This is the story of how Elgin, being the first watchmaker in the world to make 50 million jeweled watch movements, would commemorate this achievement and would create their most finest wristwatch ever made - one could argue the Hulburd Presentation pocket watches to be their finest but that is up to you to decide.
Elgin would only produce 1,000 of these distinctive watches (only selling 998 in the retail market) and in less than a year these watches would sell out completely, not bad for a $500.00 watch in 1951 (worth $4,589 in 2015).
Over the years the knowledge of the watch slowly drifted into myth, non existence and no real record of this grand achievement has been published or posted online to my knowledge, a lot of serious watch collectors have little or no knowledge of this remarkable line of watches or just what it meant to Elgin the company and the community and it deserves more than a simple illustration in a price guide.
This is story of what is now known in the tighter Elgin collector community commonly as the "50 Millionth Anniversary Watch", "50MAN" or "50e6" watch.
Lord Elgin providing his signature as Lady Elgin and James G. Shennan standing behind them watch on.
Lord and Lady Elgin visited the Watch Factory on the 17th of October 1950. The couple toured the watch factory, their second visit to the factory, previously they had visited the factory in 1937 when the company introduced to the world the series of Lord and Lady Elgin watches, named for the 10th Earl of Elgin and Kincardine and his wife.
The distinguished guests liked the Elgin factory and its people, too. "We have been greatly impressed by the friendliness of the watchmakers, their ability in manufacturing of the world's greatest watch, and the immensity of the plant," said Lord Elgin following his visit here.
Lord Elgin would provide his signature to be used on the dial of the 50,000,000 Lord Elgin watch, it would only be used once on the dial and the other 999 50 Millionth Anniversary watches would use the standard "Lord Elgin" printing on the dial.The Watch Word, November 1950
I have not been able to confirm if this was used or not, the 50,000,000 watch currently has the standard "Lord Elgin" printing on the dial but it is possible that it originally had the unique dial.The Watch Word, November 1950
Mrs. Marilyn McDonald (representing the Elgin National Watchworkers Union) presented Lady Elgin with a Lady Elgin watch and says she was greatly impressed by the sincere friendliness of the Lord and Lady Elgin. The Watch Word, November 1950
Vote for Lady Elgin
A watch factory queen to be known as Lady Elgin, will be selected to represent employees at a special ceremony that will be conducted as Elgin's 50 millionth watch is completed next month. Every employee will have an opportunity to vote for a departmental queen, and from these girls three judges will select Lady Elgin and her two attendants.
Voting for departmental queens will be on Wednesday, August 8th. Departmental queens should be selected on the basis of beauty and personality. The final judging will take place the week of August 19-25. Judges are Cliff Lohs, chief photographer for the The Elgin Daily Courier-News; Bud Knott, proprietor of the B-K Photo Hobby shop and Nels D. Soderstrom, president of the Elgin Camera Club.
Any girl who was on the payroll August 1st is eligible for the contest.
Lady Elgin and her two attendants will preside at ceremonies that will be held in connection with the celebration of the company's manufacturing its first 50 million watches. They will be presented with Lady Elgin watches and other gifts. Departmental queens will be awarded Wadsworth compacts.
The last time the Watch factory chose a Lady Elgin was in 1939 for the New York World's Fair. The queen named at that time was Arlene Warner and her attendants were Florence Kruse and Alice Plote.
There will be in total 16 departmental queens and were elected on the 8th of August and are as followsThe Watch Word, August 1951
Mary Ann Schachtner
20th August 1951
Department Queens a few days before Lady Elgin and her two attendants were chosen.
