Deck Watch: Elgin Grade 581 Royal Navy Deck Watch research

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
Hello all,
I am doing some research on Elgin British Deck watches used by the Royal Navy during WW2. I have owned two examples, but only one in my possession at this time. Doing a small amount of research on the serial number for dating purposes I get the usual information:

Elgin Grade 581
22 jewels (some marked 21 jewels but actually 22)
B.W. Raymond Movements
All Adjusted to 5 Positions
20,800 total made
9 Runs by Elgin totaling to the 20,800 between 1941 and 1943

Looking at my serial number (41757691) and the run it was included in it looks like it was produced in the eighth run of the 581 Grade in 1943. Looking at my first example and its serial number, it also was included in that run. Here is the run information that I can gather about the runs and serial numbers.

1941, 39261001 to 39261500, 500 units
1941, 39516001 to 39516300, 300 units
1942, 40470001 to 40471000, 1000 units
1942, 40500001 to 40501000, 1000 units
1942, 40999001 to 41000000, 1000 units
1942, 40294001 to 40296000, 2000 units
1943, 41165001 to 41168000, 3000 units
1943, 41750001 to 41760000, 10000 units
1943, 42077001 to 42079000, 2000 units

So, I started searching for all the Elgin HS3 Royal Navy examples that I could find on the internet and jotted down their serial numbers. After only 10 minutes of searching I found the following 10 examples:
41751157
41751750
41753425
41753480
41753706
41754653
41755700
41757066
41759061
41759426

Now quickly looking at the serial numbers it shows that ALL the examples came from the same run. That run was supposedly completed with 10,000 pieces. The serial numbers show HS3 examples running from the first serial number range to the end of the 10,000 (1,157 to 9,426)
This CAN NOT mean that there were 10,000 Elgin Grade 581 22 jewel watches that went to the Royal Navy, or can it?
There has never been a definitive answer to the actual number of Elgin HS3 Deck watches there were produced, I've been looking for years. I would like to get a step closer to that here!
I am hoping for anyone who may have an Elgin HS3 Deck Watch or British issued example in this serial number range (41750001 to 41760000) to post the information. This also includes serial numbers in this range that ARE NOT British military issue. This would give up great information either way.
I understand that online information sources that give serial numbers, date of manufacture and run quantities aren't always accurate. I am going on what I have found to be available. If anyone has further detailed information regarding this watch, date of manufacture, run quantity and number of examples that went to the British Government please post. If this topic has already been covered and answered can someone please forward me the thread? Thank you all.

022.jpg 023.jpg 027.jpg 033.jpg 034.jpg 036.jpg 028.jpg 031.jpg 032.jpg 024.jpg 025.jpg 026.jpg
 
Last edited:

Tom McIntyre

Technical Admin
Staff member
NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Ruby Member
Donor
Aug 24, 2000
83,433
1,758
176
84
Boston
awco.org
Country
Region
My 581 is also from the same run, but it is the AN-5740 configuration just like the 4992B. It is serial number 41751851.

AN-5740
MFRS. PART NO. - 1790
CONT. NO. W 535-AC-37880
SER. NO. AF 43 1883
ELGIN
 
Last edited:

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
Well that punches a small hole in the long shot theory that ALL 10,000 were for the British Admiralty.
Maybe we can find batches in sequences if we are lucky!
 

Tom McIntyre

Technical Admin
Staff member
NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Ruby Member
Donor
Aug 24, 2000
83,433
1,758
176
84
Boston
awco.org
Country
Region
Unfortunately we do not have any records from Elgin equivalent to the Hamilton or Waltham ledgers. It is almost certain that Elgin like the others set aside blocks of numbers for a particular model and grade but then produced the items as needed. In the case of Elgin, we also know they reassigned some of the watches from those blocks to other similar grades.

We can sort it out eventually through observations but that will take a while and there may be too few survivors to ever be very sure.

Another possibility is to find the contract information somewhere in government archives for the military contract purchases. We have contract numbers in the Hamilton ledgers and we have contract numbers engraved on U.S. Ordnance. Those might be able to be fitted to some production model.
 

HUDD

Registered User
Apr 11, 2004
535
16
18
70
St. Albans, UK
Country
Region
This is my Royal Navy deck watch numbered 41755748 Elgin_581_3.jpg I have another two 581's numbered 41759701 and 41751977 neither of which were RN issue.

