicated and confusing set of systems we find today.
Over the years, Elgin used the following systems to classify their
Similar terms were used by other American watch companies, although
the details of what they meant could sometimes be quite different. To
simplify things, only Elgin's usage will be discussed here.
- Serial Numbers, organized into "runs", such as
the run of serial numbers from 16311001-16312000 were all grade number
- Grade Numbers, such as 180 or 478, which were
B.W. Raymond named watches.
- Grade Names, such as the B.W. Raymond
railroader's watch, or the G.M. Wheeler gentleman's watch.
- Watch sizes and model numbers, such as 16s
model 9, which were all open face, 3/4 plate three finger bridge
models, with lever setting.
- Class numbers, such as 114, which were all
medium to low quality 12s model 3 watches.
- Other systems
If you are interested in just an overview of this subject, just read
the section summaries.
|Movement serial number is highlighted|
- Originally used by:
- Manufacturing and later by watchmakers for repairs.
- Today's use:
- Required to correctly identify the grade and to estimate the age
of a watch.
Elgin placed unique serial numbers on their watch movements. The
serial numbers were allocated in "runs" or blocks of identical grade watches. Starting in the late 1930s, Elgin
added a letter prefix to the serial numbers of some watches and around
this time, Elgin also started to mark the grade
number on some of the movements in addition to the serial number.
In the late 1940s, Elgin started to sell Swiss made watches and around
this time, Elgin stopped placing serial numbers on some watches they
made in the USA. The Swiss didn't place serial numbers on any of the
watches they sold to Elgin. By the late 1950s, Elgin had pretty much
phased out the use of serial numbers.
Serial number runs
The first watch Elgin made in 1867 had the serial number 101, and they
continued to use serial numbers up into the 1950s. Elgin organized
the serial numbers into "runs" of identical grade
watches. For example, the first run is from serial number 101 to
1000, which were all B.W. Raymond 15 jewel 18s railroad watches
(grade number 69). The second run was from SN1001 to SN1800, which
were all H.Z. Culver watches (grade number 62), a small step down in
quality from the first run.
Elgin normally allocated runs of serial numbers in a multiple of
1,000, starting with serial numbers that end in 001. Most runs were
for only 1,000 watches, but for very popular grades, the runs could be
10,000 or more. Looking at the serial number lists, it appears that
Elgin would allocate runs of watches periodically (monthly?, maybe
quarterly?) based on the demand for the different grades. Since it
took around 6 to 18 months between the time the first parts of a
watch were manufactured until the watch was actually finished, it is
likely that the watches from a given run may have been in many states of
completion at any time.
Dating watches by serial number
Elgin appears to have allocated serial number runs in sequence and so
the finished watches came out of the factory watches at least somewhat
in order. We can use the serial number to approximate the date of
production but these dates aren't exact because different quality
watches took different amounts of time to complete and large numbers
of the partially finished watches could be set aside to make way for
faster selling watches. Once a watch was finished, it was placed in
stock, and watches from several different runs of the same grade were
often shipped in a single order.
At best, the serial number will date a watch to within a year or two,
but it could often vary by much more. This is especially true for
high end watches, the first few runs of a grade or model, the last few
runs of a grade and low production watches. In general, the more
interesting the watch is, the less accurate the serial number will
It appears that when Elgin was creating a new grade of watch, they
would allocate a few blocks of serial numbers to work with and then
went on to work out all the bugs with the machines and production
techniques. This means that the first runs of a new grade would
actually be sold at least a year or two later than other watches that
had serial numbers around the first run. New models tended to take
longer to develop than new grades based off of an existing model.
There are other cases, such as the first runs of grade 149 and grade
150, that were being advertised about a year earlier than the serial
numbers would normally imply.
The last few runs may have taken years to sell, and watches may have
been finished up very slowly. Similarly, high end watches were often
slow sellers and there is evidence in the Elgin Master Records that
Elgin was still finishing and selling watches over a decade after the
serial number would normally imply.
