Great Grandfather's 18s Elgin Grade 317 S/N 13377616 Lost or ?

LCampbell

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I think either this watch is cursed or I am...

My aunt gave it to me after my uncle died back in the early 1990s, it belonged to my great grandfather who died in 1952. I'd played with it like a toy since I was a kid at my grandma's house. They called it a "turnip" because it was a really big old watch.

I was thrilled to get it, but I have this weird OCD thing that mechanical stuff must perform its original function, so thus began a series of bad and worse repair attempts.

First repair guy kept it almost a year and did some really bad soldering(?) that didn't last long.

Second repair guy changed out the balance wheel without telling me (serial number match, of course...). The repair lasted a week before I started hearing rattles in the case (it was a swingout antimagnetic case), and the rattling was the little weights that had fallen off the balance wheel.

Third repair guy showed promise, he was a good clock guy and had done a couple of pocket watch COAs for me. Then he got in a car wreck that injured his shoulder and caused nerve damage in his hand so he closed his shop with zero notice. After three years, a friend of mine happened to run into him and recognized him, got the watch back in May 2019, still unrepaired.

By then, I had made the acquaintance of an Amish guy in MO who has done several watches with me and thought "at last, this thing is going to run!" So I sent it off and kind of forgot about it.

Last month I got a call from him (they have a community phone) asking why I hadn't paid the bill and was I dissatisfied with the work. Since he didn't have a phone, I had no way of knowing he had shipped it and I never received it.

I called the post office and gave them the tracking number, the postmaster said "yeah, we delivered that on May 20th to a place that apparently doesn't exist...how weird" and promised he would get back to me on it.

A month later, it still hasn't turned up, although the post office says they know it was scanned off "somewhere in the general neighborhood of my street".

Last night, I was talking with my neighbor who is finishing his PhD in archaeology and he gets LOTS of packages every week. He said a month or so ago he had noticed that he would get alerts that his package had been delivered but that it didn't arrive until several hours later.

Then he and another neighbor who gets frequent mailings started comparing receipts and found that all their receipts were scanned virtually at the same time, within a couple seconds. After that, they started watching and observed the mailman sitting in his vehicle in an apartment complex parking lot across the street scanning off packages. My wife (helpfully) added "great, I bet he just scanned them off and tossed them in a dumpster."

So, I dunno what has happened to the watch, but (with this post) I am letting it go. I have a drawer full of railroad grade pocket watches and even an Elgin 37500, all in good running order, but this was the only heirloom watch I had.

In the rare event I *do* ever get it back, running or not, I'm going to 1) buy a Powerball ticket and 2) put the watch in a safe deposit box and never look at it again.
 

Downing

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Bummer.

I worked for the Post Office for a time until my 40 hours/week job turned into a steady diet of 60 hours/week and became just too much for a guy who just wanted to keep mildly busy for a few years until he retired.

We were officially told to always scan packages at the door but that just wasn't realistic. The Post Office is operating on financial fumes so we were always under pressure to work faster with the goal to finish and clock out asap if not sooner. As a new hire, I was officially a "Letter Carrier's Assistant," meaning relatively low pay and no sick leave or other benefits, which is why they were working me and the other new hires to death as we were much cheaper than the career carriers.

It's much quicker to scan packages in the truck, hopefully at least in front of the delivery address. But sometimes, if you had packages for two or three houses in a row, it was faster to scan all three at once, then hop out and take them to the door. And in apartment complexes, we would often be juggling multiple packages so we would run the risk of dropping the scanner if we tried to take it with us. (Break it, you buy it.)

But as far as tossing packages in a dumpster, that's pretty unlikely. You would have a number of customers all complaining at the same time about not getting their packages and that will get you fired.

Chances are the letter carrier screwed up and delivered it to the wrong address. Human error. I've gotten packages for my neighbors and even opened one up once without realizing it wasn't mine. Some people would call the Post Office to complain that they had received a package for their next door neighbor, and we would have to go back, pick it up and carry it next door. Managers go ballistic when that happens. Luckily, I only did that once. And when I get a package addressed to a neighbor, I just walk it over, knock on the their door and let them know it was delivered to me by mistake.

Unfortunately, the package software is notoriously poor, often advising that you're going to get a package that day that doesn't come until the next. I don't know how many times I had customers standing at their mailbox asking about a package that was supposed to arrive that day. At first, I would waste valuable time looking through the truck to make sure I hadn't misplaced it. After a while, I learned to tell them that it must not have made the local PO in time for that day's delivery. I was right 99.9% of the time and would deliver it the next day. The other .1% the package really was misplaced (oops), and I had to waste more valuable time going back and knocking on their door to let them know I found it.

I don't mean to rag on the Post Office, though. I enjoyed it. Just not enough to devote nearly every waking hour of my life to it. So be aware that if your Letter Carrier always seems to cut the conversation short, it's not because he or she doesn't care. It's just that the clock is ticking. And boy, when the CV19 lockdown was at its height, a lot of lonely people wanted to chat it up with the Mail Man.

I hate to say this, but I think you already know if it's been this long then the chances are pretty near zero you're going to get the watch. Chances are far greater that one of your neighbors is a jerk.
 
