Elgin Watch Identification Guide

The first Elgin watch (a pocket watch) dates to 1867. The last Elgin movement made in America was produced in 1968. In between, pinning an individual Elgin down to a specific year and model can be a bit of a chore. We are severely handicapped by both the lack of legacy production records and by Elgin’s policy of not giving names to models. Starting around 1932, Elgin used model numbers to identify unique case designs. In the 1950s, the use of model numbers was supplemented by individual model names. (The model numbers remained, however, and are the key to finding replacement parts for Elgins of the period.)

Identification of a watch is a process, typically done as follows:

  1. First, establish that the watch is, in fact an Elgin.
  2. Second, attempt to identify the model by matching the case to known examples (or to identification resources).
  3. If that fails, identify and date the movement to narrow your search and try again to identify the case.

We look at each of these issues, below.


Is it really an Elgin?

Until the late 1960s, all Elgins are marked clearly on the dial with the word “Elgin.” In the late 60s and thereafter, a few models reduced the brand mark to the Elgin “E” logo, but the mark still always appeared on the dial. The only exceptions to this are the related or subsidiary brands, (discussed further on the “About Elgin” page).

The case back can also provide insight into the manufacturer. Prior to the 1960s, the inside of the case back will typically be marked with “Cased and Timed by the Elgin National Watch Co.”

Signed crowns can also be useful. The presence of a signed crown will add another piece to the puzzle, however, they were not used for all, or even the majority, of models.

Special cases:

  • Watches with dials that state “Elgin movement” are not Elgin watches; rather they are watches that have been created by taking Elgin movements and putting them into third party cases.
  • Elgin made a very large number of private label watches, that is, Elgins released under different brand names, typically with difference cases. Your best bet for verifying whether you have a private label Elgin is to search or browse the NAWCC’s Private Label Database.


Identifying a Model

click to enlargeWhen it comes to identifying the model of a particular Elgin, the bottom line is: It’s all about the case — movements don’t determine model, case designs do.  The key to the identification process is to pay attention to details. All watches of a particular model had the same case style (though the material may vary, i.e., yellow gold vs. coral gold). Pay close attention to things like the shape of the lugs, or the lines (or lack thereof) on the case. To a lesser extent, dial features, like the placement of the second hand and the shape of the sub-seconds (if any), are also very useful indicators.

Model numbers were typically stamped inside the case back, as you can see in the picture at left. Model names were not stamped on the watches and our only clues to these is through other collectors, or through visually matching watches with advertisements and (scarce) catalog materials.


Dating, based on Dial Markings

Dial markings can help narrow things down, but they don’t provide much help with model specifics.

  • star first appeared on Elgin dials in August, 1933, and ceased appearing in the late 1940s.
  • The DuraPower logo first appeared in 1946.
  • The Shockmaster logo first appeared in 1951.
  • The DuraBalance logo first appeared in 1958.


Dating, based on Movement Serial Number

Movement serial numbers provide useful insight in the manufacturing date of the movement. This is possible because Elgin watch movements were numbered sequentially. We know the sequence numbers with confidence up to the end of 1955; these numbers are presented below. To establish the manufacture date of your movement, simply obtain the movement number then check it against the table, below.


Limitations of this identification method

  • Elgin stopped including serial numbers on their movements around 1956.
  • While we may be able to establish the date the movement was manufactured, it does not tell us when the watch was assembled. Sometimes movements sat on the shelf for years before being inserted into a case and put into distribution. In other cases, a movement may have been replaced in the intervening years. (There is no way to correlate movements to particular cases.)


Table: Movement serial numbers, by year

1900s 1910s 1920s
9,100,000 1900
9,350,000 1901
9,755,000 1902
10,100,000 1903
11,000,000 1904
12,100,000 1905
12,500,000 1906
13,100,000 1907
13,550,000 1908
14,100,000 1909
15,100,000 1910
16,000,000 1911
17,000,000 1912
17,550,000 1913
18,000,000 1914
19,000,000 1915
20,000,000 1916
21,000,000 1917
22,500,000 1918
23,000,000 1919
24,000,000 1920
25,000,000 1921
26,000,000 1922
27,000,000 1923
28,000,000 1924
29,000,000 1925
30,000,000 1926
31,000,000  1927
32,000,000  1928
33,000,000  1929


1930s 1940s 1950s
33,300,000 1930
33,500,000 1931
33,700,000 1932
34,000,000 1933
35,000,000 1934
35,500,000 1935
36,200,000 1936
37,000,000 1937
37,900,000 1938
38,200,000 1939
39,100,000 1940
40,200,000 1941
41,100,000 1942
42,200,000 1943
42,600,000 1944
43,200,000 1945
44,000,000 1946
45,000,000 1947
46,000,000 1948
47,000,000 1949
48,000,000 1950
50,000,000 1951
52,000,000 1952
53,300,000 1953
54,000,000 1954
54,500,000 1955
55,000,000 1956