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Elgin Original Material Case Restoration and brief history - What I learned so far -

3rdGenWatchMkr

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A. I've wanted an "Elgin Original Material Case" for some time. Recently I was able to obtain one that fit my requirements. The requirements were the following:

1. CHEAP (relative) - The prices for beat up ones are insane, even with no parts. IF they have some parts, the prices are even worse. IN MY EXPERIENCE, the parts in a lot of these vials are covered in surface rust or worse. This detracts from the actual value assumed for these kits or single vials.
2. Had to be one of the first Gen versions (*see more info below regarding what I have been able to piece together regarding different generations of this case)
3. If possible, it had to have the "add on" option. Until recently, this was hypothetical. As I had only seen single vials and some left over pieces that hinted that there was a possible "true" fourth drawer. (some of the Elgin Original Material Cases had a fourth drawer that was similar to the third "mainspring" drawer on the first Gen.)


B. What I learned from the research I've put into the "Elgin Original Material Case" - FULL DISCLOSURE: This was done using limited original Elgin documentation, and LOTS of auctions from the past decade. **At this point, these are assumptions based on the limited information that I have available:

The biggest bit of information came from the PWDB, from an Elgin Service Bulletin c.1940. It provided the following key points:

1. The "Elgin Original Material Case" was first made available in 1927
2. By the time of publication of said bulletin (c.1940) Elgin had produced OVER 18,000 of these cases
3. The case contained at least ONE of each part listed, with SOME parts having duplicates
4. It gave a price for the kit and a retail cost for the parts included:
a. The cost of the parts in the kit (c.1940 RETAIL) exceeded $100.00 (used two different inflation calculators, in 2021 dollars it puts the value of the parts between $1849.00 and $1956.00)
b. The case was available at a discount from Authorized dealers for $50.00, including the storage containers and wooden case ( this would be between $924.50 and $978.00 in 2021)
5.*The original 1927 Case consisted of THREE TIERS, HOWEVER there was also an OPTIONAL fourth Tier available
a. Tier 1 - Balance Staffs and Jewels - Bottles 1-140
b. Tier 2 - Hands and Screws - Bottles 141- 280
c. Tier 3 - Mainsprings - Slots 281-300
d. Tier 4 - OPTIONAL - Bottles 301-449 - This covers, Screws Banking, Screws Barrel Bridge, Screws Case, Screw and Clamp, Screws Stud Hair Spring, Screws Main Wheel, Screws Ratchet Wheel, Clicks, Clicks Exposed Winding, Springs Click, Clutches Windings and Settings, Jewels Balance Cap Upper, Jewels Balance Cap Lower, Pinions Bevel, Pinions Cannon, Pinions Cannon Short, Levers Setting, Springs Setting, Wheels Main, Wheels Main Exposed, Wheels Ratchet, Wheels Ratchet Exposed.

The information above is from MY SET, with ALL index cards "INTACT". I have seen these numbered in the 2000 serial number range. My case is in the low 2K. I place it in the 1927-1928 range of production.

6. **This is what I call the "Second Gen" case. It consisted of FOUR TIERS and it is shown in the c.1940 Elgin Technical Bulletin as a crude drawing.
a. Tier 1 - -The following is ASSUMED : Balance Staffs and Jewels - Bottles 1-140
b. Tier 2 - -The following is ASSUMED : Hands and Screws - Bottles 141- 280
c. Tier 3 - -The following is ASSUMED : Mainsprings - Slots 281-300
d. Tier 4 - Similar to tier 3 (with slots for parts etc., but not angled. Wood is set straight)
From the pictures that I have been able to find about this kit, most of the Index Cards are damaged or missing. So limited information available from what I have seen. I have seen these in the low 4K serial number range

7.**This is what I call the "Third Gen" Case. This are in metal and made to look like "wood". Limited information on this, have only seen a few pictures and no index card or layout information. These also seem to lack a serial number plate (I suspect they are missing)

A lot of other variations on the "Elgin Original Material Case", however the others I have found pertained more to wrist watches and NOT pocket watches.

