Monday, September 19, 2011

Waltham Watch Company

The Waltham Watch Company, also known as the American Waltham Watch Co. and the American Watch Co., produced about 40 million high quality watches, clocks, speedometers, compasses, time fuses and other precision instruments between 1850 and 1957. The company's historic manufacturing facilities in Waltham, Massachusetts have been preserved as the American Waltham Watch Company Historic District.

 Sir Waltham SW39 watch

In 1850, Roxbury, Massachusetts, David Davis, Edward Howard and Aaron Lufkin Dennison formed together the company that would later become the Waltham Watch Company. The revolutionary business plan was to manufacture the movement parts so precisely that they would become fully interchangeable. Based upon the experience of earlier failed trials, Howard and Dennison would eventually perfect and patent their precision watch making machines and create the American System of Watch Manufacturing.

 Lone Eagle SW45 watch

American Horologe Company (Warren Manufacturing Company)
In 1851, according to some sources, the company took the name "American Horologe Company" and production started in the new factory building. However, in October 1886, Waltham co-founder, Aaron Lufkin Dennison, in a letter to author Crossman, refuted the name and stated that the first Company name was the Warren Manufacturing Company, named for General Warren of Roxbury, a famous soldier of the War of Independence.The word "watch" was specifically omitted to retain secrecy of the novel operation.

Late 1852, the first watches were complete. The first 17 watches, which ran for 8 days, marked "Howard, Davis & Dennison" were distributed among company officials. Number-1 given to Edward Howard resides in the Smithsonian Collection. Numbers 18 to 100 were named "Warren, Boston" and the following 800 "Samuel Curtis", after the financial backer. A few, marked "Fellows & Schell", sold for $40. January 1853 saw the introduction of the "P.S. Bartlett" watch (named for Patten Sargeant Bartlett, an early employee).

Boston Watch Company
The company was renamed Boston Watch Co. in September 1853. A new factory was built in Waltham, Massachusetts, on the banks of the Charles River, which grew over the years to its present size. In October 1854 the company moved into the new factory. These buildings still stand, and were added to the United States National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

The next movements manufactured (1001-5000) were marked "Dennison, Howard, & Davis", "P.S.Bartlett", and "C.T. Parker". The company had financial difficulties and Edward Howard left to form E. Howard & Co.

 Waltham New Crescent watch

Appleton Tracy & Company
Upon bankruptcy, the company was sold at auction to Royal E. Robbins, who reorganized it under the new name Appleton Tracy & Co. (ATCo) in May 1857. Bearing this name, the next movements produced, Waltham Model 1857 was the 1st pocket watch produced in America of standard parts. Serial numbers 5001 to 14,000. The "C.T. Parker" was introduced as the 1857 model. 399 units were made. Also 598 chronometers were manufactured.

American Watch Company
The Waltham Improvement Co. merged in January 1859 with the Appleton, Tracy & Co. forming the American Watch Co. (AWCo). In 1860, as President Abraham Lincoln was elected, the country was in Civil War. Production ground to a halt. However, the company decided to downsize to the lowest possible level to keep the factory open. It worked: Upon his Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln became the proud owner of a Waltham watch: Model 1857, grade "Wm. Ellery", serial number no 67613. A.W.Co. made unusual 14 size watch with "Push button" at 1 o'clock position to set the time. Serial No.2875426 Name: Bond St.

Waltham became the main supplier of Railroad chronometers to the various railroads in North America and in as many as 52 other countries of the world. In 1876, Waltham disclosed the first automatic screw making machinery and obtained the first Gold Medal in a watch precision contest at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. Not only the American Horology but also the world owes much to the early members of the Waltham Watch entity, such as Bacon, Church, Dennison, Fogg, H. Marsh, Webster and Woerd for their technical inventions and developments.

 Lady Amelia chronograph

American Waltham Watch Company
In 1885, after 26 years, the company name changed to American Waltham Watch Co. (AWWCo) where it was to remain for the next 32 years. Most widely known under this name, the company would produce some of the finest examples of pocket watches ever created.

