Definition of a "private label" watch

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,338
1,939
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
It as been suggested that a separate thread be started to discuss what the term "private label" means in the context of 19th Century watch manufacturing. Very well.

I suggested a definition, which is in line with common general definitions of PL products found on-line, that a PL watch movement is any movement made to the order of a reseller with the reseller's name on it, rather than the actual manufacturer's. It has been suggested by another that PL movements that differ from the original manufacturer's standard products by containing reseller-specified modifications should be considered "Original Equipment Manufacturer" (or OEM) products, rather than PL's. I suggest it is clearer to consider PL's with modifications as merely a subcategory within PL's. The phrase OEM, which is anachronistic when applied to 19th century watch products, is a deliberately misleading late 20th Century marketing term intended to represent certain resellers as something more than they actually are.

In the modern watch industry, most mechanical watches are finished from ebauches by one of a very small number of huge fabriques. However, the ebauches, or rough movements, are not themselves finished consumer products, and the role of the firm whose name appears on the final product can be very substantial. Other times, the so called "OEM" is merely a sophisticated marketing operation for watches manufactured and finished elsewhere. In either case, the term "OEM" is specifically intended to blur all these distinctions. This makes that term a poor choice for use in horological discussions, unless one is specifically discussing marketing jargon. A less ambiguous modern term than "OEM" which one might want to consider is "Value Added Reseller."

For the above reason, I suggest that it is more period appropriate and also less misleading to refer to Ball Watch Company watches as PL's.
 
Last edited:

Dave Chaplain

NAWCC Member
Feb 16, 2001
2,171
34
48
sites.google.com
Country
Thanks for the new thread Clint. I believe you're confused about my use of the term OEM. This is what I was trying to convey:

Where Ball sells a watch built to their specification by Waltham:
- Waltham is the OEM, not Ball
- Ball is the seller of the watch they had built by Waltham to their specification, and Ball is not a re-seller of a Waltham product
- in this case the watch is a Ball product, and not a PL of a Waltham product

Ball was also a re-seller of Waltham products, as in the more common understanding of what a PL is.
 

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,338
1,939
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
Thanks for the new thread Clint. I believe you're confused about my use of the term OEM. This is what I was trying to convey:

Where Ball sells a watch built to their specification by Waltham:
- Waltham is the OEM, not Ball
- Ball is the seller of the watch they had built by Waltham to their specification, and Ball is not a re-seller of a Waltham product
- in this case the watch is a Ball product, and not a PL of a Waltham product

...
Hmm. Not sure I agree, Dave. But then what would you propose to call Ball watches made by Waltham, if not PLs or OEM, which you both seem to have rejected?

Whether or not Ball is appropriately called a reseller of Waltham products may depend on the extent of the modifications Ball specified, then. I can see a possible gray area there.
 
Last edited:

John Cote

Director
NAWCC Member
Aug 26, 2000
4,507
979
113
Midwest USA
www.johncotephotography.com
Country
Region
We have had this discussion before. In my opinion it is not a discussion with a single agreed outcome. Too much depends on each individuals definition and understanding of terms and individual leanings and prejudices. I am not even going to say where I fall in the discussion (even though you can go back and read my arguments in the last thread) because I believe what I believe and so far nobody has convinced me otherwise. I have my understanding of the terms and conditions and I certainly have my prejudices.

I do always look forward to a good rough and tumble back and forth.

Best
 

Dave Chaplain

NAWCC Member
Feb 16, 2001
2,171
34
48
sites.google.com
Country
Ball was also a re-seller of Waltham products, as in the more common understanding of what a PL is.
I thought I'd covered that scenario, i.e., Ball was also a re-seller of Waltham product PL's marked with the Ball signature on the dial and/or movement.

Further, for the Ball product watches OEM'd by other manufacturers, Ball (I believe) had Ball product PL's marked for other resellers or customers. If they didn't, they could have, and it would still fit within at least my view of what a "PL" is.
 