Serial number ranges are estimates. As more information is made available, I will adjust the serial number range.
 
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3rdGenWatchMkr

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"Restoration" of the Gen1 "Elgin Original Material Case"

Some notes:

I knew this process what NOT going to be easy. However, it turned out to be more of a PITA than I was expecting.

The cost of supplies is currently at $250. This includes $100.00 for TWO different cork sizes. I settled on one size -000-, that did not work out as planned. Had to place an order for the next size up -00-, as expected the corks are too big. So they have to be trimmed.


Size 000 (from left to right) #1 . "Intact" original cork #2. What happened to 99% of the corks #3. Size 00 cork after (crude/test) trimming #4.

20211021_230059.jpg

The best way to remove the velvet glue and velvet is to use warm water and dawn dish soap (warm water alone will not work). However, this causes the wood to swell and crack (BEFORE IT STARTS TO DRY). This process was only used in ONE plank.

The second best way to remove velvet glue and velvet is to use "Mineral Spirits". This will remove about 90-95% of the velvet and glue with minimal effort. Soak the velvet with mineral spirits, allow to penetrate for about 15 minutes. Apply a second coat, wait 5 minutes and start removing the velvet. Once the mineral spirits evaporate, work the remaining glue and velvet with some pegwood. Light sanding will be needed to remove any glue residue.

Based on the wood being so dry, I decided NOT to attempt to use steam to remove the velvet and glue.


How I received the set:

Elgin_OMC_2021.JPG


IMG_20211007_154311.jpg

IMG_20211007_170807.jpg

IMG_20211007_174138.jpg

IMG_20211007_195158.jpg

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IMG_20211007_180053.jpg

IMG_20211007_174142.jpg

IMG_20211008_230035_01.jpg

IMG_20211009_143404.jpg



It had almost everything wrong that I was NOT expecting. Water damage, insect infestation damage (including insect shells and egg/larva casings), wood rot and "DRUM ROLL" what I figured to be "mold"...which turned out NOT to be mold and something that to me, was a lot WORSE.
It also smelled awful. I attribute this to the old leather, that was now mostly rock like in nature.

The "mold":
20211022_021256.jpg

It wasn't mold. I started "popping corks" and it smelled like DEATH. The stench stuck to EVERYTHING, including my clothes. What I was able to deduct. It was NOT mold, but OIL. In this case, what I believe to be ANIMAL based oil ("whale") that was rotting in these vials for DECADES. I think this is what also attracted the insects to take permanent residence at some point in time.


I've "de-corked" and cleaned about 70% of the vials, the bottom corks are the only ones that have survived "intact".

20211024_182222.jpg

The Serial plate after some "light" cleaning:

IMG_20211008_223125.jpg
 
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richiec

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I bought one of these cases last spring, in good condition, maybe not as nice as you have made yours but all bottles there, some parts but not many parts. Keeping it around just in case I run across some watch needing parts. Will take some pictures later.
 
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Jerry Treiman

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I have seen these numbered in the 2000 serial number range.
FYI, my first generation material case is No.4245. It only has tiers 1-3. The price list card is dated April 1,1927.

I am happy to answer any questions about my set for your research.
 
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4thdimension

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Phenomenal job on the refelting! I have couple of sets at the office and can post the info later.-Cort
 
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3rdGenWatchMkr

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FYI, my first generation material case is No.4245. It only has tiers 1-3. The price list card is dated April 1,1927.

I am happy to answer any questions about my set for your research.
Thanks for the info.

I knew this would come up, so I held back in posting it. Didn't want to put too much information at once!

Also, forgot to add. The serial number ranges above, I did from memory. Had some notes in some papers and can't find the notes for the range. It might be in the mid to high 4K for the change over. As I get more information from people like you, I will adjust my first post accordingly. Back to my next dilemma.

