The Goal is a Railroad Watch

Discussion in 'American Pocket Watches' started by Alan Cassidy, May 17, 2019.

  1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Check it out in the NAWCC Events forum:
    Talk about the upcoming National Meeting
    If you love watches or clocks you've got to come!
  1. Alan Cassidy

    Alan Cassidy Registered User

    Apr 4, 2019
    Long Island NY
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    My goal is to have a watch that keeps Railroad time but how do I get there? Preferably it will be 18s, over 100yrs old and some kind of silver, at least in color.

    What is a fair price to pay and would it be less expensive to get the case and movement separate.

    How do I learn to be patient? You would think by my age I would have reached that plateau and have earned to enjoy the chase but no, things still move too slow.
  2. Fritz Katzenjammer

    Fritz Katzenjammer Yeah... that Fritz....
    NAWCC Member

    Feb 4, 2013
    Manufacturing Engineer
    My garage usually... Burlington, Ont.
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Don’t rush it or you’ll end up with junk... (the voice of experience talking here) buy running and complete whenever possible.

    I’ve picked up a few very desirable watches matching that criteria for under 500 CDN in the last two years, so what you are asking is not a tall order, at least on the North American side of the pond. I’d start looking with the NAWCC... we can’t all be hoarders, someone will have something suitable for sale. My favourite haunt is Dave’s Watch Parts on the “weeb”, he’s had some nice stuff pass through in the past while.
  3. Rick Hufnagel

    Rick Hufnagel Just Rick!
    NAWCC Member

    Oct 25, 2018
    Pittsburgh pa
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    So I learn everything the hard way. Don't do that, haha. In your situation, certainly research what manufacturers you like, and see about their railroad grades. There's so many to choose from. Probably buy a cased running watch, if your looking for least expensive way. It may initially look like it costs more, but in the end it will be far less than buying movements, finding parts, finding a case and having it fixed, servicing the movement, ect ect...

    There's many to choose from and many models and makes, from early keywinders to fancy high jeweled early 1900s watches.

    Sorry to be so broad, but it's going to be a personal quest to find that "one".

    Type in railroad grade in the search bar, and see what you come up with.

    Prices depend on the watch, rarity, quality, how many people collect them, condition, it can fluctuate quite a bit.

    There's the well known ones,
    Elgin b.w. Raymond
    Hampden railway
    Illinois Bunn
    Waltham vanguard
    Just to name a few.
    Keith R... likes this.
  4. terry hall

    terry hall Registered User
    NAWCC Brass Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Central North Carolina
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    typically no....
    and your results may vary
  5. Robert Sweet

    Robert Sweet Registered User

    Apr 29, 2004
    Country Flag:
    My humble recommendation is to buy "in hand" so you can examine the movement, dial, case, hands, etc., up close. Since I'm bias toward Hamilton, I would recommend a 940 with a serial number of 1533601 (made in 1918, i.e. 100 years old) or less. Your best bet is to locate a watch already cased.

    Discussing prices in specifics if not permitted on this message board, as I understand the Rules.

    You will be very lucky to find a "Railroad Grade" watch on the "trading market" that will keep time to +/- 30 sec. a week. They exist, but are few and far between. Many of these watches haven't been cleaned in years. Expect to pay for complete disassembly, cleaning, oiling, and adjustment job, if you are expecting your future watch to keep Railroad Time.

    My 2c worth.

    Fritz Katzenjammer likes this.
  6. musicguy

    musicguy Moderator
    NAWCC Member Sponsor

    Jan 12, 2017
    New York State
    Country Flag:
    Yes Robert is correct lets keep it conceptual.

  7. musicguy

    musicguy Moderator
    NAWCC Member Sponsor

    Jan 12, 2017
    New York State
    Country Flag:
    Rick Hufnagel likes this.
  8. John Cote

    John Cote Director
    NAWCC Member

    Aug 26, 2000
    Midwest USA
    Country Flag:
    I agree with Robert about a Hamilton 940 but I would also look at its 17j brother the 936. My dad taught me to look at things like the care watchmakers took with a watch in its history of repairs and cleanings. Look for a bright movement with minimal scratches on the plates. Look at all of the screw heads to see if they have bunged up slots. Don't buy a watch that has not, on the surface, been well treated because if what you can see looks screwed up...what you can't see almost surely is too.

    Also, it is OK to look for bargains but it is OK to pay up for quality. If you don't, fixing up your junker may cost more in the end.
  9. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    Retired Sr. Proj. mgr,
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    If I had it to do over again, I'd look at Hampden New Railway. I have a Bunn, so I'm biased
    to Illinois. My family all worked for the KCS RR out of Shreveport. About half of them loved

    Keith R...
    John Cote and Rick Hufnagel like this.
  10. DeweyC

    DeweyC Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Feb 5, 2007
    Country Flag:
    You stated you goal is a watch that keeps RR time. This means a watch that will maintain its rate within 6 seconds a day across 5 positions. This will enable it to keep within the 30 seconds per week required.

    It will certainly help if you start with a watch that appears unmolested (no alterations to the balance screws in particular). Any of those watches can be serviced to the required precision by a watchmaker who knows who to restore the restorable parts and when to replace parts with parts from a donor movement.

    Starting w/ a good condition candidate helps reduce the cost of parts renewal/replacement.

    From there, you need a watchmaker who is fully equipped with knowledge, skill and equipment to return the watch to its original performance standards. It is not rocket science, but it does require knowledge and not opinion.

    The watchmaker should be able to provide you with a written report that shows the amplitude of the balance and its error rate in the 5 positions. There should be no hedging on what you can expect for performance.

    Any graduate of a professional program can do this work. I am known for bias toward WOSTEP grads, which is a 40 year old program managed from Switzerland that graduated the likes of Roland Murphy. At least 1000 grads in USA.

    You may well spend more on service than the price of the watch. BUT... it will be less than a 1/3 of sending a Rolex in for service AND when once all the corrections are done, your cost of service will drop dramatically unless it is dropped.

    I am too far from you (Baltimore), but if you look through my website, you will get an idea of the kind of service you are looking for. You might even consider buying a restored watch from whoever you choose. The advantage to you for local source is you can have them show the results on the timing instrument in person. In my mind, your requirement (which I endorse) almost requires a personal relationship.
    viclip and Rick Hufnagel like this.
  11. Tom Huber

    Tom Huber Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Dec 9, 2000
    Prices, in general, have dropped during the last several years.

    If you look diligently and gain the knowledge as to what is good, you can find a nice rr grade watch at a very reasonable price

    In the past several years I have bought the following

    1. Hamilton 936 with a double sunk Montgomery dial. The case is sterling silver. Watch keeps rr time. This was bought from a reputable dealer for $100.

    2. Hampden, 18s John Hancock, 21j, adj 5 pos. Dial is DS Montgomery dial.
    Housed in a silver lid case. Bought from a reputable dealer for $75. It keeps rr time.

    These buys are out there. Be patient.

    DeweyC and Keith R... like this.

Share This Page