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OT: Pocket watches
Old 01-15-2006   #1
ChrisN
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OT: Pocket watches

OK, very OT here but it's slow and and there is a tenuous connection with rangefinders. I attended the local "trash & treasure" markets this morning, on my perpetual search for lost rangefinders. I was lucky there once before, and acquired my IVSb for a good price.

No rangefinders today, but I did buy a working and clean Ricoh KR-10 SLR (Pentax mount) for $15. Why? Hey - it needed a good home!

My other find, from the same man who sold me the IVSb, was a pocket watch. I don't know why, but for some reason old pocket watches just call to me; this is the third one I own. It's not working, but it's so nice I might take it to a watchmaker and see if there's any hope for it. It feels like the M4 - solid in the hand, and the product of fine craftmanship, not glitzy and glamorous but built to do a proper job. It would be a fine companion for the M4 or the P.

I thought that as most of you also appreciate fine mechanical devices, you might enjoy a pic. Is anyone else a collector/owner of pocket watches?

The Roman-numerals on this one amuse me - have a look at the 4-oclock.
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Old 01-15-2006   #2
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I own a pocket watch, and used to carry it on my person daily before the advent of cellphones (which, of course, bear the similar benefit of telling the time). For some reason I was never fond of wristwatches - they were clunky, they left tanlines and the wrist strap began to stink after a while.

Some of those old pocket watches are delightfully quiet, though, and would put a Leica cloth shutter to shame. (This is only a pathetic attempt to keep this on topic. )
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Old 01-15-2006   #3
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I guess a rangefinder is also a timing device, made to keep exceptional accuracy.

You won't believe this, but I just poked at part of the mechanism, and the pocket watch has started running! I suspect that it just needs a good CLA. DAG or Sherry?
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Old 01-15-2006   #4
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The 'IIII' seems to be quite common on clock faces - Iv'e noticed it many times in many places.

But the watches aren't my thing. Fine (and not so fine) fountain pens, on the other hand...
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Old 01-15-2006   #5
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Yes, IIII is fairly common on watches and clocks.
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Old 01-15-2006   #6
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If I may venture a suggestion...

Get yourself over to http://www.timezone.com

You think we get GAS, they get it in *****s over there. Very nice community, everyone is very kind and helpful and they are to mechanical watches what we are to RF cameras. There is some bleed-over.

They also have a good list of the people who can be trusted to repair your watch properly and without undue expense - there are some in Australia as well.

Unlike classic RF cameras, the US led the world in mechanical watch production - in quanity and in quality - from roughly 1900 right up to 1944. Yes, there was Rolex and Omega in Switzerland, but truly, companies like Elgin, Gruen, Hamilton, Ball, and others dominated watchmaking with high-precision, well-made watches that can still be repaired, cleaned, and depended upon today. Open the back of a vintage pre-WWII watch and find machined swirls and decorations that have nothing to do with precision - only decoration - and yet hidden away from the eyes of the owner - only another watchmaker would typically ever see it! Most of the men who toiled and made these with their very skilled hands are long dead - but their creations are quite often still keeping time. Amazing stuff. "Magic carpets, made of steel."

I often feel that the pleasure I feel when shooting a vintage RF camera like an Agfa Karat IV is very much akin to the joy I experience when winding my vintage Hamilton or Omega or Gruen watch and setting the time in the morning before I go out. Precision instruments make me happy.

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Old 01-15-2006   #7
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i have a beautiful old railroad pocket watch, an elgin, i think.
i bought it years ago when i was a bartender.
i had it checked over - it was/is working - by a local rr authorized repairman. he said it was about 80 years old then and that had to be more than 20 years ago.
apparently, if you worked for the rr you had to have your watch checked every 18 months the the repaiman put his mark on the inside of the case.
the case is removable and the 'works' are exposed.
no idea if it's worth anything.
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Old 01-15-2006   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by back alley
i have a beautiful old railroad pocket watch, an elgin, i think.
i bought it years ago when i was a bartender.
i had it checked over - it was/is working - by a local rr authorized repairman. he said it was about 80 years old then and that had to be more than 20 years ago.
apparently, if you worked for the rr you had to have your watch checked every 18 months the the repaiman put his mark on the inside of the case.
the case is removable and the 'works' are exposed.
no idea if it's worth anything.
The USA's emergence as a world-leader in mechanical watches was partially due to a horrific train crash caused by an engineer's inaccurate watch - five minutes off on two trains meant to pass while one was safely on a siding - and the results were catastrophic. The nation was horrified and demanded something be done. The result was the creation of a Board of Standards (now NIST) and a legal requirement that every railroad employee possess a watch accurate to several seconds per month, that they set it according to a standard every day, that they possess and carry a card indicating the last time it had been adjusted and the last time it had been officially tested for accuracy. The American watch industry stepped up and 'got 'er done' in terms of making watches that would meet those standards AND which a working man could afford. Elgin was one of those who responded to the call.

