"Santa Fe Special" brought home! MODEM BURNER!

Discussion in 'Pocket Watches' started by colemanitis, May 7, 2009.

  1. colemanitis

    colemanitis

    TKF Founder Staff Member
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2008
    Points:
    26,692
    Posts:
    26,208
    Likes:
    76
    My dad returned home last week from Oklahoma and brought with him my Great-Grandfather's Railroad "Santa Fe Special" pocket watch. I'm amazed at the overall condition of it since it had been worn for many years by my Great-Grandfather while working for the Santa Fe Railroad in Oklahoma.

    After a bit of research and some help from my fellow TKFers, I was able to determine this pocket watch was manufactured by the Illinois Watch Company, which manufactured many watches under several different names. According to the serial number on the movement, this particular pocket watch was manufactured in approximately 1927, only a year before the Illinois Watch Company was sold to Hamilton Watch Company. It appears the Illinois Watch Company manufactured approximately 100,000 watches each year.

    This pocket watch is in perfect working order. It winds extremely smooth. Also, what's very interesting to me is that the time is set by a lever located beneath the crystal. Like the case back, the crystal unscrews, revealing a small lever that slides out from beneath the dial. Once the lever is pulled out, turning the crown adjusts the time. Once the time is set, the lever is slid back under the dial and the crystal is screwed back on to the case. Another nice feature is that the seconds hand sweeps like a Rolex watch.

    These pictures were taken BEFORE cleaning and polishing of the case. As you can see, it's quite dirty, as supposedly my Great-Grandfather was known to be a dirty man due to the nature of his work. Shortly after I took these pictures, I used a Cape Cod cloth to clean the case and to remove the super fine, hairline scratches from the case. I'll have to take some "after" pictures, as the end result is nothing short of amazing! The case looks nearly brand new, with no visible dings, dents, or deep scratches. The acrylic crystal is, of course, filled with scratches from daily use. I did apply a small amount of Brasso to clean it up, but I've never been very successful with Brasso. I'm going to order a tube of Polywatch ASAP and go over the crystal one more time. In fact, the case was so clean that my father was afraid to touch it with his bare hands and insisted that I drop it directly back in to the suede baggie in which the pocket watch has rested for many years.

    My father's going to spend some time looking through old photographs of my Great-Grandfather in hopes to find a picture of him with this pocket watch. The pocket watch will eventually be placed in a display case, along with the photograph if one is found. The pocket watch will remain with my dad and will be passed down to me after his passing - hopefully that'll be a long time from now. This pocket watch is a true family heirloom that will be treasured for many generations.

    Enjoy the pictures and thanks for reading my story!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
  2. DSimon9

    DSimon9

    Premium Member
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2008
    Points:
    36
    Posts:
    6,010
    Likes:
    0
    Great pictures and great watch. It would be incredibly awesome if you find a picture of your grandfather with the watch.

    Has the crystal on the watch ever been replaced? I asked because I don't think acrylic existed back in 1927. I will have to research it.

    Here we go: Acrylic was developed by DuPont in 1944 and was first commercially produced in 1950
  3. colemanitis

    colemanitis

    TKF Founder Staff Member
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2008
    Points:
    26,692
    Posts:
    26,208
    Likes:
    76
    Maybe that's why it didn't clean up well.... it's not acrylic at all. :thinking: What could it be made of... glass? :thinking:
  4. carbon6

    carbon6

    Premium Member
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2009
    Points:
    36
    Posts:
    1,131
    Likes:
    0
    Great story, Jeff. That's a fantastic watch with quite a bit of family history. I love the pics.
  5. Cmaster03

    Cmaster03

    Silver Member
    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2008
    Points:
    46
    Posts:
    4,622
    Likes:
    0
    Beautiful watch, Jeff. Illinois was known for the beauty of the decoration or "damaskeening" of their movements. Companies at the time competed quite strongly in beauty as well as performance.

    The lever setting of the watch is a real hallmark of a true railroad grade watch. This was to preclude accidently changing the time by releasing the crown or pendant while in the railroad man's pocket. The only way to set the time with a lever set is like you said to deliberately remove the bezel, flick out the lever, and set the time. It was a real important safety feature for true railroad grade watches. :)
  6. DSimon9

    DSimon9

    Premium Member
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2008
    Points:
    36
    Posts:
    6,010
    Likes:
    0
    Would have to research it a bit. You might want to see if there are specific forums for the Santa Fe watch or possibly railroad watches in general.

    They might have used either acrylic or plexiglas back in the WWII planes (don't know for certain), but as you can imagine plastics were not widely available until after WWII.

    The one example would be nylons. But weren't they scarce during WWII because of the war effort?

    I found this site, which implies the crystal is glass: http://www.disarranging.com/review/archives/001736.php
  7. colemanitis

    colemanitis

    TKF Founder Staff Member
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2008
    Points:
    26,692
    Posts:
    26,208
    Likes:
    76
    That's good stuff, Clyde! I had never given that much thought. That makes a lot of sense! :thumbsup: :thankyou:
  8. Cmaster03

    Cmaster03

    Silver Member
    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2008
    Points:
    46
    Posts:
    4,622
    Likes:
    0
    You're very welcome, Jeff. I guess a side benefit to lever setting was to also prevent the time being changed while winding the watch. Since you know the crown is only for winding there is no need to pull on it, risking damage, etc. Keep in mind that was one of the reasons Hans Wilsdorf wanted automatic movements in Rolexes, to reduce crown wear from winding, too.

