How to Set an Elgin Watch

by Rob Wagner

There are three types of Elgin watches: The pocket and wristwatch produced by the U.S.-based Elgin National Watch Company, which ceased operation in 1964, and today’s Elgin watches produced by M.Z. Berger, Inc. Contemporary Elgins are assembled from Chinese parts. All original Elgin timepieces are mechanical watches. Elgins produced today are not related to the original watches. Contemporary Elgins are automatic mechanical and quartz timepieces. The three versions of Elgin watches are set in a similar manner.

Step 1

Setting an Elgin stem-set pocket watch. Pull the stem out of the crown at the 12 o’clock position of an Elgin stem-set pocket watch. Rotate the stem clockwise to move the hands to the correct hour and minute. Depress the stem and wind the crown to keep the watch running.

Step 2

Setting an Elgin lever-set pocket watch. Unscrew, counterclockwise, the bezel holding in place the crystal on the watch case of an Elgin lever-set pocket watch. Removing the bezel and crystal allows access to the small lever behind the dial usually protruding from the 5 o’clock position near the case edge. Pull the lever. Rotate the crown clockwise until the hours and minute hands are set. Push the lever flush with the case. Rotate the crown again to wind. Replace the bezel with crystal by rotating the bezel clockwise into the case.

Step 3

Setting an Elgin wristwatch. Pull the crown out as far as it will go on any Elgin men’s or ladies wristwatch manufactured before 1964. Set the hour and minute hands to the proper time and depress the crown flush with the case. Rotate the crown clockwise to wind the watch, according to

Step 4

Setting an Elgin date watch. Pull the crown to the first position of a date model to set the date. Elgin produced very few date watches, but some models do exist. Rotate the crown clockwise until the desired date is reached. You may have to go through all the numbers to reach the correct date. Depress the crown flush with the case edge to wind.

Step 5

Setting the time on modern Elgins. Setting the time on modern Elgin watches is identical to the originals, but post-1970s quartz models need no winding. Shake an Elgin automatic watch once or twice to get it running, then set the time like any Elgin by pulling and rotating the crown. If the self-winding watch is worn daily, the movement of your wrist will keep it wound. Manually wind the watch if it sits idle more than 48 hours.


  • Vintage Elgin mechanical watches should be wound and set daily to keep the movement lubricated. The movement is the tiny spring mechanism inside the case that runs the watch.


  • Quartz battery-powered Elgins should have the battery replaced immediately if it stops or every three years if still operating. Doing this prevents a dead battery from leaking and damaging the watch components.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.