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  1. #1

    Default Elgin Grade Numbers (was in grading systems)

    I have another silly newbee question. When I bought my Elgin it was listed like this GRADE 386, 17 JEWELS, SER # 17,542,380 , CIRCA 1913. MODEL 6

    What does the grade 386 mean?

    by the way the watch is wonderful and runs perfect

  2. #2
    Technical Admin Tom McIntyre's Avatar
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    Exclamation Re: Elgin Grade Numbers (was in grading systems) (By: Dano4734)

    Dan, I moved your post into its own thread.

    Elgin and other companies used both names and numbers to identify a very loose concept called grade. Those grades are, of course, distinct from grades of condition that the other thread is about.

    For each basic watch design or model, there can be many levels of finish and adjustment that affect the intrinsic quality of the watch.

    Waltham pretty consistently used grade names to specify relative quality over a wide range of models. Elgin did the same thing a little less consistently than Waltham.

    The standards for railroad watches eventually required numbers for the naming of a particular model and grade. Watch grade numbers were not re-used like grade names were but they still were just names. i.e. you cannot rank the watches by grade numbers.

    Hamilton used grade numbers almost exclusively. Elgin used them more than Waltham and Illinois was about the same as Elgin. When a watch has a grade name, you need to know its model also to identify it.

    Finally, most grade numbers were not marked on watches. The companies called them nameless numbered grades. Once again Hamilton was an exception with the great bulk of the watches bearing grade numbers.
    Tom McIntyre Click me.
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Elgin Grade Numbers (was in grading systems) (By: Tom McIntyre)

    At a local show, a clock guy, wanting to learn more about watches, asked me " What is a grade mean on a pocketwatch ? "

    He had been into the Price Guide for Pocketwatches, and obviously realized the importance of Grades.

    I verbally paraphased what Tom said above, about finishes, jewels, denoting quality, etc.

    However it is a still darn good question
    Henry Burgell
    Chapters 149, 15

  4. #4

    Default Re: Elgin Grade Numbers (was in grading systems) (By: HenryB)

    Tom and Henry, thank you my friends. I didn't understand what that meant, when I go out using the serial number to date the watch it always specifies the grade but I was clueless as to what that meant. Now I understand

    Thank you for your patience

  5. #5

    Smile Re: Elgin Grade Numbers (was in grading systems) (By: Dano4734)


    Perhaps the Watch Grades wiki article will be helpful. Once you have a grade number, or name, you'll have to go to catalogs and ads to find the descriptions for the grades.

    I posted a number of links early in your thread about your Hamilton 940. I realize that it was probably information overload at the time, but now perhaps it will be useful to go back and click on those blue-lettered phrases.

    Good luck,
    That guy down in Georgia

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Elgin Grade Numbers (was in grading systems) (By: Kent)

    Dan another way of looking at it is if you buy a car you have car brand and a model name and and they are typically sold and tracked by model year. Even though you can use the serial numbers as a rough estimate of the year a watch produced I have not seen anything to show watch companies sold watches on a model year basis. Car manufacturers use the model year to show a difference in a model name that has been used and produced over several years. Watch companies used the grade number system to show a difference of a model name (could also be a number) that had been produced over a period of years. Elgin probably flip-flopped more than most since you would have a BW Raymond that was, 18s,16s,12s in various jewel count, where a Hamilton was more strict, a 992 was a 16s 21j and not an 18s 19j. So if you tell your friend you have a 2003 Ford F-150, and he says he has a 2008 Ford F-150 you both know there is some difference between them. If someone tells you he has a Elgin BWR grade 506 and you say I have a Elgin BWR grade 571 you can assume there is some differences between them.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Elgin Grade Numbers (was in grading systems) (By: 49stude63)

    Kent and 49
    Thanks guys for helping out a newbee so much. Kent I will go back now and have a look at those articles since before I didn't understand what a grade was ...

    Great info folks ... love it !! been kinda addicted lately to these old things and their history.

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