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Best value American railroad grade watch

tgeekb

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As I am just getting into the hobby (god help me) I, of course, want to get value for my money and not waste it. My first purchase, a Waltham Crescent Street 1892 18s, was a crapshoot. I think I did well but I’ve learned a lot since then from reading these forums.
My next purchase will be a 16s. Should it be Waltham or another brand? What are the best “bang for buck” railroad grade watches in this size? Value to me is first the beauty of the movement then reliability, able to be serviced easily and at a price point below $1000.
Looking forward to reading your knowledgeable comments and impressions.
 
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I can answer you as a novice ... the value of a watch is very relative and is almost always lost, less in the satisfaction of knowing that you have a special piece that marked a history ... All brands have theirs, so you I suggest reading a lot, participating in the forum and learning and you yourself will find your way.
 
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tgeekb

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I can answer you as a novice ... the value of a watch is very relative and is almost always lost, less in the satisfaction of knowing that you have a special piece that marked a history ... All brands have theirs, so you I suggest reading a lot, participating in the forum and learning and you yourself will find your way.
Thank you Miguel. I cannot disagree with you and the ultimate decision will be up to me. For instance, I seem to be drawn to the Hamilton 992b. It meets my expectation and, based on what I have read here, is an excellent choice.I like to know what other people think though, through their experiences, to make sure I am not missing something else. It’s part of the fun of being part of a group.

Thank you for your reply and all the best.
 

musicguy

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Should it be Waltham or another brand?
This is a subjective question. An Elgin, Hamilton, Waltham, Howard, or Hampden
collector will probably point you to their favorite company. They all
made Standard watches(Railroad watches) and the ones they made for that
type of service all had the qualities to be accepted for RR use.


able to be serviced easily and at a price point below $1000.
Absolutely, and for that price you might be able to get 3.

the Hamilton 992b. It meets my expectation and, based on what I have read here, is an excellent choice.
That sounds like a great choice. Take your time and if you have any questions
let us know.


Rob
 
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Fred Hansen

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A few that come quickly to mind that I think are great watches for their price points are ...

Waltham Riverside Maximus lever-set
Elgin Veritas Grades 350, 360 and 270
Hamilton Grades 950, 960, and 990
Hampden John C. Dueber 21 jewel
Howard Keystone Series 0, 1, and 10
Illinois Grade 189, Grade 179, Sangamo 23 jewel, and Sangamo Special Model 9
Rockford Grades 510, 515, 520 and 525
South Bend Grades 292, 293, 294, and 295

... but the nice thing is there are many others out there as well and I'm sure other good suggestions will be posted.
 

John Cote

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The Hamilton 992b may well be the sort of the ultimate in the evolution of American watchmaking. I think from the standpoint of making a working man's watch with automated manufacturing and standardized parts, combined with quality and reliability it is hard to argue that.

That said there are things to look for when buying a 992b. If it were me, I would want an earlier model 992b with a double sunk porcelain dial that said RR Special on it as opposed to the later melamine version of the dial. I would want it in its original gold filled or stainless Hamilton marked case. I think if you look hard you can find a great one for under half of your $1,000

Good luck and welcome to the habit.
 

tgeekb

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A few that come quickly to mind that I think are great watches for their price points are ...

Waltham Riverside Maximus lever-set
Elgin Veritas Grades 350, 360 and 270
Hamilton Grades 950, 960, and 990
Hampden John C. Dueber 21 jewel
Howard Keystone Series 0, 1, and 10
Illinois Grade 189, Grade 179, Sangamo 23 jewel, and Sangamo Special Model 9
Rockford Grades 510, 515, 520 and 525
South Bend Grades 292, 293, 294, and 295

... but the nice thing is there are many others out there as well and I'm sure other good suggestions will be posted.
Thank you Fred! This is what I wanted, someone who would give me some options. Thank you for taking the time to answer my question.
 

Chris Radek

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Purely from a watchmaker's perspective, aside from my personal preferences, I think the watches with friction balance staffs are more likely to survive with the factory adjustments relatively unmolested. Of course it's not a sure thing, but it's more likely. This would include some Walthams (1899 and 1908) and of course the Hamilton 992b.

