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In the junk box were two, 1918 vintage, 7 jewel, 3/0 Elgins with old oil and grease hardening up the movements. Both watches have the names of WWI U.S.Army servicemen on the backs of the silver cases. Such watches are worth the effort to restore,esp. since I enjoy collecting military relics. Since I was going to fix one I thought I might as well get them both done:
According to the engraving on the back, the above Elgin, with a broken lug, belonged to Lt. Whitford, U.S.ARMY. A new lug was cut out, the old one drilled out and the new lug silver soldered back into place. [the lathe is an 8mm Lienen "Reform" model]
(Center is the Lt. Whitford watch, right is Liljeberg's watch. To the left is a round Elgin of the same era but w/o a name engraved upon it)
Both watches were taken apart in turn and cleaned in a “sweepsonic” ultrasonic. Then, new-old-stock mainsprings were located in the Elgin parts cabinet. The grease on the NOS springs had to be cleaned off and new oil applied. New springs are often a good idea for proper time keeping.
Lt. Whitford‘s watch needed a new staff and an upper jewel, which was available from S. LaRose, Inc. While those parts were on order the other watch was finished and timed.
The last work necessary was to install NOS glass crystals in place of the old yellow plastic. These watches appear to have seen considerable use and had been regularly cleaned long ago, before being abandoned They both work now, but if only I could find out more about the men who originally used them in "The Great War".
(the silver dialed watch is the one marked Liljeberg - I think the strap is WWII vintage)
The finished watches are displayed above with other artifacts, including a vintage 1918 .45 Colt M1911; U.S. Army issue. The WWI Victory medal and other medals belonged to Monte, a combat wounded veteran of several battles. His reunion button has his unit on it, the 32nd. Back in the 1930's Monte also received the Purple Heart -retroactive to his service in WWI. I never met Monte, but when his group of medals was about to be broken up by an antique dealer, I bought the lot to keep them together.
In use, the old Elgins keep time and are comfortable. I have to watch out for that one with the silver dial... my teenager said it was cool!
Just wonderful Greg, your restoration project is "timely" today for a variety of reasons. You've shown what this category is about and I'm sure others will follow you.
I'm sure there is a way to trace Armed Forces Members and their Military Careers. Perhaps one of our members or visitors can fill us in on the procedure. Having "Chicago" on the one could enable you to start the search there in City Directories from that time period.
That's a great story well described in simple terms, and a really nice display of artifacts from your military collection. I'm pleased you were able to keep the collection of medals together.
Keep the Restoration Stories coming!
I too am interested in such things.My father was in the R.C.N.R. Canadian navy, ww2.His wrist watch was made by the company active service.I have seen only one other watch by the same maker.
My brother has my father,s watch which still works well.
I would like to buy one like it but do not know of any.
Has any one else seen these watches ?
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Very nice to see these early Elgin 3/0's placed back in to running condition, especially those worn by servicemen during WW1. I have restored about three of four of these and it is always a pleasure to work on them.
This is a Johnny-come-lately response, but you may be able to use this web site as a starting point for your searching: http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/reference/records.htm
- Mark Lee
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