Pocket Watch Key Sizes

Discussion in 'American Pocket Watches' started by Kevin Neathery, Feb 15, 2019.

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  1. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    Quick and basic idea and question.

    Question..... Is there a ref book or sheet or anything out there that will match up a Company, Model, Grade etc to the size of the winding arbor?

    Idea...... If there is not would you all mind helping me in creating one? I am interested in creating such as the common question I get is....what size key do I need for this watch? Obviously the list will be long and will take time but I would like to post it here and direct people to it.
     
  2. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    I have over 120 keys I keep in 4 old medicine vials with lids on each. I seldom have
    to open them up. I gathered up about 10 separate keys ranging from #3 to #7 and put
    5 on a string. This handles 99% of my English, Swiss and American watches. The
    trouble with it is, it takes a couple of checks before I wind. I do have a universal
    European key that handles many. I picked it up when I bought the Lawrance Rack
    lever from 1816.

    Unfortunately, I have Howard's from I's to IV's and even they are not constant. I'll have
    to give this some thought. Good question though Kev!

    Keith R...
     
  3. ben_hutcherson

    ben_hutcherson Registered User
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    Nearly all men's sized American watches can be wound find with either a #4 or #5 key.
     
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  4. Lee Passarella

    Lee Passarella Registered User
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    That's pretty much right. Haven't found one yet that needs a 3 or lower, though some seem to need a 6 or 7. For example, I just got an 1865 Tremont (Boston) that will wind with a 6 or 7.
     
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  5. Tom Huber

    Tom Huber Registered User
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    My experience seems to show that most all 18s KWs started their life needing a #5 key. The winding and setting arbors become worn with time. Many of these watches then require a #7 key

    Tom
     
  6. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    That is what I thought. I still get asked though.
    If a #5 is worn would that not mean that the arbor is getting rounded corners and for them to take a different smaller size mean that they had been files square again?
     
  7. Rick Hufnagel

    Rick Hufnagel Just Rick!
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    I have a 5, 6, and 7 that wind everything I have with a key. I keep them on an old watch chain and haven't found anything they won't wind yet. Even worked on the little old Swiss bar movements I used to have.
     
  8. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    Ok now we have a mix bag. That is what I thought. 4, 5, 6 and 7 all now mentioned. I figured, Elgin, Waltham, Hampden and Illinois are typically #4. How about Hamilton?....Jk lol

    But seriously the other companies, and there are many, seem to use other sizes. Howard, Cornell, early Waltham, maybe the NY, Phila, etc

    Swiss is it's own thing and That I am not sure how to address based on the lack of structure and ebauche makers out there. That would be far more of a headache then what I am looking for right now.
     
  9. Rick Hufnagel

    Rick Hufnagel Just Rick!
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    #9 Rick Hufnagel, Feb 15, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2019
    I tried the ones I have with a new ring of keys I got cheap on the auction site.

    Every Elgin I have takes a 6. Models 1 and 2.

    Waltham model 83 Broadway &
    Mod 77 wwc both took 5

    Illinois mod 1&2. Took a 4, 5 works but little tight.

    New York watch co full plate... 6

    Rockford model 1&2. 6 .

    Hampden keywind gr35 takes 6 .
     
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  10. Lee Passarella

    Lee Passarella Registered User
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    I believe my early Walthams all take a 5, including my infamous Home Watch Co. model. My Cornell takes a 5. So standard, from what the consensus is.
     
  11. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    So...

    Elgin 18s Mod 1 & 2 = 6
    Waltham = 5
    Cornell = 5
    Illinois Mod 1 & 2 = 4
    Rockford Mod 1 & 2 = 6
    NY\Hampden = 6


    I will check my Tremont\Melrose, Howard III, and Seth Thomas Model 4 when I get home and update the thread unless someone beats me to it.
     
  12. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    #12 Kevin Neathery, Feb 15, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2019
    Tremont =5
    Melrose = 6
    Newark =3 or 4 (4 is a tight fit)
    Howard III = 4
    Seth Thomas Mod 4 = 4
     
  13. Tom Huber

    Tom Huber Registered User
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    Keep in mind. The higher the number, the smaller the key

    Tom
     
  14. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    #3 1.65mm, #4 1.60mm, #5 1.50mm and #6 1.40mm, #7 1.30mm, #8 1.20mm, #9 1.15mm
     
  15. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    Tell me what your missing, I'll give them to you this Sunday (Sunday there's no visitors).

    Keith R...
     
  16. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    Other models of Howard other than III. A key size for Phila would be good. Anything not listed below...