Serial numbers with letter prefix
Starting in the late 1930s, Elgin added a letter prefix to the serial
numbers on some watches. It is not clear why Elgin did this, but
around this time, Elgin had opened up a second plant. All of the
watches produced in this first series of watches with letter prefixed
serial numbers were the first time these grades had been produced, and
often the first of a particular size or model. While some other
grades went from not having a letter prefix to being produced with
one, none of the grades in this first series of letter prefixed
watches were ever produced without a letter prefix in their serial
The first letter prefix that Elgin used was 'X' which, considering all
the new things that went into that series, could easily have stood for
"experimental". They then followed with other letters in seemingly
random order, such as 'C', 'E', 'T', 'Y' and 'L'. Some watch
companies have used letter prefixes to hide how many watches they are
producing in any given year, and how "old" the watches are that they
are shipping. It is not clear if this was the reason why Elgin
started to use letter prefixes, but by the end of WWII, Elgin had
completely phased out the use of serial numbers without a letter
The last serial number list that Elgin published was from 1950, so all
the runs after that are not documented. The "generally accepted
dates" for the serial numbers say that Elgin used about one letter per
year, which would mean that Elgin continued its regular production of
about a million watches per year. However, at the same time, Elgin
was producing watches that had no serial numbers, as well as importing
Swiss watches that didn't have serial numbers, so either Elgin was
selling more watches than its historical average, or the letter
prefixes spanned more than one year.
There is other evidence that Elgin strung out at least the last letter
prefix ('I') over a number of years, and quite possibly they stretched
the last several prefix series ('R', 'P', and 'K'). For example, The
only railroad grade pocket watch that Elgin was making in the 1950s
was the grade 571, and they didn't start selling the B.W. Raymond
grade 730 wrist watch until 1961. The "generally accepted dates" for
the last run of grade 571 would place it in 1954. I have a hard time
believing that Elgin didn't produce a single railroad grade watch for
7 years, or that they instantly switched over to wrist watches.
Another sign that Elgin strung out at least the last letter series is
that the last year had 38,000 grade 571 B.W. Raymonds allocated
to it, more than any year since 1950.
The end of serial numbers
In the late 1940s, Elgin started to sell Swiss made watches and around
this time, Elgin stopped placing serial numbers on some watches made
in Elgin. The Swiss didn't place serial numbers on any of the watches
that Elgin bought from them. It is not clear if these two events are
related, but it probably would have been hard for Elgin to get the
Swiss to mark their watches with a unique serial number and keep
everything straight. Besides, since the early 1940, Elgin had started
to mark the grade number directly on many of their movements, which
made serial numbers obsolete.
|Movement grade number is highlighted|
If two Elgin watches have different grades, there is something
physically different about them. The difference can often be quite
minor, and often not visible without taking the watch apart. The
reverse, however, isn't always true. Sometimes Elgin would change
watches without changing their grade numbers, but this was the
exception rather than the rule. The most common change was adding
additional jewels, but Elgin made other changes as well.
- Originally used by:
- Watchmakers for repairs, manufacturing and, when first introduced,
- Today's use:
- Used to identify the quality and rarity of a watch.
You can think of the "grade number" is being a product code. Watches
with the same grade number were almost always manufactured exactly the
same. Generally, any time the slightest thing in a watch changed,
Elgin would change the grade number, but in a few cases, Elgin changed
minor things such as added jewels, or changing how closely a watch was
adjusted. In a handful of grades, there were radical changes, but
these watches were generally manufactured before grade numbers were
After a somewhat chaotic start, Elgin assigned grade numbers
sequentially with little regard to how the grade numbers related to
each other. So, knowing what a grade 273 watch looks like won't help
you to figure out what a grade 272 or a 274 watch is like. Well,
other than knowing that those three grades were probably created
around the same time.
The largest changes made without change the grade number were to
grades such as 5, 10, 13 and 78. These grades were converted from
slow train, right angle escapements watches to quick train, straight
line escapements. This would require a change in the number of teeth
on the gears, location of the gears, the shape of the fork, and the
balance and hairspring. The other example is grade 12, which appears
to have been manufactured in at least three different forms, to match
at least three of different names that this grade was produced with.
The M.D. Ogden grade 12, for example, had a compensated balance,
and had 11 jewels, while the Chas Fargo grade 12 had a solid
balance and had only 7 jewels.
There seems to be a little confusion over grade numbers by many people
which appears to be caused by The
Complete Guide To Watches by Cooksey Shugart et al. In the Elgin
section, they show drawings of the different models that Elgin made with a short description to
help people identify their watch. In particular the first grade that
used a particular model of movement is listed, but, due to how the
words are phrased, people think that any watch that that matches this
picture is that particular grade. Often the first grade of a given
model is a very high end watch and so people think low grade watches
are high grade ones instead.
The grade numbers don't refer directly to the quality of a movement.
