Illinois 18S - RR grade?

JeffL

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I recently acquired an 18size Illinois watch #2654267 (1914). Using my Shugart guide I identified the watch as a Model 6 (full plate, open face, lever set). The only writing on the watch is: "Illinois Watch Company, Springfield " and "17 jewels". Also according to Shugart; Model 6 is a "fast train RR grade". The watch dial and hands are typical of RR grade watches.

Is this a RR grade watch even though it does not state "adjusted" nor a Grade on the movement? Perhaps it isn't adjusted?? Or I have not properly identified the watch.

Any help on the subject would be greatly appreciated. Tks, JeffL
 

Kent

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Hi JeffL:

One can't tell if a watch is railroad grade just by the model, it is the grade that is important.

Looking up Illinois movement serial number 2654267 in the references listed in the Illinois Watch Company Encyclopedia article, it can be seen to be a grade No. 69 (which may or may not be marked adjusted) and is noted as being adjusted to temperature, isochronism and positions (number not noted). It is not clear if this only applies to those grade No. 69 movements marked "Adjusted."

While some railroads might have accepted this watch into railroad time service in 1914, it is not generally considered to be a railroad watch.
 

John Cote

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Jeff,

These discussions about "what constitutes a RR watch" are interesting and informative but I have always thought they should be looked at a bit differently. To me there are two parts to this discussion. The first is what Kent is talking about, above, which is what might have been considered a RR watch at the time of the watch's manufacture. The second is what might be considered a RR watch by collectors today.

In the first category, I will always defer to Kent. If you look hard enough you can sometimes find documentation of some RR line or company who accepted a given watch at a given time. I guess that technically this means that the given watch was a RR watch. Kent has done a lot of this research. I thank him for it and I will never argue with him about this first designation.

However, in today's market and/or collecting "truths", the RR watch designation is generally somewhat different. I say "generally" because there are always a few people who want one watch or another to be designated RR watches who will fight to the death about what the generally collector community thinks. Generally I think today's collectors agree that RR watches were the top quality grades produced by any manufacturer. Over the time-line of American production the quality of watches changed and what is now considered RR grade has a time-line too. This modern collector designation is not as analytical as Kent's "at the time of manufacture" designation.

Why is this distinction important? I think it is important because the RR watch designation seems to have something to do with the value of a watch. Watches that are called RR watches seem to bring more on today's market. People want their watches to be as valuable as possible so they want them to be...RR watches.

Your grade 69 Illinois is a pretty nice watch. Illinois intended it as a quality mid-grade working man's watch. Today, very few knowledgeable collectors would consider it RR grade. The fact that someone could say that in 1911 the Bugfug RR in Bugfug Wisconsin would accept it into RR service would not change any of these collector's minds or make the watch worth a dime more to them.

Personally, I think the RR designation is an interesting and possibly important thing to think about but, consider this: The 21 jewel Elgin Convertibles would have been acceptable RR watches at the time of their manufacture. They were and are still today some of the highest grade American watches ever made. However, Elgin never really intended these fine watches for the RR market. These were manufactured for rich men and cost way more than most RR men were willing to spend. Technically you could call them RR watches....but what does that get you?

Anyway, I like your watch RR grade or not.
 

Kent

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I appreciate John's comments and his viewpoint.

To clarify, i don't necessarily believe that just because a railroad (or individual inspector) accepted a specific grade, then that grade was a railroad grade watch. - - - and here, I have to apologize for perhaps going overboad regarding the Santa Fe Special a few months ago, which is questionably a railroad grade watch.

To add a bit more on the subject, one of the things that I consider in making statements about whether or not a particular grade is considered to be a railroad watch is what the manufacturer had to say on the subject. Significantly, Illinois didn't include grade No. 69 in a list of watches it advertised in 1910 (the midpoint of the grade No. 69's production) as being "... Guaranteed to pass inspection on any road ..."
 
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