A rare 16j Gruen Veri-thin p.w.

artbissell

NAWCC Member
Dec 4, 2009
3,867
463
83
Boulder, CO Foothills
Region
Gruen made attempts to sell lower grade pocket watches with the Watch Specialties, Premo, Gruen Guilds. Actually had Aeby of Madretsch make a few or at least one. Only Madretsch marked Gruen not using the Grossmann poised pallet escapement I have noticed. 1915-18 according to serial number. Lower grade but still a fine adjusted one. Has best enamel dial I have seen on a Gruen. Nice double back g.f. Gruen case oddly marked. Also shown my double pentagon Wadsworth cased Gruen Guild which is uncommonly 19j adjusted. A little newer. Unmarked serial number typical for the several lower grade models. 79512.jpg 79513.jpg 79514.jpg 79515.jpg 79516.jpg 79517.jpg
 
Last edited:

artbissell

NAWCC Member
Dec 4, 2009
3,867
463
83
Boulder, CO Foothills
Region
Made at least 11, 451909 to 451920 as shown in thread 9/1/2009 Gruen Verithin Pocketwatch by msWillrich. Cary Hurt and Ben Hsiung commented quite thoroughly on this.
 
Last edited:

thesnark17

NAWCC Member
Jul 11, 2020
85
87
18
Country
Region
I have some theories about the V6 Verithin. Yes, it has its own proper name, and was made "on purpose" at least once! The other thread has a variety of guesses and misconceptions about this grade.

First, some context about Gruen's production of V-series (Verithin) watches. Gruen began full-scale production of the "regular" grade Verithin at SN 450,000 and built well over 100,000 movements in a sequential and mostly coherent serial number system over a 20 year period. At first, the regular grade Verithin was the 15 jewel V5, but it soon became the 17 jewel V4. Other grades were built in comparatively short runs (V6, V3.5, V2.5, V1.5) interspersed throughout normal production. The UV grade starts to intrude at 549k and after that, the system is much less coherent and large gaps begin to appear. The V7 grade was intended as a more cost-efficient movement and occupies a SN block from 601k. V-series production finally ends at 696,000 and this serial number system ends shortly thereafter somewhere between 718k and 750k (it was also used for most other watches manufactured in the Precision factory, such as the 117/119/123 Quadron). The best grades VE, V1, V2 and V3 occupy a different SN block altogether - from 130k to 150k.

The V6 did not supplant the 15 jewel V5 - many more V5's were made, both before and after the (very short) V6 runs. First V5 noted is 450016, last is 491888. First V6 noted is 451273, and the last is 472550. But the V5's were made in the tens of thousands, while the V6 was (at best) made in the tens of hundreds.

There were four early runs, all marked 'Madretsch'. My working hypothesis is that these were using up old stock from the prototype runs of the V4 design (the actual prototypes were in the SN range 128k-130k and were not marked Verithin or with a jewel count, but have the top center jewel at least). The early V6's match the prototypes in many details such as hairspring stud style (and the Madretsch marking), though they do not carry whip regulators and the damascening pattern is different. The four runs are in 451k (low), 451k (high), 452k (low), 452k (high). This last run I have no pictures from, so it is possible that it differs in design. No more than 1,200 were made, but 400 is probably closer to the truth.

There also exist a few V4 17j movements with these Madretsch plates in 451k (low) - not more than 200, probably double digits. They share design details with the V6 except the that they have an extra jewel and the swan's neck regulator. This sort of thing is to be expected with early Gruens - you should see the variety of movement markings within the first 5,000 movements starting at 450k. But all other movements beginning from 450k are marked "Suisse" until 542k.

The late runs of the V6 are hard to explain. They are at 471k (low) and 472k (mid). No more than 500 were made, and it's probably more like 300. Interestingly, they seem to be copying the prestige line, as the adjustment markings are found on the balance cock (VE/1/2/3 and the 50th Anniversary always carry the adjustment markings on the balance cock, but other Gruens do not). They are marked 'Suisse', and seem to be otherwise normal Verithins of their vintage. So why were they made? They are surrounded by runs of V4 and V5 (and (apparently) :screwball: prototype movements for future Verithin (or perhaps Ultra-Verithin?) development...). But that only makes it stranger. How does a 16 jewel movement have a place in the market when you're making both 15 jewel and 17 jewel movements of identical quality in the same family at the same time? (The V4, V5, and V6 of this era are all adjusted to 5 positions and temperatures.)

