Durable pocket watch

Discussion in 'American Pocket Watches' started by kd8tzc, Apr 11, 2017.

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  1. kd8tzc

    kd8tzc Registered User

    Apr 11, 2017
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    Hi all... this is my first post, so I hope you can help me. I picked up a Waltham model 1899 pocket watch earlier this year that had been rebuilt. I initially had an issue with the mainspring and had to send it back for repair, and now, I believe the balance wheel is having issues as it will only keep time when it is face down. This is a major problem for me as I like to keep this in my pocket as my time piece.

    This has me asking a question of durability. Obviously, things that are over 100 years old should be treated with care, but is the watch just too fragile as a daily timepiece? If so, is there something someone can recommend that I look for to use as a daily timepiece? I like the manual wind watches and would love to be able to use the one I have due to the character that it has (and its age). Does anyone make a modern pocket watch that might be more suitable that won't cost a fortune, is a manual wind and has an open face?

    Any help would be appreciate. Having to send the watch all the way across the country to have it serviced under the sellers warranty is a pain, and soon that warranty will be expiring. Having to pay an antique watch guy to fix it I'm sure will get expensive, and no, I don't think I would want to try and repair it myself.

    Thank you all

    John
     
  2. rolandantrobus

    rolandantrobus Registered User

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    It seems you could have been sold a "dud". A "rebuilt" watch that has all these faults is just wrong. These watches are usually very reliable. Please do not let this experience put you off buying old American watches. Just try a different seller.
    Bear in mind tho' that these watches are not shockproof like modern watches. A sharp knock may well break the balance pivot.
     
  3. kd8tzc

    kd8tzc Registered User

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    Thanks for the reply. Yes, I can understand how a sharp knock can damage the balance pivot. I normally will not wear them if I am out working in the yard or banging around. I always wear them with a chain, keep them in the coin pocket if my pants have them. If I am wearing work clothes, my pants do not have one of those, so I normally will just keep it in a pocket all by itself. At all times, I have a chain on it.

    The seller was actually really cool about the process and has repaired the watch once already, picking up the shipping costs as well. I would think the watch should be durable enough for a daily wear watch, but are there others that would could recommend as well? I was almost thinking of picking up a dollar watch (e.g. Westclox), but part of me wonders if these are more fragile since they didn't cost much to make in the first place.


    Thanks,

    John
     
  4. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    The cost savings in dollar watches are due to the manufacturing process which makes them mostly un-repairable. They will keep adequate time during the day. So will the pocket watches at K-mart and CVS. None of these have any lasting value or romance associated with them.

    You should be able to buy a 15 or 17 jewel Waltham or Elgin for well under $100 that is in good running order and will be an interesting artifact to own.
     
  5. musicguy

    musicguy Registered User
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    Many of these watches were used(and made for) "working people", there should be
    no problem for you to have a daily wear watch that is reliable.
    You don't need a dollar watch unless you want to collect them too.
    I wear a high grade watch in my jeans pocket every day. I also have many
    that I don't wear that I collect. Maybe you need someone else to service
    your watch.

    Post a photo of your watch.



    Rob
     
  6. kd8tzc

    kd8tzc Registered User

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    Rob, I will get a picture posted shortly.

    Tom, you say I should be able to get a 15 or 17 Jewel Waltham or Elgin for under $100... Most I have seen seem to be a bit higher than that. Should I be looking for those that say serviced? Is there something I should pay attention to in the advertisement that ensure that it will last? Obviously, any watch can break if mishandled, so my big concern is getting a watch that is "barely" running, but can be listed as running.

    Just curious, does anyone know what it would cost to have the balance shaft replaced on this (assuming that is what is wrong with it)?
     
  7. GeneJockey

    GeneJockey Registered User
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    I have a number of pocket watches that I carry on a routine basis.

    The oldest is a 15j, 18s Elgin from about 1911, in a Silverode case. It keeps excellent time, fits the watch pocket nicely, and because it's a very common grade, I don't worry too much about it. Parts can still be found for it, but I serviced it carefully, and it's always in a watch pocket, on a sturdy silver chain.