Left to right
Joyce Brockner, Darlene Grosser, Mary Ann Schachtner, June Landwehr, Madeline Schduel, Doroth Petschow, Joanne Whitmer, Norma Bender, Clara Haden, Marion Mattocks, Ann Connell, Margaret Elliott, Jean Chapin, Katie Maslanka, Bernice Rhodes, Marilyn Meyer.The Watch Word, September 1951
On the 20th August during noon hour, thousands of people watched the sixteen departmental queens pass in review before the judges Bud Knott (Proprietor pf B-K Photo Hobby Shop), Nels Soderstrom (President of the Elgin Camera Club) and Cliff Lohs (Chief photographer of The Elgin Daily Courier-News) (pictured right). The judges were unable to reach a decision and the girls passed before the judges once again, and then went back tot he factory. The judges were in deadlock and it required many minutes for hem to reach a decision, one made difficult by the charm and beauty of so many departmental queens. First the two attendants appeared, Marilyn Meyer and Jean Chapin, and as the large audience cheered, each had a corsage pinned on her by James G. Shennan, President. Then the smiling, happy Lady Elgin Joyce Brockner, stepped out amid applause, Mr Shennan presented her with a large bouquet of American Beauty roses. All three ladies will be presented with engraved wristwatches, Lady Elgin's watch will be the Lily of the Valley diamond model.
The departmental queens not chosen as Lady Elgin or her attendants were presented with lovely engraved Wadsworth compacts in their own departments.
Lady Elgin and her two attendants will be preside at a dance in the Elgin Armory on the 7th of September after being honored guests at a civic banquet in the Masonic Temple. Miss Brockner will be crowned during the coronation ceremonies at the dance.
Elgin is being honored for a history-making achievement in watchmaking. Elgin has completed 50 million jeweled watches, becoming the first manufacture in history to have reached this milestone in production.
Over the last 87 years of the company’s existence, it’s a tribute to the pioneers who founded the company, to far-sighted management through the years and to all the faithful people who have served our company during its great career.
Making a precision instrument like a jeweled watch requires infinite skill and painstaking effort. Elgin is proud of its long record, proud of the many millions of people its watches have kept on time, proud of its millions of watches in existence and proud of the 30,000 loyal citizens who have earned their livelihood as members of Father Time’s big family, whos expert craftsmanship has fashioned these 5o million watches. The employee’s devotion to their craft and pride in their workmanship have given Elgin watches a reputation for quality unique in the watchmaking field.
The achievement we celebrate is notable, yet a greater tribute is due the men and women of Elgin who have made it possible. Our homage, must be to the pioneers of Elgin who helped found our Company and to the sons and daughters who followed them.The Watch Word, September 1951
Left to right
Marilyn Meyer, Lady Elgin Joyce Brockner and Jean Chapin
A Civic banquet in the Masonic Temple and a community dance in Elgin Armory on the evening of the 7th of September will climax Elgin’s celebration of the completion of its 50 millionth watch.
Trade officials and representatives of the press from all parts of the country will be at the plant during the day and all means of modern communication will be used to tell the world that our Company completed its 50 millionth watch, becoming the first fine watch maker manufacturer in history to reach this figure.
Elgin is traditionally the first community in the United States to hold its Red Feather campaign each year, and the dinner at the Masonic Temple will be the national kickoff for Community Chest drives throughout the nation. Guest speaker Stanley C. Allyn, president of National Cash Register Co. of Dayton and 1951 national president of Community Chests and Councils of America, Inc.
Honored guest at the banquet will be Miss Joyce Brockner of the Research department, who has been chosen “Lady Elgin”, and her two attendants, Mrs. Marilyn Meyer of Production Control and Miss Jean Chapin of the Screw department. Committee members who helped conduct the contest to elect departmental queens will by guests as the dinner.
Following the banquet, Elgin’s “50 Millionth Watch Community Dance” will be held in the Armory. Dancing to the music of Francis Whitcomb’s band is scheduled from 9 to 1, with a half-hour our for coronation ceremonies. There will be a flag raising ceremony at 10:25. Then Mayor Myron M. Lehman will place the crown upon the head of Miss Brockner, proclaiming her “Lady Elgin”. This will be followed by the awarding of an engraved diamond Lady Elgin wrist watch to Miss Brockner and engraved Lady Elgin wrist watches to Miss Chapin and Mrs. Meyer.
