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American Waltham - A Brief History

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[American Waltham | Audemars Piguet | Blancpain | Breitling | Bulova | Cartier | Corum | Ellesse |Fortis]
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Company History

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American Waltham Watch Company, founded in 1850, were one of the largest watch makers of the 19th Century.
The company was founded on a relationship between three men, in Massachusetts USA.
Mr David Davis, a Mr Dension and a Mr Howard.  It was based on a dream that they could produce watches that were of good quality, yet were not made from some of the more expensive materials usually found on watches of the era.
Mr Howard had originally server as an apprentice to a man called Aaron Willard Junior circa 1829, and a few years later on, in 1842 Mr Howard formed a clock and Balance Scale Manufacturing company with Mr Davis. Mr Howard and Mr Dennison then combined there ideas and with some funding, completed there first watch in 1850.

But problems were apparent.

The company was trying new ideas, things like using Jewels, making dials, and producing steel with a mirrored finish.
The problem was as always, that things like this cost money, and all of it required brand new machinery and thus put the company under a great deal of financial stress.  The other thing discovered is that although each watch was made in the same press and made in the same way to the same style, each individual piece had it's own individual problems and mistakes to be corrected before the time piece could be classed as complete, and it took months to adjust the watches to the point that they were better than any other timepieces on the market.
During this time Mr Howard had perfected and patented many different varieties of automatic watch making machines, that could easily and efficiently make precision watch components.

By 1851, the trio had there own production house, and the name 'American Horology Company' was adopted.

In 1852 the company had renamed themselves and watches were being produced with the signature 'The Warran Mfg. Co.' after a Revolutionary War Hero.
Watches 1 - 17, the first from the production line, were not placed on the market but were instead given to the company officials, and executives.
From then on the company went through a number of name changes, with watches #18 - 110 being engraved with "Warren Boston", the next 800 were marked "Samuel Curtis" (The Main Financial Backer of the Company) and a few were marked "Fellows and Schel" and were sold for $40.

In September 1853 the name was changed yet again to 'Boston Watch Company' an d a factory was erected in Waltham, Massachusetts in October 1854. The movements produced at this building are marked #1,001 to #5,000 and were marked with the engraving of "Dennison, Howard & Davis,", "C.T.Parker", and "P.S. Bartlett".
Times were hard and the Boston Watch Company failed in 1857, and was subsequently sold at Auction to Royal E Robbins.

In May 1857, the company was shuffled and became "Appleton, Tracey & Co.", and the watches produced in this time carried the serial numbers between, 5,001 and 14,000 ,model 1857. The C.T.Parker movement was re-introduced as Model 1857 and was sold for $12, 399 were made. In 1855 brass watches were being sold for $1.  Also at this time 598 chronometers were made, and by January 1858 the P.S.Bartlet watch was made.

In January 1859, the Waltham Improvement Company and Appleton, Tracey & Co. merged to form The American watch Company.

As Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the USA, in 1860, and the US was plunged into Civil War, the Comp nay Had problems, as over the next year business was at a standstill. As there seemed to be no market for watches, bankruptcy seemed inevitable, but expenditures were cut to the lowest possible level thus keeping the factory in operation.

To this day the Waltham name is
synonymous with quality and craftmanship, and remain to this day, very desirable timpieces.

Also an interesting fact is that, according to the biography by Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln himself carried an American Waltham wrist watch, the 'William Ellory' Model, produced by Waltham, in 1863 and was an 18 size, 1859 plate model with steel balance.

Company Name History:

Approximate Date

Company Name

1850, September

Howard, Davis and Dennison, Roxbury Mass

1851 (for 6 months.)

American Horology Co., Roxbury Mass.


The Warren Mfg. Co., Roxbury Mass.

1853 (Sept) - 1857 (May)

Boston Watch Co., Roxbury Mass & Waltham Mass.


Tracy Baker & Co., Waltham Mass.


Appleton Tracy and Co., Waltham Mass.


American Watch Co., Waltham Mass.


American Waltham Watch Co., Waltham Mass.


Waltham Watch Co., Waltham Mass.

 Please remember that this is an unofficial account of the history of this company,
Should you happen to find any mistakes with our information then please
contact the webmaster.

Elgin Railroad Watches - A Brief History

Elgin was founded in 1864, right as the civil war was coming to an end. The first watch Elgin made, an 18 sized B W Raymond railroad grade watch, was finished in 1867 and over the next 100 years, they went on to produce about 60 million watches. Elgin produced their first wristwatch around 1910, leading most other American watch companies by many years.

Elgin was originally called the "National Watch Company". The name never really stuck and in 1874, they changed their name to the "Elgin National Watch Company" because most of the watch trade and public were calling them "watches from Elgin". They kept that name until the late 1960s when they stopped producing watches and changed their name to the "Elgin National Industries".

Elgin was founded on the idea of mass producing high quality pocket watches using machine made, interchangeable parts. Up until around 1850, watches were made mostly by hand, which meant that if a part broke, you had to find someone with the tools and skill to make a new part. Elgin realized that there was a large market for good watches that could be sold and repaired relatively cheaply using factory made replacement parts that didn't require hand adjusting.

Elgin never made the very highest quality watches in the world, nor did they make the very cheapest, but together with Waltham (aka The American Watch Company), they dominated the vast middle ground of the watch market.

Today, Elgin watches are popular with watch collectors. Because Elgin produced so many watches and produced so many spare parts, they can still be easily bought and fixed, so even a 100 year old Elgin can be used, with care, on a daily basis. While mechanical watches can't compete with quartz watches for accuracy, there is something about having a watch that ticks that a quartz watch just can't replace.

Elgin made a large number of railroad grade watches, including their first watch, an 18 size, 15 jewel B.W. Raymond. Elgin also made the first Railroad grade wrist watch, the grade 730A B.W. Raymond.

Kent Singer has written an article entitled Just What Is A Railroad Watch?. This article covers American Railroad standards from around 1850 until 1960 and spells such myths as Railroad watches couldn't be hunter case watches or pendant set.

Kent is one of the foremost experts on Railroad watches and co-authors a regular column in the NAWCC Bulletin. Kent wrote his article in part to counter the incorrect impressions left by reading the very popular "Complete Watches" book. much of (mis-)information in the "Complete Watches" book apparently can't be backed up with references. Kent's article, in contrast, uses just a few of the references that I've seen him use to back up claims.

A related article by Edward C. Hahn about railroad pocket watches can be found at " Making the (Railroad) Grade: The 19j B.W. Raymond". It is a wonderful article on Railroad grade pocket watches. It shows how a 19j BWRaymond works, with very good pictures.

An article that talks about Elgin's "DuraBalance" and the railroad grade B.W. Raymond wrist watch can be found at the "Forgotten Masterpieces: The Last Elgins. This was written by Paul J. Chambre.

The following article is from the 1961 New York Central Railroad's "Headlight" magazine. The picture is courtesy of the "New York Central System Historical Society" and Kent Singer

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