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  1. #31
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    Default Re: Whats best RAILROAD watch made and why? (RE: mdloggins)

    At the risk of seeming too narrow, the question was what was the best made rather than the most practical. most servicable, most beautiful etc. In terms of fit and finish the usual criteria for workmanship it hs the be the V&C. Larry's points explain why this was not a successful strategy for V&C in America.

    Most Swiss makers of the size and repute of V&C did provide replacement parts. Until the 1930's all replacement parts had to be either selected by serial number or adjusted by the repairer but V&C was still an expensive item compared to a 992 or a 940. It was probably not a lot more than a Maximus or any of the other top end American movements.

    However most V&C railroad watches came in solid gold cases so they were not for the average railroad worker.

    I have attached some pictures of an example. The close up of the escape wheel shows the raised annd polished tips of the escape wheel (RHEW). The blue line points to a fuzzy circle. That is the polished bottom of the screw which holds the safety dart on the lever which in itself is significant work of art.

    Practical for rough service, probably not a lot worse than a 992 but still not for really rough use. It is relatively easy to work on since the parts go together with great precision but definitly not of a clumsy inspector in a hurry.

    This one is over a hundred years old and still would easily pass railroad accuracy inspection as received so it can't be too delciate.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails DIAL_Web.jpg   mvt_web.jpg   esc.jpg  

  2. #32
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    Default Re: Whats best RAILROAD watch made and why? (RE: Dr. Jon)

    Here is one of my true bridge Sangamo Specials.

    I also included a close up fo teh escapement which is pretty dirty. I hav enot cleaned it but it too is an excellent timekeeper as is. This speaks to larry;'s point. It will give good service under poor conditions.

    Note the escape wheel which is high polished steel and has lovely rounded spokes but flat teeth. The raised tooth tip was to improve oil holding, while keeping teh escape wheel thin. A thin escape wheel moves faster and gives more power for a fixed amount of spring power.

    The Samgamo Special has a gold pin for its safety dart held in by friction. This wa an attempt to add quality but was misguided. Gold is not very hard and it is heavy where teh lver definitely does not want weight.

    I like them both and the Sangamo Special is lovely but any time I can get one or the other I'll probably take the V&C.

    The the question about what happened to the damaskeening on Vanguards and the others for that matter it was a case of cases. By the 1920's most watche were sold cased ad people did not look so much at damaskeening. Cost was a factor. The Waltham Premier Maximus was almost no damaskeeing as we woudl think of it. It has ceased to be worth the cost, at least to the watch company marketing departments.

    To the point of the thread title, these later and plainer watches were arguably made better. They had near perfect interchangeability and were routinely getting better timekeeping through better process control.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Dial.jpg   Mvt.jpg   esc.jpg  

  3. #33
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    Default Re: Whats best RAILROAD watch made and why? (RE: Dr. Jon)

    As shown in the attached ad, V&C was actively promoting their watches for railroad service around the turn of the century.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 1908_Jun_10_V&C_RR Sm.jpg  
    Ed Ueberall
    The Escapement Home Page - Vintage Watch Restoration

  4. #34
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    Default Re: Whats best RAILROAD watch made and why? (RE: rrwatch)

    Dr. Jon, you might have missed it, but in George's post #10 on page 1 of this thread and post #11 on page 2, he significantly redefined what he meant by "best." he changed it to best from the point of view of the railroad employee (e.g., engineer). I think he might have over-reacted a bit to an earlier suggestion from me (post#2) that "best" needed to be more clearly and narrowly defined.

    To the railroader and to the inspector/watchmaker the practical aspects were of great importance. All the railroad standard watches met the railroad standard for accuracy, usually 30 seconds a week. Watches usually had to be reset when they varied more than 20 or 30 seconds (depending upon the railroad) from the Standard Clock, and railroader personnel were required to compare their watches with a Standard Clock each time they went on duty. If a Standard Clock was not available where they signed on for duty, then they were required to compare their watch at the first opportunity with someone who had compared their watch with a Standard Clock that day. Also, members of the train crew compared their watches with each other. So, as you can see, there were adequate safeguards in place. Reliability was more important than a close rate, because accidents were often caused when a watch stopped for a while, then started up again, not because of a few seconds a day loss or gain.