Nearly every pocket watch is called a 'Railroad Watch,' but the official ones were supposed to carry some sort of marking on the face that indicated they were meant for RR use. However, they all benefitted from the new standards for accuracy that the industry created - the rising tide lifted all boats, so to speak.

There were so many pocket watches made - millions - and they lasted so well, and were usually treasured and not left exposed to the elements - that a lot remain. Thus prices are not usually sky-high, which surprises many would-be collectors or sellers of Grandad's old railroad watch. Some models are worth more than others, usually based on rarity or unusual features (called 'complications' in the watch world). During the gold craze of the 1980's, many sold gold models were melted down for their gold content, so there are fewer of them than the gold-plated models and they are worth considerably more these days. Most pocket watches were sold sans case though - they were sold as movements and were fitted to cases made by other companies at first. It wasn't until later in the game that the watch and the case came from the same company, put together at the factory that way.

I have my great-grandfather's old Elgin too. He worked for the Alton & Chicago railroad - lost a limb and ended up being a Fuller Brush door-to-door salesman in Peoria.

You can track down your watch's serial number here:

http://elginwatches.org/databases/elgin_sn_intro.html

Like tracking down old Canon stuff, it can be fun and addictive. People become fanatics about a particular brand or their favorite model and have to have all variants. SOUND FAMILIAR?

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Old 01-15-2006   #9
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I just remembered this interesting tidbit. Did you know that until WWI, wristwatches were considered 'effeminate' and men would not wear them? So ladies had wrist watches far earlier than men, who kept their pocket watches.

However, during the trench warfare of WWI, both sides discovered that when one is holding a rifle and about to climb over a trench and go into battle on a pre-arranged timed signal - it is inconvenient to try to hold a watch while so doing. So, they began to fashion straps of leather, which they used to strap their pocket watches to their wrists so they could see the time without dropping their rifles.

When they returned from the war, they demanded wristwatches. But there were no men's wristwatches to be had, so watchmakers had a merry time 'converting' pocket watches by soldering on lugs to the sides of pocket watch cases and running leather straps under and through them. The manufacturers shortly began building cases with the lugs built in as part of the design, and then they began to make the movements smaller so that they watch would not overwhelm the arm. Thus, the modern men's wristwatch was born of military necessity.

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Old 01-15-2006   #10
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that is so cool bill!
the info on my watch tells me either the repair guy was wrong or i'm remembering it wrong (more likely)

Search Results For "s555414"
Serial Number SN Range Quanty Name Year grade size code jewels Adj/reg/etc.
-------------- -------- ------ ---- ---- ----- ---- ------ ------ ------------
S555414 S547001 10000 BWR 1951 571* 16s o3n20l 21j A5P-A6P j
# This run exists and is "BWR A5P" according to NAWCC v38/4 num 303


grade total runs first yr last yr class size code jewels Adj/name
----- ----- ----- -------- ------- ----- ---- ------ ------ ----------
571 171000 25 1946 1954 ? 16s o3n20l 21j A5P-A6P / BWR -

(*) notes on grade 571: Marked: BWR or None. first 16s model 20
**** UNKNOWN DATA LISTED! UPDATE DATABASE IF POSSIBLE ****
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Old 01-15-2006   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by back alley
that is so cool bill!
the info on my watch tells me either the repair guy was wrong or i'm remembering it wrong (more likely)

