Pocket Watch Repairs and Info

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I would like to dedicate this page to my dad, Joe Sirianni, for teaching me the fine art of repairing these beautiful watches. My dad was a watchmaker for over 50 years. He was the railroad watch inspector in our area. All the workers on the railroad needed their watches cleaned and timed on a yearly basis. Dad would overhaul these watches and inspect them so they would be up to the railroad’s standards. I was very fortunate to be able to work with my father for over 20 years.

Here are the photos of the watches:


History of Railroad Pocket Watches

The use of watches on American railroads goes back almost to the beginning. As soon as there were two trains moving in opposite directions on a single-track line, there arose a need to control their movements. Very early on, those movements were described in terms of scheduled times and by how far off of scheduled time a train was. On the Eire Railroad, a “time interval system” was used into the 1850’s.

As railroads grew bigger and busier, the hour interval fell by the wayside, but the concept continued with shorter headways. It should be obvious that suitable watches would be needed to apply rules similar to this. Accordingly, there is documentation that as early as 1850, the Boston and Providence Railroad ordered 45 English watches, from Bond & Son, Boston, for use in just such circumstances. The Pennsylvania Rail Road also purchased watches and published this rule.

Some of the earliest American machine-made watches went right into railroad service. The American Watch Co. furnished some model 1857 Appleton, Tracy & Co. watches to the P.R.R. in 1866 and the Elgin B.W. Raymond, built in 1867, also saw service on the Pennsylvania Rail Road. Both of these had dials signed for the railroad. Of course the Pennsy wasn’t the only customer for these watches and a large number probably only rode the rails when their owners took a trip somewhere. Nevertheless, these two were typical of watches used in railroad time service on those roads specifying watches of a certain minimum quality.

The Path to Codified Standards

It is widely believed that Webb C. Ball was instrumental in bringing about a unification of time inspection standards, which included watch requirements, in the early 1890’s. However significant his contribution might have been, there was definition of standard time and regulated watch inspection as much as forty years prior to Ball’s involvement in the 1890’s. The American Railway Association held a meeting in 1887 which resulted in defining the form of watch certificate. This form was accepted by the majority of railroads with only minor changes and remained in use for a century. The same meeting did a lot to bring uniformity to the various rules in use on the different roads. Just the same, Ball was well respected and his time service grew to control the inspection on half of the U.S.’s railroads.

Over several decades, leading into the 1890’s, the standard watch continued as an 18-size, 15-jewel watch, adjusted to positions. Very few manufacturers specified just how many positions the watches were adjusted to, but three was typical. Occasionally, a watch would be specified as adjusted to all positions, but there seems to be some disagreement as whether that meant five or six positions.

In 1891, Dueber-Hampden introduced and heavily promoted a new line of 18-size, 17-jewel, standard watches and in doing so, created a demand that upset the entire marketplace. Illinois introduced its 16-jewel Bunn as the highest grade in its line in late 1891. At almost the same time, Columbus brought out its new high grade Railway King models, starting with a 16-jewel movement.

Within a few short years, the 15-jewel standard watch, still accepted for entering service on many railroads, was an economic disaster. In 1894, Waltham, just after introducing the 17-jewel Vanguard Model ’92, was forced to add upper and lower center jewels to the 15-jewel model `83’s remaining in inventory, and engrave them to be 17-jewel watches in order to dispose of them. It was toward the later half of this decade that higher jeweled watches, those having 21 jewels or more, were introduced. It was also during this time that the majority of the more interesting and private label watches were built.

The 20th Century

By the first decade of the new century, 17-jewel watches were beginning to fade and 21-jewel (and higher) watches became firmly entrenched. Although 18-size watches were the industry workhorse during this period, new model 16-size watches began to appear in significant quantities. Hamilton’s 992 was the most successful of these with over 100,000 sold in just a few short years. An increasing variety of other 16-size standard watches were produced. During the early years of the twentieth century, despite Ball’s rules for the Cleveland & Pittsburg(h) Division of the P.R.R. (see Figure 6), the move towards tighter requirements occurred. By 1908 the widely known and familiar requirements were almost universally in place.

