For decades, watches of less than 15 jewels have been considered by many to be "low end" and only suitable for those poor souls who could not afford anything better. This belief continues today, even among collectors of mechanical timepieces who, perhaps, might know otherwise. Well, this is fine by me, because that means there are lots of really nice watches to be had very cheap, and I love American-made watches as you might already know.
Paul Delury picked up this 7 jewel Elgin (shown above) on Ebay recently. It was sold as a running watch, and upon arrival it indeed was. However, it was not running all that well, so a full servicing was called for. (To be honest here, all the watches we buy get the full treatment, so I won't labor this point too much!) The timing machine showed a severe cyclical rate change over a 60 second period. We also noticed that the second hand was strangely offset in relation to the seconds sub-dial, and suspected a problem in this area. (Not visible in the pic above, as it was an "after" shot).
Upon uncasing the movement, it was a pleasant surprise to see it was in excellent condition cosmetically, showing very little sign of any previous attention. It always pays to carefully examine a movement for any signs of wear or damage before stripping it for cleaning, as afterwards lots of time can be wasted chasing problems that should have been noticed earlier. In this case, a visual examination revealed that the 4th wheel, on which the second hand is mounted, was leaning over on quite an angle. This can be clearly seen below, one side of the wheel is almost touching the pillar plate:
From the dial-side of the watch, it was clear that the hole in which the 4th wheel pivot runs was extremely worn, to almost double its original diameter in one direction.
For a watch that overall showed very little wear, this was quite strange. Normally, a 7 jewel watch wears the escape wheel holes the most, and the ones in this watch were fine. Closer inspection under a microscope after the watch was dismantled revealed the probable cause of this excessive wear. When the oil-sink was cut (the concave area around the hole to retain oil), it was machined too deeply, and left only about 0.1mm of bearing surface left. Over the 74 years hence, this wore down much faster than all the other holes. Also, this hole is a bit more exposed to dirt entering it, through the second-hand aperture in the dial. (Only lasted 74 years, shame on them!) Well I guess even back then, Quality Control occasionally slipped a bit. I think we'll forgive them for that, I reckon this watch has got at least a hundred or two years left in her yet.
The obvious question now is "Can we repair this watch?", and the answer of course is Yes! To repair this fault, the hole must be re-bushed back to its original and correct size. Surprisingly, this is not exceptionally hard to do, and a very serviceable job can be done with only simple hand tools, and some patience and care. So, let's get to work!
...and here's the movement, ready to go back into the case. It is an Elgin, grade 303 7 jewel movement, manufactured in 1927. Even their lower-end watches were nicely finished and decorated, with all screws beautifully polished and steel parts polished "black" or snailed. With a compensated bi-metallic balance and Breguet overcoil hairspring, these movements are capable of excellent performance.