How To Identify An Elgin Pocket Watch
I have had a number of questions now asking about Elgin pocket watch identification. I am assuming the main reason for this is there are quite a lot of fake or imitation watches on the market place. Certain individuals then try to sell these off as being the genuine article.
The simplest way to identify an Elgin watch is first to understand that the Elgin production dates were between 1864 and 1964 so anything that is dated outside this range would not have been made or produced by Elgin. For the purposes of easy identification my advice is to ignore the serial number that you will find on the case.
Cases have been changed over the years and at the beginning many people bought the movement and then had a case made to fit it. The only time I ever look at a case is that once I have worked out the year the Elgin watch was made, then I try to see if the case it is in, has dates and age of a similar nature.
The simplest way to identify an Elgin pocket watch is by the serial number on the movement. If you click on the link I have just highlighted called serial number, that will take you to a serial number database for Elgin watches. The number that is on your watch movement should match one in that number range. If it doesn’t then something is most certainly amiss.
If the number has been tampered with in any way I would suggest that you avoid buying it as what other reason would there be to tamper or change a number if it was in fact genuine. I have seen a lot of fake Elgin watches with the name Elgin stamped on the face of the antique or vintage watch, but when you open the actual watch, there is either no serial number at all, or someone has attempted to create one or change one. Either way no collector will touch it with a barge pole and its value will be negligible. Your only hope after that is that there is actual gold, and you would get a very good rate for scrap gold today.
A popular trick with these is to try and make the watch seem older than it really is. The fraudsters tend to try and remove the first digit. The earlier the number the more value the Elgin will have simply because it is older, so watch out for that particular trick as it happens more than you think. Recently this was discovered at an auction I attended and the owners withdrew the watch from sale.
Recognizing The Face of The Watch
All of the Elgin watches that I have ever seen that were genuine do have certain words written on the face of the watch. The earlier watches dated in the late 1800’s all had inscribed on them “Elgin Nat’l Watch Co.” This would also be inscribed on the movement. Almost all of these would have black Roman numerals against a white face.
In some of the later watches the word “ELGIN” in capital letters was on the face of the watch. In some of these the words “ELGIN NAT’L WATCH CO USA” is also inscribed on the top plate.
I have also seen Elgin watches with B.W.Raymond, one of the original founders of the company, inscribed on the top plate and on the back of the case you will find CASED AND TIMED BY ELGIN WATCH COMPANY. These are unusual though and I have only ever seen one of those.
So, in summary, if in doubt about the authenticity of an Elgin watch and you are going to be paying a lot of money for it, then always ask for proof of sale, proof of authenticity and if in doubt, then get it evaluated by an expert. Thankfully most people are very genuine in their endeavours and fraud is not a huge problem in the antique watch world.
If you follow the guide lines above it will at least help you how to identify an Elgin watch and then do your normal buying checks and gather as much information about the watch as you can. If you can find anything like pictures or dockets that can support the authenticity of the watch, then collectors and buyers will be much more interested.