In June 2013 I felt it was "time" to create a standalone tab for my growing interest in mechanical (wind up) clocks and watches.
It's taken a few steam engine sales and then some to fund this effort, yet I'm already honing my likes from my loves. As of Sept. 2014, I've sold off 3 clocks and several watches held for less than a year...collectible turnover keeps life interesting for me
Steam will always remain near and dear, but like my interest in model trains, it all gets to co-mingle here in the Temple of all things mechanical.
Check out these clocks. Some just tell time and nothing more, others also play chimes, gong and/or cuckoo to signal the time.
I find I really like old Seth Thomas clocks...preferably weight driven with visible moving pendulums, but I also have a number of other spring driven examples from various makers.
Actually, I collected several of these clocks going back 40 years, but most have been acquired since 2012.
YES...I have managed to accumulate THREE of these as of July 2013 !!!
My first mechanical clock is an 8 day, 13 jewel, wind up Russian Sub clock I bought from a now defunct catalog firm with a great name... "Sovietski.com". This one was made in Feb. 1999. I purchased it in 2001 and is has run faithfully ever since (July 2013 as of this writing).
Not long ago, high end catalog outfits like that seemed to have cornered the market on selling Westerners bits and pieces of Russian military stuff after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Today (2013), similar clocks can now be found via eBay, so they are out there if desired and I highly recommend them...a whole lot of quality/value for not much cost.
I am sure this clock never saw the insides of a sub, as it was brand new in consumer packaging when received, but it was made by Vostok of Chistopol, Russia who produced the same clocks for actual Russian subs and surface fleet vessels.
This model was designated as the 5-CHM, and such clocks were used by the Soviet Navy's ships and submarines for over 70 years. A photo taken inside the sunken Russian sub Kursk, indicated virtually the same clock was used onboard that modern Russian nuclear sub.
I believe the dial graphics on mine might have been jazed up a bit for the American souvenir market and I have seen several dial graphics versions (two right here!), but it is still a very nice, well made clock that has been faithfully ticking away over my desk for 12 + years now as of July 2013.
Built like a tank, the clock's 1/4 inch thick solid aluminum housing is supposedly waterproof and good for any depth charge shocks it may encounter. Face is highlighted with a brass ring for good measure.
With the included key the gasketed front opens and swings to the left like a porthole. Once the front is swung open, the same key winds it at the spot above 6 pm position. It ticks with a pleasingly loud sound which reminds me by it's absence if I forget to wind it (which rarely happens).I think it's Ground Hog Day
I liked my sub clock so much I bought a second as a "backup" a few years later should this one ever fail. Well, it is Feb. 2013 and I am beginning to think since my 1st clock has faithfully run for 12 years straight, it could outlast me.
So I just took the backup out of storage and decided if one is good, a second one running elsewhere in the house only makes sense!!! My wife does not see my logic and just rolled her eyes!
I mounted my second sub-clock, to a wood base and then screwed it securely to a wall...it won't come tumbling down from minor earthquakes we get (or depth charges if that should occur). Aside from the graphics and a chrome ring on the face, it looks identical in construction to my first sub-clock. Dang I love these!
My "backup" sub clock below, made in Jan 1997...finally mounted and lookin' fine Feb. 2013:
Here comes a third one....
Since I mounted my backup, I actually went shopping again on eBay to find a replacement "backup"...got it quite cheaply...new in the "Sovietski.com" box from another clock hoarder. On receipt I just could not hide it away awaiting a depth charge that might take out one of my other two.
Soooooo, Sub clock No. 3 is mounted like No. 2 on a nice wood back board and ticking away in another room of the house. This slightly younger example did not come with the round, black plastic mounting plate and was of a slightly different mounting design allowing direct mounting to a wood surface without the plate.
The dial graphics and brass face ring are the same as my original sub clock, not surprising as this one originated from "Sovietski.com" as well. If you cruise this whole timepiece section of my website, you will see I have a penchant for Seth Thomas vintage clocks, but these Russian babies are just a whole lot of cool in my opinion.
Here 'tis, my third Russian Submarine clock build in Feb. 2001 and mounted April. 2013
If you have ever considered buying a high quality wind up clock, you just can't beat the build quality and value of these Vostok made sub clocks.
Every guy needs at least one of these!!!
OK, it might seem like I have a thing for Russian time pieces and initially I did, but aside from three Russian sub clocks and this one...the rest are non-Russian!
This is an ACS-1 military cockpit chronograph as used in MIG fighter planes. While it has electric terminals on the reverse, those were only meant to connect an internal heater to keep things warm at high altitudes.