Look for watches with clean undamaged balance screws. Beware if you buy a watch with all photos showing the balance in motion.
 

tgeekb

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Purely from a watchmaker's perspective, aside from my personal preferences, I think the watches with friction balance staffs are more likely to survive with the factory adjustments relatively unmolested. Of course it's not a sure thing, but it's more likely. This would include some Walthams (1899 and 1908) and of course the Hamilton 992b.

Look for watches with clean undamaged balance screws. Beware if you buy a watch with all photos showing the balance in motion.
Thank you for your professional advice! (Runs to Google to find out what a friction staff and balance screw are).
 

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Friction staffs do not require staking, merely pressure to change. With the balance in motion it is hard to judge the screws to determine several things, among these are color (gold or comp.} washers under the head, or altered heads.
 

DeweyC

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As I am just getting into the hobby (god help me) I, of course, want to get value for my money and not waste it. My first purchase, a Waltham Crescent Street 1892 18s, was a crapshoot. I think I did well but I’ve learned a lot since then from reading these forums.
My next purchase will be a 16s. Should it be Waltham or another brand? What are the best “bang for buck” railroad grade watches in this size? Value to me is first the beauty of the movement then reliability, able to be serviced easily and at a price point below $1000.
Looking forward to reading your knowledgeable comments and impressions.
"Best value" as others said is very ambiguous. And as Chris pointed out, there is the service aspect.

As many here know, to me a watch is not a watch unless it performs to original factory specifications. For Hamilton 16 s prior to the 992B, this meant 6 seconds per day variation across all positions. Better than Rolex specs and before we had automatic wind to provide unvarrying power on the balance assembly.

You will very unlikely buy a watch in this condition. You will have to make your choice and send it out.

Here is a link to what it takes to accomplish this acheivable end: https://www.historictimekeepers.com/documents/Watch Adjustment.pdf

OK. Which should you buy?

I will tell you what I tell customers who apporach me about buying ONE chronometer. READ. For example, there is an excellent series in the NAWCC Bulletin called Railroader's Corner which attempted (fairly successfully ) to cover the the field of railroad watches.

Include in your universe the 18 size 1870 to 1900 15 jewel Adjusted watches which were used by railroaders. I was introduced to early Hampden (Springfield, MA), New York Watch (Springfield, MA) and Aurora by friends on this list. These are all capable of surpising performance. Then there are the high grade late 19th cent 18s watches made by such as Illinois, Hamilton Waltham and others. Not only are these highy capable, they come in stunning finishes.

FWIW, I am very partial to 17j (and now 15J) RRG watches. This is because I value engineering elegance. These watches are just as capable as 21 jewel watches. As Ball cautioned, 23 j watches present ownership problems. If the mainspring broke, there was a great chance of the jewels for the barrel being damaged. Many 23 j watches retain cracked jewels at this position which not only disurbs their finction, but the craks draw the oil away from the bearing. These jewels are VERY hard to find.

Understand that the vast majority of RR watches were never used on a railroad. That designation was really a proxy for "precision instrument". There were far more RR watches produced and sold than there were railroad employees required to carry them. And watches were serviced, not replaced every model year like an Iphone.

The discussions on this board about fancified finishes that did nothing to improve performance are strong indicators of that many were marketed to affluent customers. Railroaders were not highly paid and bought the best movement that was easiest to get serviced in the least expensive case they could find.

Many RRG watches were given as memorials and the inscriptions on the case can be very poignant. That may be a factor to you.

Learn about what period of dial insription and case style is appropriate to the serial number of the watch you are considering. During the 1980s, self declared experts declared what a "real" railroad watch looks like. Many fine examples of pre 1910 RR wathces were recased into 1930s cases and redialed to satisfy those "requirements".

These watches ALL reflect the history of technology. There may be an aspect that speaks to you.

The history of the brand may be important.

Finally, the position of Ball is a special case. He contracted with several watch companies to provide him with what today would be called ebauches. Complete movements that are almost ready for sale. He would have them stripped down and finished (adjusted) to his standards. The percentage sold to Railroaders is unknowable.