Waltham Watch Company
In 1907 the name changed to Waltham Watch Co. (WWCo), in 1923 briefly to Waltham Watch and Clock Company and finally in 1925 to Waltham Watch Company (WWC).[dubious – discuss]

Two high-quality groups of watches were produced by Waltham as direct result of orders placed by the Canadian Pacific Railway. One large group has the shield and beaver emblem of the Railway engraved on the movements, and is known as the "CPR" type. The second group has "Canadian Railway Time Service" engraved on the movements, and is known as the "CRTS" type. They are both highly prized by collectors.

Waltham Precision Instruments Company
Waltham closed its factory doors and declared bankruptcy in 1949, although the factory briefly reopened a few times (primarily to finish and case existing watch inventory for sale). Several different plans were presented to restart the business, but all failed for various reasons. In 1958, the company decided to get out of the consumer watch business completely, and reorganized into the Waltham Precision Instruments Company. All remaining watch inventory had been sold to the Hallmark Watch Company the previous year, and rights to the "Waltham" trademark were sold to a new Waltham Watch Company incorporated in Delaware in exchange for stock.

However, specialized clocks and chronographs for use in aircraft control panels continued to be made in the Waltham factory under the name of Waltham Precision Instruments Company until the company was sold in 1994. The company is now based in Alabama as the Waltham Aircraft Clock Corporation.

Waltham International SA Switzerland
The Waltham Watch Company went out of business in 1957, but had founded a subsidiary in Switzerland in 1954, Waltham International SA. Waltham International SA retains the right to the Waltham trade name outside of North America, and continues to produce mechanical wrist watches and mechanical pocket watches under the "Waltham" brand. It is a full-fledged member of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH.

Hallmark Watch Company
During their restructuring efforts in the 50's, Waltham opened an office in New York for the purposes of importing Swiss watch movements and cases. Due to restrictions placed on the company by their main creditor (the Restructuring Finance Corporation, they couldn't sell these watches directly, so they were sold through an independent company; the Hallmark Watch Company.

Waltham Watch Company (Delaware)
The Waltham Watch Company (later known as Waltham of Chicago) was founded by one of the executives of the Hallmark Watch Company to carry on the Waltham trade name in the watch business. In exchange for rights to the name, existing Waltham Watch Company (Mass) shareholders received 1 share of the new company for every 5 shares of the original company.

In 1959, the Waltham Watch Company merged with the Hallmark Watch Company, giving the new company access to replacement parts to service existing Waltham watch owners. Notwithstanding their efforts to present a seamless transition, the company came under much scrutiny by the FTC throughout the 60's, and ultimately was forced to change their advertising and branding policies to clearly indicate that they weren't directly related to the original Waltham company, and that their products were not made in America.

 Waltham Creates Fidalgo Watch

US & Canada Business
The United States & Canada businesses of Waltham are now owned by MZ Berger and Company manufacturing cheap watches in China for distribution solely in U.S.A. and Canada, outside of the watch industry dealerships.

Serial Numbers
Every watch movement was engraved with an individual serial number which can be used to estimate the date of production. Volunteers have created a database of Waltham serial numbers, models and grades, and descriptions of observed watches.

Historic Waltham watches
Abraham Lincoln's Watch
In tribute, upon the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln was presented with a William Ellery, key wind watch Waltham Model 1857, serial number 67613. This watch is now in the collection of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

Waltham watch on the moon
Astronaut David Scott, commander of the Apollo 15 mission in 1971, wore a Waltham watch on his third lunar EVA when his standard Omega Speedmaster Professional chronograph became damaged. This was a Waltham branded Swiss made watch.

Waltham speedometer in a Ford
Reputedly the only speedometer in a Ford, to bear the manufacturers name. The 1937 Ford sedans (at least), had Waltham speedometers. A testor at the time was quoted to say that accuracy had to be "plus or minus 10 MPH".