Standard Requirements

  • American made 18 or 16 size
  • 17 or more jewels
  • Temperature compensated
  • Adjusted to 5 positions
  • Lever Set
  • Timed to +/- 30 sec/week
  • Fitted with a:
    • Double roller
    • Patented regulator
    • Steel escape wheel
    • Plain while dial
      • Black Arabic numerals
      • Each minute delineated
    • Open face
  • Winding stem at 12 O’clock

By the 1920’s, the 18-size watch was falling out of favor, with fewer being made every year. During the 1930’s 18-size were no longer permitted to enter service, and on some roads, were not permitted to remain in service. 17-jewel watches also fell by the wayside, no longer being permitted on some roads. In both instances, these watches were no longer being made and so the rules were following popular tastes. It’s significant to note that 17-jewel, 18-size watches, adjusted to three positions, continued to be grand fathered on some railroads as long as they met the 30 second per week requirement.

The post-war watches reduced down pretty quickly to the Waltham grade 1623 Vanguard, the Hamilton 992B (and Ball 999B) and the Elgin grade 571 B.W. Raymond. There were a few others, but hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of these three watches were built in the post war era.

Hamilton outlasted both Elgin and Waltham by a number of years. In doing so, it managed to produce the last railroad standard pocket watch to be made in the U.S., the 992B. This watch was in continuous production from 1941 to 1969. At that time, all Hamilton manufacturing in the U.S. ceased. At over 500,000 made, the 992B had the second largest production quantity of U.S.-built standard pocket watches, exceeded only by the original 992.

Great American Railroad Pocket Watch

The Watch of Railroad Accuracy

Hamilton Watch Company, Grade 992B

After 10 years of extensive research, beginning in 1931, Hamilton watch company introduced a new railroad grade pocket watch, the 992B to their wholesalers on Nov. 5th, 1940. The new 992B movement first came into product, in June 27, 1940. The movement was described as being completely new from the winding arbor to the balance wheel and its parts not interchangeable with those of previous 992?s. The serial numbers for the new grade started with C001.

The new 992B is a 16 size, lever set movement with 21 friction set ruby and sapphire jewels. All the upper settings are gold. The center wheel is round arm, gold third and fourth wheels are round arm, gilt. The escape wheel is steel. It is adjusted to temperature and 6 positions.

The newly designed Elinvar-Exra hairspring was introduced for the first time in the 992B. The new hairspring is white in color and improved over the previous blue elinvar hairspring employed in the 992E.

The new movement was introduced in a new 10k natural gold filled case known as the No. 11, a product of the Keystone Watch Case Company. New enamel dials with the words Railway Special placed in an arc above the word Hamilton, were also introduced with the new movement. Railway Special, was registered as a trademark, Dec. 24, 1939.

The initial shipment of the new Railway Special, 992B watch in the new No. 11 case left the factory in Nov. 1940. This shipment consisted of about 940 watches fitted with the BM Num. (Blind Mans) and HG (Heavy Gothic) dials. These watches were placed in the new factory sealed container ? cigarette box package Ivory Plastic box with velvet liners.

Over the course of the next 30 years, an officially ending in 1969, the 992b was fitted , advertised and sold in ten different factory cases. According to Hamilton records at lease four other cases were used with the 992B at various times, due to die breakages or various other reasons.

The ten factory cases associated with the new 992B movement are listed below with descriptions in the order they were advertised in Hamilton catalogs.

Keystone Watch Case Co. No. 11

As mentioned briefly in the introduction, the Keystone No. 11 was used to introduce the new 992B movement to the marketplace. Constructed of 10k natural gold-filled, the new case was introduced Nov. 5, 1940, in the initial shipment of 992B?s. The only change to the appearance of the No. 11 occurred when the area on the frame near the pendant was modified. The ?shoulders? as referred to by most knowledgeable collectors were removed. This change was made at approximately case serial number K220000. The No. 11, continued in production for eleven years, ending in 1951. it was last advertised in the May 1, 1951 catalog.

Wadsworth Watch Case Co., No. 2

In 1940, when the new 992B was introduced, it was advertised in two other factory cases in addition to the No. 11. Besides the No. 11, it was available in the No. 2 Wadsworth patented case. The No. 2 case was first introduced March 11, 1926, for use with the 922 and later with the 922E and 950 series. In the 1940 catalog, the No. 2 was only available in 10k natural gold-filled, but later at various times, it was also available in 14k solid gold. The No. 2 was last advertised in the Hamilton 1954 catalog and price lists.