"Best value" as a synonym for "best investment"? Buy an ETF. If you compare prices in the 1st edition of the watch price guide and the last (2016) you find prices are almost the same. This means watch values have actually DECREASED due to inflation and you lost money that would served better in the stock market.

So first determines what intrigues you about railroad watches, and then search for a good example of the watch. Make sure it is returnable. Many watches have been "vandalized" as descibed in the referenced article and in my mind are not "worthy" as a collectible specimen. But only by inspection by a competent source can it be determined if there is rust on the balance spring or if the balacne weights have been destroyed. So after you recieve it, get it inspected.

Things like cracked jewels or other damage can be replaced by using parts for New/old stock or using parts from an "unworthy (donor)" movement.

The main sticking point is the balance assembly which is the sole purpose of the watch. Scratched plates cannot be replaced. Nor can the balance. These all carry the serila number of the watch. Damaged steel work (regulator springs, screws, etc) can be refinished.

But it is best to get as clean as an example as you can find. Understand, most of the "common" RRG watches were made in 100 thousands, and as group many millions. So you do not have to (should not?) buy the first one you see.

Hope this helps.

Regards,

Dewey
 

tgeekb

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"Best value" as others said is very ambiguous. And as Chris pointed out, there is the service aspect.

As many here know, to me a watch is not a watch unless it performs to original factory specifications. For Hamilton 16 s prior to the 992B, this meant 6 seconds per day variation across all positions. Better than Rolex specs and before we had automatic wind to provide unvarrying power on the balance assembly.

You will very unlikely buy a watch in this condition. You will have to make your choice and send it out.

Here is a link to what it takes to accomplish this acheivable end: https://www.historictimekeepers.com/documents/Watch Adjustment.pdf

OK. Which should you buy?

I will tell you what I tell customers who apporach me about buying ONE chronometer. READ. For example, there is an excellent series in the NAWCC Bulletin called Railroader's Corner which attempted (fairly successfully ) to cover the the field of railroad watches.

Include in your universe the 18 size 1870 to 1900 15 jewel Adjusted watches which were used by railroaders. I was introduced to early Hampden (Springfield, MA), New York Watch (Springfield, MA) and Aurora by friends on this list. These are all capable of surpising performance. Then there are the high grade late 19th cent 18s watches made by such as Illinois, Hamilton Waltham and others. Not only are these highy capable, they come in stunning finishes.

FWIW, I am very partial to 17j (and now 15J) RRG watches. This is because I value engineering elegance. These watches are just as capable as 21 jewel watches. As Ball cautioned, 23 j watches present ownership problems. If the mainspring broke, there was a great chance of the jewels for the barrel being damaged. Many 23 j watches retain cracked jewels at this position which not only disurbs their finction, but the craks draw the oil away from the bearing. These jewels are VERY hard to find.

Understand that the vast majority of RR watches were never used on a railroad. That designation was really a proxy for "precision instrument". There were far more RR watches produced and sold than there were railroad employees required to carry them. And watches were serviced, not replaced every model year like an Iphone.

The discussions on this board about fancified finishes that did nothing to improve performance are strong indicators of that many were marketed to affluent customers. Railroaders were not highly paid and bought the best movement that was easiest to get serviced in the least expensive case they could find.

Many RRG watches were given as memorials and the inscriptions on the case can be very poignant. That may be a factor to you.

Learn about what period of dial insription and case style is appropriate to the serial number of the watch you are considering. During the 1980s, self declared experts declared what a "real" railroad watch looks like. Many fine examples of pre 1910 RR wathces were recased into 1930s cases and redialed to satisfy those "requirements".

These watches ALL reflect the history of technology. There may be an aspect that speaks to you.

The history of the brand may be important.

Finally, the position of Ball is a special case. He contracted with several watch companies to provide him with what today would be called ebauches. Complete movements that are almost ready for sale. He would have them stripped down and finished (adjusted) to his standards. The percentage sold to Railroaders is unknowable.

"Best value" as a synonym for "best investment"? Buy an ETF. If you compare prices in the 1st edition of the watch price guide and the last (2016) you find prices are almost the same. This means watch values have actually DECREASED due to inflation and you lost money that would served better in the stock market.