My only guess would be that if they have some innovation that the "normal" Verithins don't have, making them in an unusual (for Gruen) jewel count would make them easier to track if a design flaw were to emerge. This idea is bolstered by the runs' close proximity to some truly weird prototypes, even by Gruen's standards. Perhaps they decided to market test some new ideas by scattering a few test watches into their regular distribution.

But right now, it's all guesswork still! Which is the joy of Gruen - nothing is certain, everything has an exception, and yet there does seem to be some method in the madness.
 

Ethan Lipsig

NAWCC Gold Member
Jan 8, 2006
2,472
2,354
113
72
Pasadena
Country
Region
For Gruen non-savants, such as me, page 15 of an old Gruen booklet provides useful context.

Gruen.jpg
 
  • Like
Reactions: viclip

thesnark17

NAWCC Member
Jul 11, 2020
85
87
18
Country
Region
Ah yes, sorry. Grade descriptions of the Verithin watches:

Gruen appears to have undertaken to create a logical system of grade names, which was eventually overtaken by events and got confused. The idea is that a lower number represents a better grade.

The original grade system is what you have shown:

Chronometer grades, SN 130-150k:
VE: 21 jewels, Extra Precision, very special adjustment (6 pos/temp)
V1: 21 jewels, Precision, special adjustment (6 pos/temp)
V2: 19 jewels, Precision, special adjustment (6 pos/temp)
V3: 17 jewels, Precision, special adjustment (6 pos/temp)
--- ---
Non-chronometer grades, SNs from 450k:
V4: 17 jewels, regular adjustment (5 pos/temp), not marked Precision
V5: 15 jewels, regular adjustment (5 pos/temp), not marked Precision

The "V", of course, must stand for "Verithin". I call the group of calibers the V-series.

I am not sure that VE watches were marked at first, given that the first V1 is at 131k and the first marked VE is at 135k. That appears to represent a significant amount of time, since the chronometer grades were not fast sellers. In which case, the factory would have a nice neat numerical sequence to work with: V1 21j, V2 19j, V3 17j, V4 17j faster production design, V5 15j ditto.

Indeed, the Chronometer grades appear to have been too niche for the American mass market to appreciate: The V4 Verithin took off, with sales eventually amounting to over 10,000 watches a year in 1922 and 1923. Total production of all the chronometer grades is less than that two-year sum. And Gruen also progressively relaxed their standards of what makes a really high-end watch over the years. By the mid-1920s, they no longer needed such high-end watches at the top of their regular lineup. The regular production was sufficiently "precise" - and they had built a very solid reputation, so it was time to produce in mass to take advantage. The Chronometer movements clearly were not ready for truly speedy production. I also suspect that this is related to the wristwatch boom: Gruen did not have wristwatch calibers that were equivalent quality to the Chronometer calibers, but everything was selling like hotcakes anyway.

So they changed their system: a subject for the next post.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Ethan Lipsig

thesnark17

NAWCC Member
Jul 11, 2020
85
87
18
Country
Region
I have addressed the V6 earlier, and it has its name due to having been the 6th version of V-series watch. Properly, it should fall between the V4 and V5 in quality (and in an ideal system it would be V5 and the V5 would be V6), which shows that it was an afterthought not planned from the beginning. And as indicated above, it is unclear what commercial role it played.

The origin of the V7 is also straightforward. It is clear that the V4 production line was not efficient enough to keep up with the increasing demand of the late teens and early 20s, so Gruen began work on an even simpler form of Verithin, presumably to become the inexpensive high-production variant of the line. The V7 was introduced in 1922 as a "5 adjustment" non-Precision watch. Again, its position in the pantheon is clear: this was the 7th variation of the Verithin model. About 20k were produced, but there were teething problems in the early days (Gruen had attempted to sub-contract production to a different factory, but it didn't work out), and it never replaced the V4 as the dominant variant. Since the V7 was originally intended for production in a separate factory, it initially used a separate block of serial numbers starting at 601k. Later runs would be mixed with V4 production when they were both being produced in the Precision factory.

--- ---- ---- ---- ---
As early as 1916, Gruen had sent up a trial balloon to see what the market would do with a high-jewel version of the V4. The V3 1/2 (hereafter V3.5) was the result. It is a 19 jewel 6 pos/temp movement that is otherwise identical to the V4. These were not marked Precision, just like the V4. It would appear that the V3.5 was successful in a niche market, as small runs were produced regularly from 1916 to 1922 for a total production around 3k. The naming results from squeezing a new caliber into a grade system where a lower number is better: The V3.5 was better than a V4 but not as good as the Precision grade V3. So they picked a number in between.

