Friday, July 5, 2013

Some Pictures Of Watches

In this post I enthused about railroad watches. It occurs to me that some photos might help people keep up with what I'm talking about. This:

may be a good example of a railroad watch. I say "may," because I don't know anything about the Howard watch company, let alone this particular model. But the plain white face and the very prominent black Arabic numerals make it look the part. It also has every minute in the hour individually numbered, and every 5th minute numbered in red. That's all good. However, I can't tell whether this watch is lever-set. Also, there's a lot of fancy engraving on the case, you can see it there on the edges. That's all well and good if you like that sort of thing, but for me personally it gives the impression of frivolousness, when a railroad watch should be all business. All work, no play. In my opinion, that is. Ask 10 different enthusiasts what a railroad watch should be and there may not be 2 identical answers. It's one of those questions like, when did the Middle Ages begin in Europe? There's no one correct answer. But most people would agree that some watches were railroad watches, and some others were given faces which looked like the faces of railroad watches, and called railroad watches by their manufacturers, for marketing purposes. Some chump in 1910 might've shelled out a few extra bucks for something which in his mind was a railroad watch, but which no actual railway conductor would touch with a 10-foot chain. Or he might not have been a chump at all, and paid primarily for a solid gold case, and the mechanical differences which may have existed between his watch and a much more reliable and much cheaper railroad watch may not have mattered to him, if he ever had an inkling of them.


is a lever-set watch made by Hamilton. The crystal has been unscrewed and the lever, that little silver thing outside the dial a little before 1:30, has been pulled out. With the lever out, the stem, which usually winds the watch, now sets the time. The lever will have to be pushed back in before the crystal will fit back in place. This is a businesslike feature: the stem cannot accidentally slip from the winding to position to the timesetting position. The numerals for the hours are much starker and plainer than those on the Howard. Less ornamentation, more readability. More function, a more down-to-business approach. Me likey! However, this Hamilton has no numerals for the minutes, and that disappoints me. Take the Hamilton's numerals, and add a red numeral on the edge of the dial for every 5th minute, and we'd be getting closer to what I would call the perfect railroad-watch face. As it is, the Hamilton looks more like a railroad watch to me than the Howard. Actually, there is a completely objective way to answer the question of whether a particular watch is a railroad watch. Railroads had specifications for the watches their conductors carried. These regulations varied from one railroad to another and also changed over time. If a watch met the specifications for a certain railroad at a certain time, it was a railroad watch -- for that railroad at that time.

Here are a couple more pictures I found amusing. Most of us think of digital watches as electronic devices which began to be marketed in the 1970's -- most of us who were alive in the 1970's that is. They were luxury items at first. One of the first was the first Pulsar watch, which appeared in 1972, was made of 18-carat gold and cost over $2000. Here's a late-70's Pulsar:

But Pulsars were not the first digital watches. Nor were the first digital watches electronic. Here's a digital wind-up watch sold by Cortébert in the 1890's. Like the first Pulsars, it was an expensive luxury item:

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