So first determines what intrigues you about railroad watches, and then search for a good example of the watch. Make sure it is returnable. Many watches have been "vandalized" as descibed in the referenced article and in my mind are not "worthy" as a collectible specimen. But only by inspection by a competent source can it be determined if there is rust on the balance spring or if the balacne weights have been destroyed. So after you recieve it, get it inspected.

Things like cracked jewels or other damage can be replaced by using parts for New/old stock or using parts from an "unworthy (donor)" movement.

The main sticking point is the balance assembly which is the sole purpose of the watch. Scratched plates cannot be replaced. Nor can the balance. These all carry the serila number of the watch. Damaged steel work (regulator springs, screws, etc) can be refinished.

But it is best to get as clean as an example as you can find. Understand, most of the "common" RRG watches were made in 100 thousands, and as group many millions. So you do not have to (should not?) buy the first one you see.

Hope this helps.

Regards,

Dewey
Cool, I’ve got some reading and learning to do. Thank you!
 

Dr. Jon

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As others wrote best value can mean many things and which is or are important informs your choice.

Some of these are:

1) Best performance for the money. For this I favor workhorse models, many made and lots of parts avaialble, Hamiltom 992, 992B Elgin Veritas grades such as BW. Raymond, Father Time, Waltham Vanguard and Riverside, Illinois Bunn Specials (16 SIze)

2) Most like to appreciate , rarities such as exotic Illinois Bunn Specials, Special Howards. Lots of volatility here so do a lot of research and learn to spot mischief. YOU can make some money but you can also get hosed.

3) Spectacular movement decoration bang for the buck, my favorite is a Hamilton 946 or a 996 or a Bunn Special.
 

tgeekb

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Just to be clear, when I speak of value I have no interest in making money on my choice. I am more concerned with not throwing my money away by making a bad choice. I hope that helps.
Thank you for all the great information and direction. It is helping my search immensely.
 

Clint Geller

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Hi Tgeekb,

I have never decided what kinds of watches to collect based on an expectation of making a profit when I turned them around. Rather, I ask: What is/are the most interesting watch(es) to me that I can buy with my available funds? That question immediately takes me to my collecting goals and priorities. Different collectors approach the hobby differently, but I have chosen to pursue a few well-defined collecting themes: E. Howard & Co. watches (currently dormant); watches with Civil War provenances (active); American Watch Company grade Walthams (active); and English pocket chronometers (semi-active). Within these themes, I seek examples that fill what I consider to be holes in my collection, and which are exceptional in one or more respects, either on account of their condition and/or their specific features. Rarity enters into my thinking only indirectly, as I estimate how long I would likely have to wait in order to have an opportunity to buy another example with the same features.

Your goals and priorities may be completely different than mine, but my advice to you is to think about your own goals and priorities and to clearly define them. That will increase your enjoyment of the hobby, give you a chance to become knowledgeable about the things you collect, and reduce churn and maximize long-term satisfaction with your collection. To that end, in my experience, if you buy quality examples of whatever you choose to collect, in the long run you will do better financially and you will have a more gratifying collecting experience than if you chase bargains on mediocre watches.
 
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tgeekb

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Still looking. Unsure if and when I’ll pull the trigger on something.
 

Clint Geller

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Still looking. Unsure if and when I’ll pull the trigger on something.
While you are deciding, tgeekb, you might consider buying some relevant books, if you haven't already done so, to help you choose what to collect. Many have said it, and it is certainly true that: "Watches are expensive. Books are cheap." One cheap book could save you from several costly mistakes. Try as soon as you can to know at least as much about the watches you collect as most of the people selling them. Books are only a good start. This website can be an enormous help too. And then if you can find a knowledgeable, trustworthy mentor or two, you will be well set up for collecting success.
 

topspin

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For "good value" - one tip we often give to newcomers is to stick to auctions, and avoid the buy-it-now prices. This way you will only ever pay 1 increment more than whatever someone else thought it was worth.

Another tip is - take your time. It's not a race. Watch some auctions & look at the Sold listings. Get a feel for what's available, what's expensive, what you find interesting, etc.

Don't bid more than you are willing to write off as a loss if you later discover the watch is not quite what you thought it was, or if you take your collection off in a different direction.