Gruen: the only maker to embrace fractions in grade names...

And now, with all the factors aligned, it's time to reposition all of the V-series grades and add more fractions to the mix!!

Pictured: The V4 in its early configuration, circa 1912, and the V7 in its early configuration, circa 1923.

V7 Decagon movement.jpg V4 early movement.jpg
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Ethan Lipsig

Ethan Lipsig

NAWCC Gold Member
Jan 8, 2006
2,472
2,354
113
72
Pasadena
Country
Region
I have a modest Gruen collection consisting of four Pentagons and 3 Carres, all in solid gold cases except for a stainless Carre. Only the Pentagons have movements like the ones discussed in this thread. Because I am not a Gruen expert, I would appreciate it if you, TheSnark17, would let me know if I have correctly identified the movements in my Pentagons and answer a few other questions. Here are these movement in order of what I believe to be increasing quality.

I understand the movement below to be a UV, an Ultra VeriThin. As such, it does not fit into the grades discussed in this thread. It is a 17j/adjusted temperatures Precision movement, number 552,690. The center jewel appears to have been replaced with a smaller one in an unattractive bushing. I understand that Ultra VeriThins generally were more expensive than VeriThins, which in turn were more expensive than SemiThins. Consistent with this, my Ultra Verithin is an 18k case, unlike the next two movements, which are in 14k cases, but the Ultra Verithin movement appears to be the lowest grade of these four.
UV.JPG

I understand the movement below to be a V1.5, a grade that I don't think was discussed in earlier postings. It is a 21j/8adj. Precision movement, but not marked chronometer. It is serial number 530,065.
V1.5.JPG

I understand the movement below to be a V1. It is a 21j. precision movement, marked chronometer balance. It is serial number 148,892. The dial is marked Dietrich Gruen.
V1.JPG

The movement below is from my 50th Anniversary watch. It has a 21j/8adj Extra Precision movement that (apart from the fancy 12k plates and bridges) looks substantially similar to the preceding movement. It is number 579.
IMG_2587.JPG
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: viclip

thesnark17

NAWCC Member
Jul 11, 2020
85
87
18
Country
Region
In 1922, Gruen introduced its patented Pentagon case shape and positioned it at the top of its pocket watch lineup. Only one problem: by this time Gruen's "Precision" mark was a big part of its branding, but the only pocket watches bearing that mark were the Chronometer line VE/1/2/3. And Gruen was trying to make a premium watch for the masses - the Chronometer line simply would not do. What to do, what to do? And then someone had a bright idea: let's lower the definition of "Precision" a bit! Then our regular line of pocket watches will meet it, and our advertising will be a thing of beauty! So that's what they did.

The first step was to redefine the value of Precision. This was simple. Gruen started calling the V4 movement a Precision grade, and movement markings to that effect begin around 512k (early 1922, in Pentagons only) and become universal by late 518k (late 1922 production). The adjustments marking changes at the same time from 5 pos/temp to the nonsensical 8 pos/temp.

So what did Gruen call the Chronometer grades now? Ah, they're all Extra-Precision grades now. And the VE is no longer mentioned: presumably if it were, it would be an Extra-Extra-Precision grade. But mentions are only in parts catalogs: the Chronometer line appears to have been withdrawn from sale. So what does Gruen's high-end look like now?

Answer: new fractional grades! Special variants of the V4 with a (very slightly) different balance design and more jewels were produced starting from 518k. The new grades were named V1 1/2 (21 jewels) and V2 1/2 (19 jewels) - hereafter V1.5 and V2.5. Again, you can see where the names came from, though I don't think that the new V1.5 is better than the old V2. Just an attempt to keep a somewhat coherent grade system in the face of adversity. Circa 1924, here are Gruen's V-series offerings. I let a few years go by to allow the movement markings to stabilize; these movements are available from 1922 but may be marked differently.