Search Results For "s555414"
Serial Number SN Range Quanty Name Year grade size code jewels Adj/reg/etc.
-------------- -------- ------ ---- ---- ----- ---- ------ ------ ------------
S555414 S547001 10000 BWR 1951 571* 16s o3n20l 21j A5P-A6P j
# This run exists and is "BWR A5P" according to NAWCC v38/4 num 303


grade total runs first yr last yr class size code jewels Adj/name
----- ----- ----- -------- ------- ----- ---- ------ ------ ----------
571 171000 25 1946 1954 ? 16s o3n20l 21j A5P-A6P / BWR -

(*) notes on grade 571: Marked: BWR or None. first 16s model 20
**** UNKNOWN DATA LISTED! UPDATE DATABASE IF POSSIBLE ****
He might not be wrong. If the information above is correct, then you have a 21 jewel watch - capable of exreme accuracy (for a mechanical watch). A real precision instrument. In 1951, men working for the railroad would still be using pocket watches - even though everyone else used wristwatches, only pocket watches were capable of that high level of accuracy demanded by the government at that time - no quartz or digital technology existed yet, and the few wristwatches that were RR certified were very expensive. So you could have a RR watch.

The really knowledgeable guys over at Timezone could tell you much more, and correct any errors I've made.

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Old 01-15-2006   #12
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Oh, and A5P means adjusted in five positions - watches change their geometry with respect to the position they're held in - gravity and all - so a A5P is the equivalent of a Swiss COSC certified watch - the best of the best. A6P is, well, overkill and Rolls Royce territory. You have a really nice watch.
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Old 01-15-2006   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisN
I guess a rangefinder is also a timing device, made to keep exceptional accuracy.

You won't believe this, but I just poked at part of the mechanism, and the pocket watch has started running! I suspect that it just needs a good CLA. DAG or Sherry?
Paul DeLury, in Canberra. He posts frequently on TimeZone and is worth a contact. He did my Omega 1953 bumper-wind Seamaster and it has been great for many years afterwards.

Best Regards,

Bill Mattocks

PS - CLA was originally a watchmaker's term. So they know what we're talking about.
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Old 01-15-2006   #14
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very cool!

i was meaning about it's age, as far as being wrong.
doesn't this indicate the first year of prodution was 1946?
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Old 01-15-2006   #15
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as to it being a railroad watch, the watchmaker/repairer told/showed me the small marks that were made on the back of the watch case.
he said it showed when the watch was checked over.
this seemed to indicate to him that it was a rr watch.

i'll have to read more...
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Old 01-15-2006   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by back alley
very cool!

i was meaning about it's age, as far as being wrong.
doesn't this indicate the first year of prodution was 1946?
Yes, but the last few post-WWII watches were most likely made from pre-war parts. All American watch companies had to stop making watches (or make them for the war department only) during hostilities and make altimeters for bombs, etc -similar clock-kinda thingies. They typically gutted their shops to do this. The US (and Germany) bought watches from Omega in Switzerland when they could not get enough from the US companies that still were making watches.

When WWII was over, Switzerland had advanced in their technical and mass-production skills and could make American-style watches that were just as good as the American ones, but cheaper. The US offered the watch companies no assistance getting back to civilian production, and did not extend trade barriers to Swiss watches, and that was the end of the US watch-making dominance of the world.

The English and the Germans and the Swiss were the best at making watches until the World's Fair in the late 1800's. The Swiss were so embarrassed that they actually packed their tent and went home. Americans ruled until 1941, and then it was all over but the shouting. The various companies soldiered on for awhile - some making it to the 1960's and 70's, and then fell over. Of course, the Japanese later did to the Swiss what they did to us, so fair is fair.

Someday I'll tell you about the watch-making world's version of Kobayashi-san of Cosina. He's Selma Hayak's father, and he saved the Swiss watch-making world single-handedly. He's another one of those rare geniuses - and he reads Scrooge McDuck comics.

But yours is most likely a pre-war high-end model, sold after the war to the same high pre-war standards. A real keeper.

