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brag 20th c American An Elgin watch with a story

neighmond

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Late in the fall of 2003 I was working at my bench, because the store was short-handed and the boss needed me where I could come out and work the sales floor if needed. As I recall, it was a Monday, and it was a nasty, rainy, windy and dank day that made me glad for my nice inside job. Thanksgiving was just a few days away, and it seemed like every kook in the county found their way into our store that day! You readers that work retail already know the drill; it's getting on the Christmas season, the place is already a zoo, the phone rings off the hook, and every blessed mother's son that comes through that door or rings up has got some non-standard, one-off, pain in the hind end project in mind! To make it all more pleasant, it was about eighty degrees in there and all those wet bodies made it smell like a dog pound. Some farmer had already tracked half his field in with him, and the followers-after just walked all over it and smeared it all over the store.
Initially I might have remembered that day because a woman came in with fifteen watches and wanted batteries and bracelets sized on all of them while she waited. After finishing her projects I went in back to wash off my hands and when I came out an old man in dark glasses, a heavy duster and trilby hat was standing at the counter. I hadn't heard the door ding, but as I say, the place was full of people and hopping like a beer joint on payday. He saw me coming and rooted up little tobacco can containing most of the pieces of a very large old silver pocket watch and laid it on the counter. As I examined it I was idly talking with him, and he casually took his hat and slapped it against the knee of his pants, raising a great stinking cloud of dust. The watch was a common make (an Elgin) but it had some slight modifications for use in civil service, and the dial was an unusual layout (It was in fact one sometimes referred to as "astronomical," each hand has its own position on the dial, the hour hand at the top, the minute in the centre, and seconds at the six; in this way the hour hand can't obscure the second hand and precise readings can be taken from it.) It was very clean, but there were several screws missing and a broken hour hand. I remember that without looking in the log, because the hour hand in this watch rotated in its own little circle, and was an odd size to find. I had a scrap movement of the same make that I robbed screws from, and asked him if we hadn't ought to re-clean it. No, he was in a little of a hurry. I wound the thing up, and was no more shocked than he when it actually ran, and he promised he would bring it in the first time he was back my way. I wrote the watch in the book and handed it to him to take over and pay the ladies. I went to put the parts away in the drawers, and when I got back he was already gone.
When the boss' dad was about to retire late in '05, he was cleaning out some boxes in the cupboards over the jewelers benches, and found a little box of pocket watches and parts that had been in the shop for the last thirty years. He wanted to show me a few odd ones he had wound up with. There in that little box was a large silver Elgin with an astronomical dial. In almost twenty years at the bench I had only seen the one, and as I took it out to look at it closer, the name on the tag caught my eye. Ambrose Kelley was the name on the ticket, and Ambrose Kelley was the name I had logged the repair under two years before! Yet it was obvious that this watch hadn't run in twenty years, never mind two! The crystal was black with filth, and the minute hand was hung up and bent. The boss' dad traded me something else for it, and I opened it up to be sure. Here was the proof: after cleaning, I could see that several of the screw heads were an imperfect match in colour, and the hour hand was slightly off as well. More tell-tale than that, a repair mark with a backwards and forewords "C" with a cross connecting them and an "o" at the tail of the cross! Who else would use that symbol? And the repair number was a current number (after the store switched to a new system, when I started.) I looked up the repair in the book, and the repair number and serial numbers from the movement and case all matched, as did the name of the surveying outfit on the fob. I asked him if Ambrose Kelley was still alive and he said he wasn't, in fact had died childless and intestate thirty years before, and nobody ever called for the watch. Finally, his executor told the boss to "keep it for parts or chuck it out." He told me that Ambrose Kelley was short and slight and always wore a brown coat and cloth fedora. A fedora sure looks a lot like a trilby.
It was at that point that I recalled the customer's actions two years earlier-the dark glasses and dust-covered clothes. On a nasty day like that was, he ought to have been one soaking wet stinking puppy, and he was in fact quite the contrary! Besides that was the watch itself! Memory may fail, but the book doesn't, and the facts remain written therein-matching numbers, name and all! I've heard the old adage "Make each repair like it's your own watch!" Pretty apt for situations like this, isn't it?

Kelly Watch.JPG
 

musicguy

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Thanks for sharing that story, it was worth the read.

Show the movement please.

Rob
 

Schatznut

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The apparition was making sure the watch ended up in the right hands, so to speak. Well-written and well done!
 

neighmond

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Jan 31, 2003
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That is a super find! If you get under the dial please post a pic. The story was great too. Thank you!-Cort



Picture 1
The motion works in situ.

Picture 2
The screw headed stud the intermittent wheel turns on is a cam, you turn the screw head to adjust the depthing.

Picture 3
The motion work (minus the cannon pinion) out. The hour wheel has been rebushed; back in 03 the customer was in a hurry for an hour hand so I bushed it and fit the closest thing I had
. IMG_20220127_142147642.jpg IMG_20220127_141757664.jpg IMG_20220127_141839630.jpg
 

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