    I also have 3 keywind Elgins from the first decade of Elgin's existence. These I will OCCASIONALLY carry. They keep pretty good time, even the two with solid balances, but parts for them would be hard to come by!

    If you're looking for a nice, sturdy carry watch, though, the 16s Elgin 570 series, from the late 1940s/early 1950s are a great choice. They have modern alloy hairsprings and monometallic balances, friction-set jewels, and they come in attractive but sturdy gold filled cases. Easy to work on, parts in abundance still available.
     
  8. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    I am skeptical of sellers I do not know that say "serviced." If I have a watch serviced that has nothing wrong with it except it is dirty, I pay about $200. The "serviced" watches on eBay mostly have had some oil added.

    You may not be able to buy a reliable watch on eBay for under $100, but they are often available at NAWCC local chapter meetings. You will need to settle for a not very attractive case to get that price. Loose running movements are often much cheaper but need to be cased if you want to wear them.
     
  9. kd8tzc

    kd8tzc Registered User

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  10. musicguy

    musicguy Registered User
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    Everyone gets burned on their first pocket watch. There is a learning
    curve on what to buy, where to have it serviced, how much to pay.
    This one seems like the seller is giving a 6 Month Limited Warranty.
    I would send it back to him and ask for your money back, or the watch
    fixed. You should not feel guilty doing this.

    Personally since I have all my watches serviced when I get them,
    I don't care what the seller says(or if they work). I look at the photos of the movement,
    the dial, and the case. If I like what I see, and the price is right, I buy it.
    I have purchased watches that were listed as not running
    and they run perfectly(when I get them). And I have purchased watches
    that say they run, when the main spring is obviously broken when I got it.

    Mostly, you do take a chance when you buy on
    ebay, and you do need to have patience, and do some homework, and
    you will find ton's of nice watches for reasonable prices.


    Rob
     
  11. Dave Coatsworth

    Dave Coatsworth Super Moderator
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    The Waltham you purchased is a good choice for a carry watch. Remember, this watch has been fired up and now used for probably the first time in decades. Stuff happens when you do that. You can't anticipate everything when you service a watch under these conditions. That's why a reputable dealer will offer a warranty. Send it back and have it fixed. If this is a reputable dealer, he will be glad you did that rather than going away mad and not doing further business with him.
     
  12. musicguy

    musicguy Registered User
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    ****edit****
     
  13. MrRoundel

    MrRoundel Registered User
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    I agree with Dave that your Waltham is a fine choice for a pocket watch to carry daily. In looking at the auction, it does look like the seller did as he said, and completely disassembled the watch for cleaning, etc. Heck, they even removed the hairspring from the balance, which would be unnecessary for a basic clean and oil. It is possible that the staff was replaced, and that was why the hairspring was removed. Hard to say...unless he said.

    From the images, the watch doesn't show any obvious signs of abuse, or even hard use, over the years. That's a good thing. The case is a nice, durable silverode, and really good for a watch to be worn daily. It has the looks of a winner, so I hope you can get the balance issues sorted out. Good luck.
     
  14. kd8tzc

    kd8tzc Registered User

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    Thanks... I hope he contacts me back. I sent him an email yesterday, but I have not heard back from him. He also doesn't have anything listed on EBay, but maybe he don't sell too many. I love the watch, and hope to get it fixed. If I have to pay $200 to repair it with someone else though, I don't know, as that was more than I paid for it. I see the part is not expensive, but with anything, it is the time to get to it, and fit it into the watch. I'm sure that is not quick and simple. I wish I had the know-how to do that, but I would need to invest in a bunch of equipment that I know isn't cheap, and then I would still need to have someone show me how its done, so I know that will not happen.

    I need to start looking for a second watch it appears as who knows how long it will be until I hear back from him. Maybe he is on vacation, who knows. I would love to find something similar with a sub-dial, but I haven't had much luck.

    Thanks all,

    John
     
  15. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    If you contacted him through eBay you should hear back soon.

