Mistakes Were Made. Factory Errors at American Pocket Watch Factories: Grade 450 Lord Elgin
While uncommon, the production lines at the watch factories in American were not entirely flawless. Occasionally, we find evidence of movements with errors that were still sold to the market.
A few weeks ago, a verification report was submitted on the Pocket Watch Database claiming Elgin movement #21332095 was a 21-Jewel Lord Elgin movement instead of the 15-Jewel Grade 312 returned by the database. In most cases, reports like these are a result of a mistyped serial number, using the case number instead of the movement, or a transcription error in source records.
This particular verification report included the eBay listing number for supporting evidence (always appreciated for substantiation). Sure enough, the movement matched the claim provided in the report. It was indeed a 21-Jewel Lord Elgin with the serial number clearly marked: #21332095. So, now we had a verified discrepancy.
A quick check of the 1927 Elgin Serial Number list confirmed that the database matched the original records – Grade 312. However, this was clearly not a Grade 312.
A visual inspection of the auction listing photos indicated the movement was more consistent with a Grade 450 Lord Elgin. Production charts for the grade show that the second run was blocked for serial numbers 21,232,001-21,233,000, remarkably similar to the serial number found on the movement.
I placed a conservative bid on the movement and won the auction for $20 – a small price to pay to satisfy my curiosity. Once the movement arrived, a quick inspection revealed the serial number under the dial was indeed #21232095, confirming my suspicion that the top plate serial marked #21332095 was a factory error.
The serial stamped under the balance cock is also in agreement.
I suppose this batch of Grade 450 Lord Elgin movements may have been done by a fresh hire late on a Friday afternoon in Elgin, Illinois. Easy mistake to make, and one that was not practical to correct. “Let it go and let the researchers sort it out in a hundred years.”
What an awesome find! It would have definitely sparked my interest to find out more as well. Job well done!
Great story! Thanks!
It is with great earnestness that I express my appreciation for your efforts to build and maintain this wondrous horology site and as it particularly regards the pocketwatch–a fashion which I aim to implement within my own wardrobe. If I may be so bold, and sensing that a horological historian of your apparent calibre would appreciate, may I recommend you peruse the literary offerings of Van Reid, and the particular character of one Stephen Ephraim.
Thanks for the kind words, D.M.!