    The crystal of your heirloom Illinois would have orignally been glass, but I have seen plastic replacement crystals. I have a plastic crystal in a keywind Swiss watch that was made approximately in the 1860s-80s time frame...obviously a service replacement. :)
  9. colemanitis

    colemanitis

    TKF Founder Staff Member
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2008
    Points:
    26,692
    Posts:
    26,208
    Likes:
    76
    Thanks, Dex! :thumbsup: :cheers:
  10. Cmaster03

    Cmaster03

    Silver Member
    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2008
    Points:
    46
    Posts:
    4,622
    Likes:
    0
    Good points, Dex. From what I understand about researching Parker 51 pens, the barrels or bodies of the pens were made from a type of acrylic/plexiglass that was like what was used in the canopies of our aircraft in WWII. It was cutting edge stuff at the time, evidently, and highly rationed. Hence, one of the reasons pen production was drastically curtailed in general, and especially of the Parker 51.
  11. colemanitis

    colemanitis

    TKF Founder Staff Member
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2008
    Points:
    26,692
    Posts:
    26,208
    Likes:
    76
    I'll take a closer look at the crystal to determine if it's glass, or plastic. Should be easy to tell. I'm thinking it's plastic since it had many scratches and a somewhat dull finish to it, like what you'd expect from an aged plastic crystal. I'll let you know what I discover! :thumbsup: :cheers:
  12. Goldbug

    Goldbug

    Premium Member
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2008
    Points:
    36
    Posts:
    18,660
    Likes:
    0
    Jeff,

    Great story and history behind the watch. I hope you find some pictures as that would be really cool. Some very good information in this thread. Thanks for sharing.

    John
  13. daveathall

    daveathall

    Premium Member
    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2008
    Points:
    128
    Posts:
    11,494
    Likes:
    3
    Jeff, what a fantastic family heirloom, steeped in the history of your family, would be wonderful to find some photos of your Great Grandfather, Grandfather, Father and yourself to pass on to the next generation.

    Absolutely stunning pocket watch.

    Great thread, thank you very much for posting it.
  14. DSimon9

    DSimon9

    Premium Member
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2008
    Points:
    36
    Posts:
    6,010
    Likes:
    0
    Jeff, I would also document as much as possible about the watch. Get the pics, which you already doing, but also write down the history. Sit down with your father and document it. I suspect you will be passing the watch down. It becomes critical to keep the history correct so people in the future can appreciate the watch not only from an engineering/design perspective, but also from a historical perspective.

    Just think how much cooler you sub would be if it had a history behind it and it was documented. Like, as an example, the watch was previously owned by a submarine captain, or used while diving for sunken treasures, etc...

    Just my $0.02 worth.
  15. colemanitis

    colemanitis

    TKF Founder Staff Member
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2008
    Points:
    26,692
    Posts:
    26,208
    Likes:
    76
    Most definitely! :thumbsup: :cheers:
  16. Goldbug

    Goldbug

    Premium Member
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2008
    Points:
    36
    Posts:
    18,660
    Likes:
    0
    Dex,

    That is a great idea. I've got some other memorabila that my father and I wish we had the history on as well. We discovered some things after my grandfather passed away and don't know any of the history behind it. At least we have the items.

    John
  17. Whiskyguy

    Whiskyguy

    Bronze Member
    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2008
    Points:
    6
    Posts:
    56
    Likes:
    0
    Gorgeous Jeff!

    I love the old timers as well

    Nice to have a family heirloom means a little more that way.

    My grandfather retired from Santa Fe As well
    I picked up a waltham
    "santa Fe Route"
    Because every time I see it I think of him.

    Cheers,
    Adam
  18. SPACE-DWELLER

    SPACE-DWELLER

    Gold Member
    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2008
    Points:
    29,410
    Posts:
    29,199
    Likes:
    4
    Awesome looking pocket watch, Jeff! What a treat to still have it in the family! :worship:

    The movement looks pristine, too! :thumbsup:

    Can't wait to see those pics of the polished watch!

    As for the crystal made of glass, to test this simply put your fingers on the crystal and feel if it feels cold to the touch (plexi wouldn't). You can also breathe onto the crystal while it's cold...if the crystal fogs up, it's glass.
  19. colemanitis

    colemanitis

    TKF Founder Staff Member
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2008
    Points:
    26,692
    Posts:
    26,208
    Likes:
    76
    I took a look at the crystal briefly yesterday. I'm certain it's a glass crystal. :cheers:
  20. SLRdude

    SLRdude

    Silver Member
    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2008
    Points:
    18,968
    Posts:
    17,852
    Likes:
    2
    wow... I love it!!
    :thumbsup::thumbsup: