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End of the 409

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My very first efforts were on an Elgin grade 313 (of which I had two built 22 years apart).

In keeping with the Elgin brand I also picked up an Elgin grade 409 which was a smaller sized ladies pendant watch. Like the 313, I only purchased the movement which had a dial and three hands.


dial face - small.jpg

When the time came to start working on this, I realized I needed another bench key and I discovered that the balance didn't move when hit with an air jet from my rocket blower, so I ordered a second movement. When It arrived it was from the same year (1914) and I also discovered that these had a sleeve around the main plate and bridge portion of the movement.


17521914 - small.jpg

It turned out that the balance staff from the first movement (17521914) had a broken top pivot. Originally I thought that I'd just take the balance complete from the second movement (17353621) and drop it into ...914 however @diveboy suggested that collectors would frown on a balance from one movement in another so I decided to work on ...621. While Elgin manufactured 21,000 of these I never expected the one that I worked on would ever end up in anyone else's hands but I kept the balance with the right main plate. Here's the front and back of ...621


dial side - small.jpg

train side - small.jpg

I washed everything and began my reassembly.

I had taken the balance apart to clean the upper jewel and had a bit of a time getting the setting re-seated. The two tiny screws kept me on my knees looking through the carpet as they didn't seem to want to stay put. Finally I got the upper jewel back in place. Oddly enough the balance cock of ...621 was pretty plain compared with the balance cock from ...914


plain and fancy - small.jpg

Everything was going great and I had everything back together and only needed to finish assembling the balance to the cock.


train side reassemble.jpg

That's when it all went to hell. I was tightening the screw holding the stud in the balance cock when the balance complete zipped off into never-never land and the hair spring became twisted through the split in the balance wheel. On the right is the balance from ...621 with the good balance staff. On the left is the balance wheel and hair spring from ...914. If you look closely you can just make out the broken pivot on the left and the good pivot on the right. Unfortunately I need the spring from the left on the wheel and staff on the right.


good and bad - small.jpg

At this point I'm closing the books on the 409 Elgin. I know that some of you would be able to take the spring from ...914 and repair the balance of ...621 but that is clearly beyond my capabilities.

At least I've become somewhat proficient at researching movements even if my physical skills are sorely lacking.

I struggle with being able to see. I find that I'm always either putting glasses on or off, switching to my magnifying visor or the microscope. I probably ought to pick up a Barlow for the microscope that would allow me to actually work comfortably under the scope.

In any event, I still have 2 Buren Grand Prix movements (one that I started on but ran into a broken setting lever, so I picked up a second) as well as a small Omega (that I don't really want to touch until I've gotten one running).

So, that's where I'm at.

Edited by grsnovi
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Sorry to hear, but I understand your vision issues, I truly do 🙂  

Definitely get the Barlow lens. Being able to work directly under the microscope is a game changer.

I have glasses optimized for close work (Zeiss Office Book lenses), B&L visor I wear over those, loupes, and my microscope.

I'm used to a routine that would probably seem quite cumbersome to someone else, but it goes like this for most work.

Start with glasses on .  If I'm moving a part, like from tray to movement, I put on the visor, otherwise I might not see if I drop the part. Once the part is under the microscope, I take off the visor and glasses. I have a cord so the glasses just hang around my neck.  The microscope has diopter adjustment on the eyepieces so I can work without the glasses.  This has become habit. 

When working with my staking set, for instance, I don't try and change the microscope setup. I have an adjustable table, so the microscope swings out of the way, and I raise the table to watchmaker bench height. I use glasses and visor to move parts to the staking set, and then a loupe as I use the staking set.  Seems to work OK so far. 

I haven't used my jacot tool in a while, I think the next time I do I'm going to experiment with the microscope, as I have several different barlow lenses I can try, to see if I can get a good setup for that. 

I do change the microscope setup when using my lathe, the whole workbench gets changed when I'm turning. Some folks have a bench just for the lathe and a dedicated microscope, I'm not there yet. Don't have the space, and I have other tools I need before I invest in a second microscope. 

I my case, my vision problems are caused by macular degeneration,  but in some respects I am lucky. There are now treatments that can arrest the progression of the disease, and in some cases reverse it.  Unfortunately, the treatment consist of injections into the eyeball, which is downright creepy 🙂  My current opthamologist is really good, there is no pain and only mild eye irritation for the next day or two, so I deal. Previous doctor, not so easy.

Anyway, I'm just trying to illustrate that it is possible to continue even with challenges, just have to double down on the vision assistance and develop habits to compensate for less than ideal vision.


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2 hours ago, dadistic said:

it is possible to continue even with challenges

Thanks for that David! At this point I'm not throwing in the towel by any means. I do need to figure out what my goal is for this new hobby. I certainly enjoy the photography aspects.

My biggest (visual) frustration is my lack of depth perception with glasses or visor. Oddly enough I'm able to see depth through the stereo microscope.

- Gary

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Watchmakers have for generations used loupes in a single eye, you would think that without binocular vision that there would be no depth perception.  

Not strictly true! Our depth perception relies on many cues other than our binocular vision,  and  learning to see "depth" and the relationship between things in our field of vision is certainly possible using primarily one eye. 

It takes practice, though. It took me a long time before I could use a loupe effectively, and one of the things I had to work at was not closing the other eye. Amazingly enough, having both eyes working is better than just one, even though the second one is not magnified and in my case out of focus and distorted. 

It takes practice, real watchmaking requires serious physical skills, and you don't get there by just watching videos 🙂


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Your photos are stunning - especially the one of balance cocks and the one of the hairsprings. I don't know whether you put effort into composing those photos but it sure looks like you did.

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