Mike
 

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
Hello Tom and Mike! Thank you for the information.
It's a little bit of a bummer not being able to nail down some numbers that went to the Brits! I like my numbers! Maybe even the serial numbers on the rear case engraved by the HS could point is in a direction but they are in direct relation to the movement serial numbers, most of the time.

Mike, very nice example sir. There should be a "gathering" of these Elgins, put them together in one big room! Thank you both.

I'd love to still see more examples from other members so we can learn learn learn!
 

Tom McIntyre

Technical Admin
Staff member
NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Ruby Member
Donor
Aug 24, 2000
83,433
1,758
176
84
Boston
awco.org
Country
Region
I noticed that the AN 5740 engraving is on the back of Hudd's watch as well as the H.S. 3 engraving and there is no broad arrow. Are the numbers engraved on the back under the H.S. 3 the same as on my example? I suspect they are, but the 10,000 watches in that block may mean that there are several contracts in it.
 

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
Hudds watch is engraved with the HS markings that reflect the last 5 of the movement serial number 55478. That's generally how the HS numbered their watches with a reference to the serial number. My example shows the two different stages of markings. The one crossed out and the later HS marking below. Your watch has the US Army Navy watch designation AN-5740. I may be seeing this wrong as I'm working off a mobile with small print.
 

HUDD

Registered User
Apr 11, 2004
535
16
18
70
St. Albans, UK
Country
Region
Hi Michael and Tom ... The case back of my 581 does have the broad arrow and HS3 marking but doesn't have the AN-5740 marking. The latter could easilly be confused with the HS serial number which is similar ? , or am I reading your comments incorrectly ?

Mike
 

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
Yes I think the numbers are so similar that looking it may be confused with the AN-5740. Your markings are British, the AN-5740 designation are US.
 

HUDD

Registered User
Apr 11, 2004
535
16
18
70
St. Albans, UK
Country
Region
Hi again Michael and Tom ... I think I've caused the confusion by having wrongly added descriptive text to the photo quoting AN-5740, etc. My fault.

Mike
 

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
No FAULTS here my friend. Just a bunch of people trying to pull a little sense from a great big deal of nonsense! :))
 

Tom McIntyre

Technical Admin
Staff member
NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Ruby Member
Donor
Aug 24, 2000
83,433
1,758
176
84
Boston
awco.org
Country
Region
I was seeing some of the light engraving without the fill but not all of it. I was guessing at what was there. I copied the image and increased the contrast enough for my old eyes to see.

ElginMarks.png
 

HUDD

Registered User
Apr 11, 2004
535
16
18
70
St. Albans, UK
Country
Region
Hi Tom and Michael ... Yep ! same problem with my old eyes too. Gets to be a bind when selecting tools, like which is the correct size stake, or where did I put that .... etc. Glasses on, glasses off ... loop on ... loop off. Still, on the whole I enjoy my hobby, and it allows me to escape down the garden to my nice warm workshop Nutjob
 

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
I know how you feel gentlemen. I had to use a loupe and a lightbulb to see the markings on the back of a AN5742-1. Just awful....and depressing ;)
 

HUDD

Registered User
Apr 11, 2004
535
16
18
70
St. Albans, UK
Country
Region
Hi Michael ... the scored through number on the back of mine is 238. Not easy to decipher even with the case in hand but I'm sure that's correct.

Mike
 

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
Hi Mike, the only reason I ask is that your "238" inscription does not "fit" into your serial number of the movement that is now in your watch. Your movement may not be the "original" movement for the case. It may have been changed out when during the service or install of your movement "41755748". If the two were an original "pair" your movement would have "238" in the fourth, fifth and sixth didgit of that serial number. Sometimes during HS service the cases were not actually re-paired up with the serviced movements. Or, it is a possibility Elgin supplied replacement movements as well and the HS installed one of those and then remarked your rear case "55748" to coorespond with the new movement when they were transitioning to the new case back styles. Be sure your watch saw wartime is my guess as to change out movements. I see this
more common in US services pieces.
 