    Larry
    Last edited by Larry Treiman; 01-14-2010 at 12:42 AM.

  5. #35
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    Default Re: Whats best RAILROAD watch made and why? (RE: Larry Treiman)

    The point of view of a railroad worker is pretty vague.

    If we take it as accuracy and reliability I'll still stand by the V&C on the basis of the ones I have seen. They tend to run very accurately. The people I have spoken too about repair say they are an absolute pleasure to work on.

    Drop a V&C on a hard surface from a few feet and it will break, so will a 992.
    Resistance to dirt and dust would be another criterion but this depends on a lot on the case. Since V&C's cost more there was good chance they would have gone into better cases.

    The makers must have thought accuracy important, for example "Get a Ball and time them all"

    When the US Army Corps of Engineer s needed watches they bought from V&C in World War I so they could not have been too delicate.

    That leaves the issue of parts, but if you worked for a line that went through a major city, parts would have been available.

    We had threads on iconic watches and many other aspects of best so I may have missed a minor turn but I don't think this is far off the interest of the inquiry.

  6. #36

    Default Re: Whats best RAILROAD watch made and why? (RE: Dr. Jon)

    As regards the availability of parts, here's some info.

    A major material catalog from 1888 lists parts for virtually all American makes, but only one Swiss make: Longines.

    A major material catalog from 1910 lists parts for virtually all American makes, but only one Swiss make: Tavannes.

    A major material catalog from early 1900s lists parts for virtually all American makes, but only the following Swiss makes: Omega, Tavannnes, Cyma and Enigma.

    I think it's clear that, especially before 1910, it was not easy to order the correct parts for many Swiss made watches. This had to have had some import as to which watches were condsidered "best" for use by railroad employees. I think that Kent Singer has mentioned somewhere about a repair record in which a particular Waltham came in for restaffing on mutiple occasions over its time of use. One can only imagine that a V&C requiring similar repairs, given the difficulty and time involved (!)in obtaining the correct parts, would have never recovered its original fine time keeping properties in the hands of an "ordinary" watch repairman.

    Nevertheless, it's known that a number of V&C mvts were used in actual RR service in 1889/1890 on the Burlington Route. If anyone is interested I will try to dig out a few of the serial numbers of the watches involved.

    Greg

  7. #37

    Default Re: Whats best RAILROAD watch made and why? (RE: Greg Frauenhoff)

    Info from another major material dealers c. 1905 catalog: parts for all major American makes, but only the following Swiss ones: Longines, Agassiz (complicated watches), Suburban (lever timers), Timing & Repeating Watch Co. Interestingly, the Longines pages have a page devoted to "Railroad Movements" such as Express Monarch.

    Still, it was not the "norm" for major American material dealers prior to 1910 to carry a full line of parts for many Swiss makes with detailed descriptions by part number, etc. It simply had to have been more difficult (and time consuming) to get the correct part(s) to repair most Swiss watches in the US prior to 1910 than for virtually any American make. This is certainly a relevant fact when considering what should be considered the "best" watch for railroad service.

  8. #38
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    Default Re: Whats best RAILROAD watch made and why? (RE: Greg Frauenhoff)

    Greg,great Informations!! Thank you

  9. #39
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    Default Re: Whats best RAILROAD watch made and why? (RE: Greg Frauenhoff)

    Thanks, I for at least one would be very interested.

    I have a catalog for Wittnauer who was the distributer for Longines, Agassiz and Audemars Piguet. This catalog has extensive parts listings for all these brands including parts for minute repeaters.

