Header image  


Elgin Ordnance Watch grade 554 Military issue (1943)


Elgin 554 WWII watchOriginal W.W.II. period grade 554 wrist watch made by the American watch manufacturer "Elgin".

Elgin was founded in 1864, right as the American civil war was coming to an end. The first watch Elgin made, an 18 sized B.W. Raymond railroad grade watch, was finished in 1867 and over the next 100 years, they went on to produce about 60 million watches. Elgin produced their first wristwatch around 1910. Elgin was originally called the "National Watch Company". The name never really stuck and in 1874, they changed their name to the "Elgin National Watch Company" because most of the watch trade and public were calling them "watches from Elgin". They kept that name until the late 1960s when they stopped producing watches and changed their name to the "Elgin National Industries". Elgin never made the very highest quality watches in the world, nor did they make the very cheapest, but together with Waltham (aka The American Watch Company), they dominated the vast middle ground of the watch market. Today, collecting Elgin watches is quite popular. Because Elgin produced so many watches and spare parts, they can still be easily bought and fixed, so even a 100 year old Elgin can be used, with care, on a daily basis. While mechanical watches can't compete with quartz watches for accuracy, there is something about having a watch that ticks that a quartz watch just can't replace.

This particular Elgin grade 554 watch has the full military markings on its case back:
US Army, Type A11, Spec No. 94-27834-B. Ser No. AF45-17846, MFR's Parts No. 2114 ORD No. W37-036ac-6600, ELGIN
dating the year of entering service to 1945. The American Elgin Type A11 military watch was made in both the “hack” and “non-hack” varieties (a “hack” was the pin that allowed for quick and easy synchronization). Bulova also made a military A11 watch during WWII.
Both of these brands of watches were issued to, and used by, both RAF
and USAAF personnel for a significant period of time during World War II. The Type A-11 however had a black dial with white hands (with the exception of the earliest models which had white dials). The serial number "T607077" on the movement gives the following information derived from the Elgin factory documents dating the movement to 1943:

Serial Number   SN Range Quanty Name Year  grade size  code     jewels Adj/reg/etc.
   T607077        T595001   30000  none  1943  554*  8/0s  h3f7p** 15-17j  U-A1P

grade  total       runs   first yr  last yr class  size  code    jewels  Adj/name
554    1358000  69-3   1940     1951      ?     8/0s  h3f7p   15-17j  U-A1P

(*) notes on grade 554:  flat nickel  first 8/0s model 7
    # some said to be LE or DLX  swapped dials?

(**) notes on code h3f7p: The watch code is a short way of describing the watch. It is similar to the EA codes developed by Roy Ehrhardt and used in many of his books, so they should look familiar to many experienced pocket watch collectors.

  • First letter: the movement "type"
  • Second letter: The plate style
  • Third letter: The plate finish
  • Fourth digit: The model number   (This can sometimes be two digits)
  • Fifth letter: How the time is set and the watch is wound.
  • Sixth letter: How quickly the watch ticks

Code h3f7p: hunter case or keywind (The second hand is 90 degrees to the pendant, 3/4 plate (The top plate is cut so the balance wheel can be sunk down to the same level as all the other gears.), flat matte (the plates will have a dull, flat silvery finish.), model 7, pendant set (To set the time, you need to pull the pendant out and to wind it, you turn the pendant.)

So what happened here? This grade 554 movement was never used for a type A-11 watch. It seems that the original case and caseback has been replaced. Originally it had a case with caseback with the 'Ordnance' or 'Bureau of ships' markings on the exterior of the case. If the watch was issued to common army personnel it would have read: ORD. DEPT. U.S.A. OFxxxxxx. Ordnance Department stands for a branch of the U.S.Army dealing with munitions of all sorts and other stuff as well. The Ordnance Dept also was cognizant over trucks and all other vehicles (to include armored vehicles) and cargo handling equipment, as well as all artillery, tank, and individual weaponry. How they get watches? Through the requirement of the artillery for indirect fire coördination, and the fact that they had been tasked with providing all supplies during the War and only specific supply items would removed from their cognizance to be handled by other branches, leaving them with a rather varied array of items to manage.


If the watch was issued to Navy personnel it would have read: USN BUSHIPS (stands for: US Navy Bureau of Ships). Of course, it is possible that the movement was placed in this Type A-11 case with caseback at the end of the war period, but more likely the original case got lost during its 60 years plus life and has been replaced with this one. I recently acquired an original complete two piece case for the grade 554 with the markings "ORD.DEPT. U.S.A. OF-278487" and I'm planning to transfer the movement from the A-11 case to the Ordnance case soon.

Women working at the Elgin factory during WWII

Picture: Women working in the Elgin factory during the WWII years.

Click on photo to see gallery pictures!


Item of the month...

DJ Marksman's badge

Benrus Sky Chief