National Elgin Watch Company – Elgin Pocket Watch Company

The National Elgin Watch Company no longer exists. It did exist from 1864 to 1964 so almost 100 years of producing top quality pocket watches. This company stopped producing watches in 1964. Therefore any watches produced with an Elgin brand name after this period are not from the original National Elgin watch company.

Their history is a long one and dates right back to the days of the railroads. It is this history that enthrals me and also my love for watches generally along with the whole sense of history. There are many great pocket watch makers including Waltham. I have a personal preference for Elgin watches. I just like their designs and styles and most importantly the quality.

National Elgin Watch Company History

The National Elgin Watch Company was set up in the city of Elgin, Illinois in 1864. The state contributed a 35 acre site and $25,000 to be used for stock and materials. Their total capital at that time was around half a million dollars. In those very early days seven people were tempted away from the Waltham Company to go and start up the new National Elgin watch company.


They went on to be nick named the “seven stars.”  I can imagine that Waltham called them something else. This would have been a serious blow to the Waltham Watch Company to lose seven of its very best watch makers. The friction caused by this must have been high at the time.

In those early days all Elgin watches were made by hand until technology improved and eventually took over. The strategy back then was for the factory to produce the internal workings or mechanisms. They would sell these to wholesalers, who in turn would become distributors to Retail jewelers.

National Elgin Watch Company – First Movement

The first movement was produced in 1867. Two years later the first ladies movement was produced. The first was what is known as a size 18 and the ladies was a size 10 movement. After that key wind movements were produced and six different grades were also manufactured.

With the introduction of new technology the production then became sadly rather standardised. This was due to the mass manufacturing capability of the factory. From then onwards the National Elgin watch company was best known for producing many pocket watches.

During the second World War the National Elgin Watch Company focussed almost extensively on producing military watches. They also produced many other instruments of war. After that they diversified across a much wider product range which included clocks, radios and rings. Many Elgin watches are made with link bands which are then linked together by small pins.

I know some people who have the ability to use substitute parts to replace faulty links or to extend the length of the band. Personally I take this to a recommended jeweller. The small price I have to pay means that I know the repair has been done professionally and properly.

Despite my many years of experience with Elgin watches I am always reluctant to tamper with them.  I don’t mind working on an old watch if it is low in value and I can find the spare parts because I am not impacting on the value if I make a mistake.  Generally though I take it to someone who knows what they are doing.

National Elgin Watch CompanyCollecting Elgin pocket watches is something that is on the increase and is in my opinion a sound investment. Like any investment just be sure that you do all your homework first before spending a single dollar.

In my years of collecting these I have come across around 15-20 fakes and some of them were actually quite good. If you are going to invest your money in anything, then best take the advice of an expert, otherwise it could turn out to be a costly mistake. Read the history of the National Elgin watch company as you quickly learn a lot.

I only collect pocket watches and have nothing more than a passing interest in wrist watches. If you are interested in pocket watches then you can start your collection with little expense. Many genuine Elgin pocket watches sell from as little as $10 but can go all the way up to many hundreds of dollars.

That means there is a good starting price point for most people depending on how much you choose to speculate. The good point about this is that if you like old watches and are considering collecting them, then quite easily they can become a very good investment. I have always found the history of the National Elgin Watch Company fascinating and as an avid collector I continue to enjoy their beauty, history and value today.

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23 thoughts on “National Elgin Watch Company – Elgin Pocket Watch Company

  1. Recently I was given a elgin pocket watch. Seven jewels, serial number 17582116, and was wondering approximately what the value might be. I appreciate your time. Thank you. Sandy

    • Thanks for the question Sandy. Honestly without actually seeing the Elgin Pocket Watch it is almost impossible to even attempt a value. The best way is either to take this to an auction room or to a respected jeweller and get a real evaluation. Do you have the certificate?

  2. I have an old elgin pocket watch, 17 jewels serial number 28473794 and was wondering its worth, email me and i will send you some pictures thx a lot

  3. I have a lovely Elgin pocketwatch that was my father’s although he said it was actually a ladies’ watch. It has a beautiful, delicate looking face (hunter style case). Serial # 16475071. He was under the impression that it is rose gold (or gold filled). Did Elgin ever make pocketwatches using rose gold?