A higher quality watch may have a lower grade number. So, in general,
a higher grade number just means that the first of these watches were
made later, but there are a large number of exceptions here too. Some
other watch companies would do things like make the odd numbered
grades be hunter case watches, while the even numbered grades would be
open face watches, but Elgin didn't do anything like this.
Up until the mid to late 1870s, Elgin used grade
names to keep track of the different types of watches they made
and had no concept of grade numbers. Around this time, Elgin started
producing "Nameless" watches, with just the company name on them. At
the same time, or maybe a few years later, Elgin went back and
assigned grade numbers to all grades, including the watches that had
previously only had a name. This is the reason why the very first
watch that Elgin produced was a grade 69 instead of what you might
expect to be called grade number 1. The grade 1 is a nameless grade,
and was assigned its number before Elgin went back and assigned
numbers to their named grades.
|Movement grade name is highlighted|
When Elgin started producing watches in 1867, they used different grade names to distinguish
all their watches. A B.W. Raymond watch always referred to what
is now known as an 18 size, 15 jewel, grade 69 watch. Later, in
around 1873, Elgin introduced their first stem wind movements, there
was then "key wind B.W. Raymonds" and "stem wind
B.W. Raymonds". That still wasn't too confusing.
- Originally used by:
- Sales, and initially watchmakers for repairs.
- Today's use:
- Similar to the grade number, the grade name can be used to
identify the quality and rarity of a watch, but it is often too
general to be as useful as the grade number.
Certain grade numbers were also given a name, such
as G.M. Wheeler, Lord Elgin, B.W. Raymond, or the
watch could be "nameless" with just the Elgin name placed on the
movement. For sales, these names were used to target customers, for
example the B.W. Raymond was the Railroader's watch, while the
G.M. Wheeler was the Gentleman's watch. Before grade numbers were introduced, names were used by
watchmakers to order parts.
Most of the time, all watches of a certain grade would have the same
name, but sometimes a grade could be marked with one of several names,
for example, either "Veritas" or "Father Time". The names generally
implied a certain level of quality. For example, the
"G.M. Wheeler" grade was used by Elgin for their gentleman's
watch, while the B.W. Raymond was used for their railroad
watches. As the standards required by the railroads changed, Elgin
created new grades with the B.W.Raymond name to match these standards.
Likewise, not all G.M. Wheeler's were the same quality, but they
were usually higher quality than nameless grades. In any given year,
the G.M. Wheeler's that were made were always of lower quality
than the B.W. Raymond's. Most names were used on several
different grades, and could be found on watches of several different
sizes and models.
The Introduction of "Nameless" Watches
Things changed in the mid to late 1870s when Elgin introduced
"Nameless" grades. These movements were not marked with a grade name,
instead they only had a serial number and the Elgin name. It is not clear
to me how Elgin handled the problems with sales or the parts ordering
that were caused by introducing these nameless grades. It appears
that Elgin didn't publish a list of serial numbers and their
corresponding grades until many years later.
There isn't much information available about this time period. The
only three clues that I know of are an ad from 1894, a little bit of
information in the "Complete History of Watchmaking in America" by
Crossman, and the Elgin grade and serial number lists.
The 1894 Elgin Ad on "Nameless" Watches
The following ad from the June 1894 "Keystone" jeweler's magazine
contains the most information, and is quoted in full here:
On February first, 1877 (over seventeen years ago), we announced to
the Retail Jewelers that we had adopted a "Nameless" line of movements
engraved "Elgin National Watch Co.", in addition to our then regular
line of Trade-Marked goods. How well this has plan[sic]
succeeded you can best judge from the increased demand for Elgin
Watches, and also from the fact that over ninety per cent. of Elgin
movements sold are "Nameless."
The only Trade-Marked movements demanded by the Jewelers to-day are
our "B.W.Raymonds," "H.H.Taylors" and "G.M.Wheelers," which we propose
to continue as long as the trade requires them.
The "Nameless" plan has, therefore, offered protection to the
Jewelers, as well as having afforded them large returns for their
investment. We now propose to extend the "Nameless" feature to our
packages, by abolishing all grade numbers, making it impossible for
the uneducated to handle our movements, as they have been able to do
in the past through the identification which the character of our
We, the Manufactures, have been obliged to suffer all complaints
because our customers elected to distribute our product in whatsoever
manner seemed most expedient. Our "Nameless" package will identify
our customers in the sale of Elgin Movements, which we confidently
believe will result to our mutual benefit.
We have in the course of preparation the most complete as well as the
most expensive Movement Holder and Tin Box Carrier for safely carrying
all grades of movements of our manufacture.
