How to Find the Serial Number on an Elgin Pocket Watch

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Elgin National Watch Company made more than 60 million watches.
Elgin National Watch Company made more than 60 million watches. (Image: Jeffrey Hamilton/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Established in 1864, the National Watch Company changed its name a decade later to Elgin National Watch Company to reflect its location in Elgin, Illinois. Over the next century, the firm produced more than 60 million wrist and pocket watches. Owners can trace their pocket watch's history by obtaining the unique serial number featured on the movement part of the watch--not the watch case, which displays only a case serial number. To accurately read the serial number, you will need to determine the best way to open the case, which varies from model, size and style.

Things You'll Need

  • Soft cloth
  • Watch case opener
  • Magnifying glass
  • Pen and paper
  • Internet

Lay a clean, soft cloth on a firm surface and gently place the Elgin pocket watch on the material.

Identify the correct way to open the watch case. Elgin watches fit several styles of cases, and different models must be opened in different ways. Some may require a screw loosening, others a watch case opener to open the glass front or metal back panel. Alternatively, the case may feature a hinged front and back.

Hold the magnifying glass above the watch gears and write down the watch's serial number located next to them, while taking care to avoid damaging any of the timepiece's delicate parts.

Enter the serial number into an online Elgin serial number database to obtain an instant result that lists its year of production. You can also refer to an Elgin serial number chart. Elgin watches made before the late 1930s feature serial numbers without a letter prefix, with those made after that period containing one letter.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you cannot read the serial number or open the case, take the watch to a repair shop and ask for help.
  • Never use a screwdriver or knife to open a pocket watch case, as you may damage the interior or exterior parts.

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