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Bill Mattocks
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Old 01-15-2006   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by back alley
very cool!

i was meaning about it's age, as far as being wrong.
doesn't this indicate the first year of prodution was 1946?
Oh, sorry, I misunderstood the question. Yes, he's probably wrong about the actual date. They used the same movements with minor changes for a long time, and I'm not surprised he could be wrong on the date. I'd trust the serial number of the movement to be accurate indicator.
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Old 01-15-2006   #18
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this might be a horrible thing to say, but the first thing that pops into my photo fogged head is...i should sell this and buy a lens or something...my bad!
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Old 01-15-2006   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by back alley
this might be a horrible thing to say, but the first thing that pops into my photo fogged head is...i should sell this and buy a lens or something...my bad!
Nah, nah, you do what is right for you! I was a watch guy before I was a camera guy, and I find that a lot of people have a foot in both worlds. I don't buy any more vintage watches - too broke - but I would not sell the ones I have. But that's me. I appreciate a thing sometimes too much based on how well it was made, not how much I use it or how much I could use something else that it could be sold for and buy me.

Now family heirlooms, on the other hand - I have virtually nothing left of my childhood or my ancestry. My mother had ... some problems ... and got rid of everything she could, for spite's sake. I have nothing that was my fathers, except for an old ring he sometimes wore. Even his treasured Marine Corps ring, which I loaned my crack-head sister when he died - she sold it for more crack and broke into my house with her pimp and cleaned out everything else. So I have an old watch that was passed down and damned if I'll sell it for anything. I'd eat dogfood first. Hell, I'd eat my dogs first.

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Old 01-15-2006   #20
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Before I began repairing cameras, I repaired mechanical watches. I started learning about that around 1964. In fact, I have even designed watch dials and had them produced...example attached. This well-worn Homis watch was one of the first waterproof watches made. When I got it, it had been sitting in a window sill for several years, and the dial was completely faded away. The Roman numeral IV is almost always shown on watches as IIII. There were a few exceptions, but I've never seen it shown as IV in a quality watch. One of the finest watches for the money is still the Russian Poljot. I have one from about 1967 which is solid gold. I paid $16 for it secondhand, but didn't know the case was gold until later. I've saved several of the more interesting ones I came across...including a trench watch (ca 1918), and a watch which uses that same movement but is cased in solid nickel. Women used pocketwatches, too...as well as necklace watches. The pocket watches that were converted to wristwatches were generally women's watches (because of the size). I have one of those in a box somewhere. It is fairly crude, actually.
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Old 01-15-2006   #21
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And a German watch from the 1920s or 1930s. Anker is the name, and it is a 15 jewel movement (or 15 Rubis) as you can see.
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Old 01-15-2006   #22
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Quote:
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And a German watch from the 1920s or 1930s. Anker is the name, and it is a 15 jewel movement (or 15 Rubis) as you can see.
Very Art Deco, Jon. Coooool!
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Old 01-15-2006   #23
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And this Russian Raketa from about 1959. I have never seen another one like this. The dial is snow white. The crystal is bright yellow. The numerals are surprisingly deco for a Soviet product, but you simply can not be in a bad mood when you are wearing this watch. Women love this watch for some reason.

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Old 01-15-2006   #24
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I finally got one a year ago after years of hating wrist watches and saying "I should get a pocket watch." Fortunately, GAS has not taken hold of me in this area... yet.

It also goes nicely with my fountain pen.

Very cool watches, Jon!
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Old 01-15-2006   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dkirchge
I finally got one a year ago after years of hating wrist watches and saying "I should get a pocket watch." Fortunately, GAS has not taken hold of me in this area... yet.

It also goes nicely with my fountain pen.

Very cool watches, Jon!
Now, see, most of my watch-collecting friends are into fountain pens as well. That one, I never quite got into. I guess because I have such trouble with them. I'm a klutz.
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Old 01-15-2006   #26
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I'm just considering appropriating the current balance of the GAS fund for a new Conway Stewart. I'm so close. I suspect the fast 50 can wait a while...
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Old 01-15-2006   #27
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Quote:
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I'm just considering appropriating the current balance of the GAS fund for a new Conway Stewart. I'm so close. I suspect the fast 50 can wait a while...
I stole a new BIC pen from a hotel I stayed at recently. I have quite a collection.