James G. Shennan, president will present Mr. Allyn, who will speak briefly. Then Miss Brockner will present Mr. Allyn with the 50 millionth watch. This watch will be passed on , from year to year, to each annual national chairman as a badge of office. At the end of each chairman’s term ir will be returned to Elgin for refurbishing and will be placed in a new sterling silver case for re-presentation. Thus, the watch will become a tradition, linked with the Red Feather campaigns. Eventually the watch will be placed in our collection along with other historic Elgin timepieces. There it will rest by B. W. Raymond No. 101, the first watch Elgin ever made.
The sterling silver box in which the 50 millionth watch will be presented to Mr. Allyn has this engraved on the top: “Presented to Mr. Stanley C. Allyn, 1951 National President Community Chests and Councils of America, Inc. This sterling silver case held the first jeweled watch in history to bear a 50 million serial number, donated by Elgin National Watch Company as a rotating badge of office for each annual Community Chests & Councils president”.
Representatives of the trade and press will tour the factory during the day of September 7. Some will go through the plant during the morning, while others will visit departments during the afternoon.
It was a momentous day on the 1st of April, 1867 when the National Watch Company completed its first watch. It will be just as eventful day, 84 years later on, on the same site, Elgin National Watch Company completes its 50 millionth timepiece.
Our modern plants in Elgin and Lincoln differ greatly from the first watch factory started in a propped-up wooden structure located along the east bank of the Fox river.When our company was founded there were three other watch factories in the United States. All except Elgin were east of the Alleghany Mountains. Soon after the Elgin factory opened, several other American watch plants were started; some experienced mushroom-like growth before the turn of the century. However, of the more than 60 American watch companies that have been in existence, only Elgin, Hamiliton and Waltham have remained active.
What has made Elgin so successful through the years while so many other watch companies have failed ? To have survived the economic peaks and valleys through which our nation has passed since the Civil War has required sound, far-sighted management, of course. But of paramount importance has been Elgin’s insistence on quality, famous from the beginning. Only by producing a dependable watch, one which keeps accurate time, one which has style and which sells for a reasonable price, could our Company have survived and flourished.
Elgin’s 50 millionth watch – a Lord Elgin – is a masterpiece. Inside the specially designed sterling silver box, that can be converted into cigarette case, is an 18 karat natural gold case, one that is as modern and fashionable as a 1952 car. The dial is of sterling silver with applied 18 karat gold markers. The solid gold hour hand, minute and second hands are faceted and each hand is different from the other.
Inside this beautiful gold case is a superb movement with more than 200 parts. This 21-jewel, 15/0 size movement will have seven adjustments -dial up, dial down, pendant up, pendant left, pendant right, pendant down, heat and cold. It has a standard train. All plates (pillar plates, barrel, train, pallet bridges and balance cocks) are gold plated. All tolerances on this watch are held to our usual rigid Lord Elgin requirements.
The first watch ever produced by Elgin was considerebly larger – in fact, just 10 times the cubic size of the 50 millionth. Named the “B. W. Raymond” after the Company’s first president, this pocket watch was an 18-size, full plate movement with quick train and straight line escapement. It had 15 jewels, was a key-wind, key-set model in a hunting case.
7th September 1951
Elgin, Known the world over, became even more famous when we produced our 50 millionth watch and helped kick off the annual nation-wide series of community chest campaigns.
The big day was 7th of September, Elgin was host to many out-of-town trade officials and representatives of the press. They were taken on tours of the factory, given various demonstrations (including the one on our newly announced Durapower mainspring) in the plant and were guests at a civic banquet.
The banquet was sponsored by the Elgin Association of Commerce and was a community affair honoring our company. At the banquet James G. Shennan, president, accepted on behalf of the Company a plaque presented by the Manufactures committee of the Association of Commerce. The plaque, honoring Elgin for being the first watch manufacturer to produce over 50 million timepieces, was awarded by George P. Edwards, chairman of the committee.
