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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have an Elgin pocket watch that I've dated to 1896. It was my great-great-grandfather's watch. It sat in a watch stand in my grandparents home for who knows how long.

It it winds and runs smoothly, but I have yet to fully wind it and check it for accuracy. I wanted to have it cleaned and oiled before I used it, so I contacted a local watch maker.

He told me that since it runs, that means that synthetic oil was used the last time it was cleaned and since it is running that I shouldn't bother with it and just use it with no worries.

Ive vey always likened this to a car. If I pulled an old car out of a barn after it had been sitting for even two years, the first thing I would do is change the oil before attempting to start the engine.

Thoughts?
 

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Ive vey always likened this to a car. If I pulled an old car out of a barn after it had been sitting for even two years, the first thing I would do is change the oil before attempting to start the engine.
Yes. Synthetic or not, oil evaporates, collects dust and generally goes bad after a while. The amount of oil used in a "proper" servicing is very small, and the watch will run fine with no oil whatsoever, other then lowered amplitude and the fact that the pivots will grind themselves off in a year or so.

He told me that since it runs, that means that synthetic oil was used the last time it was cleaned and since it is running that I shouldn't bother with it and just use it with no worries.
He's probably trying to spare you the sticker shock of a $100-$200 service. You can't "just" oil a pocket watch, you have to completely disassemble it, clean everything, then reassemble while applying oil in the correct places. He'll gladly take your money if you insist, but you might want to sound him out first; find out how frequently he services vintage Elgins, where he gets spare parts/mainsprings/etc. If he's a modern trained watchmaker, he might not really "get" it, since a lot of modern watchmaking involves whole-scale parts replacements using factory-ordered parts. You can check with the NAWCC to find competent watchmakers who appreciate vintage.
 

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I've had a jeweler give me this same advice. I was happy to hear it but if you think about it, it's not really good advice. Yes, it might run fine and even keep good time for awhile but if you think about it you'll get it serviced. As said above a proper service will completely disassemble the watch, clean all parts and oil it as it goes back together. It shouldn't be more than $100-$200. A small price for a family keepsake like this.

I do think you should probably find someone else to do the work.
 

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That's basically code for "I don't want to work on your watch". Pocket watches have strong springs, and will often run when completely dry, and even when gunked up. That doesn't mean they should. I'd suggest finding another watchmaker.
 

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You need to sent your watch to service to Al Archer of Archer watches, he is doing a fine job on pocket watches. People also recommend Zaf Basha
 

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I have an Elgin pocket watch that I've dated to 1896. It was my great-great-grandfather's watch. It sat in a watch stand in my grandparents home for who knows how long.

It it winds and runs smoothly, but I have yet to fully wind it and check it for accuracy. I wanted to have it cleaned and oiled before I used it, so I contacted a local watch maker.

He told me that since it runs, that means that synthetic oil was used the last time it was cleaned and since it is running that I shouldn't bother with it and just use it with no worries.

Ive vey always likened this to a car. If I pulled an old car out of a barn after it had been sitting for even two years, the first thing I would do is change the oil before attempting to start the engine.

Thoughts?
Your local watchmaker is absolutly right. Don´t do nothing as long it runs fine. If your not satisfied with the accuracy, let him check the watch. Cleaning can be done in a modern cleaning mashine, it doesn´t has to be completly disabled for that. A € 60.- job ( here in Germany )

Louis

louis
 

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Your local watchmaker is absolutly right. Don´t do nothing as long it runs fine. If your not satisfied with the accuracy, let him check the watch. Cleaning can be done in a modern cleaning mashine, it doesn´t has to be completly disabled for that. A € 60.- job ( here in Germany )
Explain to me what you mean by it doesn't have to be completely disassembled. Also, the question of "runs fine" is highly subjective, especially in a 120 year old pocket watch. Finally, you do have to be careful with "modern cleaning machines" if you're talking ultrasonic; the finish on some of these old watches can be damaged or even destroyed by ultrasonic machines.
 

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Explain to me what you mean by it doesn't have to be completely disassembled. Also, the question of "runs fine" is highly subjective, especially in a 120 year old pocket watch. Finally, you do have to be careful with "modern cleaning machines" if you're talking ultrasonic; the finish on some of these old watches can be damaged or even destroyed by ultrasonic machines.
No way, you only have to remove the balance before cleaning.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks for the all the response. I have no issue spending $100-$200 to ensure this watch is taken care of properly. I also have no issue find a new watch/clock guy. Any recommendations in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area?
 

