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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Illinois Watch Co.

illinois_watch_face.jpg Update May 18, 2006: SOLD For sale.

This is an Illinois Watch - Sangamo Special. It's what they call a railroad grade pocket watch. I don't know what it weighs, but it's hefty.

I've forgotten which of my grandfathers this belonged to. It could have been either. Maybe my sister will wander by and let me know.

My dad's dad worked for the Illinois Midland Railroad Company. Or, maybe it was the Illinois Central.* Or maybe both. (The details get lost in confusion. Both railroads have since merged and are now known as the Central and Illinois Midland (C&IM). I think) I should know, but I don't.

My mom's dad worked for Sangamo Electric. That I do know. Sangamo Electric was located in Springfield, Illinois, and manufactured electric meters. I'm not exactly sure, but I have a vague recollection of hearing that Sangamo Electric was a successor to the Illinois Watch Co. Perhaps a local historian can clear this up.

illinois_watch_works.jpg When I was a young girl. I opened the innermost back cover to expose the workings and jewels. My mother got a little upset and told me to immediately close it. Needless to say, the back was never opened again. Until now.

Engraved on the inside of the back it says: Wadsworth Quality 14 Karat Gold Filled Pat's Pend'g 7552295 (and a dot?).

Opposite that in a sort of gold on gold embossing, it says: Illinois Watch Co. Sangamo Special.

There's a serial number engraved on the inside: 4758914. Above that it says, Adjusted Temp and Six Positions Sixty Hour.

illinois_watch_motor_barrel.jpg The face of the watch is covered in glass, of course. It looks good, but I can feel a small blemish over the three. The hands are blue (as in blue steel?).

The back is smooth gold. The sides have what appears to be some kind of "X" pattern.

Also, I don't know if the watch actually works or not. Not knowing exactly how to wind it up, I haven't touched the stem. However, if someone wants to buy it depending on whether it works or not, I can take it to a jeweler who will know what to do.

According to Barry Goldberg, who owns several Illinois watches, the Illinois Watch Company, of Springfield, Illinois:

Organized in 1869, Illinois made many low, medium and high grade watches before being sold to the Hamilton Watch Company in 1927. They are especially known for the large number of railroad grade and railroad approved watches they produced, including the Bunn Special, the Sangamo Special and the Santa Fe Special....

illinois_watch_inside_back.jpg The greenery in this shot is the tree overhead reflected on the very shiny inside back cover.

These photos may not be the greatest. But, they turned out better than I thought they would. I shot them outside in the sun. Hand held. One of these days I'm going to invest in a tripod.

Serious offers welcome. Send to mariecarnes [at]

* The Illinois Central was made famous in the song, "City of New Orleans," written by Steven Goodman and recorded by Arlo Guthrie, among others. "Riding on the City of New Orleans; Illinois Central Monday morning rail; fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders, three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail...." In case I never mentioned it before, I love railroad stuff.

Posted by Marie at April 27, 2006 6:09 PM


My dad always carried an Illinois watch. His was silver. I have it somewhere. Thanks for bringing back a memory.

Posted by: Don Ray at April 27, 2006 8:16 PM

My goodness, Marie. That watch is beautiful. It's also a priceless piece of local history. I would love to have it, but I don't think I have that much money.

Posted by: The 26th Man at April 28, 2006 11:17 PM

I just went to eBay and found a 1926 Illinois Bunn Special, similar in style to yours, Marie, except this one was missing the hand on the smaller dial, and it had a few scratches on the crystal. Your watch looks to be in much better shape and much fancier. The Bunn Special still was going for $127.50 with 2-plus days left.

Posted by: The 26th Man at April 28, 2006 11:30 PM

26th Man: Thanks for the compliment.

I'm watching those eBay bids, too. I've also found a message board of watch collectors who go totally gaga over every little detail in these watches.

Thanks for pointing out the importance of the local history. It would be nice if the watch could stay in the Springfield area. If I do end up putting it on eBay, I realize that probably will not happen.

Posted by: Marie at April 28, 2006 11:39 PM

" In case I never mentioned it before, I love railroad stuff. " Then you should not part with it. :-)

Posted by: RL at April 30, 2006 2:16 AM

I would be interested in buying your watch if it is still available. Email me if you still have it and still want to sell it.

Posted by: bob at May 17, 2006 11:54 PM

I have a mans pocket watch says Illinois Watch Co
on the face, 6692990 stamped inside. I am interested in anything you can tell me about this watch. My understanding it was given to my Grandfather who was a Chicago Police man long aobut the depression.

Posted by: warren mathisen at September 8, 2006 5:15 PM