My Grandfathers Watch


My grandfathers watch was recently handed down to me from my dad. I did not know much about this watch but my dad said it was a very high quality  railroad watch. After a little research I have found out that this is indeed a very special watch. It is known as a Private Label watch made by Illinois Watch Company. Specifically it is a 24 Jewel, 18 Size, Model 5, Bunn Special made in 1897. This is a very high quality watch but there are a few other things that make it interesting. The Private Label on both the dial and the movement, the fancy Roman numerals, and the Hunter style (winding stem at 3 o'clock vs. 12 o'clock position) make this watch very collectable. Private labels could be ordered from the Illinois watch Co. for and additional charge. It would cost about a $1.50 extra to have the dial engraved and an additional $1.00 to have the movement engraved with a Private Label name.  It was also engraved with "For RailRoad Use" which was also very rare. The Roman numerals have wavy lines on both the top and bottom of the numerals. This is known as "fancy Roman numerals" and was used only on the highest quality watches made by Illinois Watch Co. The Model 5 (made for hunter case) was also quite rare. The Illinois Watch Co. made a total of 2,620 in this configuration between 1895 - 1906.  This is out of a total company-wide production of nearly 6 million time pieces.

All of these things make this a very collectable watch, however it is a family treasure because it was purchased by my grandfather and he used it for over 40 years. He paid $50 for it in 1897. The watch was originally in a gold case but my dad said grandpa put it in a heavier case (Sterling Silver) so it would hold up better for every day use. The watch case shows a good amount of wear. He probably wore it every day for over 40 years. In the picture below, which was taken around 1900, you can see the watch chain that also has some sort of pendant attached. I also have the gold watch chain but it does not have the pendant attached. I would be interested to know what this pendant may have been. I am also researching to try and find out who the Lee Brothers were and try find out a little more about the history of this watch. I will be adding to this web page as I learn more about the history behind my grandfathers pocket watch.

Thanks to John Cole and Russ Snyder for providing me with the information about this watch. Below are some pictures of the watch and a few links for more information about Railroad watches.


Click Pictures to Enlarge





Illinois Watches

Railroad Watches

Railroad Watch Standards



I hope you enjoy the web site. Feedback is always welcome. I can be contacted via email at bill@hobbydog.net