Elgin pocket watch photos

Including Elgin Watch Serial Numbers and Production Dates

Elgin, Illinois

1864 - 1967

The Elgin National Watch Company

The Elgin National Watch Company

The Elgin Watch Company (also known as the Elgin National Watch Company) was the largest American watch manufacturer in terms of total production volume. In fact, Elgin produced approximately one-half of the total number of better-quality pocket watches manufactured in the United States. Total production over their 100 years of operation reached nearly 60 million watches, which is nearly 50% of ALL the jeweled watches produced by American watch companies! This makes Elgin one of the most commonly collected vintage watches since there are still so many examples available at reasonable prices.

The clock tower at the Elgin National Watch Company

The clock tower at the Elgin National

Watch Company

The Elgin National Watch Company was founded in 1864 in Elgin, Illinois as the National Watch Company, and some of the organizers were later to become the some of the biggest names in the American watch industry: J. C. Adams, P. S. Bartlett, D. G. Currier, Otis Hoyt, and Charles H. Mason, with financial backing from former Chicago Mayor Benjamin W. Raymond. The factory for the National watch company was completed in 1866, and the first movement produced was an 18-size B. W. Raymond model which sold in April of 1867 for the astounding price of 5. This identical watch, serial number 101, was sold at auction in New York in 1988 for ,000. In 1874, the company officially changed their name to the Elgin National Watch Company, and that name remained until they stopped producing watches in the 1960's.

The "Working Man's" Watch

The Elgin Watch Company's success was not built on its production of the highest-grade watches, though some of their higher grades were top-quality, exquisitely made timepieces. Their success can be attributed to their huge production of low to mid-grade watches... 7 to 15-jewels. Together with the Waltham Watch Company, they dominated the huge market for mid-grade watches, producing over one-million per year during their peak years of production. Elgin watches remain extremely popular with collectors today because they are plentiful, can be obtained at reasonable prices, and can be relatively easily repaired due to the large number of watches and parts available.

Elgin shipped their first wristwatch in 1910, and later manufactured the first wrist watch to be qualified for railroad service, the grade 730A B. W. Raymond. Throughout their history, the Elgin National Watch Company was known for horological innovations. In 1958, they introduced the "DuraBalance," an ingenious design for a free-sprung balance (no regulator pins) which used spiral balance arms and small weights to govern the moment of inertia of the balance. They also produced the only American-made automatic wristwatch movements: grades 607, 618, 760, and 761. These movements featured bi-directional, full-rotor winding, and had two automatic winding gear ratios, which were automatically engaged as the mainspring tension increased.

The contributions of the Elgin National Watch Company to American Horological industry cannot be overstated. Many Elgin watches that were made over 100 years ago are still providing reliable and accurate daily service to their proud owners.

Swiss Elgin Watches

During the last few years that Elgin was in business (late 50's through mid-60's), they began to reduce their US production and began importing Swiss watch movements which were finished and labeled as Elgin watches. Much of this assembly work was done at a new Elgin plant in Elgin, South Carolina.

For more information on Swiss Elgin watches, including a listing of Swiss Elgin grades and their equivalent Swiss movement calibres, please view our .

Noon at the Elgin watch factory.

Noon at the Elgin watch factory

Elgin Watch Cases: Illinois Watch Case Company

The Illinois Watch Case Company of Elgin, Illinois should not be confused with the Elgin Watch Company. The Illinois Watch Case Company (I.W.C.Co) was a major manufacture in the city of Elgin, Illinois. It manufactured watch cases under many brands, such as "Elgin Giant," "Elgin Pride," "Tivoli," "Spartan," and "Elgin Commander." The use of the name "Elgin" in their brand names, or marking the cases with "Elgin USA" has often led people to believe that a watch was made by the Elgin National Watch Company when it was actually made by another manufacturer, or to think that a watch no longer has its original case because it is "now in an Elgin case." Keep in mind that watch movements and watch cases were usually made by different manufacturers. Elgin watches are entirely different than Illinois "Elgin" cases.

Modern Battery-Powered "Elgin" Watches

The Elgin National Watch Company went out of business in 1964. They never made any battery-powered, quartz watches. If you have a recently-purchased, modern Elgin watch, please see our for more information.


Elgin National Watch Company

Total Production: Approx. 55 Million Watches

Year S/N 1867 9000 1868 25,001 1869 40,001 1870 50,001 1871 185,001 1872 201,001 1873 325,001 1874 400,001 1875 430,000 1876 480,000 1877 520,000 1878 570,000 1879 625,001 1880 750,000 1881 900,000 1882 1,000,000 1883 1,250,000 1884 1,500,000 1885 1,855,001 1886 2,000,000 1887 2,500,000 1888 3,000,000 1889 3,500,000 1890 4,000,000 1891 4,449,001 1892 4,600,000 1893 5,000,000 1894 5,500,000 1895 6,000,000 1896 6,500,000 Year S/N 1897 7,000,000 1898 7,494,001 1899 8,000,000 1900 9,000,000 1901 9,300,000 1902 9,600,000 1903 10,000,000 1904 11,000,000 1905 12,000,000 1906 12,500,000 1907 13,000,000 1908 13,500,000 1909 14,000,000 1910 15,000,000 1911 16,000,000 1912 17,000,000 1913 17,339,001 1914 18,000,000 1915 18,587,001 1916 19,000,000 1917 20,031,001 1918 21,000,000 1919 22,000,000 1920 23,000,000 1921 24,321,001 1922 25,100,000 1923 26,050,000 1924 27,000,000 1925 28,421,001 1926 29,100,000 Year S/N 1927 30,050,000 1928 31,599,100 1929 32,000,000 1930 32,599,001 1931 33,000,000 1932 33,700,000 1933 34,558,001 1934 35,000,000 1935 35,650,000 1936 36,200,000 1937 36,978,001 1938 37,900,000 1939 38,200,000 1940 39,100,000 1941 40,200,000 1942 41,100,000 1943 42,200,000 1944 42,600,000 1945 43,200,000 1946 44,000,000 1947 45,000,000 1948 46,000,000 1949 47,000,000 1950 48,000,000 1951 50,000,000 1952 52,000,000 1953 53,500,000 1954 54,000,000 1955 54,500,000 1956 55,000,000


Be sure to use the serial number on the movement (the works) of the watch. Do not use the serial number from the watch case.

Can’t find your serial number in the table? for an explanation and example of how to use our serial number tables.

Need help finding the serial number on your watch? for instructions on how to identify and open most common case types.

In the 1930s, Elgin began using a single-letter prefix to replace the "millions" digits on their serial numbers. So if your Elgin watch has a serial number starting with a letter, you must determine the millions digits from the table below in order to determine the full serial number.

Letter Millions Digits X 38 or 39 C, E, T or Y 42 L 43 U 44 J 45 V 46 H 47 N 48 F 49 S 50 R 51 P 52 K 53 I 54

At Renaissance Watch Repair, we are experts in the repair and restoration of vintage watches made by the Elgin National Watch Company. Please contact us if you have any questions about the repair of your Elgin watch.

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