A watch which is listed as "serviced" and "keeping good time" is much better value than one where you'll have to pay someone else to fix it up to the desired condition for you.
 
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tgeekb

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While you are deciding, tgeekb, you might consider buying some relevant books, if you haven't already done so, to help you choose what to collect. Many have said it, and it is certainly true that: "Watches are expensive. Books are cheap." One cheap book could save you from several costly mistakes. Try as soon as you can to know at least as much about the watches you collect as most of the people selling them. Books are only a good start. This website can be an enormous help too. And then if you can find a knowledgeable, trustworthy mentor or two, you will be well set up for collecting success.
Any suggestions on good books you’ve read?
 

Clint Geller

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Well then I am not the very best person here to advise you, but I can certainly recommend Michael C. Harrold's book American Watchmaking: A Technical History, which is an NAWCC publication. That book is an excellent general introduction to American watchmaking history. Then there is Bill Meggers' Illinois book, and any of Greg Frauenhoff's books on railroad watches generally, or on Rockford watches in particular. There are also several relevant Encyclopedia articles on this website that you should look at. I'll let other folks here who are more attuned to railroad watches pick up the ball from there.
 
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Kevin W.

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Best value, i would second it. A Hamilton 992 B, great watch.
 

tgeekb

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Does anyone know if the Hamilton 954L is a railroad grade watch? Can’t find much online about it.
It sure does have a beautiful movement.
 
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As far I know the 954 wasn't a railroad grade because its "pendant" setting. But its a fine watch. I have a nice grade 920 better and more expensive in his time than others Hamiltons RR grade.


When i began in this nice hobby I red these articles.

 

Clint Geller

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As far I know the 954 wasn't a railroad grade because its "pendant" setting. But its a fine watch. I have a nice grade 920 better and more expensive in his time than others Hamiltons RR grade.


When i began in this nice hobby I red these articles.

Miguel, The article you linked shows that pendant set watches were accepted for railroad use. To cite one example, though they weren't heavily advertised to the railroad trade, quite a few E. Howard & Co. watches were used on some American railroads in the 1880s and 1890s, and Howard men's watches were pretty much all pendant set by then.
 

tgeekb

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For "good value" - one tip we often give to newcomers is to stick to auctions, and avoid the buy-it-now prices. This way you will only ever pay 1 increment more than whatever someone else thought it was worth.

Another tip is - take your time. It's not a race. Watch some auctions & look at the Sold listings. Get a feel for what's available, what's expensive, what you find interesting, etc.

Don't bid more than you are willing to write off as a loss if you later discover the watch is not quite what you thought it was, or if you take your collection off in a different direction.

A watch which is listed as "serviced" and "keeping good time" is much better value than one where you'll have to pay someone else to fix it up to the desired condition for you.
Extremely good information. I have been hesitant to pull the trigger on anything expensive unless I know it comes from someone with knowledge and has taken excellent care of the watch.
Another thing is I like things that are different. While the Hamilton 992B is an excellent watch, and I might own one some day under my previously stated conditions, it is a bit too common.
Thus, I did purchase an Illinois 1918 Abe Lincoln inexpensively (with plenty of room for service costs) and that looks like something I would enjoy carrying.
Comments welcome.

FA86F7A4-1D32-4681-88A0-1D8DB327C24B.jpeg 6472A1AF-BF54-4C6C-89DF-64929E96698B.jpeg
 

grtnev

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I saw that thread but saw no confirmation regarding railroad grade or not. Also, I’m not sure what the “L” represents.
We need to clear this up.

The attached pic was in the link that musicguy provided you.

The 954 was available as both a lever set (954L) movement as well as a pendant set (954P) movement, 17j, adjusted to temperature, isochronism, and 5 positions.

The lever set 954L would have been accepted on any road (the vast majority) that accepted 17j as the minimum number of jewels required for a standard watch.

I own both a 954L & a 954P. They are excellent timekeepers - generally overlooked and under appreciated by the collecting community.

