Vintage Ramblings

The Time Machine - An Imaginary Tale

Rate this Entry
Antique watches cannot ever tell their life stories, but I’d like to tell an imaginary tale which could be quite typical of a great watch.
The date is 1905. A 25 year old railroad worker named I.M. Hogger has just been told by his master mechanic that he has been promoted from passenger fireman to yard engineer. He decides its time to get a new watch to keep him on time.
Mr. Hogger soon leaves his jeweler with an 18 size, 19 jewel Elgin B. W. Raymond grade 240. He splurges a little and gets a nice rolled gold plate open face case instead of the more generic silverode one.
The shiny new watch looks beautiful, but for Mr. Hogger it is a necessary tool of the trade, as essential to him as his oil can or bib overalls.
Here is the story of Mr. Hogger’s Elgin.

1905-1945 Hard Times on the Road
For the next 40 years, the Elgin grade 240 works as hard every day as its owner. It accompanies Mr. Hogger on his career – “yard goat” engineer, wayfreight driver, slow drags with coal and iron ore, fast freights, local passenger service, and finally mainline engineer on an intercity express. It has to eat coal dust, smoke , and cinders every day in its place in Mr. Hogger’s overalls. Every two years it is torn down and cleaned and adjusted within 30 seconds a week.
It has a few bumps and bruises over the years, but aside from a broken mainspring or two, and one balance staff replacement, it is pretty much the same watch Mr. Hogger bought all those years ago.

1945-1969 Comfortable Retirement
When Mr. Hogger retires in 1945, do you think he’ll put away his big old Elgin and get one of those newfangled Bulova wristwatches? Not on your life! The Elgin has always kept him on time, so it still sits in his overalls when he works in the garden, or dangles from his favorite gold watch chain when he puts on his Sunday best.
Now the pace of life is slower, and a bit cleaner and the old Elgin ticks away marking the rest of his life. It is still at his bedside when Mr. Hogger passes away at age 89.

1969-1995 Exile
Mrs. Hogger dutifully passes on the Elgin railroad watch to her son, I.M. Jr. The younger Mr. Hogger is just completing his career as an industrial accountant, and has never worn a pocket watch in his life.
He puts the old Elgin in his top dresser drawer and doesn’t look at it for 5 years. One day he takes it out and winds it tentatively. There is a “snap” as the mainspring breaks, and the 70 year old pocket watch loses all its energy. Mr. Hogger Jr. puts it back in the drawer and never takes it out again.

1995-2005 Rebirth and Nirvana
In late 1994, Mr. I.M. Hogger Jr. also passes away. His daughter and grandson are cleaning up the old family home when the younger man remembers that he once saw an old pocket watch somewhere in grand-dad’s bedroom. Sure enough, it’s still there.
I.M.'s great grandson is a railroad buff and a WIS to boot. He asks his mother if he can have the watch.
“Of course, son - but your grandfather never used it. His father did of course for many years. I don’t know if you can even get it fixed these days.”
The antique Elgin is broken, dirty , scarred, and its once lovely open face case is brassed. However when the young man unscrews the back he can see the rubies and gold jewel settings still gleaming. He figures it’s worth a shot to see if it’ll run again.
He takes the watch to a veteran watchmaker in his town and gets good news. The watch needs a new mainspring and a thorough cleaning, but for $150 should be as good as new really. It was well maintained when it ran and nobody has run it when it was in need of cleaning.
The venerable B W Raymond is cleaned and introduced to some modern lubricants. These act like the fountain of youth to its old pivots and wheels.
Mr. Hogger’s great grandson takes the Elgin home, reattaches the gold watchchain the old engineer liked so much. Now the Elgin reclines in air conditioned comfort on a velvet cushion in a dust free glass case, only coming out once a day to be lovingly wound up by its admiring owner. It PURRS like a great contented cat.
This big old railroad watch has outlived its original owner by 35 years, and is on the 4th generation of Hogger descendents. And probably another 200 years to go!

2005-2015 Riding the Cushions
Mr. Hogger's watch has now completed another decade of life, still purring away when wound. It is a prized collector's item and spends a lot of its time on a soft pillow in a glass topped case. Rather a dignified existence but hey – when you're 110 you've earned it.
Mr Hogger's great-grandson takes it back to the watchmaker – who's still in business. After another cleaning and lubrication, it's set to go and our present Mr. Hogger is thinking of passing it on to his own son one day.


  1. Dan R's Avatar
    If only those old watches could talk. I have a Sears PW in a hunters case. If memory serves me correctly, it was made before the turn of the century (forget which watch maker it came from). Man, the stories it could tell...

  2. Der Amf's Avatar
    How much would this lovely watch, now returned to life, cost me, if I wanted to wrench it from the bosom of its ancestral home?
  3. mlcor's Avatar
    Very nice story, and I'll bet there are true stories similar to it out there. I have my father's old gold Hamilton, which I did have serviced a year or two ago (maybe for the first time in its 50 year life), but don't wear because I had to have one of the lugs repaired and I worry about its fragility. Nevertheless, it will pass on to my son, and hopefully on to his someday...
About Us
We are an independent and wide-ranging forum for watch enthusiasts. From mainspring to microchip, from Europe to Asia, from micro-brand to boutique - we cover it all. Novice or expert, we want you to feel at home. Whether it's asking a simple question or contributing to the fund of horological knowledge, it's all the same hobby. Or, if you like, you can just show us a picture of your new watch. We'll provide the welcoming and courteous environment, the rest is up to you!
Join us