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Elgin Watches

Do you have an old Elgin National Watch Company watch you are curious about? The Elgin History Museum’s volunteers can help. We specialize in Elgin timepieces made between 1867 and the mid-1960s. Whether your watch is a family heirloom, or a collectible object, we can provide information that will enrich your enjoyment of it.

Watches are more than just timepieces, they reflect the ever-changing trends in fashion, and, they are part of an evolving history of manufacturing technology. Watches went from being the size of turnips in the 1860s to as small as the tip of your little finger in the 1960s.

Download our watch research brochure.

Old watches have interesting stories to tell. Here is a sample of what we can provide:

  • Important details about the watch, such as the age, size, grade, number of jewels, how many were made, and an interpretation of the decorative and styling features.
  • A brief history of the Elgin National Watch Company and watch making in America. We can show you where your watch fits into the big picture of time keeping.
  • Information about the watch case manufacturer. Case makers worked with the watch factory to create the look customers wanted. The history of the case industry is a fascinating part of your watch’s story.
  • Tips on getting appraisals and understanding the monetary, as well as the historical value of the watch.
  • Information on how old-time mechanical watches operate, complete with a representative parts diagram.

Our materials make up an informative packet to keep with your watch and to pass on to your family. Usually the more clues we have, the more information we can provide. Here is what we request in order to help you:

  1. Serial number from the watch's movement. This is different from the serial number on the case. If you cannot find the movement's serial number, or do not know how to open the case, you can ask a jeweler for help. Be careful not to damage the watch trying to open the case.
  2. Brief description, or photo, of the watch. A photocopy of the watch or a hand-drawn sketch are almost as good as a well-made photograph. Include an image of the dial.
  3. List any numbers, words or markings on the watch movement.
  4. List any words or symbols on the case.

To request research, send the materials requested above along with a check or money order for $15.00, payable to Elgin Area Historical Society, (covers research time and return postage) to the address below. Be sure to provide your return address and your email address so we can send information we discover or ask questions about the watch if necessary.

Elgin Area Historical Society
360 Park St.
Elgin IL 60120

Points to keep in mind:

1. We do not provide appraisals of the watch's value. However, we can provide you with information that will help you understand the historical context of your watch and which may be helpful to an appraiser.

2. We do not repair or purchase watches.

3. The original Elgin National Watch Company went out of business in 1967. When the company failed, its assets were merged into a new firm known as Elgin National Industries. The new company was in the engineering and construction business and all watch making operations were ended. However, rights to the Elgin name are licensed to importers who used it to label foreign-made watches. The M.Z. Berger Company currently uses the Elgin name in this manner. Neither M. Z. Berger, nor Elgin National Industries, has parts or information on watches manufactured by the original Elgin National Watch Company.

4. Our services cover mechanical Elgin watches made through the mid-1960s. In short, if it has a battery, we cannot help you with it.