Richard

671718E8-EF3C-4CC7-AC8E-1097EDD55716.jpeg
 
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Miguel, The article you linked shows that pendant set watches were accepted for railroad use. To cite one example, though they weren't heavily advertised to the railroad trade, quite a few E. Howard & Co. watches were used on some American railroads in the 1880s and 1890s, and Howard men's watches were pretty much all pendant set by then.
Yes of course but they are common in 1913? and we find the 954 with the two settings...
 

Clint Geller

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I think that deciding what is the best railroad watch to buy before one decides what one's collecting goals are is really putting the cart before the horse. If I were deciding what one watch to own that most quintessentially exemplifies the triumph of American watchmaking in bringing an excellent timepiece made with truly interchangeable parts within the financial reach of the average American, I might well choose a Hamilton 992B. In a sense the 992B can perhaps be seen as the culmination of the American watchmaking story. From a purely historical perspective, it is a far more important artifact than a Waltham Premier Maximus, or a 26 jewel Bunn Special, or a Ball Howard, etcetera.

But the historical significance of a timepiece is only one aspect of its potential collecting appeal. Where collectors and historians often part company is that collectors are more likely to prize the unusual and the exceptional, rather than the most representative products of the watchmaking industry that most interacted with the broader streams of history. Collectors equally are drawn to the noble failures that were legitimate attempts to make a better timekeeper, and to the quirky, ideosynchratic and even the impractical rarities that reveal something of the character, eccentricities, motivations and sometimes vanity of their inventors. From its beginning in the mid-1850's to the end of the story a century later, the continuing refinement of machine watch manufacting technology and practices drove ever increasing uniformity, and drove out individul character and uniqueness from the American industry's products. As the watches got more and more uniform, to amuse themselves collectors began making finer and finer distinctions among more and more nearly identical watches. For instance, how many 992B movements does a collector need to have a "complete" collection of them, and how different really are they from one another?

So what to collect? Does one wish to jump in near the end of the story at the 992B, or does one wish to get in somewhere closer to the beginning, where technical challenges abounded, dead ends were frequent, and the tensions between craft skill and the imperatives of efficient machine manufacturing were still playing out in creative ways? The first watches ordered by American railroads in the 1850s weren't even of American make. Orders for some American watches then followed in the late 1860's, and the first American watch specifically designed and advertised for railroad service emerged in 1870. Parts interchangeability was far from complete back then, and production technology was evolving rapidly. A decade or two later, the American watchmaking industry began selling the public on new definitions of "quality" more expansive than mere timekeeping ability, as even moderately priced watches began to keep increasingly good time. Around the same time, railroad timekeeping captured the public's imagination and watch quality came to be increasingly identified with it in the popular mind. To decide what to collect, you might start by asking yourself: "What interests, intriques or inspires me about pocket watches, or railroad watches in particular?" Your answer to that question may help you to decide where and how you want to jump into the American watchmaking story as an artifact collector.
 
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hc3

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Lots of good advice here. Take your time, read and learn, and when you know what you want, you'll know.
 

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tgeekb, looks like the movement will brighten up with a cleaning, I hope you were aware of the dial issue.
 

John Cote

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tgeekb, looks like the movement will brighten up with a cleaning, I hope you were aware of the dial issue.
I hate to say this and I am saying it to teach and not to scold but I agree and will flesh out what was said above. An proper double sunk replacement dial for this watch and a Clean Oil & Adjust for the A. Lincoln in the photos will cost about as much as a nice example would have cost to begin with. To me what you bought was a project. Projects almost never yield value when you are talking about common RR watches unless you buy a clean original watch which only needs to be cleaned. A watch which needs major parts and pieces is almost always going to be a money suck.
 

tgeekb

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tgeekb, looks like the movement will brighten up with a cleaning, I hope you were aware of the dial issue.
As far as the dial you mean the wear? Patina? I intend on leaving the dial as is. It shows it’s character.
 
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musicguy

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tgeekb,

It has a replacement dial on it(thats what they are letting you know)
and how expensive it will be to source a new one

In reference to buying projects...

I have a mental block on spending large amounts at one
time for a particular watch but I don't mind spending a larger amount
of money over time fixing it up.o_Oo_O:). That sounds like
the definition of insanity.