Operation required pilot to physically wind it up for 2 days of operation. How strange is that!!!
My example was brand new as received, packed in a bombproof molded styrofoam box and even had the Russian documentation and QA inspection sheet!
As seen above, I mounted the chronograph in an aftermarket black Lucite stand to permit it to sit upright as it is otherwise meant to be console mounted.
I picked this piece up from the same source as my Russian sub clocks...the now belly up catalog with the funky name: "Sovietski.com".
Again, spare parts from the Russian military sold off for dollars to the West! Having grown up in the Cold War era, there is something sort of satisfying to own these time pieces once held by a rival world power.
The chronograph was originally produced by the Molnija Military watch factory in Chelyabinsk, Russia, an area in the South Urals known for it's talented craftsmen. It supposedly dates to the late '70's or early '80's and was the type used in several MIG aircraft as well as the SU-27.
Molnija's MIG chronograph is a copy of the Swiss movement by Jaeger-LeCoultre seen below left. If you are going to copy, copy the best!!!
I initially couldn't figure out how this thing worked, but decided one day to really study it and mastered the controls! To document this feat of perseverance, I share the following for other owners who might be scratching their heads.
Here is a MIG cockpit photo showing where the chronograph was located. How cool is that!
It amazed me that a wind up unit would be used in an otherwise sophisticated aircraft, but I have also learned it's use did not stop there. The following photo shows the same clock in use at a ground facility for the Russian space program.
The guy pointing at the chronograph below might have been saying... "Vlad, did you wind it today or was it my turn??"
Like my Russian sub clocks, I can highly recommend these MIG chronographs which are readily available via eBay. The Russians copied movements from some of the best timepieces of the era but made them very well.
This delightful chiming ship's clock by Schatz of Germany, dates from the mid 1960's. It's almost 50 years old yet it looks like it was made yesterday.
Ship's bell strike is based on 4 hour "watches" onboard ship. A new watch starts at noon, 4 p.m., 8 p.m., midnight, 4 a.m. and 8 a.m.
The end of one watch and the start of another is marked by the bell being struck 8 times. A half hour later, the bell is struck once, with an additional strike each half hour until the end of the watch. Then the cycle starts again.
The bells are struck in pairs, that is, the first two bells are struck close together followed by a pause, then the next two, etc.
The following table shows the pattern of the bells for each time indicated:
Pattern of Bells
xx xx xx xx
xx xx x
xx xx xx
xx xx xx x
xx xx xx xx
The clock is about 6 inches in diameter and stands out from the wall about 3.5 inches. All brass with a beveled glass porthole like face that unlocks on the right and swings open to the left for winding. It features a German made Hermle, eight day "rack and snail" ships bell strike movement with a 7 jewel platform escapement.
Along with all my other windups...the Schatz gets wound every Sat. morning, a pleasant routine! I can be smitten by a pretty face and they don't come any prettier than this.
The American Cuckoo Clock Co. of Philadelphia, PA was at one time the largest importer of German Black Forest Cuckoo clocks into the U.S.A. They began operations here in the late 1800's.
Unfortunately, they suffered unacceptable overseas shipping damages to the delicate carvings. Their solution was to import the parts including wood that it took to build these clocks AND German carvers/assemblers to put them together.
In essence the clock featured below is a German Black Forest clock, built by Germans, but in an American workshop! It has been dated to about 1910 by a knowledgeable friend, Jeff..."The Cuckoo-Doctor".
This clock is a sizable affair at 17 inches tall, 14 inches wide and 8 inches deep (height measured from top of carved bird to bottom of pendulum...not counting weights).
While American made lots of these, an example in this nice shape is hard to find. It caught my eye as it looks exactly like the one that hung in my Grandma's living room when I was a kid...50+ years ago now!
I received this clock from an eBay auction in Dec. 2013 and over the next few months I disassembled the case to repair a number of age cracks. I also cleaned the case wood and the external carvings, then re-stained the works to an appropriate color for the era.
Clock as seen above is now happily ticking and sounding both the cuckoo and gong simultaneously on the hour and half hour as of mid March 2014. I'm absolutely delighted with how this turned out.
Photo below shows one of the two small doors that open on each side of the case for servicing the movement. Matching round holes on each side are where the cuckoo sounds actually emanate from.
Clock originally came with a pair of gold colored weights, but as I had a spare set, I prefer the darker color of those.
While I had the clock apart, I cleaned and oiled the movement and my artist wife touched up the wooden cuckoo bird that had lost almost all his original paint...he's stylin' now!