It Reads: “Presented to ELGIN NATIONAL WATCH COMPANY by the Manufacturers Committee of the Elgin Association of Commerce in tribute to our city’s most famous industry, which first gave Elgin its world wide reputation for precision craftsmanship. We present this plaque to honor the Company’s achievement in becoming the first watch manufacturer in the world to complete 50 million jeweled timepieces. September 7, 1951”
Accepting the plaque, Mr. Shennan said: “I want to express appreciation for the honor being shown the Company by the banquet and by the plaque as a permanent symbol of honor on behalf of the 4700 members of the Elgin Watch Family. We shall display this plaque with great pride and humility. I say with humility because we relize full well that such an accomplishment is not the result of the efforts of only a few people. Over 30,000 people, most of them citizens of Elgin, have devoted their efforts, skill and intelligence to the production and sale of these watches.
The cooperation and the good will of the community of Elgin has been an indispensable ingredient of our success. This banquet tonight is very heartwarming evidence to us of the fine spirit which has existed for 87 years. The many city administrations which have been in office here since 1864 always have dealt fairly with us and have been very helpful in aiding us to equitably fill our role in the community.
The many business organizations, both local and national, with whom we have been dealing, all these years, likewise, have been of great assistance to us. We are grateful to them for their fine cooperation. Our many thousand wholesale and retail jeweler customers and the jewelry publications have been loyal supporters over all these years. Without their invaluable assistance and support in bringing of our products to the public, none of this would be possible. The workd dos not beat a path to anyone’s door.
Last, but most important, we are grateful to probably 40,000,000 persons who have purchased 50,000,000 of our watches. Their loyalty and confidence in us is our greatest asset.
Speaking for all the Elgin Family, we thank you.”
Orlo E. Salisbury, president of the local assoication, served as toastmaster of the banquet. Atty, Arthur L. Paulson, president of the governing board of the Elgin Community Check Assoication, called it a “Red Feather” day for Elgin, commending the Watch Factory for achieveing the distinction of being the first manufacturer to produce 50 million watches. He recalled that the Company was foremost in organzing the Community Chest in Elgin 29 years ago.
Among the special guests at the banquet were Miss Joyce Brockner, who is “Lady Elgin,” and her two attendants, Miss Jean Chapin and Mrs. Marilyn Meyer.
Following the banquet, a community wide celebration was held in the Elgin Armory. More than 2000 people attended the festivities and danced to the music of Francis Whitcomb and his orchestra. After the Flag raising ceremony, Mayor Myron M. Lehman placed a crown of flowers upon the head of Miss Brockner, proclaiming her “Lady Elgin” during the coronation. Miss Brockner, Miss Chapin and Mrs. Meyer each was presented a bouquet of flowers. “Lady Elgin” then was presented a Lily of the Valley engraved diamond wrist watch, and each attendant was presented an engraved Lady Elgin wrist watch.
Miss Brockner presented to My. Allyn the 50 millionth watch. This watch will serve as a badge of office, being passed on, from year to year, to each annual national president of the Community Chests and Councils of America. At the end of each president’s term, it will be returned for refurbishing and re-presented. After 10 years the watch will be placed in our collection along with other historic Elgin timepieces. There it will rest bey the first watch our Company made, a B. W. Raymond model.
Mr. Shennan, introducing Mr. Allyn at the Armory just before Miss Brockner handed him the watch, remarked: “When, a few months ago, we were considering what should be done with Elgin’s 50 millionth watch, it was our feeling that this great accomplishment – the reuslt of over 30,000 members of the Elgin Family – should serve some great humanitarian purpose. It would not be enough merely to honor some outstanding military or political personage. We felt that this watch, as a symbol of progress, should in some way help the people of the United States, our customers, whose interest in our products made it possible. Accordingly, Mr. Allyn, on behalf of all the members of the Elgin Family, I take great pride in presenting to you, in your capacity as president of the Community Chests and Councils of America, the 50 millionth Elgin. We ask that this watch be considered a rotating badge of office for you and future presidents of your organization, with the hope that it will be considered in a small measure a reward for the personal sacrifice you and your successors make to lead this great humanitarian cause, and with a prayer for the continued success of the Community Chests of America.”The Watch Word, October 1951
Mayor Myron M. Lehman places a crown of flowers on Miss Joyce Brockner’s head and proclaims her “Lady Elgin”
Stanley C. Allyn receives the 50 millionth Elgin watch from “Lady Elgin” Miss Joyce Brockner after being introduced by President James G. Shennan in the Armory.
