Monday, July 13, 2020

Elgin "States" 670

Elgin created the "Series" concept in the late 1920s to denote a certain number of models grouped around a theme or price point. The "States" series was priced in the $40 to $50 range and included many beautiful Art Deco models, including the 679, 204, 682, 459, 944, and probably most famously, the 226, aka, "Skyscraper." The Skyscraper was originally priced at $50, which was a chunk of money in its day, especially at the dawn of the Great Depression. Fifty dollars back in 1929 is worth about $750 in today's dollars. That's about what they are worth today on the rare occasion that they come up for sale.

The watch featured today from my personal stash is the "States" 670, which appeared in Elgin's '29 jeweler's catalog at a retail price of $42.50, about $637 in 2020 dollars.

My example has a 14kt all white gold filled case that I would classify in excellent condition (minimal wear for its age), measuring 27mm wide by 35mm long lug tip to lug tip. This gives it a very nice presence on the wrist, recognizable to collectors even at a distance, and even garners attention from Muggles who at least pay attention to the unusual in men's jewelry and fashion accessories. The black inking in the channels has long since been worn off, but this could be easily remedied if the new owner so chooses. The space between the lugs is 16mm, which is a nice in that it gives the collector a variety of band choices to go with it.

The band on mine is vintage (probably '40s), curled and darkened from sweat. Since I never seem to recover the cost of a nice replacement band, I'm leaving this band on it, and the new owner can splurge on whatever kind of band he or she wants.

The dial is in well aged, but original, condition. There are different schools of thought on whether this detracts from, or adds to, a watch's appeal from a collector's point of view. I for one prefer a well aged original dial to a refinished dial. Nothing says "cheesy" to me like a 90-year old watch that looks like it just came out of a gumball machine with a freshly minted refinished dial. As long as a dial is readable and has no major stains or missing print, I much prefer to leave dials alone to preserve the overall character of the watch. 

The back is nice and clean with no personalized engraving (not that engraving bothers me as long as it was done professionally),

and the inside back back indicates that this case was supplied to Elgin by the Star Watch Case Co., of Ludington, Mich., which supplied many cases to Elgin.

Powering this watch is Elgin's 15 jewel, grade 428 movement, a fairly common 6/0-size movement of which there were literally more than a million made. This particular movement was made circa 1929, and was one in the 99th batch of 340,000 movements of a total of 106 batches made of this movement.

So while not an uncommon movement, the States 670 is an uncommon watch. I wouldn't call it "rare" by any stretch, but you do not see them come up for sale all that often. Especially not one in this nice of original condition, AND with original presentation box.

For years, Elgin has been regarded as sucking hind tit by vintage watch collectors, due to the volume in which they were produced and the number of surviving examples. That may be true for models produced in the 1940s and '50s when wristwatches really hit their stride over pocket watches. But surviving examples of 1920s and '30s Elgin models are scarce and getting scarcer as more and more collectors jump on the "Art Deco" train. These early Elgin watches are finally getting the respect (and pricing) they deserve, considering their relative scarcity.

Several vintage watch dealers today are even specializing in these beautiful pieces, such as Bryan Girourard and his website, Elgin watches from this period are scooped up almost as quickly as Bryan can list them. He is known to have a waiting list for certain Elgin models, such as the 226, so they almost never appear on his site.

My States 670 is priced at $475 (including the presentation box) and is available here. I will also consider trades for this piece. I am especially in the market for vintage stainless steel Swiss chronographs and dive watches right now. Yes, I realize both of these are "hot" right now. But I also know that these watches are not everyone's cup of tea and you might have one gathering dust in your collection. But I will at least consider any reasonable offer.

Update 9:07 p.m. Central time Monday July 13: The watch has been purchased.

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