VE: 21 jewels, Extra-Extra Precision Chronometer, very special adjustment (6 pos/temp) No longer manufactured; parts/repair still available from the factory
V1: 21 jewels, Extra Precision Chronometer, special adjustment (6 pos/temp) No longer manufactured; parts, repair, and spare movements remain available*
V1.5: 21 jewels, Precision, special adjustment (8 pos/temp) -- fills V1 market niche, most parts interchange with V4 but are higher quality
V2: 19 jewels, Extra Precision Chronometer, special adjustment (6 pos/temp) No longer manufactured; parts, repair, and spare movements remain available*
V2.5: 19 jewels, Precision, special adjustment (8 pos/temp) -- fills V2 market niche, most parts interchange with V4 but are higher quality
V3: 17 jewels, Extra Precision Chronometer, special adjustment (6 pos/temp) No longer manufactured; parts, repair, and spare movements remain available*
V3.5: 19 jewels, special adjustment (6 pos/temp), not marked Precision No longer manufactured, replaced by V2.5, parts interchange with V4**
V4: 17 jewels, Precision, regular adjustment (Adjusted Temperatures) -- standard movement in Gruen Pentagon watch
V5: 15 jewels, regular adjustment (5 pos/temp), not marked Precision Discontinued due to lack of demand in 1919, parts interchange with V4
V6: 16 jewels, regular adjustment (5 pos/temp), not marked Precision Discontinued from 1916, parts interchange unknown, presumably with V4
V7: 17 jewels, regular adjustment (Adjusted Temperatures), not Precision -- base level Gruen Verithin, no parts interchange with other V-series watches
--- --- ---
UV: 17 jewels, Precision, regular adjustment (Adjusted Temperatures) - new prestige model intended to appeal to lovers of small/thin watches, introduced 1922; notably thinner than the V4 on the same footprint. It is a novel design with no parts interchange with any of the previous watches

*V1, V2, and V3 watches were not advertised but still may have been for sale by special order.
**It is unclear at what point the regular balance staff of the V3.5 was replaced by the new balance staff of the V2.5. The transition in markings occurred in mid-run at 518k, but possibly was just a change in markings without changing the underlying watch.


And that is how things went to the end. The 50th Anniversary came and went: it is most similar to the V1.5, but with the barrel design of the V1. Over time, the line was drawn down. In the late 1920s, Gruen released their remaining stock of V1, V2, and V3 as special "Extra Precision" watches. Many were marked Dietrich Gruen on the dial. I assume they saw the writing on the wall and wanted to get good money while they still could.

By the 1930s, only three calibers were still being produced: V4, V7, and UV (which may not have been in production but many movements were left over). By this time, multiple changes to production had occurred, and all watches carried cap jewels on the escape wheel and no jewel on the center wheel (for a total of 17 jewels). The last production was of the UV390 caliber sometime between 1935-39. This last was probably still using dead stock from the 1920s. Gruen erred greatly in their estimation of demand for the Ultra-Verithin, in my opinion.

By the 1940s, all production had long since ended, but a few watches were still available, from the Chronometer line. These watches were sold with the old-style VeriThin logo on the dial, even as new Veri-Thin calibers 380/1 and 385/6 came in to replace them.
 

thesnark17

NAWCC Member
Jul 11, 2020
85
87
18
Country
Region
Hi Ethan,

I see we have cross-posted. I have answered some of your questions in passing in the above post, but in short: all your identifications are correct.

Your first watch is an Ultra-Verithin, and yes, it was "supposed" to be a better movement than the Verithin line. The center wheel runs in a bushing from the factory: the last pair of jewels is used to cap the escape wheel. Despite the positioning by Gruen, it is clear that the UV is actually a continuation of the engineering that produced the V7. It is value-engineered rather than beautiful. The old V4 by this time is a relic of an earlier age in that respect (even though it was also a product of value-engineering when it was designed!). I do not have enough dating points to give you a firm year of production, but it was likely around 1924.

Your second watch is the V1.5, the best production from Gruen in 1923 when it was made. It is not from the Chronometer line.

Your third is an example of the late-released V1. This watch was probably sold in 1928 or 1929 but the movement would have been manufactured many years prior. I attach a photo of the dial of mine, which is a twin of yours. Dietrich Gruen-labeled watches deserve an entire thread of their own.

Finally, the 50th Anniversary watch. Such a fine example! As I said above, it's basically a cross between the V1 and V1.5, with extra finish and engravings.