This little hand carved bird has an intricate set of wings and lower beak that actually move when he pops out...a jewel of miniaturization.
The removable back panel has the original directions and identifies this clock as having been made by American Cuckoo Clock Co. Style No. is "508 1/2"...just barely readable at center top!!!
When clocks of this era were built, the case was put together much like a birdhouse from board stock. Separately a piece of Linden wood (or possibly walnut) was carved to form the decorative "pediment" (headpiece) over the cuckoo bird's door.
A good carver seems to do his best work here. The wings on that bird are actually a pair of separate carvings done from the same solid piece of wood...side by side, giving it a 3 dimensional appearance.
A second piece of similar wood was carved to match and applied so that it wrapped around the dial and framed the entire front of the clock's case.
I also own a smaller cuckoo clock I have had since the mid '70's, but it's "carvings" can't hold a candle to the beauty of the above work which truly shows a pride of workmanship.
Last photo...the pendulum, pair of bellows from within and clock hands. Bellows with original leather were quite functional as is, so I didn't touch them! The clock's hands appear to be hand made from either celluloid or bone...hard to tell which. They are common to that era of clock manufacture and I've seen them on dozens of other cuckoos from that time.
The matching pendulum shows the same outstanding carving work as on the the rest of the clock...I have to think the same carver did all the carving on this clock as it all has the same look of one artisan.
Having this clock doing it's thing next to my desk makes me wonder how many owners and places have enjoyed it before me and how many will follow me? Hopefully, my restoration efforts have given this clock a new lease on life and will ensure it lives on for another 100+ years.
Note to my adult kids....keep this one in the family !
Outlook No. 5 ~ 1921...a simple but pretty Seth Thomas mantel clock.
Clock features a mahogany veneered cabinet in what I will call an abbreviated tambour style. In fact, it was those shorter "wings" on the base that attracted me to this example in the first place vs. typical wide body tambour style mantel clock which does not appeal to me.
The Outlook No. 5 has an 8 day Seth Thomas 89AL movement striking once on the half hour and counting off the hours at the top of the hour. The cathedral coil gong sounds bigger than it is, maybe due to the case shape, as it sounds like a much larger clock.
Measurements of this clock are: 9 1/2" H, 11" W and 5" D.
This is one Seth Thomas clock I did NOT
acquire from eBay seller Michael Short, instead another very nice eBay seller gave this clock a basic cleaning and oiling only, not the "nuclear
refurbishment" approach I tend toward. But,
heck, it didn't cost me much and I am delighted with it, having had it
ticking over my desk for almost a month now with no issues.
Convex 5" dial and convex glass. Enameled dial with black Arabic numerals and the hands are the correct Seth Thomas iteration for this clock. Gilt sash, dial, bezel and hands hands are all correct and pristeen.
The Outlook No. 5 is listed in noted authority Trans Duy Ly's book: "Seth Thomas Clocks & Movements", Third edition, Vol. 1, page 493.
I don't believe this clock has been refinished, though seller shared that it had been cleaned and oiled with a product called "Natchez Solution", consisting of beeswax and lemon oil in an FDA quality mineral oil base. Supposedly this stuff feeds the wood with no wax buildup.
If that is what gave this clock such a nice wood finish, I'm going to have to get some of it!
This clock was obviously well cared for during it's 92 years of life as of July 2013. It looks like it was made yesterday both inside and out. The mahogany veneer is perfect including on the finished rear side.The pendulum is original and the proper two ended key came with it...time arbor winds beneath the numeral 4, strike arbor winds beneath the numeral 8 and just below the center of the dial is the slow/fast adjustment arbor which uses the narrow end of the key. I had the clock zeroed in after a week or so and it keeps excellent time.
Here is the business end...the 89AL movement. Seth Thomas made the #89 movement in many iterations designed to fit different case shapes...it seems robust and and by all reports a quality movement. Clean, bright and oiled in all the right places:
This clock is modest of style, but mighty of sound and it makes me very happy every time it sounds it's gong.
This beauty is a classic and elegant ribbon mahogany, Doric Arch style, full size cabinet, Westminster chime clock ~ circa 1921.
The #71 is thought to be one of the most elegant of the Gothic cabinet chime clocks and not surprisingly the most valuable Seth Thomas clock in this collection.
Other than a few nicks and dings that are not easily seen, this case is stunning and 100% original. The full pediment base gives the cabinet a grand presentation.
Measurements are 10 1/4" wide, 13 1/8 " tall and 7 1/4" deep.
