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Forgotten masterpiece...

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'The Forgotten masterpiece' was a title of my entry on Elgin 761 self-winding movement.
This was before I started my blog, and it can still be found somewhere in wristwatches forum, and my today's purpose is not to re-post the same work.
No, today's post I write because I got myself another one.

Big deal - another lousy 761 - you'd think. Well - yes, not a big deal, but it's not exactly easy to get one of those in Europe. And in USA good ones have quite high prices, and I always have something 'better' to buy.

But back to the point - as you might or might not (likely second option) remember - my first attempt of getting a 761 ended up in buying a wrec I could only use for my write-up.

Let me remind you for a short while:

This picture shows the dial side and the auto-winder train.
Number 1 indicates off-center clutch that trives the hands. You'll also notice the rocker bar, rather unusual in modern watches. On the other picures showing the top side, number 2 indicates 2nd gear, that normally should be a center wheel. With the auto-winder bridge removed you'll see the ratchet (3) and the 'ratchet wheel' (5), being simply the first auto winder gear. The small steel gear marked 4, is a 'reversing' gear for the rotor.

Notice, there is one and only ratchet in the whole watch and it's there, in the auto winder train, so to release the mainspring you have to unlock this one (and be sure to hold the crown!). It's accessible with a pin right by the balance wheel, on the side of the bridge. Unlock it and the spring will unwind for you.

The lack of a 'big' ratchet might seem odd, but not all automatic movements have one. In an automatic movement it doesn't do anything, but on the other hand in case the auto winder breaks, it might save the mainspring from sudden, uncontrolled unwinding. But that's it...

The next picture shows a close-up of the rotor's clutches.
Elgin's rotor is a WONDERFUL, space saving design, where two roller freewheels are integrated with the rotor bearing. One will drive the auto winder gear directly, the other - through the small reversing gear mentioned.
Bi-dir windng

Number 6 shows the center second's indirect drive pinion with froction washer to prevent stutter.
You can also see Elgin's famous Durabalance adjusted on the arms, not on the hairspring. A 'free sprung' balance, probably the only one widely used in pretty inexpensive - compared to other that use such solutions - watches. It's only recently that ETA started using free sprung balances in some of their 'budget' movements, some 60 years after Elgin started...

And so - I got me another 761. I found one very cheap on Polish allegro.pl and I bid $25.
I was caught in a trap of small mobile phone screen - I truly regretted bidding on it when I got home and saw full size pictures. But the bid was already made. In the end - the junk watch on it's junk bracelet sold for just $12.

Hmmm.. pilers?!!! Yes, pilers and a gas cigarette lighter to straighten the lugs.
I was so sure they will break, but no, actually, they straightened up not bad!

I had to polish the case a bit as well. Very delicate polishing, of course...

The dial is average. some sopts, some missing minute markings, nothigh too bad, though.
The movement was serviced in 2010, so I did not decide to fully disassemble it now.
However, it would not run. Just barely ticking.
Releasing the mainspring, I noticed it did not have power to unwind through the winding train, which surely confirmed a bad mainspring issue.
I've not checked if it's broken or just badly lubed, because I remembered the parts movement in my box...

There. I swapped the mainspring barrel and the barrel/winder brigde (the original one was substantially scratched). In these watches the non-numbered bridge can be swapped, unlike the damaskeened, numbered ones of old... I also swapped the non original blue screw and the rotor screw as well.
The movement started off beautifully.
The other movement goes back in it's box - it still has a good rotor and bearing and good auto winder train - surely will find use for those some day...

There - the watch cased and running.

I went to a nearby watchmaker to get a strap, popping into a bar for a glass of wonderful beer.
The watch ticking nicely on the table.

Ain't it a beauty?

It's very handsome and 'totally' my size.
Just beautiful, elegant and very well made thin automatic watch.

And the movement again...

You Americans don't seem to like this movement at all, due to it's below-average reliability. but I think you should be very proud of this movement. I've read what you think and I still say it's among the most wonderful designs I've ever seen.


And I've seen two very, very worn watches - it's important to notice neither of them had any substantial damage in the (thought of very low) automatic winder. The sleeve bearing is - of course - not as good as later ball bearings (I think Eterna was getting started with these at the time), but still the degree of wear for a sleeve bearing is very low, with no substantial play in both of them, which indicates good materials.

I'm also not sure about the 'notorious' auto winder pinion you complain about so much - I've examined both movements and there is no substantial wear there as well. I think the only weak point of this movement (but found also in many Swiss and Japaneese movements) is the lack of a clutch that would disengage the auto winder during manual winding.

However, I think the ammount of damaged winder pivots might be a result of servicing mistakes - with the ratchet spring pushing the winder's gear, it's quite difficult to keep these parts properly engaged during assembling - the ratchet spring will either disengage the bridge or push the ratchet under or over the winder's gear. If you don't realise and screw the bridge down in such situation, you will damage the gear no doubt and maybe that's the origin of the problem.

I don't know, I don't want to offend someone, and I've only seen two of those, but it looks correctly designed to me.

And finally - the Durabalance and the integrated roller freewheels - I tell you, the movement is just wonderful - as wonderful as a flat automatic movement with full size rotor can get.

For those of you who didn't see my Zaria 2015:


You'll notice this movement is very similar and I think the Russians might have examined Elgin's 760 movement while working on this one (then again - maybe not ).
It's very similar, modified with 'normal' setting mechanism with movable clutch gear, the additional clutch in the auto winder I've mentioned and using a rocker bar on the rotor instead of roller freewheels.

Say what you will - the 'full thickness' automatics, easier to manufacture and service, have driven out the flat ones from the market, but I;m still very, very much impressed by the flat design and - as you can see - the flat automatics proove pretty much reliable as decades go by

In fact - I know I'm a 'die-hard' fan of the brand, but I think the demise of Elgin National Watch Company is a very important, and very sad date in world's watchmaking chronology. Among the big watchmaking enterprises, the name Elgin surely represended quality and innovative approach. Such a shame so much potential got wasted just like that...
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Updated 05-11-2017 at 05:46 AM by pmwas



  1. Dante Sudilovsky's Avatar
    Thank you for your great writeup on the 760/761! I just recently got into these models and have utmost respect for the design. They have problems, but I think it's just incredible the amount of innovative design which went into these movements even as Elgin was nearing its deathbed. Say what you will, but I think this may be Elgin's greatest technological achievement.
  2. pmwas's Avatar
    Thanks! Looks like I'm not alone here!
    It always puzzled me how much underappreciated the movement is. The Russians keep boasting about their (lower quality btw) flat Poljot almost as if it was the world's greatest watchmaking achievement ever, and the truly remarkable Elgin 760 remains non-interesting and non-collectable and seriously undervalued
  3. GeneJockey's Avatar
    If you keep telling everyone how cool Elgins are, people will start collecting them and we won't be able to afford them!

    On breakages in the winding mechanism, in my experience the two most common are the lower 2nd autowind pivot, and teeth on the winding wheel on the rocker plate. My thinking is that both of these are because the click is not acting on the ratchet wheel directly, but rather 3 gears down the chain - the idler, the 2nd autowind wheel and the 1st autowind wheel.
  4. pmwas's Avatar
    The beautiful times when Elgins were super cheap here in Poland are long gone anyway
    As for the ratchet - in an autowind watch the main ratchet is NEVER 'functional', believe me. If the auto winder works, the ratchet does not lock - unless you remove the auto winder. A fully operational bi-dir winder is sort of self-locking and would work without any ratchet at all, while a uni-dir always needs a 'small' ratchet in the autowinder, whether it has the 'big' one or not.