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I have come across a number of these so-called "Pershing" dial 7j Elgin watches dating from the end of WWI.
But there is some contention as to whether they were official military issue or private purchase. This example answers the question and shows how to spot an issued example.
An identical watch is illustrated in the TM 9-1575 U.S. War Department Technical Manual as an "auxiliary fire control instrument" with the following description:
"16. Watch; wrist, 7-jewel - a. This wrist watch is authorised for issue to all services. It is a small open face timepiece fitted with a wristlet for fastening to the wrist. The 7-jewel Elgin type wrist watch is marked serially OC1-OC31834 on the back of the cover. The watch has hour, minute, and second hands and a secondary dial. It is stem-wound and stem-set and is water and shock resistant to some extent. Hour and minute hands and hour numerals are luminous-coated for night use. b. The watch will run about 30 hours on a winding. The crystal is unbreakable. The wristlet may be of russet leather or olive drab webbing."
The watch in the picture is black, as mine may once have been.
What is particularly interesting, and what separates the issued examples from those purchased privately, is that the porcelain dial did not originally have luminous hour markers. Small pits appear to have been chipped in the dial to hold the luminous compound, an upgrade presumably carried out by an army watchmaker.
There is also a similar 15 or more jewel watch illustrated.
Intriguingly, the Ord. Dept. stamps on the back suggest the watch may have been in service as late as 1940. According to Wesolowski's Military Timepieces, US Army watches made prior to 12 November 1940 were stamped at the time of repair. The code OY designated a 7 - 9 jewel wristwatch.
So here is a WW1 Elgin, probably one of the first wristwatches issued by the US Army. I'd be interested to see pictures of other examples, particularly if there are any with the original black case paint as I am tempted to restore mine.
Nice images of a rare watch, thank you.
As noted, the watch appears to have been marked in accord with WWII regulations. The 1945 manuel also lists a set of codes to be stamped upon pre-1940 watches. Not all that many watches appear to have been so marked and I have not seen many. So far, I have not seen any Swiss U.S. Signal Corps wristwatches with WWII markings. One would think a few of them would have remained in stores for use in WWII, but maybe not.
About the dial: There was one similar WWI vintage Elgin with luminous compound - in chipped holes - at a Michigan militaria show. This watch had no Govt. code markings on the back. I have no way of knowing if the chipped holes were done by a Govt. watchmaker. When it left the factory, the above dial had luminous compound painted upon each white number. This is how Elgin would have suppleid the dial. It would take less skill to chip some holes in the dial and fill in a dot of compound, though rather poor in appearance. Although your Elgin watch may be a product of a Govt. watch shop, I hope the fake makers are not going to start chipping Elgin dials to replicate this look.
The purchase of Elgin watches by the U.S. military in WWI needs further research. There is reason to believe official purchases were made, and your watch is good evidence. My guess is that the Elgin watches were delivered late in 1918 and without any Govt. markings. The contracts are most likely in archives ready to be found -some day. Till then, it's a matter of conjecture, aided by the occasional sample watch such as your own. Unfortunately, I have nothing like it to post for comparison.
Thanks for your comments.
Have you ever seen a "Pershing" dial with luminous paint on the numerals?
I've seen a lot of these watches and I have never come across one with luminous numerals, unlike the white dialled Signal Corps watches you mention.
I did have another identical Elgin without the Ord. Dept. stamp on the back which also had the modified dial.
There's a US Army specification for the seven jewel wristwatch, reproduced in Imai's Military watch Encyclopaedia, dated October 7, 1926. The Elgin clearly fits the description of the black porcelain dial with upright Arabic numbers approx. one tenth of an inch high. However there is no mention of the watch needing to be luminised.
My guess is that they did not originally come with luminous dials but that the specs were updated between then and publication of the Technical Manual I quoted in my original post.
It's likely the "chipping" was done to keep the watch up to the required specs.
It's difficult to get luminous paint to adhere to a porcelain dial and a pit would be much more secure than having it merely sitting on the enamel surface.
The other significant element of this watch is the screw back case. "Pershing" dial 7j Elgins come in a variety of cases but this is the only one that would have met the military spec.
Regarding luminous paint: Now that you mention it, I have not paid sufficient attention to these watches to notice either way. On the other hand, it has original Elgin luminous hands, although they could have been added at a latter time.
These watches would be an excellent subject for a survey. If anyone has more of these watches please post information regarding:
Dial: Luminous numbers or dots or nothing
Hands: Luminous or not
Military markings on the case, if any:
Can you tell the approximate age of the luminous dots the luminous material on the hands? At that point in time it should have been radium mixed with phosphorous which by now should be so burned that they paint should be fairly dark colored, but the paint on this watch looks much more recent. Even WW II paint which is the same radium and phosphorous mix is normally more burned looking than this paint.
I found this one few years ago. The lume dots are almost certain to be radium and have turned yellow/brown while that on the hands dark brown. Case by Illinoise Watch Case Co, nickel, screw-in caseback and bezel. No issue marking. Could still see remnants of the original black paint over the case. Movement is 7J, s/n 21,459,328 from 1918.
Movement and caseback
Thank you Lau Siew Ming.
That's a great looking watch.
|IHC Life Member
Here is one that has a pierced shield case style.
Serial number: 20618726, Elgin Grade 419, 15J, Model 4, 1917 production
Dial: Nothing luminous on the dial
jewel count: 15J
Case type: Fahys, Sterling Silver, 9893217, 3/0 size
Military markings on the case, if any: No markings on case
I merged the pictures with the cage on, crystal on, and with the bezel removed. First time using a photo stitch program.
|IHC Life Member
Movement and inside of case.
|IHC Life Member
Closeup of dial and luminous hands.
|IHC Life Member
I also found three spare dials similar to the one on this watch in my Elgin materials.
Here is one with bold numbers like the one above. Notice the dating "10-18" on the back of the dial.
|IHC Life Member
Here is one with much lighter numbers of the same style.
This one is dated "6-18".
|IHC Life Member
Great thread. I've learned a lot from the earlier postings and from researching this neat WWI Elgin.
If anyone needs a spare dial, please let me know.
I like those early pierced shield cases, John. That watch can come live in my collection anytime
Thanks for the great images.
Regarding dated luminous type dials. Some collectors have suggested that Elgin dated radium dials because the radium glow did not have an indefinite shelf life. But we often find new old stock dials with dates but no radium. Maybe an Elgin collector could provide additional information.
BTW, It has taken me some time, but at last I recognized Simon's name from Broadarrow.net.
Simon has years of experience collecting older military watches and clocks - such as WWI Elgin wrist watches. Though Simon is a competitor for good watches, he is also a good resoure for information.
Two more military Elgins. These are scans found on the net some time ago. One has the black paint finish specified in the technical manual specifications and the other has the same crudely applied luminous paint of the previous examples. Another giveaway of possible military origins is the webbing strap with Signal Corps buckle.
In my opinion, these watches look better with black cases.
I have never seen a webbing strap with a Signal Corps buckle. Although, I have seen a different design webbing strap with a U.S. marked buckle. Do you suppose the above Signal Corps buckle is WWI, or after?
I just got my hands on an old Waltham that is just about identical to the Elgin Pershings that I would like to add to this discussion. I started a new post about it in the military section, should be easy to find. Any information about it would be great! The origins of this one seem to be stumping a lot of folks.
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