I do agree with what John wrote above, and it is probably all true. But still
knowing all that information, and including my own past experiences with many project watches
(or movements without cases),
I still like projects and even though they may cost me more sometimes(most of the time),
I do get a lot of real satisfaction working on them and I do keep buying them.

*******I absolutely look at what will be needed and how unobtinium the parts are or how
expensive they will be to find, there is a method to my madness.******

In September I bought this Waltham model 1892 that was very dirty, not running, the
stem had broken off inside the movement because the swing out case was opened incorrectly by the seller and the front bezel would not screw on properly. I sent the "original"
case down to a case repair
person in Florida who fixed it up for me. Luckily the hands were crossed and the movement actually
worked perfectly.

Crossed hands
Screenshot_20211102-130145_Samsung Internet.jpg



20211101_164614.jpg 20211101_164825.jpg



Rob
 
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179

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tgeekb, not having the dial in hand, from the pic. I see a metal reproduction painted dial.
 

tgeekb

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tgeekb, not having the dial in hand, from the pic. I see a metal reproduction painted dial.
I appreciate that information. I don’t mind a worn dial but I do not want a replacement. Here is another picture.

5F1DB38F-66CB-49A8-984B-F1F0C2A0CD50.jpeg
 

tgeekb

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tgeekb,

It has a replacement dial on it(thats what they are letting you know)
and how expensive it will be to source a new one

In reference to buying projects...

I have a mental block on spending large amounts at one
time for a particular watch but I don't mind spending a larger amount
of money over time fixing it up.o_Oo_O:). That sounds like
the definition of insanity.

I do agree with what John wrote above, and it is probably all true. But still
knowing all that information, and including my own past experiences with many project watches
(or movements without cases),
I still like projects and even though they may cost me more sometimes(most of the time),
I do get a lot of real satisfaction working on them and I do keep buying them.

*******I absolutely look at what will be needed and how unobtinium the parts are or how
expensive they will be to find, there is a method to my madness.******

In September I bought this Waltham model 1892 that was very dirty, not running, the
stem had broken off inside the movement because the swing out case was opened incorrectly by the seller and the front bezel would not screw on properly. I sent the "original"
case down to a case repair
person in Florida who fixed it up for me. Luckily the hands were crossed and the movement actually
worked perfectly.

Crossed hands
View attachment 679118



View attachment 679110 View attachment 679111



Rob
Rob, I’m not quite at the point of taking on a project myself. Maybe someday. I would have a qualified professional clean up the movement but hope the dial is not a reproduction. I have reached out to the seller to gauge their reaction.
BTW, beautiful watch!
 

179

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tgeekb, the case is much newer than the mvt. and most likely base metal, possibly chromed. You can see the additional lever cut at 11 to accept later Waltham mvts.
 

Christopher Burris

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The dial issue is coming down to ideology, do you keep it serviced and running and let it show it's life, or do you return it to looking like it would have leaving the factory.

Once looking at the various proper dials you might feel different and there are some uncommon options and it would add market value, but not necessarily personal value because there's nothing wrong with it the way it is.

I would add, I feel, it looks like it's had a hard but useful life so far, but serviced by decent more proper jewelers in my opinion...using the viewable condition of the balance's top jewel as a sign as least that jewel wasn't beat up by a heavy handed jeweler in the past.
 

tgeekb

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The dial issue is coming down to ideology, do you keep it serviced and running and let it show it's life, or do you return it to looking like it would have leaving the factory.

Once looking at the various proper dials you might feel different and there are some uncommon options and it would add market value, but not necessarily personal value because there's nothing wrong with it the way it is.

I would add, I feel, it looks like it's had a hard but useful life so far, but serviced by decent more proper jewelers in my opinion...using the viewable condition of the balance's top jewel as a sign as least that jewel wasn't beat up by a heavy handed jeweler in the past.
Thank you for your response.

As for your first question regarding the dial; if original, my intention was to keep it showing it’s life. I don’t mind old dials and have several old Hamilton, Elgin etc. wrist watches with old, beautiful dials. What I don’t want is a fake dial.

I appreciate your comments about the movement. That is very important.

If the case is not original, I don’t know how difficult it would be to find an original. This might be my least concern.