    The watch has eBay's money back guarantee as well as the seller's service warranty. I checked his feedback and it is all perfect, so I would just relax if I were you and wait to hear from him. He is a member of both the NAWCC and AWCI where the members subscribe to a code of ethical conduct.

    It is just possible that the Christian Holy Week has occupied some of his time since the sale.
     
  16. topspin

    topspin Registered User

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    A mid-grade Waltham 1899 is (usually) a great choice for a regular carry watch. Durable, reliable, good accuracy, etc... but still as fragile as any other watch of this era.

    If you want something a bit more robust then any watch marked "shock protected", "shockproof" or "Incabloc" may be a good bet. Or pick up some £5 piece of mass-produced tat from your local market. It will likely break within a few weeks anyway, therefore it doesn't really matter whether you handle it carefully or not!.
     
  17. kd8tzc

    kd8tzc Registered User

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    Thanks Tom... I tend to agree with you. Possibly he is on vacation and will get back to me when he returns. He has been very good in the past with my dealings so I doubt that would change. I just hope this falls within the warranty.

    Dumb question... are the certified Railroad watches more durable than something like an 1899 that I have? I know they had certain things they had to have in order to be certified as Railroad quality, but I wouldn't think that would make them more durable. I had a friend suggest to me last night to pick one of these up for a daily carry watch, but I would think it would need to be cared for in the same manner. Granted, the old timers who carried the railroad watches I'm sure bumped them quite a bit in the line of their work, but they still had the same materials to work with back then.
     
  18. musicguy

    musicguy Registered User
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    There were a lot more watch repair people back then, people
    serviced their watches like people service their cars today(regularly).

    Make sure you always tether your watch with a strap or chain.
    I like a leather watch strap, it doesn't scratch my watches.
    I have stood up many many times and my watch was on my lap
    where the tether saved my watch from hitting the floor.


    Rob
     
  19. kd8tzc

    kd8tzc Registered User

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    Rob, I always have mine tethered. I have a metal chain one, but that is an interesting comment about the leather not scratching the watch.

    I also always keep the watch in the coin pocket of my pants if I have one. If I am wearing suit pants that doesn't have one, I normally will keep the watch all by itself in that pocket and I also have it sandwiched in a handkerchief as well. Currently I don't have any suits with vests, but I'd sure like to pick some up to keep the watch where it is supposed to be.

    You say a lot more people repaired/serviced their watch back then. I can't imagine they took their watch apart, or did they? I would love to learn how to repair a watch, but the cost of all the tools is what has prevented me from going down that route. Also, I think I would want a non-running watch to practice on first before I destroy one. Technically, the one I have is non-working, but it also has a limited warranty still on it, so I hope that it will be covered. I know I didn't drop it and slam it into anything, but when I turn it over, I can hear something loose in it.
     
  20. musicguy

    musicguy Registered User
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    Hopefully that could be just a loose case screw, and the movement
    is moving around when you turn it over.

    I think that most people took their watches in for service. If your RR watch
    needed service(and you worked for the RR), it had to be taken to an
    authorized person that the RR designated for you to bring your watch to.
    http://elginwatches.org/scans/non_elgin_articles/m_1898_watch_inspection_complaints.html


    Rob
     
  21. GeneJockey

    GeneJockey Registered User
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    Here's how to think about watches in those days - first consider the cost of a watch. It was a big investment for the average guy! I looked into this a couple times, but the one I best remember was checking out an Elgin ad from 1950 or so. Their cheapest watch was about $40. Doesn't sound like much, till you remember median family income was only $4200. So that watch was half of a week's earnings. Today, with median family at about $51,000, that's the equivalent of $500. So, you'd take care of it!

    Second, EVERYONE had mechanical watches, so pretty much every jeweler had a watchmaker on the premises. And there were more jewelers. You were advised to take your watch in for service every year or so. Just like cars, most people didn't service their own.

    Definitely start with a broken one, and spend time just taking out screws, manipulating them with tweezers, and putting them back in. Good tweezers are vital, but you can get good used Dumont tweezers for cheap on Ebay. Screwdrivers - if you know how to sharpen them, a cheaper set can work for you, at first. You might find that you don't have the patience or dexterity for servicing watches - not everyone does. Or you might find it's your new passion.
     