    Elgin 18s Mod 1 & 2 = 6
    Waltham = 5
    Cornell = 5
    Illinois Mod 1 & 2 = 4
    Rockford Mod 1 & 2 = 6
    NY\Hampden = 6
    Tremont =5
    Melrose = 6
    Newark =3 or 4 (4 is a tight fit)
    Howard III = 4
    Seth Thomas Mod 4 = 4
     
  17. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    I may repeat:

    American #5
    Aurora #5
    Howard series I #3 .......Early III tight 4.....Howard series IV #5
    Philadelphia #7 small key
    United States Watch Co. Marion #5
    New York Springfield #4
    Lancaster #5

    ****I do not have a Columbus. Missed any makers (need Columbus).

    Keith R...
     
  18. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    I went and looked in the Pre-railroad thread.

    We are missing Columbus and Independent Watch Co. Fredonia, NY.

    Got the note Dave...............Thanks.

    Keith R...
     
  19. topspin

    topspin Registered User

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    In my experience Walthams are usually anywhere from 3 ( https://pocketwatchdatabase.com/search/result/waltham/1784512 ) or 4 ( https://pocketwatchdatabase.com/search/result/waltham/15884072 ) to 7 ( https://pocketwatchdatabase.com/search/result/waltham/8909889 ) with 5 and 6 also being common, although I might have used an 8 or 9 once or twice.
    But that's with brand-new keys only. With old keys, ya never know whether what it says is right or not. Maybe some of the keys got a bit worn down over the years, the same way the winding arbors on the watches did. And maybe I'm not the only person ever to use a pair of pliers to "adjust" the size of an old key to make it fit the watch I wanted to use it with.

    In summary -
    For any random watch, to answer the question of what size key to use,
    I would say that if the person wants to use an old-looking key then it may be necessary to try a few different ones before they find one that fits, whereas otherwise if they're not so fussy then they might find it easier to just buy a full set of 14 online for a few quid and be done with it.
     
  20. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    I will check my Independant Fredonia NY. I think it is kw.
     
  21. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    When you deal with old keys it is a mixed bag of results. The common new keys are made in India and follow below.

    #3 1.65mm, #4 1.60mm, #5 1.50mm and #6 1.40mm, #7 1.30mm, #8 1.20mm, #9 1.15mm

    Buying a full set works if you dont want one key for each watch ;) lol
     
  22. Lee Passarella

    Lee Passarella Registered User
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    OK, I guess we've established that American pocket watches take various sizes of keys ranging from 3 to 7, most falling in the middle of that range. Somebody asked about Columbus, so I checked my 11j c. 1889 watch, and it takes a 4, as does my c. 1884 Elgin, again 11j. I expected they'd take a 5, but not so.
     
  23. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    My Independent is a Howard Bros transitional so no use
     
  24. yellow_sub

    yellow_sub Registered User
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    Just to verify this even further, I'm looking for a set of hands for my Elgin model 1 and I have 2 sizes of Waltham key wind hands that I tried. The ones for the Waltham 57 were just a tick too small. The other set was even just a tiny bit smaller. They are tied down to a Waltham card but it doesn't specify which model they are for. Maybe a 16s or smaller key wind?
     
  25. Kevin Neathery

    Kevin Neathery Registered User
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    Can't help but contact Marty B on here. Great guy and the bast hands buy I can think of. He will be able to help you.
     
  26. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    Kevin's spot on, Marty101 will get you hands. My Bunn key wind, Marty had to get a set of Swiss
    hands to fit.

    Keith R...
     
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  27. Bostonjoe

    Bostonjoe Registered User
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    While on the subject of keys, I have three US Watch Co Marion key wind watches, and all are difficult to set the hands with the key that winds the watch. The keys simply does not grip well - anyone else experience the same problem with their Marions?
     
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  28. Rick Hufnagel

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    Are you using one of those newish style keys that come in a set in all sizes? They usually have a bevel around the key hole that makes setting a pain. I've actually filed the bevel off of a few
     
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  29. kevin h

    kevin h Registered User

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    Boston Joe , I have the same issue and found that Rick is spot on , if you file off the bottom or use a stone to dress it up life will be much better , I also got to looking at the cannon pinions and it appears some people file them down , I guess to make the hands fit , broaching a square hole is tough , I had to modify a file for it . This is a good post , I like the general info , I was making a list of hand sizes etc . on the side of my bench for future use .
     
  30. richiec

    richiec Registered User
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    I have had the same experience that Rick defines, the cheapo sets from India have the hole recessed in the key, a quick run on a stone removed most of the extra metal but they still feel a little loose on the cannon pinion arbor, much of the time I have taken tweezers to set the time, PITA but works. Have also found that many times the arbor is worn and the top of the arbor does not stick as far up as when new making a good grip nearly impossible.
     
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  31. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi richiec,,

    The ones I've seen also have plated brass barrels rather than steel; very poor.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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