    The case has a fine fern leaf design adorning it front and back.

    Can you tell me anything more about it?

    • Hi Vicki

      Sounds like a 1911 pocket watch and yes Elgin used rose gold often referred to as pink gold. They were mostly but not exclusively made for ladies but there were some men’s watches made from rose gold as well.

  4. I have my deceased father’s Elgin Gold Pocket watch with a serial number on the movement that reads H315054. Could you please let me know how old it is. I cannot seem to find this serial number on this website. Thanks, CK Blanc

    • Hi Chris,

      After the 1930s Elgin were producing many watches so by using numbers on their own they would simply have ended up with very long serial numbers and could not have got these on to their watch movements. They introduced a lettering system which you can read about on my Elgin pocket watch value post. The letter “H” in your case refers to the number 47 so the full serial number is 47,315,054 so that would mean your watch was made in 1949. Hope that helps.

  5. Have my grandfathers watch,serial# 15123168,19 jewels,B.W. Raymond,case # 2192914,gold case and crescent 25 years on inside of case and also C.W.C. Co.engraved inside of back cover.He was an employee of Southern Pacific Railroad in San Francisco.Any info would be appreciated.Kurt

    • Hopefully someone will be able to help you with this one Kurt. It does sound like this has a specific meaning though. CWC most likely stands for the Crescent Watch Case company. They typically had a star and moon mark on the case if that helps. Is there a patent date or any type of date on the case?

  6. It does have the star and moon.Can’t find a pataent date though.Did find inside the case hand scribed VERY small L3554 and below the moon and star engraved upside down extremely small 38L(or 6)013794.

  7. elgin plain (no cover just simple pocket watch) 1903 (per serial number 10981420) 18 jewels, gold belonged to owner of crockett tx railroad in early 1900’s pocket railroad watch with his initials on the back. what is something like that worth pls. thanks

  8. How do you discern the jewel count, and quality of an Elgin pocket watch? I have two watches, one with serial #22359100 and another with serial # 2501720. I also need to know what number sizes these watches are supposed to be. Thank you.

    Martin Klier

    • I have a Elgin Nat’l Watch Co. This place you wind this watch is at the 3:00 position, not 12:00 position. The serial no. is 3541203. Could you tell me what year it was made? Also, the case looks like a rose gold. Anything you can tell me would be appreciated.
      Thank you.

  9. Hello , I have an Elgin Pocket Watch case # 6149332 . I think it was made in 1896 from what i could dig up but what is a ball park value for it ? Its in Good condition and functions when i wind it . It says 14K on the inside above SN.

  10. Hello I was given my Great Grandfathers Pocket Watch. It is a solid gold case, I found out the year it was made- 1894. It’s an Elgin Natl. Watch Co pocket watch. Serial # 5514289
    I am trying to find out an estimated value of it?

  11. Hi, I have a Elgin Nat’l Watch (pocket watch) serial #6796784 production year 1897; 16 jewels & was wondering about the cost. I do believe its a ladies pocket watch w/ the initals a.b. on the front still in good working condition w/ case.

  12. Hi, my dad has an Elgin pocket watch that belonged to his great great uncle who fought in the civil war. The serial number is 7029772. The watch still works and there are no cracks. The case is also in very good condition, the striped pattern on the back is not at all worn. Can you give me any ball park estimate of it’s value. It is 15 jewels.

  13. I have a ELGIN pocket watch serial number 16565258 in the back under the serial number it says ELGIN USA 15 Jewels on the cover for that it has Fahys montauk guaranteed 20 years 8353856 the one that covers that has Fahys and what looks like two snakes wrapped around a poll of some sort with what looks like wings on top of the pole. Please any info would be greatly appreciated

  14. I have a 1906 Elgin pocket Watch Serial Number 12881679. It doesn’t work and has chipped dial, is it worth getting it repaired as I really like the watch.

  15. We have an Elgin pocket watch serial #14569151, 17 Jewels. We were able to figure out that it was made in 1909 but cannot figure out the value.

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