Here is some more details. For the first generation cases, the "index" card had the following information:

20211024_165144.jpg

20211024_165316.jpg

What I noticed, somewhere in the 3K range that changed (with your date, that gets tossed out the window! My cards have no date. I'll have to take a second look now). The "index" cards seem to contain the same information, HOWEVER they added an additional column. This additional column contained the "factory number". I call the "index" cards with the factory number for Gen 1 cases, revision A (Gen1 Rev A)

NOT my picture, I took a portion of it to show the additional column on Rev A - Not sure if there is a policy against this here-
Mainspring_Gen1_RevA_Column.JPG



This brings me to the next point I've been holding back. My "4th drawer" for the Gen 1 case, contains "factory numbers". Based on this limited information, I think the 4th drawer might not have been an initial release and only made available later. Either because of demand/requests for it or because Elgin wanted to expand the availability of parts in the kit. So I've assumed that the "4th Drawer" might correspond to the Gen1 Rev A release of cases. The other possibility, a "4th drawer" was an initial offering, but by the time the original owner of mine ordered it or received it; the index cards had been updated to Rev A.

I have a feeling that a lot of this information is in an archive somewhere, it just happens that no one noticed or cared! I would love to get my hands on any archival information that pertains to the Elgin Cases -if anyone knows how to proceed, let me know - TAHA/AHA has no contact info...

Here is my index card for the "4th Drawer":
20211024_165238.jpg
 
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3rdGenWatchMkr

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Oct 13, 2021
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I bought one of these cases last spring, in good condition, maybe not as nice as you have made yours but all bottles there, some parts but not many parts. Keeping it around just in case I run across some watch needing parts. Will take some pictures later.
I have been in an internal struggle with myself. Should I make copies/reproductions of some of my index cards to attach to the case?

ALL my Index cards are intact as far as being legible from the original print. I have not finished cleaning all the bottles. IF I don't find any additional bottles with parts***, I will be at a 45/55 ratio. That is, 45% of the vials with one or more parts and 55% of the vials with no parts. Based on the amount of screws, jewels and staffs I've seen (some contain half a vial or more FULL of staffs) I'm probably over the 1/1 ratio (1 part per bottle). The biggest downside, my staffs and jewels index card is a NIGHTMARE, I have water-soluble ink, permanent black in (fountain pen/quill ink) and pencil writing on a large portion of it. I also have Gruen, Waltham, Illinois and Hampden parts according to the writings.

***As soon as I received the case, I made a promise to put all the bottles in a box and NOT check/sort for parts until the case was completed. As I have been cleaning the bottles, those that contain a part or parts have been placed in another "wait till later" box.

It might look nice, but it has a LONG way to go, before it is "done"

The rabbit hole keeps getting deeper!

Thanks for providing any info that you can.
 

3rdGenWatchMkr

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If anyone can assist. What is the "Edit" policy for posts? I noticed that my first few posts can't be edited now. Wanted to add the following information to my s# range estimates:

"Jerry Treiman - No.4245. It only has tiers 1-3. The price list card is dated April 1,1927."
 

musicguy

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Great work.
It's really nice to see you are so passionate about it!


I will also add this thread to our Elgin research thread.


Rob
 
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4thdimension

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My two 3-drawer sets are numbered 2854 and 3890. I also have three drawers from another set that is missing the case. I intended to organize the vials and parts from the two cased sets and you have inspired me to get going on this! -Cort

3339C9A4-B4B3-46F0-889E-4E8FA5DA3893.jpeg
 
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3rdGenWatchMkr

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My two 3-drawer sets are numbered 2854 and 3890. I also have three drawers from another set that is missing the case. I intended to organize the vials and parts from the two cased sets and you have inspired me to get going on this! -Cort

View attachment 678034
Nice! Your set, and including mine is only the THIRD sample I have seen that has the "complete" fourth set. Usually you find the small removable tray only.