  22. Tom Huber

    Tom Huber Registered User
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    Let's separate the terms "durable" and "rugged". These jeweled watches are all durable--meaning that properly maintained they will keep good time. These jeweled watches are not rugged. They will not take a sharp blow without incurring damage. They are not impervious to dust and water. Each can cause significant damage.

    tom
     
  23. topspin

    topspin Registered User

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    Big nod in agreement with Tom.

    On the topic of learning servicing - although playing with an already-broken movement is harmless and useful up to a point, at some point it will be necessary to practise disassembling and reassembling a movement. If the movement is not running then I don't see an obvious way to tell whether it has been reassembled *correctly*.
     
  24. kd8tzc

    kd8tzc Registered User

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    Good point Topspin, but I guess people have to start somewhere. I know I have taken my Chelsea Shipstrike apart for some minor cleaning in the past, but that was a much larger piece to work on and completely different in some ways.

    I do like working on intricate things. A number of years back, I started building black powder rifles. Not the kinds that you buy in a kit that you can assemble in a week or two, but starting from a blank stock and carving very carefully the stock by hand, and fitting everything. In fact, I have one rifle that I have been very slowly been working on for almost 5 years now. The big issue with building these types of rifles is patience, acquiring the supplies, and finding a mentor who can guide you. With the art of repairing watches, I see many of the same qualities. Does that mean someone who likes to build black powder rifles would be skilled at repairing watches... well, I don't think there is a direct correlation.

    For me, I'm not sure I would want to get into that hobby as the cost of entry with the tools I think would be steep, and I don't know if I would want to undertake that. Would it be fun to try my hand and taking a watch apart and trying to put it back together again, sure! But I would only do that with something that didn't work to start with, and as you say, how would I ever know if I reassembles it correctly? I guess if it works, that might be an indicator, but was it done correctly? I would never know without the skillful guidance from an artisan like many of you.

    On a side note, the gentleman who sold me the watch did contact me yesterday and said to ship the watch back to him so he can take care of it. I will let you know what he finds out.

    On a different side note, I have often liked the dollar watches... yes, I know, cheap watches, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder too. I know they are not like some of the better watches, but for a few bucks, they can be had and they do still tell time and have a story. I decided to buy a pre WW2 Westclox Pocket Ben that I hope to see in a few days. I often wonder though, when the men went off to the two great wars, what did they use to tell time? Did they take their pocket watch with them? I know in WWI they had the "trench watch" which you wore on your wrist, but that had to cost a lot of money back then (and I think only the officers were issued them??). If anyone has any information on the watches of both wars. point me to where I can read up on that.

    Peace,

    John
     
  25. ANDY YALE

    ANDY YALE Registered User
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    For a tough, dead reliable carry watch, I would suggest an Illinois 12s open face 17, 19 or 21 jewel like the grade 405 or 406. They keep great time, are easy to fix and parts are available.
    You should be able to get one cased for about 100.00
    If it's got to be a Waltham, a 636 is a sturdy, good looking and affordable choice.
    "Serviced" means nothing on E Bay.
     
  26. kd8tzc

    kd8tzc Registered User

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    Thanks Andy, I will keep that in mind for my next one. I have heard a lot of nice things about the Illinois.

    One question, how does one get only a specific watch to appear in eBay? If I type in Illinois 12s pocket watch, I get all kinds of other stiff too (elgin, etc). I have a feeling it has Illinois in the description someplace and that is why it returned a hit. Is there a better way to do the search (and include the grade, etc possibly)?
     
  27. MrRoundel

    MrRoundel Registered User
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    kd8tzc: The best way to search Ebay, and anywhere else for that matter, is by putting specifics between quotation marks. In other words, if you type in "Illinois pocket watch" 12s, that should narrow you down a bit. I hope it helps. That may miss a few, so try it a few different ways and see what happens. Good luck.
     