This clock is all original with the exception of new time and chime mainsprings and a copy of vintage directions applied inside the rear door.
The Chime Clock #71 of 1921, is listed in noted authority Tran Duy Ly's book "Seth Thomas Clocks and Movements." Vol. 1, third edition, page 164.
The quarter hour is sounded with 4 notes, the half with 8 notes, the three quarter hour with 12 notes and the full 16 note Westminster chime is played at the top of ever hour.
All notes are sounded on a set of 5 perfectly tuned, bronze "Mayland" chime rods, thought to have the finest sound of all the antique chimes....mellow, resonant and having a nice lingering decay of the note.
The hour is counted off on a single chime rod at the completion of the Westminster chime sequence .
Other features that enhance this cabinet’s graceful lines include a stunning full face silvered dial highlighted with a raised and etched 6 inch engraved dial ring and matching secondary rings for the speed and chime silent levers.
The original silvered mat frame, the arched door with it's original glass, the full face premium silvered dial plate and Seth Thomas signature cut serpentine hands are fully intact and in pristine condition.
The original Seth Thomas brass pendulum bob and key are present as well.
On the full face dial, the time mainspring winding arbor is located in the center above the 6 and the strike mainspring winding arbor is above the 8. The chime main spring winding arbor is above the 4.
In the upper left hand corner is the faster/slower adjustment lever and the chime silent lever is in the upper right hand corner.
The original cabinet finish was cleaned and preserved, then carefully protected with rubbed overcoats of shellac based oils. Though a very time consuming method of wood restoration, this approach protects and does not alter that beautifully aged mahogany patina.
The arched glass paned door closes with a satisfying "click" and no hinge droop.
The movement was disassembled down to the last screw for restoration. The Seth Thomas #113 brass, eight day, 3 train Westminster movement was inspected and cleaned with ultrasonics after complete disassembly.
All pivots were polished and worn pivot bushings were replaced.
The time and chime mainsprings were replaced with the highest quality new mainsprings. The strike mainspring was cleaned and re-greased. All operational characteristics of the movement were inspected and adjusted as necessary.
The movement was then reassembled, lubricated and bench tested.
The pendulum amplitude width is over 3.75 inches as measured from the left to the right side of the bob swing. This far exceeds the minimum spec of 2.25 inches, an indication of very little drag and virtually no friction in the movement, with plenty of reserve energy.
As my collection of chiming, gonging and dinging clocks grows, I find I have to rotate which clocks get to sound in all their glory.
This #71 is the exception, I set it a couple of minutes different from my other clocks and enjoy those Mayland chimes throughout the house at every quarter hour.
One final photo, that of clock maker William A. Heine's label adhered inside the clock, dated 10/6/26. My guess is that owner Mr. Hill had it into the clock shop for cleaning, oiling and adjustment.
Given that it is July 2013 as I write this, that servicing was 87 years ago, very close to my dad's birthday!
I think Mr. Hill, Mr. Heine and Seth Thomas himself would all be delighted to see this clock live on, now in it's ninety second year since it was made. Not many consumer goods could even approach such a lifespan.
My thanks again to Michael Short, clock maker and restorer extraordinaire, who restored this clock and sold it to me. Michael can be found on eBay under the seller name: "msho3356" and specializes in Seth Thomas clocks primarily. A real gentleman to deal with.
My fascination with mechanical clocks continues...this one having a maritime background.
This example is an American made, Seth Thomas Corsair #6 Ships Clock, built in May 1941 and initially installed on a WWII era U.S. Navy Ship, most likely in a wardroom, the mess-cabin of naval commissioned officers above the rank of Midshipman.
The clock's diameter is 7 3/4 inches and depth is 3 inches. Clock is equipped with a 7 1/2 inch screw type waterproof bezel with original glass. Brass is fully 1/8 inch thick...something not seen on modern renditions of this clock.
This same clock can be found listed in the book: Seth Thomas Clocks and Movements, 3rd edition, volume 2, page #774, by noted Seth Thomas authority: Trans Duy Ly.
The silvered dial and Seth Thomas signature spade style hands and center sweep second hand are original. The dial has been professionally re-silvered.
The fully restored, time only American made movement No. 5164, is an 8 day, 11 jewel platform escapement, signed and dated: May 1941.
Restoration of movement included total dis-assembly and inspection of all components which were then cleaned with ultrasonics.
Any worn pivot bushings were replaced, time mainspring was unloaded, properly cleaned and inspected/lubricated and reloaded into the mainspring barrel.