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LCampbell

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Thank you for that clarity into the inner workings of the USPS, it actually helps answer some of the questions still remaining. The local PO isn't returning my calls any longer because my expectation of error correction and return of property, while not unreasonable, is not possible. The package time stamp thing is pretty clearly not anything nefarious, just an operational necessity.

I and the post office staff have canvassed the neighborhood. The PO has left notices in mailboxes at that end of the street. The neighbor at the house that is closest to where they think it was scanned off was gone for two months to her parents in Seattle because of CV19 and "someone else picked up her mail for her". She moved back home for good last Saturday and when I stopped to talk to her as she was loading the moving van, she seemed almost annoyed "YOU are the guy! Look, I don't even know what a pocket watch is, I don't have it, I wasn't here. Really sorry though, that sucks" etc etc. The guy who actually owns the house has a property manager who seems kind of shady, but the owner told me that "I trust him *implicitly*!" (I'm immediately suspicious of anyone who is described that way...).

There's a prepper dude who lives across the street from that house who has cameras everywhere, I'm wondering if it'd be worth the time (and 2 hour conspiracy theory rant) to ask him about video for that day (20 May).

The last time I talked to the post office manager(?), he said "look I'm sorry. We do make mistakes, but if we get it wrong, we can't just force people to do the right thing" which supports your "one of your neighbors is probably a jerk" idea.

[There was a mail-swap story a few years ago about two oil millionaires, one named John Kilpatrick and the other John Kirkpatrick who were always getting mail meant for the other. They laughed and told the news reporter that their system was "if one of us gets the other's bill and it's less than $10,000, we just pay it and figure the other one will do the same."]

Perfect storm of errors. Amish guy lives for all intents and purposes off the grid, he uses tracking but no insurance because $$ and has a "pay me whenever you want" policy, thus I wasn't expecting the watch and wasn't looking for it. He's so relaxed about his payment requirements that it was a month before it occurred to him to even start checking on it, so the trail was cold before either of us knew it was gone. (Full disclosure, I won't reveal actual prices or names, but this guy does COA for less than a hundred -and- that one time included repivoting a balance staff. Without modern equipment. so he doesn't seem to care if he makes any money on it or not, although he gets more work than he can say grace over).

So, yeah, it looks like Grandpa's watch is gone. All I've got left is a little photo of him with the watch in his pocket. I think I do have the mostly rotten leather fob he carried it on.

I called all the pawn shops, they told me to file a police report on it, regardless of its monetary value, which I did (online of course, they don't have the manpower or desire to investigate a lost $100 pocket watch). The pawn shops said they basically don't get many pocket watches anymore and there's paperwork etc so it's unlikely it went that route.

It's actually disheartening enough to make me envision a pocket watch fire sale in the not too distant future. The 30 or so RR & other watches don't really mean much of anything without that one. After this, I've even stopped carrying a pocket watch daily, a habit that, heretofore, I had maintained for many years. Guess I'll just look at my iPhone like everyone else.

Thank you again for that information. I'm going to share part of it with the archaeology guy across the street who was really scratching his head at all those text messages he got for delivered packages that weren't on his porch.

Hopefully those long odds will come through and it'll find its way back, but, failing that, I'd rather it just have been thrown away than end up as steampunk earrings. :/
 
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Downing

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It really was the perfect storm, wasn't it. So many variables between the late start looking for it, the inaccurate scan, the gal who wasn't there, the shady property manager, etc. That's generally how these things happen, when several things go wrong all at once.

The prepper guy might be an option if he saves his video to the web and has a good shot of the neighbor's mailbox. Maybe offer him some bear spray or beef jerky to make it worth his while.

The last time I talked to the post office manager(?), he said "look I'm sorry. We do make mistakes, but if we get it wrong, we can't just force people to do the right thing" which supports your "one of your neighbors is probably a jerk" idea.[ :/
He's no longer returning your phone calls because there's literally nothing else he can do or say that's going to make you feel better and certainly not that's going to help you retrieve your watch.

What's weird to me is how some one can have that watch and still look at him or herself in the mirror. If it were me, every time I looked at the watch I'd be reminded that I'm a scumbag. What a way to go through life, knowing that you're a scumbag.
 
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LCampbell

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What's weird to me is how some one can have that watch and still look at him or herself in the mirror. If it were me, every time I looked at the watch I'd be reminded that I'm a scumbag. What a way to go through life, knowing that you're a scumbag.
I guess most people aren't wired like that anymore, but even most 2 year olds know they're not supposed to take something that's not theirs, although it's difficult to control that impulse at that age.

My brain always tries to superimpose a logical framework on stuff like this and for the life of me I can't figure out what good it did anyone to take it. Two years ago at a family reunion, I encountered a group of junior high and high school distant cousins who didn't even know how to tell time using a pocket watch. It just makes no sense at all.

To be honest, it was a big not-too-attractive watch with a pop bottle thick crystal. Aesthetically, it wasn't much. I don't know what the case was made of except that it wasn't silver or even a small fraction thereof.

I completely don't get it. I even return misboxed junk mail, no doubt much to the annoyance of my neighbors, but it is not mine to throw away.
 

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