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  1. #1
    Registered User Jerry Treiman's Avatar
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    Default Who made these dials?

    The big watch companies, like Waltham and Elgin, had their own dial departments, but where did the smaller companies get their dials?

    In my research into the movements that Waltham made for the E. Howard Watch Co. I have noticed that the dials one sees on these watches were not of a typical style for Waltham. For this, and some other reasons, I believe that the movements were shipped to Howard without dials and that Howard supplied the dials. But where did Howard get their dials? E. Howard & Co. may have made some of the earlier Waltham-Howard dials, but for the later Waltham-Howard movements, delivered to Keystone, did the old U.S. Watch Co. factory, which had been bought by Keystone and was being re-tooled to make Howard watches, have a dial department or did they source them elsewhere?

    Here are two examples that may shed light on this question.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The first picture shows, on the left, a 12-size dial pattern that has been found on several of the late Waltham-Howard movements (ca.1905). This example has had the Howard name polished off. On the right is a nearly identical Elgin dial (photo courtesy of Fred Hansen). This distinctive numeral style is shown in Elgin’s 1909 and 1915 material catalogs and so I suspect that, although the movement came from Waltham, Howard/Keystone appears to have sourced this dial from Elgin.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The next photo pair shows, on the left, a 16-size dial pattern that is very common on Waltham-Howards from 1903-1905. On the right is a nearly identical dial for Rockford. This dial, as well as others that are like some Waltham-Howard dials, are shown in Rockford’s 1909-1910 material catalog. Did Rockford make their own dials, and some for Howard, or did both companies get their dials made for them by another company?

    edited to add a note on Rockford dials: Darrah Artzner (Review of the Rockford Watch Company And It’s Watches With Emphasis on Model Identification”, revised 2004 -- http://www.nawcc-ch149.com/db_resch/...d%20Review.pdf ) has noted that “Rockford dials were made by various North American companies as well as those located in Switzerland.” Evidently Keystone must have contracted with the same sources for some of their dials.
    Last edited by Jerry Treiman; 04-17-2017 at 02:40 AM.
    Jerry Treiman, NAWCC member since 1971
    Charter member of Pocket Horology Chapter 174

  2. #2

    Default Re: Who made these dials? (By: Jerry Treiman)

    A most relevant question. I have always wondered who made the dials for Ball. It is fascinating that we seem to know so little about the source(s) of such important components of some of the watch movements that we so highly value and deeply study.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Who made these dials? (By: johnbscott)

    As for small companies, Aurora made their own dials, with the possible exception of late in the life of the company.

    Most late Rockford fancy dials were Swiss made (some are marked Swiss though some aren't). Re regular Rockford dials, methinks that some years they were sourced and some years they were made in house, but it would take some re-reading of the period literature to provide details.

  4. #4
    Registered User Clint Geller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who made these dials? (By: johnbscott)

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbscott View Post
    A most relevant question. I have always wondered who made the dials for Ball. It is fascinating that we seem to know so little about the source(s) of such important components of some of the watch movements that we so highly value and deeply study.
    I think at least a lot of the dials made for Ball watches were made by the same companies that made the movements. I say this because I have seen both several Ball Howard dials and several Ball Hampden dials that were pretty clearly painted by Josiah Moorhouse (best known for the unique calligraphy he created on many Howard watch dials when foreman of the E. Howard & Co. dial room) when he worked for those companies during the periods when their Ball movements were produced.
    Clint Geller, FNAWCC, # 84,947

  5. #5

    Default Re: Who made these dials? (By: Clint Geller)

    Yes, those early Ball 18s dials would have been as has been stated. I had in mind the more prolific 16s Ball dials, especially those for Ball-Waltham ORRS movements. There is considerable variety amongst the 16s ORRS Ball-Waltham dials (perhaps a dozen styles) and I am not convinced that they were all made by Waltham (if any were).

    To maintain relevance to this thread, I reiterate that there is a general possibility of a source for 16s (especially) dials of which there is not wide awareness.

  6. #6
    Registered User Jerry Treiman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who made these dials? (By: johnbscott)

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbscott View Post
    ... To maintain relevance to this thread, I reiterate that there is a general possibility of a source for 16s (especially) dials of which there is not wide awareness.
    Do you have any knowledge of who this may have been (talking about enamel dials)? We know about Ohara Dial who were known for fancy and custom dials, but also made plain dials. Are some of the watch companies known to have made dials for others? In my first post I suggest that perhaps Elgin made some dials for Keystone. Does anyone know who may have made the dials for Rockford around the turn of the century?
    Jerry Treiman, NAWCC member since 1971
    Charter member of Pocket Horology Chapter 174

  7. #7
    Registered User Jerry Treiman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who made these dials? (By: Jerry Treiman)

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Treiman View Post
    ...
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	WH_Elg12sdials.jpg 
Views:	27 
Size:	212.3 KB 
ID:	340501
    The first picture shows, on the left, a 12-size dial pattern that has been found on several of the late Waltham-Howard movements (ca.1905). This example has had the Howard name polished off. On the right is a nearly identical Elgin dial (photo courtesy of Fred Hansen). This distinctive numeral style is shown in Elgin’s 1909 and 1915 material catalogs and so I suspect that, although the movement came from Waltham, Howard/Keystone appears to have sourced this dial from Elgin.
    My brother has just pointed out to me that this identical numeral style is shown in the 1912 A. Wittnauer catalog among the Longines dials. So maybe both Elgin and Keystone (and Longines) got this dial from a Swiss source.
    Jerry Treiman, NAWCC member since 1971
    Charter member of Pocket Horology Chapter 174

  8. #8

    Default Re: Who made these dials? (By: Jerry Treiman)

    No evidence...no data saying there was any connection but I always thought that a lot of 18s Rockford (RR) dials looked exactly like 18s Hamilton dials?
    John Cote
    Watch Collector (pocket & wrist), Clock Admirer, Time Nerd...

