Good morning from the big city!

I’m taking a break in Minneapolis, with just two missions: dropping off an old pocket watch for repair, and meeting some entomologists.

Caliber Works Watch Repair was an interesting outfit. They only have limited hours, and seem to be stacked up with lots of work. There was a line to get in yesterday morning! Most of them seemed to be there to get new watch batteries or a new band, but I dropped this bigger project on them: a badly abused Elgin pocket watch that I wanted completely patched up. Their prices were reasonable, but unfortunately they estimated that it was going to be 18 months before they could get it fixed. Fine, I’m in no hurry. They did open up my watch, making it look easy, and I could get a quick photo of the works and get the serial number for the mechanism.

Yeah, it’s.a poor photo. The serial number is 5770454, which meant I could look it up in a database. Made in 1895, I guess. Not particularly rare or valuable, but I didn’t expect much — it’s value is all sentimental to me. Anyway, I look forward to getting it back ’round about Christmas 2025, when it will be 130 years old and still ticking.

Later this afternoon I’ll pop by Bug Club, and then drive back home.


  1. Doc Bill says

    My old eyes and feeble fingers are no asset to this hobby, but YouTube has a lot of videos on pocket watch repair. I must say, it would have been a cool hobby just collecting all the specialized tools. I am definitely a Tim the Tool Man Taylor, Binford 3000 kind of guy and the prospect of having a bunch of watch repair tools appeals to me! With the right gear and experience, one could disassemble, refurbish and reassemble a watch like that in a few hours.

    Ooooh, mainspring loading tool … be still my heart!

  2. muttpupdad says

    I started to wear a pocket watch back in the Sixties when I was teen working lumber. We were warned not to wear any rings or watches that might get caught in the machinery. I have since gotten quite a collection for different functions from formal to casual. People are surprised that they are still around but not everyone likes have a tracking device on their person.

  3. Larry says

    Watches are loaded with too many “jesus” parts, like screws and springs and capacitors. What’s a jesus part, you ask? Its a part that, when you drop it onto your floor, only he will know where it went. Unless you’ve got steady hands and good eyesight, watch repair is best left to the pros.

  4. dorght says

    I had a pocket watch restored a few years ago. The repair cost exceeded its value, but it is sentimental. Father gave it to me, he inherited from his father, who inherited from his brother, who probably purchased it in 1923. I gave it to my daughter for a while, she returned it when the main spring axle broke. Didn’t want it back after it was repaired. Someday.
    When the back is off a lot of the movement is visible so I display it like that in a dome.

  5. nomdeplume says

    Ah yes, PZ, I have a Waltham pocket watch made in 1893 in Birmingham England (under licence from the American company). It was given to my grandfather (who proudly scratched his initials inside the watch case) by his father, and then to me on my grandfather’s death (aged just 62) in 1952. Worth very little in money (they were mass produced) but infinitely valuable in memory and emotion.

  6. Larry says

    In 2004, Antiques Roadshow had a gentlemen on who brought in a pocket watch given to a grandfather in 1914 as a retirement gift. It had the original box, all the paperwork, and a few spare parts. Turns out it was the most complicated one-off watch ever produced by the Patek Phillippe company. The appraiser estimated its value north of $250,000. Two years later, the owner sold it at auction for $1.5M.
    Sentimental value takes you only so far.

  7. Walter Solomon says

    Wouldn’t 18 months from now be around Thanksgiving ’25 rather than Christmas?

  8. kayf says

    I attempted to get one of my grandfather’s watches serviced a while back. They told me, flat out, there’s only a few people who will do that type of repair, and it’s very expensive. Having seen a few episodes of wristwatch revival, I can see why.

  9. birgerjohansson says

    One of the William Gibson novels had a ninja with access to nanotech that un-rusted old wristwatches and restored them to their original state. Sounds useful if you like analog tech – in the novel it was merely a curiosity.

  10. birgerjohansson says

    When you get back home, you can follow the example of people in Teheran, and celebrate!
    “Iran’s supreme leader has announced a five-day mourning period, but there have been fireworks and cheering in the country since the death [of the president] was confirmed”

  11. says

    I have an Elgin watch in a heavy gold case that looks a lot like the one pictured. It was given to my grandfather by his parents in 1895. It doesn’t work but it is a family heirloom so it sits in a little glass bell display stand. I would perhaps pay to have it repaired but not spend the time waiting for it to return.

  12. says

    unfortunately they estimated that it was going to be 18 months before they could get it fixed.

    Trained watchmakers are not exactly an abundant resource these days, I guess.

    And since parts are likely worn, new ones might have to be made. Unless there is “new old stock” of parts for a 100+ year old watch movement.

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