I appreciate everyone’s knowledgeable comments. Value to me is something I can enjoy and look at with a sense of history. If the dial is truly not original, that would take away from my sense of value.
 

musicguy

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What I don't want is a fake dial.
It's not a fake dial but a low quality replacement metal dial. It probably
was also made by Illinois(someone can correct me if I'm wrong). The original
dial was probably damaged and the owner purchased this dial as a replacement.



Rob
 
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Dr. Jon

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Several points:

1) Books;

Illinois watches are largely superbly made, the Bunn Specials and Sangamo Specials have large collector following. Mike Chamelin wrote books on each. The Sangamo books is crudely done but has excellent, thorough coverage, and describes all the variants. The Bunn book is very professionally done and and really gets into the depth and nature of American railroad watch collecting. Read these and you may find a variant you like which is not prohibitively expensive.

2) The thread is best value.

As others note, project watches, unless they are very rare and highly desired, are not a good value. Some that ate very fine watches and largely ignored, ie good example go for low money are Waltham Riverside and Vanguard grade watches. Illinios A Lincoln models are similarly very good and usually very inexpensive. Hamilton 940, 992, and 992B's are very good and inexpensive because they made so many, but are more likely to have cases and dials switched around. These are potentially good value but you need more knowledge to avoid getting a "monkey".
 

tgeekb

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It's not a fake dial but a low quality replacement metal dial. It probably
was also made by Illinois(someone can correct me if I'm wrong). The original
dial was probably damaged and the owner purchased this dial as a replacement.



Rob
Thank you. The seller has agreed to take the watch back and return my money. Lesson learned.
Hopefully I can eventually find something that fits the bill.
 

tgeekb

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Several points:

1) Books;

Illinois watches are largely superbly made, the Bunn Specials and Sangamo Specials have large collector following. Mike Chamelin wrote books on each. The Sangamo books is crudely done but has excellent, thorough coverage, and describes all the variants. The Bunn book is very professionally done and and really gets into the depth and nature of American railroad watch collecting. Read these and you may find a variant you like which is not prohibitively expensive.

2) The thread is best value.

As others note, project watches, unless they are very rare and highly desired, are not a good value. Some that ate very fine watches and largely ignored, ie good example go for low money are Waltham Riverside and Vanguard grade watches. Illinios A Lincoln models are similarly very good and usually very inexpensive. Hamilton 940, 992, and 992B's are very good and inexpensive because they made so many, but are more likely to have cases and dials switched around. These are potentially good value but you need more knowledge to avoid getting a "monkey".
I find Bunn Specials intriguing and beautiful. Have had a couple in my sights but haven’t pulled the trigger. Might be something I look into and read about.
Will look for Mike’s book.
 
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John Cote

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I find Bunn Specials intriguing and beautiful. Have had a couple in my sights but haven’t pulled the trigger. Might be something I look into and read about.
Will look for Mike’s book.
We would all be glad to help. Bunn Specials are some of the most messed with watches out there. Be careful. They are the most messed with and the most known about so when you buy a messed up one everybody knows it.
 
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DeweyC

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We would all be glad to help. Bunn Specials are some of the most messed with watches out there. Be careful. They are the most messed with and the most known about so when you buy a messed up one everybody knows it.
What everyone has said to date is that you need to learn how discern a "flipper watch" (patch and sell) from a real watch. The Lincoln should be the shot across the bow. We all did it.

So you decided on the Bunn. Great. That was my first watch. Still have it after 40 years.

Now, learn about cases, hands and dials appropriate to that watch. There are at least two books that are essential (?) for anyone considering a Bunn Special. One is the price guide on Illinois watches (paperback), and the other is the HB book recently published about Bunns in particular. Forgot titles and authors.

Get em from the NAWCC library.

Then look at the seller of the watch you are thinking about. 30 day returns. Evaluate the watch aesthetically. If everything looks good, buy it. Then immediately send it to a watchmaker for assessement. If they report it needs service and adjustment to position but no parts are altered and no rust on the balance spring, then you are in fat city with your exemplar.

If they report problems, can they be corrected? At what cost? is it better to return it?

Just remember: cheap does not equal value.
 

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