George P. Edwards of the Elgin Association of Commerce, presents to James G. Shennan a plaque honoring Elgin National Watch Company.
President James G. Shennan welcomes the throng at the celebration in the Armory.
At the head of the table Mrs. Marilyn Meyer, Miss Jean Chapin, Miss Joyce Brockner, James G. Shennan, Stanley C. Allyn, Orio E. Salisbury, Arthur L. Paulson, George P. Edwards, Myron M. Lehman and the Rev. Clarence F. Wittenstrom.
Miss Joyce Brockner, James G. Shennan and Stanley C. Allyn.
10th September 1951
Elgin's second 50 million
The Company would stage another ceremony at the Lincoln Plant a few days later on the 10th of September. There civic leaders watched the completion of the "the first watch in Elgin's second 50 million" - No 50,000,001. This timepiece is being placed directly in Elgin's collection of historic watches.The Watch Word, October 1951
James G. Shennan and Elmer Jurs present the 50 millionth and one watch, cased and ready for the museum at Elgin.
Fifty million watches AIN'T HAY!
The Watch, Elgin's 50,000,000th The Model, "Lady Elgin" Joyce Brockner
It wasn't uncommon for local businesses or companies that had long term relationships with Elgin, would advertise or place congratulatory messages in Watch Word editions. This is one is for the 50 million watches achievement. The large scale 50 Millionth Elgin model is of interest in the hands are in-correctly positioned (being reversed):
They represent many millions of tiny gears, and jewels, and cases, and mainsprings, and stems and crystals. They represent the work, and effort, and genius of thousands of American craftsmen.
But most important they represent the continuing faith and confidence that the people of this county have in Elgin products.
The fact that Elgin has produced more fine jeweled watches than any other manufacturer is of more than passing interest to us at Sears. Our founder, Dick Sears, got started in business by selling watches - and it is said that they were Elgins. And his original partner, Alvah Roebuck, was a skilled watchmaker by trade. During the 65 years we have been in business we have always sold Elgin products. Therefor, in congratulating you men and women of Elgin upon making production history, and in wishing you continued success, we do so with a warmth and cordiality that is the result of our long and successful association.
THE EMPLOYEES OF
Sears, Roebuck & Co.
IN ELGINThe Watch Word, October 1951
Special Package For 1000 Watches
Elgin has made 1000 men's wrist watches based on the design of the 50 millionth watch and has prepared a special package for this "limited edition."
The watch in its sterling silver box rests on a red velvet pillow-type display piece. The box can be easily converted into a cigarette box. The ultra-modern case is 18 karat natural gold. The dial is of sterling silver with applied 18 karat gold markers. The solid gold hour hour, minute and second hands are faceted and each hand is different from the others. The Lord Elgin movement, with more than 200 parts, has 21 jewels. Its a 15/0 size and has seven adjustments. All plates are gold plated. All tolerances on these watches are held to Elgin's usual rigid Lord Elgin requirements, of course. Watches in this series retail for $500.00.The Watch Word, October 1951
Elgin continual mention they are producing 1000 of these watches for resale but you need to take note that 50,000,000 was provided to Community Chests and Councils of America and 50,000,001 was directly placed in Elgin's historical watch collection at Plant 1, so in reality only 998 of the 50 Millionth Anniversary watches were packaged for retail sale.
With out records from Elgin itself, we can only establish a "Retail Window" which is the period it was actively advertised in the media and this window may change in the future as more information is identified and shared and excludes advertisements placed directly by Elgin itself.
In total 49 advertisements were identified in the major newspapers and the period searched was 1950-1954.
The first identified retail advertisement was on the 9th of November 1951.
The last identified retail advertisement was on the 23rd of January 1952.
Yes - 75 days to sell 998 watches at $500.00 each which is $499,000 (worth $4,579,822 in 2015) in total.