The brass case was re-polished and sealed with a fresh new lacquer finish. The movement was then properly reassembled, lubricated and adjusted.
OK, the following photo from an eBay auction by clock seller "champsclock", definitely caught my eye in early 2014!
The fact that the clock was on sale for a significant discount kept my eye...I'm a Yankee by birth!
For many years I sang tenor in a church choir and stared out from the choir loft at a stained glass window much like the one featured as a backdrop for this clock...that photo touched me enough to capture it here!
I'd been searching for an original Seth Thomas Sharon Steeple Clock (first made in 1924), but most I found were in rough shape or electrified...neither of any interest to me.
While the stained glass window ad caught my eye, Hermle's rendering of the steeple clock as well as my own positive experience with this movement maker sold me.
While I purchased this clock new in 2014, I found the movement was made in 2007 based on Hermle's dating scheme (letter "T" above the Hermle name on movement = 2007 year of mfg.).
I have had experience now with three other clocks featuring Hermle movements and I have found them to be very reliable. With the floating balance feature, one does not have to be so particular to absolutely level them.
So, in a departure from mostly older clocks in my collection, I opted for the new Hermle chiming steeple clock and I am extremely pleased with the quality of movement, sound and cabinet eye appeal.
Here's my clock on location in the master bedroom atop a bookcase...not as dramatic as a stained glass window for a backdrop, but I don't have one of those handy!
The cabinet is made of solid mahogany and veneers with an elegant satin cherry finish. The two pane glass door has
etching to the lower half that nicely sets off the brass pendulum.
Cabinet dimensions are: H 21 5/8” x W 11 3/8” x D 6”
dial is similar to the original with leaf and vine motifs,
black Roman numerals and black metal serpentine hands.
The reverse is nicely finished as well and a door swings open to access the movement and pendulum.
Hermle incorporated their German made #351-020 8-day, key wound mechanical pendulum movement that plays 4/4
Westminster chimes on 5 hammers and counts off the hour. The included "silent" lever is a welcome addition to keep "management" happy.
Notice the finish inside the cabinet...it's as nice as the outside, something usually given little attention in most older clocks I've seen. I love the overall presentation.
While Hermle themselves made the movement in Germany, I was surprised to find they outsourced manufacture of the cabinet. In very fine print on the rear door was the word "China".
Given the impeccable workmanship, my hat's off to the Chinese subcontractor who put this cabinet together...I myself could never do such exacting work that fit together so perfectly. Honestly, it is the nicest fitting and looking clock cabinet I own!!!
Nearly one hundred years ago, Franz Hermle began manufacturing and
selling mechanical clocks. In 1922, he founded the Franz
Hermle Clock Company in Gosheim/Wuerttemberg, Germany.
continued to build the company into a worldwide leader in the
manufacturing of clocks, and mechanical clock movements. Now in its
third generation, Franz Hermle and Sohn employs over 500 people in 4
locations in Germany and an additional US facility.
Hermle has been the maker of Seth Thomas clocks and movements since the 1950's when the Seth Thomas factory was flooded out of business, a fact virtually unknown to the casual clock buyer that buys the "name".
Hermle clocks and movements have also been sold under names such as Howard Miller,
Sligh, Ridgeway, New England, Emperor, Hamilton and more.
This is my first complete clock under the Franz Hermle & Sohn label and I am very well pleased.
Unfortunately, Hermle seems to have discontinued manufacture of this specific clock. Examples are still out there at several websites and on eBay as of Sept. 2014, but supplies will dry up if they are no longer being made. No idea why...styles come and go, but if you like it, shop for one soon!
Antique clocks are great, but a quality reproduction is pretty nice too...it even comes with a "new car" sort of smell!
This beautiful Seth Thomas No. 2 regulator is a reproduction manufactured by Chervin Woodworks in Hawkesville, Ontario, Canada ~ circa 2013 !!!
You can still find old, original Seth Thomas No. 2 clocks on eBay and other outlets, but I was impressed enough by the Chervin product to opt for a brand new, but historically accurate rendition.
No regrets buying new, this thing is gorgeous in every way and with a weight driven Hermle movement, the mechanics are solid as well...runs perfectly and is incredibly accurate after just a couple of weeks getting it dialed in.
I own a number of original, antique Seth Thomas clocks and I love each for it's uniqueness and history. BUT, it sure is nice to experience a "NEW" Seth Thomas clock, even if it is a reproduction.
It's a bit like buying a new car...there is just something nice about NEW!
Size: 36" H. 16" W. 6" D.