Last edited:

Les harland

Registered User
Apr 10, 2008
1,670
181
63
Hertfordshire England
Country
Region
I have always thought that a private label was the same as an "own" label
For example in the UK The JG Graves Express English Lever watch sold by JG Graves of Sheffield was made by The Lancashire Watch Co
JG Graves were Great Britains first mail company
 

Dave Chaplain

NAWCC Member
Feb 16, 2001
2,171
34
48
sites.google.com
Country
But then what would you propose to call Ball watches made by Waltham, if not PLs or OEM, which you both seem to have rejected?
I'd call:
- Ball watches OEM'd by other makers - as 'Ball watches', or 'Ball watches OEM'd by other makers'.
- Waltham | Illinois | Hampden | Howard (etc.) with Ball dial and/or movement sigs - as 'Waltham | Illinois | Hampden | Howard PL's signed for Ball'.
- Ball OEM watches signed for others - as 'Ball PL's signed for (other)'.
 

Dave Chaplain

NAWCC Member
Feb 16, 2001
2,171
34
48
sites.google.com
Country
I have always thought that a private label was the same as an "own" label
For example in the UK The JG Graves Express English Lever watch sold by JG Graves of Sheffield was made by The Lancashire Watch Co
JG Graves were Great Britains first mail company
Hi Les,

By my way of thinking, if the watch in the functional configuration made for Graves by the LWCo was only available to Graves, and not otherwise sold by the LWCo under their own name, then I'd call it a 'Graves watch' or 'Graves watch OEM'd by the LWCo'. If the same functional config was available direct from the LWCo with the LWCo name on it, then I'd say the Graves version is an 'LWCo PL signed for Graves'.
 

Kent

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Silver Member
Aug 26, 2000
18,549
2,008
113
Country
Don't overlook the fact that until the late-1920s (and perhaps later), Ball Official Standard watches (whoever made them) were given their final finish and adjustment in-house, by Ball employees.

This puts them beyond the usual definition of being a private label watch. In fact, Jess Hess once posted the 1906 letter by Waltham wherein they stated that they considered Ball to be a manufacturer.


attachment.jpg
 

Dave Chaplain

NAWCC Member
Feb 16, 2001
2,171
34
48
sites.google.com
Country
That fits well enough with my view of calling the Ball OEM'd watches 'Ball watches' rather than 'OEM (or Waltham | Illinois | Howard | Elgin ...) PL watches'.
 

topspin

Registered User
Dec 14, 2014
1,584
364
83
Country
Region
Hello everyone,
Just to say, don't forget watches where the case and movement and their markings are absolutely standard but the dial carries the name of the retailer, wholesaler or railroad. You will often see these being referred to as "private labels". Unless there is a better term (any offers anyone?) then I am inclined to agree that these watches are indeed private labels... or at least that the dials are...
 

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,338
1,939
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
Following are the first four hits produced by my Google search on "definition of 'private label.' " It is to be noted that none of these definitions restrict what constitutes a "private label" product based upon the degree of influence which the retail sales establishment may or may not have had on the details of the final product. I conclude from this fact that this particular aspect of the product is not part of the definition of the term PL.

That said, I do understand why horologists would wish to distinguish between PL's that were otherwise standard products of their manufacturers, and those possessing some features (other than the name on the plates) that were unique to the particular reseller in question. So the challenge is how best to capture this distinction in unambiguous terminology. I recommend that horologists accept the standard, widely accepted definition of the term PL and simply add further qualifiers to it to further distinguish that subset of PLs which may possess unique attributes. However, I would argue that the term "OEM" does not contribute any greater clarity to the discussion. The contemporary usage of the term is misleading, and deliberately so,in my opinion, as it erroneously identifies marketing organizations with no manufacturing capabilities as "manufacturers." Conversely, if I am reading Dave's most recent posts correctly, calling Waltham the "OEM" of the watches they made for Ball is hard to dispute, but I don't see what attributing the designation "OEM" to Waltham really clarifies. Instead, in the case of Ball Waltham movements, for example, I suggest adding a qualifier, something like "special feature," or "modified finish," or perhaps "special design," to the basic "PL" designation. Hence, the PL watches made for Ball by Waltham, or by any other manufacturer would be, say, "special design PLs."