One recently appeared but he was selling the parts only. I inquired about the drawer, and he stated he had already sold it. It was missing a lot of the bottles, but at least the drawer was there.

ETA: Looks like all of yours also have the knobs. Mine was missing the front face and knob for the fourth drawer. I could not find a current repro. one. So I had to buy a pack of 6, reclaimed knobs for $30.00. I only replaced the missing knob. The five left over knobs I saw as a sign!
I should make a repro. case in oak.

ETA2: Can you post pics of your index cards?
 
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3rdGenWatchMkr

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To add to the ever deepening rabbit hole.

This case came up for sale a while ago. It is Serial 20XX. I REALLY wanted to buy it, but IMHO he wanted too much for it. He had a "best offer" option, but in the auction it stated that he was NOT accepting best offers and any best offer submissions would NOT be answered. He would only take what the "Buy it Now" showed and not a penny less. I guess he changed his mind, the last time he put it up for sale he took someone up on a "best offer".

Here is why I wanted to buy it and it had everything to do with the "Index" cards. I think this helps my theory that Elgin made index card changes shortly after production, or at least made them available shortly after.

Elgin_2042_Index_0001.JPG

Elgin_2042_Index_0002.JPG

If you look closely, you can see the outline of the old index card. These two happen to have the Gen 1; Rev A index cards superimposed on the original Gen1 index cards.

Why did serial number 20XX have the overlays and mine in the 24XX range did not? I think it is also possible that someone at the factory forgot to update it.

--------------------------------0-------------------------------------------


Here is the "seal" that was part of my case. I was going to save it and keep it, but the covering turned to little pieces of flakes when I attempt it to remove it.
Elgin_Material_Case_Maker.JPG

I could not make out the maker, even when I was looking directly at it. I took about 5 pictures from different angles as well, no help. This is located on the base of the main 3 drawer cabinet. Can you guys look and see if yours is more legible than mine?

When I removed the vial trays from the drawers for drawer 1 and 2 (which are identical in layout) it clearly had been assembled by two different individuals. The back spacer on both had been wrapped in a different manner and the glue was spread around the left and right edges and a little on the center for one drawer (in a circular motion). The other drawer the glue had been spread from side to side, on the entire surface, and I could see a number written in pencil. I think this is important, as a "cabinet maker" was not assigned to make each cabinet. Instead it was manufactured in a similar fashion as the Elgin Watches. Going from one station to another, and different folks completed different steps in the assembly process.
 

3rdGenWatchMkr

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Are more folks going to be looking for the 4th drawer? In particular for those that already have the three drawer setup?

ETA: I have been a lurker here for years. I always hated that I could not see the pictures that you folks posted (it is what it is, not complaining or wanting to make changes). I wondered how many of "us" have been "outbidding" each other. In particular when one item was a major "score". I also buy stuff from some of the online auction houses, and I always wonder the same thing as well. How many times have I been bidding with some of you...
 
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Brad Maisto

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This is an interesting thread and I hope you are successful on your project. I bought a “Three Drawer” with the separate fourth drawer back in 1996 at an auction on the south side of Indianapolis, IN. The serial number on my 3-drawer case is #4568. The trays contain the same numbered vials as yours and the “Index Card” in the separate unit has the factory numbers listed alongside the Bottle numbers. My 3-drawer unit has the small seal on the bottom and I can clearly make out the word “Chicago”. I believe my case started it’s life out in Vincennes, IN as I included a pic of a “Grays” jeweler store that came in my case. I also have another single drawer wooden case that has vials filled with Watch hands. Have you determined what the “covering” material is made of? It looks like an embossed type of paper to me.
Thanks, Brad Maisto, KY Floral #44 Secretary 37785123-42AB-43A8-95AC-85B933F7B452.jpeg D4B94D9B-D139-40DC-8789-917395B4631B.jpeg 34872CA4-989F-4F65-B889-3D5BD246AE72.jpeg 48E92D13-ECAA-4F67-A18D-3CE9063B4672.jpeg AC311020-42A5-457A-BC92-4B52212E4ADC.jpeg
 