Wood: Quarter Sawn White Oak
In the early 1860's, the Seth Thomas Clock Co. began production of the No. 2 Regulator, a clock that graced the walls of railroad stations across North America.
The clock was produced, with very few changes, for nearly 90 years until 1950, likely the longest produced single model in clock manufacturing history.
Although the Seth Thomas Clock Co. no longer manufactures this clock, this authorized, Seth Thomas labeled reproduction, is now being made exclusively in Canada by Chervin Woodworks.
Through careful study of the original clock and precise painstaking craftsmanship, this clock has been produced to match the original down to the very finest detail. Quality is superb IMHO!
If you look closely at a piece of fine antique furniture, you will find a unique grain pattern generally not found in newer pieces. That's because fine furniture, like the Seth Thomas Regulator No. 2, used to be constructed with quarter sawn lumber, an expensive but attractive method of cutting the wood to achieve dramatic results.
Chervin have replicated that process and crafted this case using solid quarter sawn white oak, even using solid oak in areas where Seth Thomas used veneers, increasing the weight of this clock by over 20% vs. the original.
Chervin even used an 8 piece assembly of wood around the glass dial door like the earliest Seth Thomas No. 2's (later Seth Thomas No. 2's went to a simpler 4 wood piece assembly).
No corners were cut with this fine case...even the rear side is finished as nicely as the front! The joining methods and hand rubbed finish are done superbly.
Here is an example of merging my collectibles. On the one hand, I am a lover of old toy and model steam engines etc., on the other I have developed an appreciation for clocks and watches.
Well, here's a good example of the best of both, an old brass steam pressure gauge converted into a desk clock.
I searched eBay for an appropriate piece to convert that meant something to me, and came across a water pressure gauge from 1926, labeled: Providence Pipe & Sprinker Co.
My dad worked in Providence, RI and our family lived nearby. THIS was a perfect example gauge to re-purpose into a clock.
Though this conversion is powered by a quartz/battery clock, not a windup, it's just high on the cool scale, I love it!
Though here in my "clock" section, this is NOT a clock per se...
This is a fully functioning model of the Swiss Lever Escapement, a wonderful demonstration of what’s going on inside a mechanical watch or clock movement.
It is fascinating to see the real “heart beat” of the movement, in action...large enough and slow enough to study it.
Driven by an internal manually wound spring, the escapement will run for 7 days. Accent details include blued screws, red jewels, gold plated/machined base plate, engraving and all mounted on a lovely mahogany base.
A lever hairspring controls the oscillations of the screwed balance wheel which in turn controls the movement of the pallet arm. Jeweled pallets in turn control the escape wheel, just as in a real movement.
To get a better view, I've removed the glass dome for the next photo taken while running:
These are serially numbered units. This is No. 36 and was purchased via eBay from Ohio clock shop and online source: www.proclocks.com
My first example had a mechanical problem and ProClocks promptly replaced it with this unit, no questions asked and this one runs flawlessly. The ProClocks folks were first class to deal with!
Enough chatter, nothing beats seeing it in motion, ...click here for a Video
As a parallel to my recent (2012) focus on mechanical clocks, I have also collected a few vintage, wind up, railroad approved pocket watches and several modern wrist watches that self wind with wrist movement.
Watches with visible front and rear "display" cases
are my favorites as they let you see the movement within doing it's thing...marvelous bits of tiny engineering going round and round!!! All but my Seiko pocket watch offer the ability to see the movement in motion.
I seek out this type of watch and feel I have found some of the most beautiful examples out there.
Railroad Pocket Watches (by age):
Wrist Watches (all modern):
The 992 model was the most successful pocket watch made by Hamilton who produced more than 1 million of them between 1912 and 1957. Hamilton made them in Lancaster, PA with both form and function at a pinnacle.
This specific 992 watch was made in 1925 per the 2313685 serial number. The case is a #16 size at 2 inches in diameter. The Double Sunk (D.S.) dial is enamel, with crisp black Arabic numerals. Outer track is a combined red 5-minute and black 1-minute.
The 992 was built to railroad standards of the day which required that the time setting function could not accidentally be bumped, as precise time was critical to the engineers and conductors who carried these watches. Hamilton accomplished this with an internal "lever set" feature.
To change the time, the user must purposefully remove the front cover, pull a small lever near the 2 o'clock position and THEN adjust the time with the top stem in the usual way. After pressing the lever back in and replacing the front cover, turning the stem now will only wind the watch, not change the time accidentally.