    I also have a 1955 V&C catalog which has detailed parts listing for many watches including pocket models. (A copy of this catalog is available from Chapter 149). From this is reasonable to assume that parts were available in the 1880 to 1890 time frame and since the V&C distributer advertised in the Jeweler's Circular that they probably had parts.

    My experience has been that parts from high end makers fit well. If you could get them restaffing, would have been as easy or even easier as for an American watch. My experience has been that cutting out a Waltham staff was more difficult than the ones I have done on high end Swiss and that repivoting a Howard is a real challenge. US makers tended to use much harder steel than the Swiss. If anything US parts were more prone to breakage than Swiss.

    American railroad watches did not become significantly easier to restaff than Swiss until the introduction of friction staffs.

    Since all repairs involved loaners, a local jeweler could have provided the same level of service for a V&C as for a US watch. The loaner might have been out for longer awaiting the part but it is also at leeast conceivable that a dealer might have stocked commonly used parts. Also because of the use of stop works the V&C mainsprings would probably have lasted longer. They would have had to have an account with V&C.

    I agree this would have been exceptional but it would have been possible and I suspect it did occur. The reasons for this exception situation were and are more perception than reality. V&C advertised a lot less than the US makers, especially in railroad journals.

    At Larry's sugegstion I reviewed what George wants and I think this is reasonably on topic. An Engineer was a a high level employee and his watch woudl not normally have been exposed to the shocks a fireman or laborer would have experienced and being in his overalls pocket woudl ahve been fiarly well protected from dust and temperature extremes. I think George mant to purchase for $1000 or less today because a $1000 watch in 1910 was a very complicated watch. Without going into values, suffice it to say the V&C I posted cost me less than that and I bought it fairly recently, although gold was a lot cheaper just a year ago.

    With today's gold prices, a gold V&C railroad watch would go over George's limit but its still about the same as the high end US Railroad watches like 23 Jewel 60 hour Bunn Specials, 60 Hour Sangamo Specials, Hamilton 950's and 946's most up down indicator watches, which are not common but not great rarities. You can often get a gold V&C railroad for comparable money to these and that would be where I would be looking if I did not already have mine.
    Last edited by Dr. Jon; 01-14-2010 at 10:17 AM.

  10. #40
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    Default Re: Whats best RAILROAD watch made and why? (RE: Dr. Jon)

    Dr. Jon, I certainly admire your tenacity in defending the V&C as a railroad watch. Maybe if someone like you had been working for V&C's U.S. sales agent back in the early 1900's the outcome might have been different, though I doubt it(for a reason I'll try to get into later.

    First, I would like to address some of the points you brought up. You mentioned that American watches did not become significantly easier to restaff until the introduction of the friction staff. However, the Waltham 16-size 1899 model (and subsequent models) had the friction staff from the beginning, and the Waltham Ball was based on the 1899 model. Maybe that contributed to the previously mentioned preference by the Ball people for the 16-size, 19-jewel Waltham Ball.

    Then you mentioned that because a loaner watch was provided during repairs, a jeweler could provide the same level of service for a V&C as for an American watch. However, providing an adequate number of loaner watches, which usually had to be issued an inspection card, was a major expense, so short turnaround time was a factor. And most railroad men probably utilized the repair services of a local inspector. If they had the repair work done elsewhere, they then had to take the repaired watch to the local inspector to have the work inspected and certified.

    You mentioned that the [locomotive] engineer was a "high level" employee and his watch would not have been subject to the same shocks, etc., as a fireman or laborer. That is arguable. Remember, the engineer sat just a few feet away from where the fireman worked, and he was constantly pulling his watch out of his overalls, to check his speed by timing mileposts, or to compare with the timetable and make sure he had enough time to get to a siding and clear opposing trains. But most importantly, that engineer had to start his career as a fireman and serve in that position for a number of years until he had the experience and seniority to be promoted to engineer. As a newly hired fireman, it is highly unlikely that he would have been able to afford one of the top watches. He might have been more likely to pick a good, though not top-of-the line, movement and have it put in a sturdy, long-lasting, but inexpensive nickel case, that could easily be upgraded later if desired. Because of the mandated periodic service, the movement could easily last for his entire career. Maybe, if years down the line he worked his way up to a supervisory (desk-jockey) type position, he might consider upgrading to a top-of-the line watch.