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Don´t do nothing as long it runs fine.
I assume, therefore, that you also never have your car serviced unless it breaks down completely... But how does your mechanic rebuild a blown engine? Does he have some sort of modern machine that makes it unnecessary to tear it apart and replace all the destroyed pistons and valves?
 

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Any watchmaker who gives you that sort of advice... Don't even waste your time with him. Find someone who actually knows about watches. (Not just someone who apparently spends most of his time just swapping out batteries. [Hell, even I can do that.]) Yeah, you should leave your watch bone dry on the inside so the gears slowly grind against each other. Yup, that's the ticket...
 

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I tend to take a neutral stand on servicing, and think that it's not really necessary for a watch that is only wound occasionally and less than fully. I definitely think it's a good idea, however, for watches that are wound more than occasionally and worn occasionally.

As far as servicing without disassembling the watch, I've cleaned up messes left by this and it's never a good idea.
 
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The only case in which I thought ity made SOME, not a lot of sense to leave a watch alone if its running fine even if the oil is most likely too old is with watches whose parts are redily available and not likely to add much to the expense of a thorough service. I remember a post on the Omega forum a few years ago concerninf rolex and omega recommended routine services. The posters were pretty hotly divided on wether it made sense to service a rolex/or Omega PO e.g. ever 5-7yrs or to just wait until the watch actually started to malfunction or not keep time. The argument for waiting was put forth as (basically): since a rolex service covers just about EVERY part it really doesnt matter if you wait for the watch to slow down or stop since the service charge will be the same as back when the watch was just 5 years out of service.

My opinion? I would take my watchmakers advice which is different for each situation and watch but he generally has me send the watch in. But I would think in a 120yr old watch-the risk of ruining a part might have something to say in favor of having it serviced sooner. But then, I have read about watchmakers, (my own as well) who say if they need a part and don't have one in stock-they just make it themselves.

So-like I said-the advice may not be THAT terrible but I still would want it coming from a watchmaker that I knew and trusted. My 2c, happy new year
 

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I have a vintage Timex that keeps incredibly good time. Based upon where I bought it I doubt it has ever been serviced. Serviced it's worth $25-$30. Pretty much the same it's worth now. Am I going to get it serviced? No, I probably won't but it's a mass produced commodity more than a family heirloom. If it breaks one day I'll probably give it to someone for parts.
 

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I have a vintage Timex that keeps incredibly good time. Based upon where I bought it I doubt it has ever been serviced. Serviced it's worth $25-$30. Pretty much the same it's worth now. Am I going to get it serviced? No, I probably won't but it's a mass produced commodity more than a family heirloom. If it breaks one day I'll probably give it to someone for parts.
Apples to oranges here though. Your timex was designed right from the start to operate "well" without being serviced; it's layout, parts design and tolerances reflect choices designed to emphasize "rugged and durable" over "accurate and servicable". It also benefits from over a hundred years of improvements in manufacturing and metallurgy. The OP's Elgin, on the other hand, was intended as possibly the only watch its owner would ever have, and was expected to keep good time, and outlive it's owner.
 

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The only case in which I thought ity made SOME, not a lot of sense to leave a watch alone if its running fine even if the oil is most likely too old is with watches whose parts are redily available and not likely to add much to the expense of a thorough service. I remember a post on the Omega forum a few years ago concerninf rolex and omega recommended routine services. The posters were pretty hotly divided on wether it made sense to service a rolex/or Omega PO e.g. ever 5-7yrs or to just wait until the watch actually started to malfunction or not keep time. The argument for waiting was put forth as (basically): since a rolex service covers just about EVERY part it really doesnt matter if you wait for the watch to slow down or stop since the service charge will be the same as back when the watch was just 5 years out of service.

My opinion? I would take my watchmakers advice which is different for each situation and watch but he generally has me send the watch in. But I would think in a 120yr old watch-the risk of ruining a part might have something to say in favor of having it serviced sooner. But then, I have read about watchmakers, (my own as well) who say if they need a part and don't have one in stock-they just make it themselves.

So-like I said-the advice may not be THAT terrible but I still would want it coming from a watchmaker that I knew and trusted. My 2c, happy new year
 
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