Case reverse (with mineral glass cover on)..."Narrow Stripe" damaskeened pattern can be seen clearly in this photo. Hamilton also offered a wider stripe pattern, but of the two I prefer this one and sold off a wide stripe example!
I like seeing how things work, so I fell in love with this Hamilton 992 given it had a mineral glass front and back display case marked "HAMILTON" on both bezels vs. the typical unmarked glass front/solid reverse.
display case variety was supposedly used by watch salesmen to showcase
the inner workings of a dial/movement combination to potential jewelry
store customers who would then have that combination placed
in a case of their choice. The display case appeals to this collector,
but would probably not stand up to the rigors of railroad use with mineral glass front and back.
Case reverse (with mineral glass cover off)
I had a complete servicing of the 992 done in March 2013 by watchmaker Chris Abell, and I want to put in a plug for his work which was superb.
This Waltham Crescent St. Railroad Watch is a beautiful 21 jewel, high grade model 1908, circa 1926. I usually show the movement photo AFTER the front/dial photo, but in this case I break my own rule. This movement is simply gorgeous and on par with my Illinois Bunn Special!
You can see how in the late 1920's Waltham was out to catch Hamilton and Illinois with "over the top" damaskeened movements. They don't get much more dazzling than this! It even has a snowflake around the center jewel!
NOW, the front side with clear bezel on!
The watch winds like a new one and can't have seen much use. To showcase this gorgeous dial and movement, I have recased it in a spare Hamilton salesman's display case featuring clear glass front and rear bezels.
If I find a Waltham case like this or one without the Hamilton engraving, I will again recase it, but for now, this will "do".
Rear side with clear bezel on.
Dial with front bezel off is also looking like new...a very handsome watch indeed.
Though in nice shape as received, I want to keep it that way and sent it in April 2013 for a full COA by my certified watchmaker, Chris Abell.
I have had a longstanding admiration for Seiko watches going back 40 years, yet only purchased my first, a new Seiko 5 automatic wristwatch, in 2012. Well, one good thing led to another and I bought this vintage Seiko mechanical pocket watch off eBay in early 2013.
This is a Seiko 6110-0010, 61RW (RW=railroad watch) calibre, 21 jewel, hand wound, second setting, 16 size railroad pocket watch. Movement number is #6110A with serial number 717772...which places it's mfg. date as Jan. 1977. This was the last year Seiko made this watch in a mechanical version. By 1978 the same looking watch was available only with a quartz movement...so this was the last of the breed!
Seller "Joe" was reluctant to let it go and I understand why...this is just so nicely made, purposeful and representative of the quality Seiko puts into their watches past and present.
Per my net rummaging, it seems this watch might well contain a movement originally designed for a wristwatch, but used to full advantage and exclusively in a pocket watch. One noticeable "wristwatch like" difference vs. my other pocket watches is the sweep second hand vs. the more typical small second hand set just above the 6 o'clock position seen in most mechanical railroad pocket watches.
The Seiko mechanical versions like this one are popular among collectors and getting harder to find. Though I fully plan to send this to my watchmaker for a cleaning, oiling and adjustment, after having it for just 48 hours I am quite happy with it's accuracy. Seiko knows how to make a watch as evident in the incredibly smooth winding and lovely tick!
The dial is quite handsome in my opinion and the sweep second hand is an eye catcher. The movement however, does NOT have the artistic beauty seen in the likes of my display cased pocket watches...with Seiko, it was all function over form.
subtle difference from other railroad pocket watches is that the
movement's serial number is engraved on the inside of the removable case
rear as seen below...not on the movement itself as seen in most.
I guess Seiko was not concerned with case swapping that is commonly seen in other railroad pocket watches. Unlike my other pocket watches housed in Display Cases to showcase their movements, this one will retain it's original case ensuring the movement number is kept intact. I also doubt one could find a case to fit, given the outside is typical size 16, but inside the smaller movement is a unique size.
This Seiko is also stem set vs. typical lever set requirement seen in American Railroad watches. The Seiko also offers a "second setting"/"hacking" feature which I have not seen before on a railroad pocket watch (my observations are very limited mind you and I am happy to be corrected)!
I found this 2006 "action" photo taken on the Japan Rail Network, that sort of tells it all. Notice the train driver's pocket watch set into a dedicated recess in the console. The watch may well be a quartz movement by this date, but you get the idea. These watches were and are used by train drivers and conductors to keep the trains safely on time.
I have admired Seiko mechanical watches for many years, but until recently this Japanese brand simply cost too much for my liking.