My budget. Sigh.
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Old 01-15-2006   #28
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a couple of quick pics of the elgin.
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Old 01-15-2006   #29
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Quote:
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Now, see, most of my watch-collecting friends are into fountain pens as well. That one, I never quite got into. I guess because I have such trouble with them. I'm a klutz.
They definitely take getting used to. I stay away from non-cartridge pens because I am less than graceful myself.
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Old 01-15-2006   #30
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One that escaped to the UK. Looks like a very ordinary, and well worn, watch until you take the back off...

Illinois "Bunn Special". Engraving on back reads:
21 Jewels, double roller escapement, adjusted temp and six positions.
Illinois watch co. Springfield
No.4225399
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Old 01-15-2006   #31
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very cool looking watches guys!
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Old 01-15-2006   #32
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I've never been comfortable with a wrist watch -- I also have a fondness for old Zippo lighters...and I've never smoked (maybe a repressed pyromaniac?)
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Old 01-15-2006   #33
Jon Goodman
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An actual WWI trench watch and its nickel counterpart (both Cyma movements). The trench watch has a nickel case also, but constructed differently. Note: the dial on the trench watch is porcelain. Also, a ladies pocketwatch case. Finally, a trench watch which was damaged in action. These had glass crystals, and many were shattered. Also, you can see what is left of its 15 jewel Swiss movement.
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Old 01-15-2006   #34
Jon Goodman
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And...one of the few decent watches I ever saw which broke the IIII vs IV rule. An art deco Seeland. I kept it for its oddity.
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Old 01-15-2006   #35
ChrisN
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Wow! Thanks for sharing those pics, guys, there's some beautiful stuff there. And thanks, Bill, for the links and the name of the man in Canberra; I'll have to follow-up.

Much to my surprise, my find is still ticking this morning, and within 10 seconds of where it is supposed to be!

Now I'll have to do some research, to try and track down the history of my pocket watch. The seller said it was made in 1912.
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Old 01-15-2006   #36
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Kind of OT: I think many people here like mechanical watches. Probably for the same people like to use film. I just like the romantic idea of a watch being able to 'run forever', so I bought a 'cheap' chinese made automatic, one of those things you might see in magazine ads. Its nothing special, but it looks nice, feels nice and is built surprisingly well (it also has one of those cool sun/moon dials. Should last me for a while. Pocket watches are cool, but I dont like to carry things in my pockets.
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Old 01-15-2006   #37
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i have a seiko kinetic for everyday use.
it's bright & shiny and was fairly expensive.

i don't normally buy expensive watches though.
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Old 01-15-2006   #38
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Joe---looks like you have a grade 571 Elgin "BW Raymond" 21 jewel RR watch. Very demanding service for those days, Had to be checked monthly and couldn't gain or lose 30seconds or off to the repairers it went.

The 21 jewel Bunn special was the Illinois equivalent and was made by the Illinoie watch company for many years. Both VERY hardy RR watches. The Bunn family---amazing folks. Ever heard of the Bunn coffeemaker? Ever see one in a restaurant? Same folks.

Visit www.nawac.org for LOTS more inoformation. Also--the 571 Elgin---was probably for the Canadian RR as it has a 24 hour Montgomery dial...

Fun facts to know and tell your friends!

RR watches are in every respect--like RF cameras--people just don't understand. They will NEVER be ipods!!! Have them cleaned and they will last forever. The little marks you see scratched inside the case are the repairers codes as to by whom and when the watch was serviced.

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Old 01-15-2006   #39
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paul, the link does not work.

thanks for the info btw.
i'm thinking i may sell it if i could get enough for another old canon lens.
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Old 01-15-2006   #40
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I also like wrist watches. My grandfather left me a Wittnauer Chronograph. I wore it for years until it came up missing one day. We found it a couple weeks later in the bottom of the vaporizer. My son decided it fit well in the hole in the top. I dried it out and it still runs well, the face is gone though. Would love to get it repaired, its expensive though.

Yesterday while at the Salvation Army I bought a Wyler Incaflex Swiss watch for 25 cents. It did not run at first, I noticed the second hand at the bottom was hitting the hour hand. A little bending and how bout that, its running now. Has a neat stainless German Fischer band.

I buy all the mechanical watches I can when they are cheap, most of them are broke and go in the drawer.
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