(And before I go to0 far, credit needs to be given to ElginWatches and the large auction site for the info I was able to find.) Elgin started manufacturing pocket watches right after the Civil War ended, and their very first model was most definitely a working watch – it was certified for railroad use.
They started to produce wrist watches around 1910, which they continued to do until manufacturing ceased in the 1960s. These were not the highest-end pieces, but they weren’t cheapies either – they quite comfortable fit into the middle ground that today we call “affordable” (yes, I know, that term means different things to different people!).
Now, why would you want to pick up an Elgin? For starters, these are a great example of what the American watch industry used to put out in the market. Second, though they were only made for fifty or so years, they were mass-produced. Which means there are plenty that you can find out in the wild, and parts (or movements to be harvested for parts) can be readily found, and at quite reasonable prices.
A quick search on Ebay shows that you could pick up an Elgin mechanical for under $50 in working order – but you could also spend quite a bit more if you were so inclined. For myself, I think I may need to research these pieces a bit more to get a better feel for the market, and what would constitute a desirable watch, and/or one that would be suitable for daily wear. Of course, if I do pick one up, you will be able to read the review right here!