BUT, when their entry level Seiko 5 could be had for under $60 via Amazon.com (Sept. 2014), my price resistance ended and I happily bought one in Mar. 2013.
The Seiko has a certain mystique for me and I was almost giddy to finally get one. They may be made in Malaysia now, but the fit, finish and reported performance is still superb. Mine came with the 21 jewel "caliber" 7S26C movement and is as perfect as I hoped for.
The "5" after the Seiko name stands for:
1. Diaflex (unbreakable mainspring)
2. Diashock (Seiko's shock resistant design, equivalent to the Swiss "Incabloc")
3. Automatic winding
4. Date/date indication
5. Water resistant
A clear/viewable reverse was the deciding factor on this watch, so one can see the inner workings...a common theme in each of my watches.
This Seiko is quite robust including the stainless steel bracelet, and though I am careful to not abuse it, I wear it if my day's tasks might be too physical for a more delicate watch.
The quality is outstanding and I'm happy to finally be a Seiko owner...stories of decades of operation without service are legend with this model...I hope mine holds up like that!!!!
Though I was leary to consider modern watches of Chinese origin, I did some reading on the Sea-Gull watch company, in business since 1955, and currently making about 1/3 of the worlds mechanical watches.
Notice the prominent "China Made" on the bottom of the dial. Sea-Gull is proud of their heritage unlike some Chinese watch makers who try to hide their origin behind fancy names or no name/ID at all.
In my opinion this watch rivals anything coming out of Switzerland and at a fraction of the price Swiss watches command. As an aside, many Sea-Gull movements are being installed by the Swiss manufacturers themselves, then the watches are passed off as "Swiss Made".
I feel a watch's heart and soul lies in the movement and I prefer to buy a watch from those who MAKE the movement vs. just repackage it! Given rave reviews for Sea-Gull by owners on several watch forums, I decided to buy the M171S and now 18 months later I am still delighted with it.
I like a quality, artistically appealing movement first and foremost, but the attention to detail visible in the M171S's dial, hands, case and leather strap with double butterfly deployment clasp are first rate in every way. "Stunning" is an understatement!
What initially drew me to this model was the "open heart" or "flying wheel" as Sea-Gull calls it, an open, round viewing port in the dial where the oscillating balance wheel is clearly visible. I really love this feature and I find myself staring at that "flying wheel" quite often. I think I could be a good candidate for hypnosis!
In addition to being auto-winding, the M171S offers retrograde day and date indicators and of course, a clear reverse to enjoy Sea-Gull's ST2504 calibre movement with 33 jewels.
The M171S also features blued internal screws seen from the reverse and nice damascening of the inner components including the auto-winding rotor. Another nice detail is an etched "S" in the surface of the crown.
Sea-Gull makes no qualms about it's cases being made of stainless steel. That is fine with me, I like a beautiful watch, but it needs to be durable as well.
I picked this watch up for two reasons...it is powered by a Sea-Gull movement...a brand I have a lot of respect for, and I just liked it's looks from the simple but robust front to the see thru back with it's attractive damascening.
OK...one more silly reason...I love the name ZULUDIVER !
A bit more info on this homage to a Rolex Submariner (a brand I won't be getting anytime soon)
It might sound silly, but if you have more than one auto-winding watch, you have to re-set the watch that has sat around a few days unworn. How hard could it be to wind and re-set?
It's not hard to rewind and set a basic time only watch, but watches like the Sea-Gull M171S and the Seiko 5 have day/date features which when left to wind down are a PITA to reset.
'Til I got my watch winder...I wore a watch on each wrist to ensure my three auto-winders did not run down, rotating in the third every other day. BUT, I must admit I looked ridiculous wearing two watches and needed a better solution.
I found the better mouse trap in the form of a Belocia brand two watch winder bought off Amazon.com. Mine sits on a shelf over my desk taking up a space 6" x 6" by 10" tall and plugs into wall power.
The black door on the front has two windows so you can see which watches are inside. The door swings to the left for access, but closes to keep them dust free. It takes just seconds to remove a watch and place another on the spring loaded blocks that snap into the rotation sockets.
The Belocia will keep two auto-winding watches always wound and ready to go in a day, week or month since last wearing them. It rotates both watches simultaneously for one of four alternating clockwise/counterclockwise cycles over 24 hours.
Each morning I usually swap out the watch I wore the day before for one in the winder and put yesterday's watch back in so it remains wound. The Belocia
pictured above has been running silently and flawlessly now for 24
months as of Sep. 2014...not bad for such a low cost unit.