Elgin watches are pocket and wrist watches manufactured by the American Elgin National Watch Company. They produced a wide range of watches from 1864 to 1964, and were one of the largest watch manufacturers in the United States.
The company was founded in the city of Elgin, Illinois in 1864 as the National Watch Company. In 1874 the company changed its name to the American Elgin National Watch Company as their products were commonly referred to as 'watches from Elgin'.
The company was built on the idea of mass-producing watches on a large scale, with interchangeable macine-made parts. This would allow watches to be repaired far more cheaply and easily, and make their products more affordable to a mass market.
In 1910 the company built the Elgin National Watch Company Observatory for the purpose of scientifically studying time. The observatory gave them results that were scientifically accurate to a tenth of a second, and allowed them to produce more accurate watches. Around this time the company also produced its first wristwatch, years ahead of most American manufacturers.
In the company's hundred year history it produced approximately 60 million watches, and dominated the middle market along with the Waltham Watch Company. It finally ceased production in 1964.
Elgin watches are commonly collected due to their elegant styling and ease of repair. The company produced millions of watches with interchangeable parts, meaning it can be quite easy to find replacement parts for their models to this day.
They can also be easily identified in most cases, due to the serial numbers on the watch movement (not the watch case itself). Databases of these serial numbers are widely accessible, and the wide variation of models produced through the company's history, from railroad watches to innovative wristwatches, makes them a popular choice for many collectors.
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