View Full Version : Milber Railroad Watch

10-26-2012, 10:53 AM

My brother inherited this Milber watch from his wife's grandfather. It says "Swiss" on the lower part of the dial face. That is all we know about it. Any information on the company and the watch would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

10-26-2012, 11:02 AM

It would be much more helpful to see the inside of the watch than the outside. Try posting photos of the inner workings (the movement) and the inside of the case back. They will get you much better results. In all likelihood the back of the case will screw off.

The Milber name was registered in 1944 by Berman Watch Company out of New York. It was probably an importing company. The watch was likely made by the Swiss in the railroad style for the American market in the middle of the 20th century (1940-1965).

10-26-2012, 11:27 AM
Thank you Squite.

10-26-2012, 10:59 PM

<<It would be much more helpful to see the inside of the watch than the outside. Try posting photos of the inner workings (the movement) and the inside of the case back.>>

Here they are. The back cover was not screwed on. It readily snapped off.

10-27-2012, 03:23 AM
I'm guessing since the case is unmarked that it's probably either nickel or silver plated. The movement is definitely no earlier than the late 1940s or 50s, but maybe even as late as the 1970s. It's unadjusted, the balance wheel is solid, not split, and there just isn't much finery in the finishing of the movement overall. It's a rather modest Swiss import marketed to resemble a railroad watch, but that resemblance appears to me to be more in style than in substance.

10-27-2012, 10:51 AM
Thank you Squite. Now we know what we have - or don't have.

Larry Treiman
10-27-2012, 02:41 PM
Hi, Daniel,

The movement of your watch was made by a firm known as Unitas, located in the Swiss town of Tramelan. They made various kinds of watch movements but are known best for their pocket watch movements. They furnished countless pocket watch movements over the years to to many watch manufacturers or finishers, who then added finishing touches, dials and cases, and then sold them, perhaps through Swiss exporting firms, to importers in the U.S.A. and all over the world.

Though the movements might not appear highly finished, at least in their original form, the Unitas movements have acquired a reputation over the years for their ruggedness and reliability. Based on what I have heard and also experienced, they can be capable of a pretty good level of accuracy if properly maintained.

Your watch appears to be a Unitas Calibre 431. I have seen this movement used in a number of different "railroad-style" watches from various importers and under different brand names, with different cases, some with snap backs and bezels like yours, but many with screw-backs and bezels. Many have marginal minute numerals like yours, but of course, the names and features printed on the dials vary. Your watch has the well-known Incabloc brand of shock protection, intended to protect the delicate balance-wheel pivots if the watch is accidentally subject to shock, such as by being dropped, but it is still necessary to be careful. Don't test the shock resistance, as any drop from sufficient height and/or on a hard surface can cause damage. Repairs these days can easily be greater than the original or replacement cost of the watch.

That brings up the subject of periodic servicing of mechanical watches. The tiny amount of oil used to lubricate the jeweled bearings in the watch eventually dries up and gets gummy. The movement has to be cleaned to remove the old oil and very small amounts of new oil have to be carefully applied to just those points that require oiling. Having a watch properly cleaned and oiled, like repairs, require the service of a skilled watch repairer, and these days a proper periodic servicing can also exceed the original cost of a modestly priced watch. Even if the watch seems to be running and keeping time, if it hasn't been serviced in recent memory, then it probably should be cleaned and oiled properly if it is going to be run/used regularly. Running a watch that needs cleaning and oiling causes wear to the moving parts of the movement.

Unitas pocket watch movements are still being made today, though they were taken over by one of the largest watch movement factories called Eta, and some that I have seen that have received additional finishing touches from firms like Longines were very nicely finished.

The history and changes in the Swiss watch industry over the years and particularly since the "quartz watch revolution" have been sweeping, and are beyond the scope of a post here. If you are interested, a lot can be found by a Google search.

This brief (for me) reply can't cover everything. If you have further questions, just attach them to this thread; somebody will get back to you.

Larry Treiman,

One of our late father's favorite sayings, delivered with a "put-on" pseudo-German (I think) accent, was:

"Ja, ve get too soon old und too late shmart!"

I think those words of wisdom apply, at least at times, to most of us!

10-27-2012, 02:51 PM
Thank you Larry. That is good information and we appreciate it very much.


Larry Treiman
10-27-2012, 03:13 PM
Thank you Larry. That is good information and we appreciate it very much.


Daniel, you apparently replied while I was still doing a little editing, putting some finishing touches on my post. I'm not sure if I made any important changes (I doubt it!) but I just thought I would mention it so you would be aware that maybe you didn't see the latest version.


10-27-2012, 03:19 PM
I guess that just proves I'm "too late schmart."