  28. GeneJockey

    GeneJockey Registered User
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    I just did a search, with the query 'Illinois 12', and limited it to "Jewelry and Watches>Watches, Parts, And Accessories> Pocket Watches> Antique", and got 104 hits. Of the 104, only 4 were NOT 12s Illinois watches or movements. Lots to choose from!
     
  29. GeneJockey

    GeneJockey Registered User
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    Oh, and remember to save the search, so you don't have to re-do the query. And to get an idea what you should pay, click on 'Sold Listings' every so often. That will tell you what the watches are actually going for, so you know how much to bid in an auction, or when you see a watch you really like with a 'Buy It Now' price, you'll know whether it's a great deal or not.

    Knowledge is your sword and shield in collecting. It prevents you getting taken advantage of, and sometimes lets you snag great deals. Sometimes, watches come up with Buy It Now prices that are ridiculously low, because the seller doesn't know the brand, and has no idea what he's got.
     
  30. smurphy

    smurphy Registered User

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    I own 5 Waltham Pocket watches that are inexpensive models and all work. The earliest a 100 years old was serviced and keeps pretty accurate time. The others are older and still work pretty good. I stopped winding the ones not serviced to avoid costly repairs down the road. From what I read the Waltham Pocket watches are considered reliable. You may want to send again for service.[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
     
  31. kd8tzc

    kd8tzc Registered User

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    Nice collection... I really like the one with the serial 400325 inside the hunter case top. What model is that as it has a beautiful back to it.

    I just received my Westclox Pocket Ben. I'm quite satisfied with it. It's not nearly as nice as what you have, and you can feel the quality difference between it and my Waltham. I'm still waiting to hear back from the seller on what is wrong with it. It was delivered on Saturday, but with the Easter Holiday, I'm certain he has yet had a chance to look at it.

    View attachment 340548
     
  32. langseth

    langseth New Member

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    Kinda late for this thread but I purchased a Illinois 12s grade 405 model 3 17 jewel open face pocket watch which had issues for under $50. I took a chance as the seller advised the balance wheel was sticky but everything else worked except it was not keeping time. Turned out to be a terrific looking watch and movement. I was guessing it just needed cleaning and oiling so I got started disassembly and found it had a broken lower balance jewel cap. I was hopeful that it would still work with a cracked jewel cap but nope. It works just fine when placed on its face, just a little slow but when I turn it on it's back, the balance wheel stops.

    So now is the question as to how to obtain a new balance jewel cap? I tried looking up a part number or size references but no luck. It's 2 millimeters in diameter with 2 small locking screws on the outside edges. I tried buying a parts movement on the bay but I get outbid. This is my 5th watch repair, 2nd pocket watch service, (my own watches) so I'm just learning. Any recommendations would sure be appreciated.
    Rob
     
  33. langseth

    langseth New Member

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    Oops, I meant to say when I turn the watch on it's face, the balance wheel stops.
     
  34. smurphy

    smurphy Registered User

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    kd8tzc,sorry for taking so long to reply back to this thread the 400325 case was made by the Cresent Watch Case Co., the movement A.W.W.Co. ser # 226220 is a model 1888 produced in 1892 and is a Grade No.20 I have an 1899 Elgin Illinois movement ser# 742754 Model 2,Class 56, Grade 175 it is a 7 jewel movement in a 9925 silver case it is missing a hand and is not working. I would love to get it repaired as it is the perfect size 6s for my coin pockets. But the repair I can assume would be costly and more than the value of the piece. I still may do it if a sale goes through for my 1901 J.W.Benson pocket watch.[​IMG]
     
  35. smurphy

    smurphy Registered User

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    ser # is 5226220 forgot the 5 would have been a cival war watch without the 5 on the serial no.cheers
     
  36. musicguy

    musicguy Registered User
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    For me, a durable watch must also be fully jeweled.
    And, (as said above) it must be worth repairing if I want to use it
    on a daily basis. The 7j watches can be adjusted to be fantastic
    time keepers, but in the long run they are disposable watches unfortunately.


    Rob
     
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