HUDD

Registered User
Apr 11, 2004
535
16
18
70
St. Albans, UK
Country
Region
Hi Michael ... I'm not really surprised that the case and movement didn't start life together. I'm assuming the switch must have happened during a routine service. Being built for the Royal Navy I'm also assuming servicing took place at a centre in the UK rather than being shipped back to the US ? The reason for my assumption lies with the Hamilton 21 chronometers that I believe were also supplied to the RN. A guy in the UK has recently sold 6 or 7 of these chronometers, ( I bought N734 from him ) all without their boxes but some in shipping tins and all ( I think ? ) with the service due stickers on the bezels. Gives credence to there having been a service centre in the UK. The only other explanation I can think of is that they may have been sold off in block on retirement from service in the RN and then purchased as military surplus ?
Mike

Mike
 

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
Yes all the service was done by the British. They had several locations during the era from pre-WWI to I believe the 1980s! One location I can think of off the top of my head was The Chronometer Section at Herstmonceux Castle. Maybe your watch was there at some point of its career!
 

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
Plus Mike, the whole serial number thing with the movement is open to discussion and opinion as there were so many ways they identified their watches. Some were movement related, some not. Some were the last three or four numbers in the movement and others were from the middle. Trying to figure it all out is almost impossible!
 

HUDD

Registered User
Apr 11, 2004
535
16
18
70
St. Albans, UK
Country
Region
Hi Michael ... Lying awake in the small hours and thinking about the serial numbers on my watch I realized that the non matching 3 digit number lined through was original to the case manufacture by Elgin, but the 5 digit number added by the British was a match for the movement serial number. Therefore I'm thinking any mismatch case to movement was done during initial assembly in the US ?
I think I had better call it a day before my brain begins hurting. As you say, "Trying to figure it all out is almost impossible!"

Mike
 

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
Hi Mike, yes is guess that is a possibility what you said. Are you saying that the three didgit serial number, in your watch "238", matches in some way the case number? The case number is stamped on the inside rear cover and should, and I say "should" match the "frame" number which is usually located front side frame under the crystal bezel. Case backs, frames and movements were sometimes not pair back up together after a service.
 

HUDD

Registered User
Apr 11, 2004
535
16
18
70
St. Albans, UK
Country
Region
Hi Michael ... The "238" engraved on the case back doesn't match the serial number of the case proper. It probably isn't meant to as the case number ( engraved inside of case back ) and "238" ( engraved outside of case back ) were probably both engraved at the same time by Elgin before issue to the UK ? However, the British 5 digit number matches the movement serial number. So, the system of numbering to which the "238" belongs is a complete mystery to me ?

Mike
 

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
Hi Mike,
I didn't then they would have matched but it was a thought. To me, the numbers not matching reaffirms to me that either the case back OR movement were different when it left Elgin.
If you can reference my example: the three crossed out numbers "576", re-engraved numbers "57691" and the movement serial number "41757691 all collaborate.
If your case serial numbers match, inside rear case back and frame are the same, it's the movement that is not original.
if the case serial numbers do not match, my guess the rear case back came from another example and was re-engraved to match the movement serial number.
I have owned several deck watches and non matching numbers are common and have no effect on its value in my opinion. There is more chance the numbers will NOT match than the other way around.
My example probably exists in pure "happenstance" and was probably not used much or served in a location where services were less frequent.
I love trying to "figure it out". We need more examples to compare with. When I first started this thread I was only interested in the serial numbers of the 10 or so examples I found. I'll look again when I have time to try and get case back information in relation to the movement serial numbers.
 

rmw

Registered User
May 31, 2005
111
0
16
Just for the record, my example has the following markings:

HS3

SN (on movement) 417563659

On the back the number 53659 appears - showing an odd discrepancy with the SN. The number 213 also appears but has been overstruck.

The back and dial both carry the broad arrow.
 

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
Hello rmv,
thank you for the information. I will add it to the list. Please post a photo is you are able so we can compare case backs! Thank you if you can! Mike
 

Tom McIntyre

Technical Admin
Staff member
NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Ruby Member
Donor
Aug 24, 2000
83,433
1,758
176
84
Boston
awco.org
Country
Region
I believe the 238 etc. struck through numbers would have either been inventory for the U.S. purchasing office or a contract number. Numbers like that unrelated to either the case or movement serial numbers appear on essentially all the U.S. distributed pieces.
 