  9. #9

    Default Re: Who made these dials? (By: John Cote)

    Jerry,

    For similar looking dials by different makers that are from the same era I would suggest looking at the backs of them. These can be wildly different, suggesting that they were not made by the same dial firm. For example, many 1910-1920s era Elgin dials have orange backs, something which I've never seen on say a Rockford dial. So even if the fronts are very similar, the backs can tell a much different story.

    FWIW,

    Greg

  10. #10

    Default Re: Who made these dials? (By: Greg Frauenhoff)

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails HamRock.jpg  
    John Cote
    Watch Collector (pocket & wrist), Clock Admirer, Time Nerd...

  11. #11
    Registered user.
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    Default Re: Who made these dials? (By: John Cote)

    Quote Originally Posted by John Cote View Post
    No evidence...no data saying there was any connection but I always thought that a lot of 18s Rockford (RR) dials looked exactly like 18s Hamilton dials?
    John, when I became interested in railroad watches in the late 1960s I first met the late Art Zimmerla, quite appropriately at a local (L.A.) Santa Fe Railway watch inspector's shop, and since we lived about 15 minutes apart, he became my informal "mentor" and "hobby buddy". We also shared an interest in railroads and railroadiana collecting.

    At the time Art was gathering material for a book he planned to write on the Hamilton Watch Company. He made numerous trips to the Hamilton factory where he apparently had great freedom to roam and made many contacts, who proved to be great sources of Hamilton information. He also helped Hamilton organize the company's collection and filled in some gaps for them.

    He often came back from his trips to Lancaster with rolls of film on which he documented items in their collection. I was privileged to get to develop and print/enlarge those photos for him, and some of the images I got to see were fascinating.

    When I came by his house to drop off the negatives and prints, or just to talk about watches, he would share little tidbits of information that he had gathered for "THE BOOK", a book which for numerous reasons, sadly, never came to fruition.

    One tidbit of information that he imparted to me those many years ago was that Hamilton had furnished Rockford with dials, and I recall him showing me examples like the ones you show above. I never asked him for his source, and he didn't give any further information, such as the period of time when Hamilton had been a dial supplier to Rockford. But I had no reason to doubt it, and just filed it away in my "memory banks" like so much of the other interesting but anecdotal information that he passed on to me, sometimes with the admonition to keep it to myself until "THE BOOK" came out.


    Larry Treiman
    Last edited by Larry Treiman; 04-19-2017 at 05:53 PM.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Who made these dials? (By: Larry Treiman)

    Perhaps deviating from the topic just a little, I never cease to be amazed just how many different watch brands (from several different countries) turn up wearing precisely this dial.
    The outer railway track and the font used for the "4" are instantly recognisable.
    I hypothesise that somewhere in a remote Swiss valley there is/was a giant factory churning out boatloads of a standard dial (with only the wording changed), for whoever happened to place an order that week.

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails DSCN7106.jpg  

  13. #13

    Default Re: Who made these dials? (By: Larry Treiman)

    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Treiman View Post
    John, when I became interested in railroad watches in the late 1960s I first met the late Art Zimmerla, quite appropriately at a local (L.A.) Santa Fe Railway watch inspector's shop, and since we lived about 15 minutes apart, he became my informal "mentor" and "hobby buddy". We also shared an interest in railroads and railroadiana collecting.
    Art was a great guy to have for a mentor. I only met him a few times but I know he had a great mind...the mind of a true collector/researcher. Your Art story is a great story.

    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Treiman View Post
    One tidbit of information that he imparted to me those many years ago was that Hamilton had furnished Rockford with dials, and I recall him showing me examples like the ones you show above. I never asked him for his source, and he didn't give any further information, such as the period of time when Hamilton had been a dial supplier to Rockford. But I had no reason to doubt it, and just filed it away in my "memory banks" like so much of the other interesting but anecdotal information that he passed on to me, sometimes with the admonition to keep it to myself until "THE BOOK" came out.
    I will take Art's words to you as pretty good support for my longtime hunch.

    I will also take the time here to put in a plug for the NAWCC.... See above...For anybody interested in or questioning the benefits of membership...The story Larry just told...in one fell swoop....just made my membership payment for the year seem trivial.

    Thanks my friend!
    John Cote
    Watch Collector (pocket & wrist), Clock Admirer, Time Nerd...

  14. #14

    Default Re: Who made these dials? (By: John Cote)

    Being the 'general' end to Rockford was about 1915-1917, the time frame for sub-contract Hamilton dials needed to precede this date/time frame. The 'watch co' signature in the Hamilton dial above seem to be from the nineteen ohs....
    Chapter 17 North Carolina
    http://www.nawcc-carolina17.org/default.htm
    Chapter 149 Early American Watch Club .. Home of Russ Snyder Illinois CD database and Henry Burgell Serial number Look-up ... excellent research resources!
    http://www.nawcc-ch149.com/ http://www.nawcc-ch149.com/pw_dbresearch.html
    Chapter 149 Mentor List http://www.nawcc-ch149.com/mentor.html

  15. #15

    Default Re: Who made these dials? (By: terry hall)

    John's Hamilton and Rockford dials are very similar but by no means identical. I'm not saying that there was never a time when Rockford might have procured dials from Hamilton, but it would be very interesting to see the reverses of the two dials shown.

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