V1 Pentagon front.jpg
 
Last edited:

Ethan Lipsig

NAWCC Gold Member
Jan 8, 2006
2,472
2,354
113
72
Pasadena
Country
Region
Thank you for your erudite explanations. You said "Your first watch is an Ultra-Verithin, and yes, it was "supposed" to be a better movement than the Verithin line. The center wheel runs in a bushing from the factory." I understand this to mean that the ugly central jewel bushing on my watch is how the movement was made, not an unfortunate replacement, correct?
 

thesnark17

NAWCC Member
Jul 11, 2020
85
87
18
Country
Region
Yes. The Ultra-Verithin was Gruen's first design to cap the escape wheel preferentially over jewelling the center wheel. It may have served as guinea pig for the design. All of Gruen's production eventually used this principle.

In principle, the cap jewelling should improve the accuracy of the movement slightly (compared to jewelling the center wheel), at the cost of increasing wear on the center wheel bushing in the long term if the watch is not serviced regularly.

Gruen was attempting to work around a tariff system that heavily penalized watches with more than 17 jewels. What you are seeing is value-engineering at its best.

The late revisions of the V4 and V7 also use the last pair of jewels to cap the escape wheel. From c. 1925 with the introduction of the Quadron, all of Gruen's new watch calibers used escape wheel cap jewels rather than jewelling the center wheel. The only exceptions were watches with more than 17 jewels, such as the 325 Quadron and the 335 Veri-Thin (both 21 jewels).

Gruen continued to use this design principle right through to the end of in-house production in the 1960s.
 
Last edited:

Ethan Lipsig

NAWCC Gold Member
Jan 8, 2006
2,472
2,354
113
72
Pasadena
Country
Region
TheSnark17, please consider creating an encyclopedia page in these forums that recounts the development of various Gruen models. You have already done much of the work in this thread. That work should be preserved in a more logical spot than just here.
 
  • Like
Reactions: PatH

artbissell

NAWCC Member
Dec 4, 2009
3,867
463
83
Boulder, CO Foothills
Region
TheSnark17, please consider creating an encyclopedia page in these forums that recounts the development of various Gruen models. You have already done much of the work in this thread. That work should be preserved in a more logical spot than just here.
Amazing factual details about the variety of Gruens. SNARK:; what are your information sources'? ART B.
 

thesnark17

NAWCC Member
Jul 11, 2020
85
87
18
Country
Region
My definitive information on Gruen is limited to what can be found in the advertising material and the known catalogs. In other words, no more than anyone else here.

But my database of VeriThins is growing by the day. At this point, I have catalogued almost 2% of the total production of the V-series. Thojil helped significantly in this project. The data is granular enough that I can say what total production was and estimate production figures for the more common calibers. My research skews toward the common calibers though - I can speak with authority on V1.5, V2.5, V3.5, V4, V5, V6, V7 due to a wealth of data, but I have relatively few entries for the VE, V1, V2, V3.

I try to draw only conclusions that I can support from data, but I note that my discussion above about jewelling is based only on looking at tens or hundreds of thousands of watches and inferring based on the common features. I have no crystal ball - the reasons for why Gruen would jewel as they did are pure inference. Though the inferences have their source in data.

Is this level of sourcing really good enough for an encyclopedia page?
 

artbissell

NAWCC Member
Dec 4, 2009
3,867
463
83
Boulder, CO Foothills
Region
My definitive information on Gruen is limited to what can be found in the advertising material and the known catalogs. In other words, no more than anyone else here.

But my database of VeriThins is growing by the day. At this point, I have catalogued almost 2% of the total production of the V-series. Thojil helped significantly in this project. The data is granular enough that I can say what total production was and estimate production figures for the more common calibers. My research skews toward the common calibers though - I can speak with authority on V1.5, V2.5, V3.5, V4, V5, V6, V7 due to a wealth of data, but I have relatively few entries for the VE, V1, V2, V3.

I try to draw only conclusions that I can support from data, but I note that my discussion above about jewelling is based only on looking at tens or hundreds of thousands of watches and inferring based on the common features. I have no crystal ball - the reasons for why Gruen would jewel as they did are pure inference. Though the inferences have their source in data.

Is this level of sourcing really good enough for an encyclopedia page?
Yes, your carefull explanations and good judgement helps. art b
 

Ethan Lipsig

NAWCC Gold Member
Jan 8, 2006
2,472
2,354
113
72
Pasadena
Country
Region
"Is this level of sourcing really good enough for an encyclopedia page?" Absolutely, but include appropriate caveats.
 

Forum statistics

Threads
167,152
Messages
1,456,551
Members
87,340
Latest member
Jerrydodge
Encyclopedia Pages
1,057
Total wiki contributions
2,914
Last edit
E. Howard & Co. by Clint Geller