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Thread: Elgin Canteen

  1. #1

    Default Elgin Canteen

    Best wishes for 2018 to everyone.

    The recent post on the fake Hamilton Canteen made me think about my real Elgin Canteen. It obviously needs a service but I believe that it is all correct. Any suggestion on who could service the watch in the US (Jack at IWW)? Also, I assume that the lead soldering will have to be removed (soldering watch crystals is probably a lost art).







  2. #2
    Senior Member foilguy's Avatar
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    Hope you don't mind but i've a your watch to the Elgin Canteen db. it's the 64th USN ***C Canteen watch recorded.

  3. #3

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    Sure, no problem.

  4. #4
    Senior Member foilguy's Avatar
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    what's interesting is that there are far more USN *** C canteen Elgins than there are USN BUSHIPS Elgins. Roughly 2 to 1

    Make that 65th , just added USN 2245 C
    Last edited by foilguy; 01-06-2018 at 17:13.

  5. #5

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    It is a barn find USN ***C with a 539 movement. I guess your work with Seiji has settled the debate on this movement. If I remember correctly, you estimated that 3000 USN ***C were made. Adding the USN BUSHIPS that would make less than 5000 total. These canteen watches seem to be much less common than other military watches produced in the same number (some of the WWWs for example). Do you know why? I guess most were damaged during diving and were discarded.

  6. #6
    Senior Member foilguy's Avatar
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    Discarded when the tool failed. Seems as likely an assumption as any. I'm guessing there are still many more out there. But probably only a fraction Of The original number. Good to add another to the db though.

  7. #7
    Senior Member DaveH's Avatar
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    My long gone Elgin Canteen had a 539 inside. The Hamilton had a 987S. I've seen many of these watches and regular watches that were recased after the war. Elgin made dress watches using the 539 movement as well. There were thousands of Vets who had no money for a watch and were tired of the beat up Army watch they stole. Elgin and Waltham sold cases and dials to make these watches into dress watches. When I was a youngster in the 50s and 60s a new wristwatch was expensive. My first was a Bulova Sea King manual wind it was $36 new. An Automatic was $120. Relative prices were a new pair of Levis was $3.75, a box of .22 shells was 72 cents and king sized Coke was 10 cents, a gallon of gas was 25 cents. I bought the watch on time paying a few bucks every week. Shoes were also very expensive, as was meat. Cars were $2K or less. I bought a 56 Buick Century 2 dr hardtop with 50K miles for $350.

  8. #8

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    Nice! Another 1950s watch with 1945 movement.

  9. #9
    Senior Member foilguy's Avatar
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    Well if that is the case then there is certainly precedence for it. Early issued CAF's had movements a decade older.

  10. #10

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    I know I am beating a dead horse here. Yet, all of the BUSHIPS marked canteens had very narrowly defined 1951/52 movements. Meanwhile, canteens with XXXX.C had movements from early 40s through 50s. Generally all over the place. It just doesn't add up.

    Also, I might add there were many spare XXXX.C cases plus dials, hands, crowns, crown covers floating around in early 90s. Quite a few of which I had and sold back then and now surprisingly ending up on a database only now with a G-539 movement. What a coincidence.

  11. #11
    Senior Member foilguy's Avatar
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    Regarding caches of parts, this is another one of those anecdotal stories, much like the MOD reissue COSD Longines cases from India. Both interesting tales (pity no visual or written evidence for either, but that's to be expected pre internet i guess) regarding watches which in probability suffered from water damage. Similarly both watch types have 2 versions, one of which conjecture is all we have to go on.

    Lets put what we do know regarding the USN XXX C.

    1. The numbering system on the USN XXX C inner Keystone case backs is different to the BUSHIPS cases. It also tallies exactly to the outer case numbers. Much like the WWW watches.
    2. They majority have Elgin 539 16 jewel movements. (A movement made in vast quantities during WW2). Of the 65 watches recorded around 8 have either 15 jewel 539 movements, or 647E movements. one has a 532, another a 585.
    3. There is primary evidence of USN *** C watches belonging to servicemen, subsequently handed down to the children and grandchildren. These have the 539 16 jewel movements in them.

    Much like the COSD, cases have in recent years turned up. Movements have subsequently been put in them. I've records for both types of watches, in the last 10 years.

    The main difference is that unlike the MOD COSD, the USN XXX C is not an added mark to the BUSHIPS, or vice versa. Instead they are 2 separate orders, with clearly delineated case markings. Both have ways of being tallied through audit. All BUSHIPS should have a 647e movement. All USN XXX C should have caseback markings tallying with the keystone case. It's unlikely that they are parallel orders. In other words, one set of watches predates the other. Similarly to Longines CAF watches, early and later watches can be seen by the evolution of their movements.

    I agree it's messy to see variation through the 539 movements, some of which are undoubtedly replaced 539 movements (lets face it, faced with a rusted movement to service, or putting in another 539, what would most repairmen opt for). As the 539 is common, it makes sense. However the majority of 539 movements in USN XXX C watches are wartime.

    Does this mean USN XXX C where used at the later stages of WW2, or does it simply mean that a movement in handy supply (much like the 15.94 longines for the newly designed CAF Longines), was used in a post war watch, well that i have no answer for.
    Last edited by foilguy; 01-07-2018 at 08:45.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Seiji's Avatar
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    I think Paul brings up a lot of good points.

    In addition, it seems like the Dodo example in this thread is also a good indication of the validity of a 539 movement. I fail to see why someone who has read the Canteen DB would put together an Elgin canteen with a 539 and fail to finish off the watch. I am sure Dodo watch with a better set of hands and crystal will fetch a much higher price than the project condition it is in. So I can only conclude this along with other watches means 539 is the correct movement. We probably need to go back and sort out which movement date ranges are more appropriate to weed out the recently reborn watches. The Canteen DB probably influenced any recently put together watches, but it doesn't mean the original information was incorrect.

  13. #13

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    Before acquiring this example, I followed the debate regarding 539 movements in USN ***C watches and I must say that I was convinced by Foilguy's and Seiji's analysis. Many of these SN ***C do not look like put together watches from the 90s and I do not see how a clear relationship between case marking and movement would have been preserved if there had been that much mingling with the parts. From what Mr.D says, some frankens have made it in the database and it would be good to flag these as such and evaluate whether they stand out as outliers in any respect.

  14. #14
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    Hi dodo
    I just serviced and restored 2 Canteens last month 1 with the 539 and the other a 647 with UDU 2 on back. Crystals were both broken one gone and the other broken but there. I removed the crystal but saved the solder. Replaced it with a high dome that worked very good, than folded the solder back over on the new crystal. Came out looking great. I also have NOS minute hands....Scott

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Mccoy View Post
    Hi dodo
    I just serviced and restored 2 Canteens last month 1 with the 539 and the other a 647 with UDU 2 on back. Crystals were both broken one gone and the other broken but there. I removed the crystal but saved the solder. Replaced it with a high dome that worked very good, than folded the solder back over on the new crystal. Came out looking great. I also have NOS minute hands....Scott
    Any chance that you could work on this one? Nick

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