Elgin National Watch Company got its start in 1864 and was founded by a group of men that included former Chicago mayor Benjamin W. Raymond. For nearly 100 years thereafter, Elgin had the distinction of operating the world’s largest watchmaking manufacturing site. The company became an American icon and won numerous awards for its timepieces and movements. 1967 marked the last year that the original Elgin Watch Company produced any watches, and today the brand’s models are collector’s items.
Here are ten of the finest Elgin watches made while the original company was still in existence.
1. Lelong Lady Tiger
The aesthetic of this watch is the epitome of exotic and ornate. On the case is an engraving of a tiger on the top and a woman’s silhouette on the bottom, with each end accented by decorative flourishes. The display is framed by more engraving, and the dial bears a classic arrangement of indexes along with distinctive hands. The Lelong Lady Tiger’s case is made of 14 carat yellow gold. You can typically find this late 20s watch at auction for $2,500.
2. Elgin 19 Shockmaster
The Elgin 19 Shockmaster is an analog timepiece with a mechanical movement that’s filled with 10 carat yellow gold. It has an aesthetic that’s very stylish, sophisticated, and gentlemanly — men are still buying, fixing, and wearing this watch today because it has such a timeless look. If you hunt online, you can typically find the Elgin 19 Shockmaster for about $300.
3. 1945 Elgin Military Ordnance Wrist Watch
One of the most iconic Elgin watches is the 1945 Elgin Military Ordnance Wrist Watch. It was issued to US military members and was very accurate. What’s more amazing is how well these timepieces have fared over the years — you can still find this model working and in tact, strap and all. The two-piece canvas strap was designed to be comfortable and durable, which was essential in the trenches. The cost of this watch today starts at $175, and those in great condition often cost more than $500.
4. Lord Elgin 626
One of the most well known collection of Elgin watches is the Lord Elgin. The Lord Elgin 626 was designed with a hunter case movement that produced 18,000 beats per hour, and its case and strap were exquisite. Yellow gold filled watches were big back in its day, and this model contained plenty of gold throughout. It not only looked great, but was very accurate and reliable. The price of owning this timepiece today starts at $300.
5. Lady Elgin 23
This ladies’ Elgin watch was designed to be refined, elegant, and sophisticated. The case has an unusual shape that’s oblong, yet pointed at both ends. The indexes are geometric and the hands of this watch play along with that theme. It’s made of 14 carat yellow gold and bears the label “Lady Elgin 23” on the dial. Depending on the condition, this watch can be bought at auction for about $950.
6. 1957 Chevron Jump Hour
Chevron was Elgin Watchs’ mid-range model, and its name is derived from the V shape integrated into the case’s design. Sales for the company were declining when this watch made its debut, and at the time Elgin was experimenting with releasing timepieces with novel features to draw the interest of more consumers — the jumping hour was one of those novelties. In addition to this function, the 1957 Chevron Jump Hour was designed with a 21 jewel movement. It usually costs around $675 to buy this vintage men’s watch today.
7. 1937 Driver’s Watch
The 1937 Driver’s watch is one of the earliest flexible lug driver’s watches that Elgin made. It came about just as the Art Deco movement was beginning to fade away in favor of more modern styles. The dial does sport some Art Deco elements, but it has a much more contemporary aesthetic than its predecessors.
Inside Elgin’s 1937 driver’s watch is a 17 jewel movement, which was quite reliable as a timekeeper. The company used to claim that their watches were “time to the stars”, and this watch shows the star branding that Elgin used during its production. Depending on the condition and how many original components it still has, the cost of this model can range from $200 to over $700.
8. 1931 Ref. No. 33550551
This Elgin women’s watch, which bears the serial number 33550551, was produced in 1931 and is a real beauty. The white gold filled case measures 26 mm by 17 mm and has a rectangular shape. The dial features a subtle floral motif that’s complemented by vertical stripes, and the case has a decorative edge that continues the floral theme.
A distinguished strap that’s delicately carved to look like floral branches encased in frames makes this watch even more gorgeous. The movement inside the timepiece contains 15 jewels. This model is quite rare, and at auction you can expect to pay over $600 for it.
9. 1947 14K Gold Lord Elgin
The 1947 14K Gold Lord Elgin was distinguished and fashionable. It was designed with a rectangular case, had a dial with classic numerals and geometric indexes, and it kept the hours, minutes, and seconds. Not only was the case filled with 14 carat yellow gold, the watch’s markers were as well. The movement in this model contained 21 jewels and had four adjustments. Buying this 1947 Lord Elgin watch today costs $200 or more.
10. 1920s Art Deco
Elgin watches made a series of timepieces for men and women in the 1920s that featured an Art Deco style. These watches had different movements, they but were characterized by their aesthetic. Each has distinctive Art Deco details, and they were commonly worn by those looking to keep up with the fashions of the day. The price of buying a 1920s Art Deco Elgin watch now varies widely. In tact and with an original strap and movement, these models can easily sell for over $800 at auction.