We will allow you at the rate of $3.00 cash per hundred for Movement
Holder and Tin Box Carrier complete, or $2.50 cash per hundred for the
Movement Holder; all shipments to be address to Elgin, Illinois.
The issue of the above will be about July first, prox.
Elgin National Watch Co.
May 1, 1894
Our offer to purchase Movement Boxes refers to a NEW
box we propose to issue next July. We cannot make
any purchases until after that time and for NEW
Crossman on the Subject of "Nameless" Watches
The "Complete History of Watch Making in America" by Charles
S. Crossman is actually a collection of articles written for
Jeweler's Circular and Horological Review" from 1885-1887. Having
been written soon after the events is a big help, but the quality of
writing is poor and because these were articles, they are shorter and
less detailed than watch collectors today would like. The following
are a few quotes on the subject of the "Nameless" grades:
[...] Later this line [of 18s key wind watches] was further increased
by the addition of four more grades of 18-size movements, named
respectively the "W. H. Ferry," "M. D. Ogden," "J. V. Farwell," and
"Chas. Fargo." These were introduced between August, 1869 and August,
1870. They were all named after gentlemen who had become connected
with the directory.
Since the latter date [1870?] no additional grades of named movements
of this size have been put on the market as at this time corresponding
grades to the named movements were introduced, bearing only the name
of the company as a trade mark instead of individual names. [...]
The first stem wind watches issued by the company were delivered June
28, 1873, the model watch having been made by
Mr. C. S. Moseley. Between that date and May 6, 1875, stem winding
attachments were applied to the "Raymond," "Culver," "Taylor,"
"Wheeler," "Laflin" and "Ogden," grades. During this later year,
also, the nameless movements which have already been alluded to were
adopted for all movements of every size and grade. The first of this
series was produced June 16, 1875. [...]
Information from the Grade and Serial Number Lists
Clues from the serial number lists are much less direct and much more
questionable. It appears that Elgin was much less disciplined about
assigning runs as they were used as they were later on. This may have
been due to having a smaller factory and their less developed machines
and machine shop.
If you believe the dates based on the serial numbers, in these early
years, Elgin would often go for a year or more without producing any
watches of some popular grades, and produce large quantities of other
grades. This may have been what Elgin actually did because stocking a
years worth of a grade may have been cheaper than constantly retooling
the factory in order to make smaller batches. On the other hand,
Elgin may have allocated runs based on the size or type of grade, and
these runs may have been much larger than they intended to produce
right away. The may have then only produced a few watches out of that
run as needed.
The first "clue" that can be found from the serial number lists is
that the 1896 Material Catalog lists names for all runs up to 1874.
According to the "generally accepted dates" for serial numbers, 1875
had a large number of nameless grades introduced. The first run that
does not have a name is SN238001, which is a grade 13. Maybe it is a
coincident, but as mentioned above, the grade 13 was one of the grades
that underwent a radical change from slow train to quick train.
The way that the 1894 Material Catalog lists the name for a run is not
definitive. By looking at actual watch movements, it appears that if
the 1894 Material Catalog lists a run as having a particular name,
with very few exceptions, all of those watches will have that name.
(Most of those exceptions are private labelled watches.) On the other
hand, if a run is marked as not having a name, actual watches may or
may not be Nameless. As a result, this "clue" probably means that
there were no Nameless grades before around 1874, but Nameless grades
may not have started at that point.
The second "clue" from the serial number lists is that the grade
numbers do not appear to correlate at all with their order of
introduction until 1875. However, there are still gaps in the grade
number assignments and many out of order grade numbers until 1886.
Grade 1, for example, isn't produced until 1879.
It is very hard to interpret this "clue". The best explanation that I
can come up with is that this probably means that all the grades
before 1874 did not have their grade numbers assigned until later, but
the grade numbers assigned in 1875 may have taken into account the
number of earlier grades that were made. However, these earlier
grades weren't retroactively assigned grade numbers until later, maybe
as late as the 1880s. The chaotic numbering of the grade numbers may
have been intentional and part of the whole "Nameless movement"
champaign. It may have been designed to make people who were not
supposed to know (the general public? unauthorized dealers?) from
determining what kind of watch they had. This "clue" is probably not
solid enough to say anything definitive.
The third "clue" is only partially from the serial number lists. By
looking at actual watches, the first Nameless watch I have recorded is
SN256481 (1874), which was supposed to be a GMW, but most Nameless
watches don't start popping up until 1875 or so. These dates are based
on the "generally accepted dates" for serial numbers, which may not be
accurate, however these dates do match up with other dates.
The final "clue" may well be the existence of a serial number list at
all. The first serial number list that I know of is from 1896. Maybe
the lack of having any grade numbers even on the shipping tins may
have required a serial number list to be published. Of course, if
earlier serial number lists are discovered, this clue would become
Analysis of "Nameless" Grades
Some of the information presented in Crossman's "Complete History"
doesn't quite jibe with the information presented in both the 1894
Elgin ad, and from the grade data.
Crossman says "Since the latter date [1870?] no additional grades of
named movements of this size have been put on the market", but the
Advance grade name (grade number 13) was introduced in 1874. This
grade keeps popping up and as mentioned earlier, it was changed from
slow train to quick train in ca 1880. According to the so called
"Elgin Master Records", at that time the Advance name was dropped.
Before then, it appears that some were nameless and some were marked
Advance. This grade was fairly low volume so maybe Crossman was not
aware of this grade. It may have been 5 or more years between when
the last Advance grade name was used and when Crossman wrote his book.
Crossman also said nameless watches were introduced in 1875, which
matches fairly well with the serial number, but it is two years
earlier than the 1894 Elgin ad says they were "announced". Possibly
Elgin started to use nameless grades before they were generally
The 1894 Elgin ad also raises some questions. The ad says that
nameless watches were introduced because they "offered protection to
the Jewelers, as well as having afforded them large returns for their
investment." It is not clear what this means, but one possibility is
that nameless watches would allow jewelers to offer them at a
different price point than the equivalent named grade. Another
possibility is that it prevented customers from comparison shopping
and from other jeweler's from easily determining what their
competitors were selling. Finally, if the watches were delivered to
the jeweler in tins that marked the grade, as the ad implies, and
there wasn't a publish serial number list, then only the original
jeweler would easily know what replacement parts would be needed for a
watch they sold.
A twist on the Nameless grades happened during the late 1890s or maybe
the very early 1900s. Some of the grades that had been nameless
started to have their grade number marked on the movements. This, in
effect, created a name out of the grade numbers. It is likely that
this changed happened due to railroad watch requirements that all
watches needed a name or a grade marked on the movement. All the
grades that had their grade numbers placed on them were railroad grade
watches. This policy didn't last for too long, and around this same
time, Elgin introduced a number of new grade names, such as the
Overland, Veritas, Father Time, and Lord Elgin names.
The the final change came in the late 1930s when Elgin again started
to place the grade numbers on many of their watches. Apparently, the
advantages of having nameless watches were no longer as important. By
the late 1950s or early 1960s, the use of serial numbers had been
phased out and replaced with grade numbers.
Elgin manufactured watch movements to industry standard watch sizes. Up
to the 1920s, most American watches were sold uncased by the factory.
The customer would go to a jewelry store, select a watch movement from
one of a number of companies that made their watches to these standard
sizes, and a watch case made by a different set of companies. The
jeweler would have a watchmaker put them together.
- Originally used by:
- Watchmakers for repairs, and probably manufacturing
- Today's use:
- Used when describing a watch, identify if a watch was a men's or a
women's watch, and to determine which cases will fit the
Elgin made quite a few sizes of
watches and in each size, there were different models. The model
numbers determine things such as the general plate layouts, whether
the watch was made for an open face case or a hunter case and the
thickness of the movement. Between sizes, the model numbers are
unrelated, so a 12s model 4 has no relation to an 18s model 4 (which
was created decades earlier).
Elgin uses the term "model" to distinguish which major design pattern
was used for the grades in each size. For example, all 18s keywind
watches have the same basic plate layouts, so all the grades are
considered to be "18s model 1" watches. There is also a model 1 for
the 16s watches, which looks very different.
Like the grade numbers, the model numbers for each size of watch were
assigned sequentially and there was no relationship between the
model numbers of difference sizes.
While many grades of different quality can use a particular size and
model number, some models were primarily used for high quality grades
while other models were used for lower quality grades. For example,
most of the 16s model 1 and model 2 grades (the convertibles), were
high quality grades, while most of the the 17s model 1 and model 2 were
low quality grades.
