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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just paid about $65 for a working Elgin Grade 290 because it had a hands issue that I was quickly able to fix.

This is a 16s hunter movement but in an open-face case, a Wadsworth nickel case to be exact. The dial is a very cool-looking true Montgomery (with the big numeral 6 in the seconds bit). And there arises my question.

Various sources have this serial number in range for 1904 or 1905. I don't want to take the back off uneccesarily because the threads are quite gummy and very hard to get started without crossthreading, but it's in the 11,000,000 ballpark. I think 11,2?

I did not find anywhere I could search for Wadsworth serial numbers specifically but all the similar-looking plain nickel cases on pocketwatchdatabase are in the teens and 20's, and Montgomery dials were allegedly marketed in 1910, acc. the same site.

Is that how long it could take from the manufacture of a movement to its casing and sale? Or is it more likely that this was recased at some point?

At any rate, it's a very cool little watch with very nice, chunky arabic numerals as befits a Montgomery dial, and seems to run acceptably well. The crystal is a modern plastic replacement, probably in the last forty years since it hasn't yellowed a bit--it presses on the (incredibly long) minute hand a little. Someone seems to have messed with the hands to fix this, resulting in the hour hand catching on the post for the second hand. It took some doing but I fixed it, but not before I showed the seller and talked him down from 85 to 65. The crystal is still very cramped and it took some effort not to have the minute hand catch the second hand-- specifically at 12:00 and 1:05, as there is a little unevenness to the case to where the hands have less clearance at the top of the watch.

(The same guy also sold me a 1900's ingraham mantle clock "for parts" at $20, that I can fix up and sell for substantially more--it was just gummed up with old oil!)
 

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Welcome to WTF! A couple of photos would be helpful but it sounds like that watch has been recased at some point in its life and the recasing likely lead to issues with the hands. As far as i know, there is no database for Wadsworth case serial numbers so getting an exact date will be very difficult. In any event, if it works and you like it then you did well for a $65 purchase!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I'll try in a little while to add some photos. My phone camera is broken and my only digital is from like 2008. But thank you for the warm welcome!

You know, it strikes me that this little Frankenstein may have been a conversion job to make it suitable for use in the rail industry... but the grade 290 movement is listed on pocket watch database as not rated for railway use. Perhaps some rail companies weren't picky about the movement, so long as it had the safety dial?

My other thought is that it could be quite modern. I don't know who this antique dealer uses as his watchmaker, but I know he must have one, because he has a lot of 1890's-1940's pocket watches, and the nicer ones, mainly Elgins, are all serviced. It could be that his watchmaker had a spare 16s movement, a spare 16s dial and a spare 16s case with a nice new beveled plastic crystal, and thought, well, it'll be a little odd, but it'll sell. That could explain the low price--the nearest watch in price did not run steadily and the most comparable one, a larger Elgin movement with side seconds, was 145 and had a much bulkier case.

I've seen threads wondering if most sidewinders originated from recasing. I wonder what the truth is, there. Certainly it would take less effort to make a sidewinder than a side seconds watch, since the former can use a conventional hunter dial and the latter requires a special dial with the subdial at 3:00.

EDIT: And no wonder this movement wasn't rated for railroad use. It has only seven jewels, the bare minimum even then! I feel privileged to have this one in running condition... a lot of 7j watches from the 1900's have worn out their bare pivots by now.
 

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Without a doubt the watch has been re-cased. It is a sidewinder and the factories did not sell watches in that fashion.

I would take the back off and clean the threads on the case and write down the serial number of the movement. Also take some pics of the movement.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Without a doubt the watch has been re-cased. It is a sidewinder and the factories did not sell watches in that fashion.
It was my understanding that the factories did not sell cased watches at all, they sold movements to a jeweler who would then purchase cases and either case them immediately, or let the customer choose a case when they purchased the movement. Is it not possible that some sidewinders are just as original as any other combination produced at a jewelers?

And while I'm on the subject, how does one know if a case will fit? I have another 16s movement, a much nicer leverset Illinois, that is much thicker and would not fit in the same case as this Elgin, even if it were otherwise compatible (the Wadsworth case on the Elgin doesn't have a cutout for a leverset, for one thing.)
 

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American made pocket watches came cased both ways depending on the model and who made them. It does not matter who cased the watch the chances of a hunting case movement being put into an open face case does not make sense. Why not order an open face movement to start with and have it put into an open face case. Also, a sidewinder would not have been allowed for use by railroads. The reason for so many sidewinder watches out there is because a lot of the hunting cases were made from gold, and they became valuable and were melted down for their gold content.

A couple of examples would be the Keystone Howard watches. Factory cased.
Also, the 16s Illinois Bunn and Bunn specials that could be ordered with factory cases.
I believe that Elgin also had factory 16s cases for some of their railroad grade watches.
Ball watch company also had some of their watches with factory cases.
American Waltham same thing.
I am not saying that these manufactures made these watch cases, but they were cased by the factory and then sent out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
American made pocket watches came cased both ways depending on the model and who made them. It does not matter who cased the watch the chances of a hunting case movement being put into an open face case does not make sense.
I've seen enough contemporary mentions of them (even in ad copy) to think that people did sometimes buy them deliberately for whatever reason, even originally from the factory. For what it's worth (and bear in mind that, being a country boy a century later, I wear the watch in the watch pocket of my jeans with a wallet chain clipped to my belt, not in a waistcoat with a fob and button-hole stay) I like the ergonomics of a sidewinder. I pull it out by the chain and then grip it between my fingers by the stem cover. Thus I do not have to push the chain out of the way or have it drape across the back of my hand, as with a standard watch. If I were unaccountably back then, in the 1910's, ordering a watch at a jeweler, and I was a high roller with five or ten or twenty dollars to my name, I think I would order a sidewinder with a display back. I do not know how they would look at me but who knows.

But I think all the arguments together do point to this particular casing being a much later piece of butcher work, perhaps done within my lifetime.

It's funny though that you mention Bunn Special... the leverset Illinois I mention above, which I acquired since making the original post, is a Bunn Special in running condition, though its case is unusable. I suppose I could turn quite a profit if I managed to service it, put a fresh dial and hands on it and put it in a gold case. If. I still have no idea how one finds a case that fits a particular thickness of watch.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Also if you have a case with no slot for a lever set then just take a file and make one. Watch makers do it all the time.
Certainly, that would be a lesser concern to me. And honestly a lot of cases do have it, even ones that were sold with a pendant-set movement. I inherited a big non-running Atlas "turnip" 18s watch that's pendant-set (the old spring-loaded kind where you press the crown in to set) and it's cased in a very substantial leverset case, though probably with a modified crown and stem.

A winding stem that fits the square joint on the movement and a case of the proper thickness would be much more my worry.
 

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Certainly, that would be a lesser concern to me. And honestly a lot of cases do have it, even ones that were sold with a pendant-set movement. I inherited a big non-running Atlas "turnip" 18s watch that's pendant-set (the old spring-loaded kind where you press the crown in to set) and it's cased in a very substantial leverset case, though probably with a modified crown and stem.

A winding stem that fits the square joint on the movement and a case of the proper thickness would be much more my worry.
You need to show us some pics of these pocket watches you have!
 
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