    The factor that probably worked against any Swiss watch being used on U.S. railroads was the "Buy American" ideology so deeply ingrained in the railroad culture at all levels, from the highest management on down. And even in the late 1960's when I was just starting out in this hobby, in conversations with railroad watch inspectors, I encountered a "buy American" (and anti-Swiss watch) attitude in spite of the fact that modern Swiss railroad wristwatches had made inroads by then! Though I have no statistics, it has been my informal observation that, historically speaking, many or perhaps even most U.S. railroads probably required American-made watches. Try to overcome THAT, Mr. Swiss watch salesman!

    Larry
    Last edited by Larry Treiman; 01-14-2010 at 02:11 PM. Reason: To add my usual afterthoughts.

  11. #41
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    Default Re: Whats best RAILROAD watch made and why? (RE: Larry Treiman)

    How would the preferential tarrif on the imported Swiss watch and its effect on price, affect the popularity of the Swiss watch in the North American market? The Canadian acceptance of the Swiss-made railroad watch would seem to me to indicate that these Swiss watches were quite capable of doing the job they were designed for.

  12. #42
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    Default Re: Whats best RAILROAD watch made and why? (RE: Larry Treiman)

    To me all that has been said is just great!. I origionaly made this thread to help raw watch collectors (like me ) to establish which of those great railroaders were the ones to collect. As the origional thread was running away and becoming messy I simplified it to be from the watch owners point of view as a Railway fireman , driver, guard railway master.
    We rarely see any of these watches in new Zealand and the only way of getting one is thru E bay.
    I now know that all of the following are high on my list of MUST HAVE...Thank you all.
    16 size Waltham Ball 19 j
    Hamilton 992B and 950
    Illinois 23j 60 hour Bunn Special
    Vacheron..Constantin R.R madel
    Elgin 453
    Waltham Crescent St 21 j
    Aurora gr 10 15 j
    Hasnt that simplified things for a new chum like me!

  13. #43
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    Default Re: Whats best RAILROAD watch made and why? (RE: George)

    George, good railroad watches run the gamut from 15 jewels to some that exceed 23 jewels, as you can see trying to pin down the best can be a bit contentious because what defines best is all in the eyes of the person commenting. Of the brands for Waltham, and 18s 21-23 Vanguard, Crescent Street would be good choices, Hamilton-992, 940, 950 if you have a large wad of cash in your wallet. Illinois probably anything with a Bunn engraved on it will get you a very good watch, Elgin, Father Time or Veritas will be good picks, South Bend 227,229 any of "The Studebakers", Hampden probably anything with a Railway in it. So many choices, and what do you pick!!

  14. #44
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    Default Re: Whats best RAILROAD watch made and why? (RE: 49stude63)

    Thank you I reckon Im home and hosed now..spoilt for choice..your 49 stude isnt a car is it? I have a lovely Morris minor woody..a traveller. like these railroaders Magic

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    Default Re: Whats best RAILROAD watch made and why? (RE: Larry Treiman)

    Hey There, writting you from Canada , and a newbie to this site as well a newbie to the pocket watch, but was wondering if anyone could help me with a watch that has come to me, all I know of it is it says inside as well on the face on it ..Illionois Watch company, with a nice engraved train inside there as well and serial # 1216074, it looks to be Nickle or Silver, and on the back it has a inset Cooper train on the back, works great and keeps good time, looks like there are no scuffs or damage of any kind.. anything you could tell me about this watch would be greatly appreciated..

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