Elgin's documentation also used the term "style" for the early 10s
watches, but it appears that this was just a synonym for "model". At
least on this website, the style numbers have been converted to model
The class number was a method used by Elgin to help watchmakers order
the correct parts. If two parts could share the same picture in the
material catalogs, they were given the same part number. Elgin made
both very high and very low quality watches that used basically the
same blue prints. A large part of the difference between these watches
was due to the materials used, the finish of the parts and the
tolerances of the parts. Watch parts could be made from brass, gold,
steel or nickel. A part for a low quality watch might be made of brass
while a high quality watch would have a highly polished steel part
with closer tolerances instead.
- Originally used by:
- Watchmakers for repairs
- Today's use:
- Rarely used to today, but can be used to estimate the quality of a
grade based on other grades in the same class.
The "class number" was a way of grouping grade numbers together. All
the grades in a particular class would have the same quality of parts,
both in terms of materials used (brass, gold, steel, etc.) and in
finish and tolerances. The "class numbers", somewhat like the "grade
numbers", were created sequentially and you couldn't tell much about
the watch grades in class number 32 by knowing about class number 31.
Back when Elgin was in business, you would order parts both by a part
number and also by the class number. Now a days, you are luck to get
any part that might work, and few people pays much attention to what
the class number the part is for.
The class number is still useful in helping collectors determine the
quality of a little known watch grade. If the grade has the same class
number as other high quality watches, then it is probably high quality
It appears that, over the years, Elgin actually used the term "class"
in at least two different ways. The 1888 Material Catalog lists each
type of part (wheels, arbors, screws, etc.), and for particular
grade, they would list both a part number and a class number for it.
The class numbers would range from 1 to 4, with class 1 being the
Later, in 1896, Elgin created the "class number" system that is used on
this website and found in most books on Elgin watches. This
includes Shugart's "The Complete Watches"
book and Ehrhardt's "Elgin" book.
The 1896 Elgin Material Catalog has this explanation of the Class
number on the first page.
Since issuing our Material List in 1888 [ ... ] [We] have
made a new departure in the manner of classification. In the old
list each particular size or series of a given article was classified
by itself, commencing with Class 1 in each case; while in this, the
class represents the movements taking the same grade of material.
This "class" system was abandoned sometime after the 1915 Material
Catalog was published. It was definitely gone by the 1927 Material
Among the many grades of movements there are several of the same class
in which there is a difference in some of the material used; for
instance, Gilded and Nickel Raymond, one taking a Gilded barrel and
the other a Nickel. In such cases we have given the article several
illustration numbers, and if the description of movement be read and
the correct number of illustration be given, in addition to class, no
mistake can be made in finish of article required. The idea being
that the illustration serves to give the shape and not finish of
material. To further illustrate this, refer to Indexes, page 37 Nos
432, 433 and 1,534 are given the same illustration; No. 432, Class 1,
is Steel, for a Raymond movement, No. 433 Class 3-5, is Gilded, used
on Gilded Wheelers, while No. 1,544, Class 4-5 is Nickel plated, for
Instead of giving new illustration numbers to all the kinds of
material, such as 18 Full Plate, 18 Open Face, etc., etc., as in the
old list, we have in this, illustrated only the various shapes we
manufacture, depending on the Class, as assigned to the different
grades of movements to determine the style of finish required; thereby
doing away with a large number of illustrations which would simply be
duplicates, as in many cases the same material is used in several
different series of movements. [ ... ]
The highest class in the 1896 book is 60, and if you look at the first
60 classes, you will see that they are sorted from largest to smallest
size, from the lowest model number to the highest model number, and
finally by the "quality" of the watches in the class.
After class 60, there is another block of classes from 61 to
86 which appear to be somewhat sorted. Maybe this corresponds to an
update they did between the 1896 and 1904 Material Catalogs, I'm not
sure. The 1904 Material Catalog has classes up to 117.
After class 86, there is no apparent pattern other than the lowest
grade in the classes generally increases.
The 1904 and 1915 Material catalogs make mention of the "class" in
their introduction pages, but offer few new details.
- Originally used by:
- Today's use:
- Little understood and rarely used today.
Elgin used several other systems to classify watches for sales, most
of these are not well understood.
One of these was the Streamline series of factory cased pocket
watches, and the related Crusader and Corsican watches. These names
appear only in marketing literature and watch case, not on the watch
movements. The Streamline series started to show up in ads during the
1910s, while the other two show up in the 1920s. It appears that
these are all 12 size model 4 watches. Similarly, Elgin appeared to
have created a "Parisienne" series of lady's wrist watches in the mid
1920s that were all 18/0s watches.
Later, with their wrist watches, they started to use "case style
numbers", but other than a few cryptic references in their 1958
Service manual, I have found no more information on this system.