Wadsworth Watch Case Co. No 10

The other case advertised with the new 992B movement in the 1940 catalog was the No. 10 Wadsworth patented, bar-over-crown. Introduced on March 31, 1936 the No. 10 had previously been used with the 992E. The No. 10 case was only advertised in 10k natural gold-filled from its inception to the end of production. The No. 10 was last listed in the February 1947 Hamilton price list.

Star Watch Case Co. No. 12

The next new factory case advertised for the 992B was the No. 12. it was introduced February 25, 1947 and made by the Star Watch Case Co. Introduced as an economy priced case, the No. 12 was made of nickel-chrome and priced at $60.50 while the gold-filled No. 10 and 11 had $71.50 price tags. As a special note, the case back is marked ?Defiance? and does not include the ?Hamilton Watch Company? signature. The No. 12 was discontinued in the fall of 1947.

Wadsworth Watch Case Co. No. 3

The Wadsworth Watch Case Co., who had produced the No. 2 and No. 10, also made the next new factory case, the No. 3 for use with the 992B. the Tu-Tone, as it is often known, first appears in the Hamilton 1946 Catalog and Feb. 1, 1947 Price List. The new No. 3 case has the appearance of the No. 2, but differs in that it has a different engraved pattern on the rim of the black and bezel, which is constructed of stainless steel. The case ring or frame is made of 10k natural gold-filled. As a special note, the case back is marked ?base metal? and not stainless steel as one would expect. The new No. 3 case is not to be confused with the earlier No. 3 which was made by Fahys in 1926, and used with the 992 and 950. The No. 3 case was discontinued in 1948.

Keystone Watch Case Co. Model A

The Model A, a product of the Keystone Watch Case Co. was the next factory case advertised for use with the 992B. The Model A was first listed for use with the 992B in the Hamilton, January 19, 1948 price list. Although not advertised in Hamilton catalogues, documented factory boxes and labels indicate the Model A was used as early as 1944-45 with the 992B. The Model A was introduced in 1940-41, as the introduction case for the new grade 950B movement. The only change to the appearance of the Model A occurred when the area on the frame near the pendant was modified. The shoulders as referre to by most knowledgeable collectors were removed. This change was made at approximately case serial number K220000. The Model A was available in 10k natural gold-filled and later at various times in 14k solid gold. Discontinued in 1957, the Model A was used with the 992B for about 13 years.

Keystone Watch Case Co. No. 14

Introduced on October 1, 1949, the No. 14 made by the Keystone Watch Case Co. was the next new factory case advertised for the 992B. The No. 14 was another economy priced case constructed of nickel-chrome and priced at $69.50 while the No. 11 and Model ?A? sold for $90.00. The No. 14 was last listed in the April 1, 1950 catalog.

Star Watch Case Co. No. 15

The No. 15 was the next new factory case introduced for the 992B. A product of Star Watch Case Co., the No. 15 was introduced on June 2, 1950 to the Hamilton wholesalers. The No. 15 was constructed of type 502 non-magnetic 18-8 stainless steel. Advertised first in the September 15, 1950 catalog, the No. 15 was priced at $71.50 while the No. 2, No. 11 and Model ?A? sold for $90.00. Lasting longer than any other 992B caser, the No. 15 was available until the 992B ended production, officially 1969, but documented samples were sold as late as 1971.

Star Watch Case No. 16

The next new case introduced for the 992B was the No. 16. A product of the Star Watch Case Co., the Number 16 was first advertised in the August 1, 1952 Hamilton catalog. Other advertisements as early as March 1952 have also been noted. As another economy-priced case, the No. 16 was priced at $71.50 while the No. 2 and Model ?A? sold for $90.00. Constructed of the rolled-gold-plate, the No. 16 was advertised until the 992B ceased production as previously mentioned.

Keystone Watch Case Co No. 17

Star Watch Case Co. No. 17

The No. 17 was the last of the new factory cases used with the 992B. The No. 17 was initially produced by the Keystone Watch Case Co. About 1956, the Keystone Watch Case Company was sold to the Star Watch Case Co. and production of the No. 17 shifted to the Star Watch Case Co. The No. 17 was first mentioned in the Hamilton January 1956 price list. Constructed of 10k natural gold-filled and later at various times it was available in 14k solid gold. The No. 17 was available until the 992B production ended as previously mentioned.






NAWCC http://ph.nawcc.org/Railroad/Railroad.htm

Ken Rockwell    http://kenrockwell.com/watches/hamilton/992b.htm

Rails west   http://www.railswest.com/time/watches.html