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3rdGenWatchMkr

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This is an interesting thread and I hope you are successful on your project. I bought a “Three Drawer” with the separate fourth drawer back in 1996 at an auction on the south side of Indianapolis, IN. The serial number on my 3-drawer case is #4568. The trays contain the same numbered vials as yours and the “Index Card” in the separate unit has the factory numbers listed alongside the Bottle numbers. My 3-drawer unit has the small seal on the bottom and I can clearly make out the word “Chicago”. I believe my case started it’s life out in Vincennes, IN as I included a pic of a “Grays” jeweler store that came in my case. I also have another single drawer wooden case that has vials filled with Watch hands. Have you determined what the “covering” material is made of? It looks like an embossed type of paper to me.
Thanks, Brad Maisto, KY Floral #44 Secretary View attachment 678516 View attachment 678517 View attachment 678518 View attachment 678519 View attachment 678520
Because of the age of the material, I suspected it was leather. The base material and the material for the inner removable tray in the 4th drawer seems to be some kind of paper wrapping. The small tray in the fourth drawer also had a piece of cardboard as the base stiffener.

I reached out to the guy I bought mine from. He also had three of these sets up for sale. I wish I would have seen them all, as I would have gotten all of them.

He replied back that he hoped I was enjoying the items and I had found some use for them, as they had been his grandfather's stuff. At that point I asked him for more information. I have the name of the original owner! As well as the fact that he owned a Jewelry store for 60 some years. His grandfather was the watchmaker. It seems the business closed around 1991, in part because of his declining health. So these boxes (since now we know that 3 of these came up for sale) had been sitting for 30 year!

The name of the store was Canton Jewelry Company. Furthermore, he stated that this gentleman is the one that made the "watch in a bottle" for the NY Fair in the 30s, that "Ripley's" had on display.

Not sure what the policy is for posting names, but I think I found him.

XXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXX
19 June 1908–28 November 1993 (Age 85)
Cherokee, Georgia, United States

ETA: I also sent him pictures of the progress on this. He didn't focus specifically on that, but his typing started to get worse and ended the email abruptly. I have a feeling he was getting emotional over this, as I had put in the email that " I think he would approve", of the restoration I was doing on the box.

Sometimes I even feel bad when working on some of the watches, and even stuff like this. I have found names, DL numbers, SS numbers and correspondence in some of these items. You know some of these where never given up willingly. The one I have the hardest time with, when a bunch of "high end" movements come up on the market. You know the cases got scrapped for gold and the movements are now being sold as "leftovers". The individual that kept them, did so for a reason. They had no financial motivation to get rid of them, even if they needed the $..and at the end, that is exactly what happened. Whomever ended up with them, ended whatever motivation was present to keep these pieces intact and together.
 
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3rdGenWatchMkr

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I fairly clearly can read "R. STAHLE CASE CO. CHICAGO". It's double stamped, at least on the bottom part.
Amazing how the brain sees what it want to see! Thank you.

I could make out the R Stahle, for the Case Co I was almost sure that is what it was, but my brain also saw it as "Cage Code" (don't ask!). I figured I was on the wrong path, because I could not obtain any information. The Chicago part I did not make out. Unfortunately, even with the Chicago input, there seems to be no history of this Company present. I guess no-one cared to include them in any digital documentation.
 

Chris Radek

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Cool, glad I could help. I searched some 1920ish chicago newspapers hoping to find an ad, but didn't find anything. There was definitely a guy named stahl/stahle who was a scandalous ball player or something though.
 

richiec

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I am getting sorrier and sorrier that I sold mine now, should have kept it.
 

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