How to Open Elgin Pocket Watches

Elgin pocket watches are not just timepieces, but they are a symbol of quality craftsmanship and style. These watches were produced by the Elgin National Watch Company, which was one of the most successful American watch manufacturers in history. The company was established in 1864 and produced some of the finest pocket watches ever made until its closure in 1968.

A Brief History of Elgin Pocket Watches

The first Elgin pocket watch was made in 1867, and since then, they have been known for their accuracy, reliability, and durability. These watches were not only popular among the working class but also enjoyed by the wealthy and elite. In fact, during World War I, Elgin pocket watches were used as military watches because of their precision timing.

Elgin National Watch Company produced thousands of pocket watch models over its lifetime. Some popular ones include “Father Time,” “B.W Raymond,” and “Veritas.” Each watch model has unique features such as gold or silver cases with intricate designs or enamel dials with Roman or Arabic numerals.

The Importance of Knowing How to Open an Elgin Pocket Watch

When it comes to opening an Elgin pocket watch, proper handling is crucial due to their delicate nature. They require gentle handling with specialized tools like small screwdrivers and soft cloths to avoid damaging them while opening them. If you’re an avid collector or have recently acquired an antique Elgin pocket watch that needs repair or simply requires winding up daily, it’s essential to know how to open it properly without causing any harm.

A correctly opened watch can help you clean its internal parts like gears and springs easily. Understanding the rich history behind Elgin pocket watches and the importance of handling them properly will not only help you appreciate their beauty but also ensure that they remain functional for years to come.

Tools Needed

Before attempting to open an Elgin pocket watch, it is important to make sure you have the right tools. Fortunately, these tools are common and can be easily found at any hardware store or online. The two essential tools needed are a small screwdriver and a soft cloth or gloves.

Small Screwdriver

A small screwdriver is used to remove the back cover of an Elgin pocket watch that has a screw-off back cover. It is important that the screwdriver fits perfectly into the gap between the cover and case to avoid damage to both parts. You can purchase a set of precision screwdrivers that come in various sizes to accommodate different types of screws.

It is recommended that you invest in a high-quality set, as cheap ones may not fit well or break easily. With the right tool, you can avoid unnecessary frustration and ensure a smooth opening process.

Soft Cloth or Gloves

It is highly recommended that you wear gloves or use a soft cloth when handling an Elgin pocket watch, especially if it has been sitting for some time. This helps prevent fingerprints or other marks from being left on the metal surface of the case.

The gloves should be clean and lint-free, made from materials like cotton, wool, latex or nitrile. Avoid using gloves made with synthetic materials such as polyester since they can create static electricity when handling delicate items like watches.

If you prefer not to wear gloves, then use a soft cloth instead. The cloth should be free from dirt particles that could scratch your watch’s surface.

Having proper tools like small screwdrivers and soft cloths will help ensure successful opening of your Elgin pocket watch without damaging its delicate parts. Investing in high-quality tools is essential, especially if you plan to work on watches often. Remember to always handle your watch with care and be gentle with your movements.

Steps to Open an Elgin Pocket Watch

Identify the Type of Case

Before attempting to open your Elgin pocket watch, it is important to identify the type of case it has. There are two types of cases: screw-off back cover and snap-off back cover. The method for opening each type is different, so knowing which type you have is crucial.

Screw-Off Back Cover

If your watch has a screw-off back cover, start by using a soft cloth or gloves to grip the watch firmly. This will prevent any accidental slips that could damage the delicate movement inside.

Then, look for a small gap between the cover and case. Insert a small screwdriver into this gap and gently turn it counterclockwise until it loosens.

Be very careful when turning the screwdriver, as too much force can cause damage to the case or movement. If you encounter resistance, stop and seek professional help rather than risk causing permanent damage.

Snap-Off Back Cover

For watches with a snap-off back cover, begin by using a soft cloth or gloves to grip the watch firmly. Look for a small indentation on the side of the case opposite from the winding stem. Insert a small screwdriver into this indentation and gently pry up until it snaps off.

Again, use caution when prying off the cover as too much force can cause damage to both the case and movement inside. If you are having trouble getting the cover off or feel resistance, do not continue forcing it but instead seek professional help.

Knowing how to open your Elgin pocket watch is an important part of taking care of it properly. By following these steps carefully and patiently based on what type of case your watch has, you should be able to safely access its inner workings without risking any damage in return.

Tips for Opening an Elgin Pocket Watch Safely and Easily

Be Gentle with Your Movements

Elgin pocket watches are delicate timepieces that require a gentle touch when handling. Whether you’re opening the watch to wind it or to repair it, you must be careful not to damage the internal workings of the watch.

Use a soft cloth or gloves to grip the watch firmly, and avoid using excessive force when turning or prying off the back cover. If you encounter resistance, stop immediately and assess the situation before proceeding.

When opening a screw-off back cover, it’s important not to twist too hard on the screwdriver. Instead, try gently turning it back and forth until you feel it start to loosen.

Once you’ve loosened the cover slightly, continue turning in small increments until it comes off completely. For snap-off back covers, be sure to locate the small indentation on the side of the case before attempting to pry it off.

Gently insert your screwdriver into this indentation and apply pressure until you feel or hear a snap. Once released, lift up on one side of the cover and carefully remove it from the case.

If You Encounter Resistance…

Despite your best efforts, there may be times when you encounter resistance in opening an Elgin pocket watch. If this happens, do not force anything!

Doing so could result in permanent damage that may require costly repairs later on. Instead of forcing anything right away, examine your approach and try again using more care and gentleness than before.

If resistance persists after multiple attempts or if something feels stuck or broken inside of your watch’s casing – seek professional help immediately! An experienced watchmaker will know exactly how much force is necessary for a given task without risking further harm.

Other Tips for Opening an Elgin Pocket Watch

In addition to being gentle and cautious as you open up your Elgin pocket watch, there are a few other things to keep in mind. First, always use a small screwdriver that fits snugly into the gap between the back cover and the case. This will help prevent scratches or other damage to the watch’s case.

Second, keep your work area clean and free of debris. Even a small piece of dirt or grit can cause harm to your watch’s delicate interior components.

Always wind your Elgin pocket watch slowly and carefully, being mindful of how much tension is being applied at any given time. Overwinding a watch can cause serious damage, so take care when winding yours!



Elgin pocket watches are a piece of history and are still highly sought after by collectors today. Knowing how to open them can be a valuable skill.

To open an Elgin pocket watch, you will need a small screwdriver and a soft cloth or gloves to protect the watch’s exterior. The steps for opening the watch depend on the type of case your watch has, but both involve gently prying off or unscrewing the back cover.

A timeless piece of history

Elgin pocket watches have been around for over 150 years, and they represent not only an era in timekeeping but also in manufacturing. In their prime, Elgin produced over 50% of all pocket watches in America, making them one of the most significant producers in the world. As time went on, Elgin continued to innovate and improve their designs, leaving behind a legacy that is still admired today.

Opening an Elgin pocket watch may seem intimidating at first, but with practice and patience, it becomes much easier. Remember always to be gentle when handling these delicate timepieces; they are antiques that deserve respect and care.

Knowing how to open them can be a valuable skill for collectors or even those interested in repairing these pieces themselves. With proper care and maintenance, an Elgin pocket watch can last for generations and continue to be cherished as a timeless piece of history.

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