HUDD

Registered User
Apr 11, 2004
535
16
18
70
St. Albans, UK
Country
Region
Hi Tom and Michael ... I'll watch with interest to how many more examples surface, but I think Tom you have it nailed.

Mike
 

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
Hi Tom and Mike, this is agreed Tom. My watch must have been a rare chance of numbers. Now looking for examples with case back info I could not find ONE with all matching numbers. BUT, what I do know is that the three scored and sometime scored numbers were not contract numbers. Elgin must have numbered these for the admiralty in their possible first batch to them. You do not see these same markings as searching continues. The only markings is just then HS3 Broad Arrow and movement cooresponding 5 numbers as you can see from the attached photos. I also added a few photos of the US contracted pieces marked with contract numbers. The tens of thousands of pieces marked with the same contract number makes it credible, I do not think that there would have been a contract for just "one" service piece "238" or "576". . image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.png image.jpeg image.jpeg
 

Tom McIntyre

Technical Admin
Staff member
NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Ruby Member
Donor
Aug 24, 2000
83,433
1,758
176
84
Boston
awco.org
Country
Region
I wonder if we are looking at Elgin or the U.S. government intermediary to the Brits. To get a slightly alternative view, here is my 3992B with a highly enhanced view of the case back. You can click on this to make it quite a bit larger.

3992B.png
 

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
Hi Tom! I'm not sure if I understand what you are saying. Are you saying there was a 3rd party engraver between US watch manufacturers and the British Gov? In pretty sure such as your Hamilton example and the my example were initially engraved by Hamilton as the fonts are all the same. The HS3 and secondary MoD numbers were done by HS Brits. Even the "Broad Arrow" was initially done by Hamilton, case back and movement. Are you in agreement?

image.jpeg image.jpeg
 

rmw

Registered User
May 31, 2005
111
0
16
Here we are - case back and movement. I grabbed them with my iphone. I can do better if you need them. IMG_1205.jpg IMG_1204.jpg
 

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
Thank you for the photos. Beautiful flashed movement! They are just fine. A great addition to this thread! M
 
Last edited:

Dave Chaplain

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Feb 16, 2001
2,168
25
48
sites.google.com
Country
Here are a couple of more examples: the first (sn 41753759) is gilt/gold flashed and marked 21 Jewels and the second (sn 41759067) is nickel and marked 22 Jewels ...

sn 41753759 mvmt.jpg sn 41753759 rear.jpg
sn 41759067 mvmt.jpg sn 41759067 rear.jpg
 
  • Like
Reactions: Tom McIntyre

Michael Payant

Registered User
Dec 22, 2015
44
0
0
Hi Dave!
Thank you for your posting and photos. Fine examples! Two more additions in that serial number range.
 

Dave Chaplain

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Feb 16, 2001
2,168
25
48
sites.google.com
Country
More grade 581 observations ...

SNMvmt markingsCase markings
40,470,553B.W. Raymond 21 Jewels Adjusted 5 Positions Temperature U.S. Army A.C., E.N.W.Co. U.S.A. (under BW) - gold flashed finishType A13 / Spec. No. AN-GG-W-108 / Ser. No. AC42-4781 / Mfrs. Part No. 1786 / Ord. No. W535AC-2807 / Elgin
41,165,531B.W. Raymond 21 Jewels Adjusted 5 Positions Temperature U.S. Army A.C., E.N.W.Co. U.S.A. (under BW) - gold flashed finish
41,757,148B.W. Raymond 22 Jewels Adjusted 5 Positions Temperature E.N.W.Co. U.S.A. (under BW) - nickel finishAN-5740 MFRS PART NO-1790 CONT NO Ws857C 37880 SER NO AF-43-6625 ELGIN
41,758,118B.W. Raymond 22 Jewels Adjusted 5 Positions Temperature - nickel finishElgin National Watch Co. 136 [strike thru] 58118 [Broad Arrow] H.S.3
 
Last edited:
Know Your NAWCC Forums Rules!
RULES & GUIDELINES

Find member

Staff online

Forum statistics

Threads
161,068
Messages
1,397,430
Members
83,018
Latest member
smallheadz
Encyclopedia Pages
1,099
Total wiki contributions
2,788
Last edit
How to wire a 24 volt secondary for a 12 volt ITR/IBM Master clock system by Toughtool