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  1. #1
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    Default Waltham 16s Riverside vs. Crescent Street Grade

    I was looking through the Waltham pages of the 1917 Oskamp-Nolting catalog(on the Elgin website), and noticed an interesting anomaly in the 16 size Waltham grades listed.

    The 21j Crescent Street Grade is listed with a price of $46.60, while the 19j Riverside is listed with a price of $47.80.

    Here's the relevant catalog page here

    http://www.trusted-forwarder.org/elg...g/m_pg_W4.html

    The catalog descriptions of the two grades are identical, with, of course, the exception of the jewel count. The 1908 Crescent Street grade I own has a jeweled mainwheel, and I would presume that this is the case on the 19j Riverside also(it's true of the 19j Colonial Riverside I own).

    So, the logical conclusion I can make is that the Riverside must have been a better finished grade to warrant the higher price. I don't own a Riverside grade in the 1908 model(although I do have them in 1888 and Colonial models), and my experience is that they are in fact a well finished grade. This runs contrary to the conventional wisdom I've always heard, however, that the Crescent Street is considered a better grade than the Riverside.

    I'm going to be on the lookout for a 1908 Riverside at the Ft. Mitchell regional to fill that hole in my collection, and hopefully be able to make a direct in-hand comparison.

    So, does anyone have any other information on this? Is the pricing a mistake in the catalog?

    Thanks,
    Ben
    Chapter 149

  2. #2

    Default Re: Waltham 16s Riverside vs. Crescent Street Grade (RE: ben_hutcherson)

    Ben:

    You've got it right. The Riverside was a higher grade than the Crescent St.

    You can find similar pricing (in Canadian dollars) in the 1915 P.W. Ellis & Co. catalog.
    Last edited by Kent; 02-23-2011 at 04:57 PM.
    Kent
    That guy down in Georgia

  3. #3

    Default Re: Waltham 16s Riverside vs. Crescent Street Grade (RE: ben_hutcherson)

    Quote Originally Posted by ben_hutcherson View Post
    ...
    This runs contrary to the conventional wisdom I've always heard, however, that the Crescent Street is considered a better grade than the Riverside.
    ...
    Thanks,
    Ben
    I don't know who yuo've heard that "wisdom" from. However, I notice that the top 16-size Waltham grade in that catalog was named the Riverside Maximus, not the Crescent St. Maximus. (look carefully at the picture on the previous page to the one you linked to)
    Kent
    That guy down in Georgia

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Waltham 16s Riverside vs. Crescent Street Grade (RE: Kent)

    Ben, sometimes the difference between two grades of watches, especially grades that are close to each other like the Crescent Street and the Riverside railroad standards, might be in the adjustment tolerances. Yes, they might both be adjusted to five positions, but we really don't know how closely they were adjusted in those positions.

    How often did the watch manufacturers publicize their adjustment specifications? I can only recall seeing adjustment specs for the Hamilton 992B here on this message board, and that was likely an internal document. Has anyone ever seen a Waltham document that gives the maximum allowable variation between all five (or however many) positions before a watch was deemed ready to leave the factory? To say a watch is adjusted to X positions is really not very meaningful without knowing the tolerances.

    For example, a friend found a carbon copy of a 1926 letter from Hamilton sent in answer to an inquiry about adjustment standards. Hamilton indicated that for the grade 950, a 23-jewel bridge-model, their highest railroad grade, the maximum allowable variation in all five positions (the watch was tested in each position for 24 hours) was 10 seconds. For the grade 952, a 19-jewel bridge model, the maximum allowable variation in five positions was 12 seconds, while in the less expensive 3/4-plate, 21-jewel 990 and 992 and the 19-jewel 996, the maximum allowable variation between all five positions was 15 seconds.

    Watch adjusting was very labor-intensive and I believe it probably required a higher level of skill than the other production jobs. That alone can easily account for the differences in prices between two otherwise similar grades, and is something you can't see in an "in-hand" comparison. Remember also that just replacing a staff can destroy those adjustments.

    Sometimes a better term for "conventional wisdom" might be "conventional misunderstanding."

    Larry Treiman

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Waltham 16s Riverside vs. Crescent Street Grade (RE: Larry Treiman)

    I'm not sure, but I think that the "star" regulator in the Riverside is one of the reasons (another being the finer plate & bridge finishing) for the few dollars cost difference.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Waltham 16s Riverside vs. Crescent Street Grade (RE: Neuron)

    Ben,

    FWIW, in 1908 the 16s 21j Crescent St. had a list price of $45 and the 19j Riverside $41. So things appear to have changed over the years. Also (as I recall) regarding the '92 model, the Riverside grade was less expensive than the Crescent St. My sense is that the Crescent St. was a name generally used on better grade mvts than the Riverside but that for some reason the situation reversed itself. Who knows what Waltham was thinking? I don't. Perhaps the market for the Crescent St. was oriented more towards the RR worker and that competition in that specific market drove down the price for the Crescent St. (Of course the Riverside 19j 16s would have been RR grade but I don't think that it was the Waltham that most RR workers would have choosen.)

