Approximate date the movement of a watch is produced. Factory records differ
from year-to-year and factory-to-factory. Some records are more complete than
others. For this reason, many factory production dates are approximate.
System developed and agreed-upon by American watch manufacturers to
determine the diameter of a watch movement. The larger the number, the larger
the diameter of the movement. The numbers used for American watch movement
sizing have no correlation to the actual measurement of the piece.
Only jewels have a surface hard and perfect enough to allow metal parts to turn
unceasingly year after year with a minimum of wear and friction. Jewels also hold
the microscopic droplets of oil that lubricate each tiny pivot point. Raw jewels
alone cost little; it’s their incredibly precise finish and their perfect positioning in
the watch that give them value and make your watch run so dependably. While
a certain number of jewels are necessary at vital points, an increase beyond this
number does not always mean an increase in watch quality.
The grade of a movement is the identification of the level of quality to which it is
finished, generally reflecting the amount of labor that went into them. There is
some relationship to the cost of materials, but the greater cost was the labor to
finish and adjust the parts to the precision necessary for good timekeeping and,
to a lesser extent, the pleasing appearance of the movement. For cases, the
value of the material was a much greater proportion, with some extra labor going
into engraved designs.
Grading can be increased/decreased by adding jewels, damascening or adding
levels of adjustment.
Much like the model of a car, the model of a watch movement indicates the style
of the piece and the level of labor and jeweling that went into the movement.
Model names and numbers are used to determine railroad eligibility use and level
of construction. Models names can be words or numbers.
An internal notation used by a watch factory to note the level of production and
type of a watch movement. This category can be used to note subtle differences
between models and grades.
Because special tooling and manufacturing techniques are required for
each model and grade of movement, mechanisms are produced in groups called “runs.” A run can consist of a hundred or less up to tens of thousands per group. The total run quantity of a model or grade is the complete number assembled before the factory ceased production of that model.
The movement configuration of a watch identifies whether it was manufactured
to go in a hunting case – a watch case with a cover that opens when the crown
is pushed; or, whether it is designed for use in an open-face case, which has no
The setting of a watch movement notes how the hands of the watch are moved
to align with the correct time. Early watches hands were “set” by using a key to
turn them; later, watches were set by pulling out the crown; turning it until the
hands gestured to the proper time, then pushing in the crown. For railroad use, a
watch should be “lever set”: A hidden lever located in a small slot near the edge
of the dial must be pulled out before the hands can be adjusted. This safeguard
was developed to protect watches from having their hands jostled out of time
The movement finish of a watch traditionally refers to its appearance: color,
metal or decoration. A “gilt” finish is, in effect, gold-plated. A “nickel” finish means
the solid nickel plates of the watch are polished. A “nickel damascened” finish
means the nickel plates are brushed or decorated by hand or machine, thereby
increasing the grade and value of the movement.
A watch movement is constructed so that wheels are held between “bridges”
or “plates.” Some movements are full-plate, meaning they are two plates of
metal with gears between them. Other movements may be “three quarter” plate,
meaning there plates sandwiching the gears have an open space or gap in them.
A “bridge” movement is a mechanism with thin fingers or “bridges” holding one
end of the pivot, exposing most of the internal workings of the movement to be
The barrel of a movement is the area containing its mainspring.plain barrel: i.e.
without teeth, used in fusee watches and clocks. A chain, or cord, was wound
around the plain barrel, connecting it to the fusee.
Going barrel is the form used in modern watches, is wound by turning the arbor
and drives the watch movement by a ring of teeth around the barrel. This enables
the mainspring to continue running the watch while it is being wound. Invented by
A “hanging barrel” is a version of the going barrel that is supported by the
movement only at its upper end – a space-saving design.
A “motor” or “safety barrel” is used in pocket watches around 1900, a reverse
variant of the going barrel in which the spring is wound by turning the barrel, and
turns the watch movement by the central arbor. The purpose of this arrangement
was that if the spring breaks, destructive recoil forces would not be applied to the
vulnerable gear train.
An “adjusted” movement is one that is finished or specially “tuned” at the factory
for certain applications. There are eight possible adjustments:
• Dial up
• Dial down
• Pendant up
• Pendant down
• Pendant left
• Pendant right
• Temperature (from 34–100 degrees Fahrenheit)
• Isochronism (the ability of the watch to keep time, regardless of the
mainspring’s level of tension).
Positional adjustments are attained by careful poising (ensuring even weight
distribution) of the balance-hairspring system as well as careful control of the
shape and polish on the balance pivots. All of this achieves an equalization of
the effect of gravity on the watch in various positions. Positional adjustments
are achieved through careful adjustment of each of these factors, provided by
repeated trials on a timing machine. Thus, adjusting a watch to position requires
many hours of labor, increasing the cost of the watch. Standard grade watches
were commonly adjusted to 3 positions (dial up, dial down, pendant up) while
higher grade watches were commonly adjusted to 5 positions (dial up, dial down,
stem up, stem left, stem right) or even all 6 positions. Railroad watches were
required, after 1908, to be adjusted to 5 positions. 3 positions were the general
requirement before that time.
Movements can be specially marked or engraved when produced for specific
customers or purposes. When they are “marked for” railroad service or a specific
railway, it can be noted in factory records. Also, when a clerk wished to note
something unusual about a run of movements, they might make notes here.