The following is worth mentioning to clear up confusion about original boxes and price tags associated with the 50 Millionth Anniversary Watch:
- There is no evidence in the retail advertisements of any 50 Millionth Anniversary Watch being marked down
- There is no evidence in the retail advertisements of any 50 Millionth Anniversary Watch being sold without its Sterling Silver Box
The first retail advertisement listing serial numberThe Jacksonville Daily Journal, 8th November 1951
Olsen & Ebann has been selling Elgin watches since the 1920sThe News Palladium, 21st November 1951
Well, answer the question, which Elgin do you want for Christmas ?
1000 and 1 ?
All along I've been pointing out Elgin only made 1,000 of these watches and sold 998 in the retail market. Elgin actually made 1,001 of these watches.
Remember right at the start of our story in 1951 they made a dummy model ? Well it just so happens that a very dedicated Elgin collector was able to take custody of what really is the first 50 Millionth movement grade made.
It has the serial number 5,000,670.
Now before I continue, I don't have a document that states this (its Elgin we are talking about) but lets work through my logic ?
- Elgin made the dummy model ahead of the production models
- Elgin used the grade 670 for the watch
- The serial number ends in 670
- To ensure the dummy model wouldn't be used as a retail model, they short changed it a 0 in its number
- If you think that it was just a stamping error, you really haven't read the part about Elgins stringent testing earlier on, do you really think they would let this sell ?
- It was most likely sold during the garage sale day before Plant 1 was razed and prior to that it kicked around the plant for reproducing spares (remember 50,000,000 was issued as a badge of honor for 10 years and each year they had to refurbish it, they would need a master model to reference)
You can read more about it over at GeneJockey's Elgin Watch Blog
The Red Feather
The 50,000,000 watch known as the Red Feather is on display at the Elgin History Museum and the team have been kind enough to allow me to post of a photo of it here to which I'm very grateful of.
Shown here is the 50 Millionth Elgin with its original sterling silver case from the 3rd owner Albert J. Nesbitt.
Note that it has a standard "Lord Elgin" printing on the dial as opposed to the autograph of Lord Elgin himself.
I have yet been able to confirm if the watch had its original dial or not. It was refurbished every year, so Elgin may have replaced it or preserved the dial for the time it was to enter their historic collection in 1961. It wouldn't surprise me the least if it surfaced one day.
If you are not lucky enough to have the privilege of owning one of these watches but you want to see for yourself what all the fuss is about; your best bet is to pay the museum a visit and eye off the original 50,000,000 Elgin.
Even if you own one, I would still pay a visit to enjoy the rest of their Elgin National Watch Company display.
Visit their website for opening hours Elgin History Museum
I do not know the location of the 50,000,001 watch currently.
I Want One!
If you wanted to add a 50 Millionth Anniversary Watch to your collection or complete yours; what should you be looking for ?
The Watch itself
- The case should be 18k, made by Star and have the case number 5000 on the inside
- The lugs should be flexible, solid gold, no patterns, diamonds or any thing else and shouldn't be rounded on the corners
- The sterling silver dial should be original as possible, they don't refinish well
- The movement should be gold plated and numbered 50,000,000 to 50,000,999
- It should have its 685 gram Sterling Silver box (with teak lining, two dividers and silk lining on the inside of the lid)
- It should have its unique $500 price tag on the box
- It should have its unique "Lord Elgin" tag on the box
- It should have its pad for the watch to sit on
- It should have its 50 Millionth Anniversary Watch certificate
- It should have its Elgin booklet
- It should have an Alligator strap, stamped "* Lord Elgin *" and it should have an 18k buckle which again is unique to this model
- It should have its unique outer retail box and cushion (yeh ok, keep dreaming)
In my view, if your 50 Millionth Anniversary Watch meets the four requirements listed for the watch its self and four of the listed accessories you have an above average 50 Millionth Anniversary Watch, if you have 6 of the Accessories you have an outstanding 50 Millionth Anniversary Watch, if you have all 8 accessories, you really need to provide a photo of your 50 Millionth Anniversary Watch to share with the rest of us plebs.
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