    As regards timing tolerances in general (Larry's query), there is data for this on the Elgin grades in the so-called Elgin master grade books.

    Cheers,

    Greg

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Waltham 16s Riverside vs. Crescent Street Grade (RE: Neuron)

    I appreciate the comments and insight.

    I'm not a big 16 size collector(although that's what I've been buying a lot of lately), so am not as familiar with them. As far as I know, in the 1892 line-up, the Crescent Street is a better grade than the Riverside, hence part of my confusion.

    Larry,

    I realize that timing variation isn't necessarily reliable for the reasons you've stated, but there are certainly other markers of quality that are telling. The finish on unseen parts, the wheel depthing and sideshake, which both determine how freely the train spins, and how well everything fits together. There's often a definite and noticeable difference in these factors between grades. I feel like I have a good feel for these factors in the 1908 Crescent Street(since I spent a long time on time going over mine and getting the positional variation to within a few seconds a day),

    Neuron,

    If anything, the star wheel regulator would, to me, denote a lower grade watch, as it was seen on low to mid grade unadjusted and adjusted to temperature only 1883, 1894, 1899, 1908, and other models. By contrast, the Ohlson regulator was seen almost exclusively on RR grade 1892 and 1908 models.

    Furthermore, if you look at the various prestige grades going back to the 1872 model, you will find that they often used something other than the star wheel(which was introduced with the 1870 Crescent Street). 1872, 1884, and 1888 models were made with "tadpole" regulators, and the later Riverside Maximus used their own unique whip spring regulator. I'm sure I've missed some, but these are just a few examples.

    All that aside, I've been looking at various 19j Riversides on Ebay, and I've definitely seen several with Ohlson regulators. So, I don't think this was even a differentiation.
    -> posts merged by system <-
    Greg,

    Thank you for your post, which snuck in while I was typing my last response.

    It's interesting that they did in fact change over the years.

    Also, as I understand it, the later 1621 Riversides were not even considered RR grade, but were rather an interurban grade.

    Perhaps your hypothesis about the intended markets has some merit.

    As Jon Hanson is fond of saying "the watches tell the story", so I'm looking forward to buying and taking apart a Riverside so that I get a feel myself as to the relative quality.
    Chapter 149

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Waltham 16s Riverside vs. Crescent Street Grade (RE: ben_hutcherson)

    Neuron and Ben, the regulators were not really useful indiicators of quality. For one thing, Olof Ohlson's regulator wasn't invented and patented until circa 1908, which just might be why it was sometimes referred to as the 1908-patent regulator. Before that, on the 1899 model, the star wheel was used on most grades with micro regulators, except those that used Reed's patent whiplash regulator. Eventually, they switched over on the '08 model railroad grades to the '08-patent regulator.

    Personally, I prefer the Ohlson '08 regulator to the star wheel regulator, but it has its weakness. You see a lot of them with the spring (outer) half of the combined pointer/spring broken off. Actually, my favorite Waltham regulator was the one used on the post-WWII Model A grades 1617 and Vanguard 1623, with the 4888M half-whiplash spring. You could replace the spring without affecting the regulator setting.

    Ben, if you are going to compare a 16-size C. St. with a Riverside, be sure you are comparing watches made at about the same time.

    At the risk of being repetitious, I'll repeat something I was told c.1970 by a Canadian jeweler/watch inspector who had served an apprenticeship at the Canadian Ball Watch Co. in Winnipeg. He said that the Ball people said that their best running railroad watch was the 16-size, 19-jewel Waltham Ball, which was based on the 19-jewel Riverside. The Waltham "missionaries" who called on them said that Waltham's best running railroad watch was the 16-size, 19-jewel Riverside. This is all anecdotal, so take it FWIW.

    It's probably worth keeping in mind that a lot of the supposed differences between grades and that sort of stuff probably came from the marketing side of the watch companies rather than the manufacturing side. That is also probably why, c.1919, the watch companies supposedly got together with the railroad inspectors, and some sort of agreement was reached to get rid of grades or models with insignificant differences. I have not found any information on that meeting (or meetings), but have seen evidence of the result.

    Ben, I'm not sure just how reliably you can compare how two similar 90-100 year-old watches fit together and the other factors you mention. But let us know what you find out.

    Greg, I have no doubt that timing tolerances were recorded on internal documents, such as the Elgin master grade books that you mention, and likely something similar at other watch companies. But just how available was that information to the buying public back in "the day" and how available is it now to the collector/researcher? NOTE: At this point, I no longer personally give a "rodent's rump" about this stuff."

    And Kent, I'm disappointed to learn that Waltham didn't make a "Crescent Street Maximus," but at least now I can stop looking ;>) Does that mean that there is still a possibility that a "P.S. Bartlett Maximus" might turn up. After all, this is the company that during the 1930s stuck "Premier" on just about anything from 9-jewels on up! I seem to recall seeing something like a "Premier Crescent St. Colonial" at some point, but I'm not sure. That would be the sort of thing I would try to forget!


    Larry Treiman

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