First Google hit (source not given):
1. pri·vate la·bel
adjective: private label1.
designating a product manufactured or packaged for sale under the name of the retailer rather than that of the manufacturer.
"private label cheeses"
noun
noun:private label; plural noun: private labels
1. 1.
a retailer's name, as used on a product sold by the retailer but manufactured by another company.
"the yogurt is sold under their private label"

Second Google hithttp://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/private-label.html
private label
Brand owned not by a manufacturer or producer but by a retailer or supplier who gets its goods made by a contract manufacturer under its own label. Also called private brand.


Third Google Hithttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_label
Private-label products or services are typically those manufactured or provided by one company for offer under another company's brand. ...

Fourth Google Hithttp://dictionary.reference.com/browse/private+label
noun
1.
the label of a product, or the product itself, sold under the name of a wholesaler or retailer, by special arrangement with the manufacturer or producer.
 
Last edited:

Dave Chaplain

NAWCC Member
Feb 16, 2001
2,171
34
48
sites.google.com
Country
That said, I do understand why horologists would wish to distinguish between PL's that were otherwise standard products of their manufacturers, and those possessing some features (other than the name on the plates) that were unique to the particular reseller in question.
You presume that someone accepts that the OEM Ball's: Hamilton-Ball, Waltham-Ball, Illinois-Ball, etc., are "PL's". I don't believe I've ever heard them described that way in conversation. Whereas a standard Hamilton, Waltham, or Hampden, (etc.) product that's occasionally found with a dial or movement signed for Ball, is referred to as a Hamilton, Waltham or Hampden "PL signed for Ball", and not by any other way to my knowledge. So the distinction already exists. What problem is being solved for? And why include the OEM watches in the PL set at all? To my knowledge no one uses the term PL to describe them, and by sharing the designation with the standard watches that are commonly referred to as PL's would seem to make things more confusing rather than improving on anything.
 

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,338
1,939
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
You presume that someone accepts that the OEM Ball's: Hamilton-Ball, Waltham-Ball, Illinois-Ball, etc., are "PL's". I don't believe I've ever heard them described that way in conversation. Whereas a standard Hamilton, Waltham, or Hampden, (etc.) product that's occasionally found with a dial or movement signed for Ball, is referred to as a Hamilton, Waltham or Hampden "PL signed for Ball", and not by any other way to my knowledge. So the distinction already exists. What problem is being solved for? And why include the OEM watches in the PL set at all? To my knowledge no one uses the term PL to describe them, and by sharing the designation with the standard watches that are commonly referred to as PL's would seem to make things more confusing rather than improving on anything.

Dave, whatever else they may be, Hamilton Balls, Waltham-Balls, Illinois-Balls. etc. are "PL" watches, based on the commonly accepted definition of "private label." I demonstrated that in my previous post. If you are suggesting that this widely accepted definition does not apply in horology, please cite your basis for that assertion, other than that you have "never heard" such watches referred to that way. I have.

You also seem to have just contradicted yourself. In a previous post on this thread, you conceded that a Ball-Waltham was an OEM Waltham that was sold by Ball. Now you are once again calling these watches "OEM Balls." Ball did not have manufacturing facilities. Therefore, I suggest that calling Ball the "OEM" of anything is misleading. Aside from being anachronistic, the term is also a step away from clarity, rather than towards it.
 
Last edited:

Dave Chaplain

NAWCC Member
Feb 16, 2001
2,171
34
48
sites.google.com
Country
Well, I said "OEM Balls: Hamilton-Ball, Waltham-Ball, Illinois-Ball", to describe the 3 latter terms (see colon) which is how they're referred to by most people and was the point of my last note. I've already provided my preference, "Ball watch" or "Ball watch OEM'd by _____", and I've already explained what an OEM is and that Ball is not an OEM. The watches OEM'd by Ball (that means Ball used an OEM, and not that Ball is an OEM) are not PL's in the sense anyone I know uses the term PL. I believe the only time I've read something that used the term PL to describe an OEM watch was by yourself. I thought it odd and incorrect, and I feel the same way now. Why not just correct any incorrect use of the term rather than try to create a new standard to justify a previous error. That would seem to be much more efficient. This is tedious and boring.

ps. I didn't "concede" anything, I simply explained to you what an OEM is as you were confused
 
Last edited:

Larry Treiman

Registered User
Jan 18, 2009
3,290
73
48
So. Calif.
I first recall encountering the term OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) in the automobile industry, referring to companies that supplied parts and components to the auto manufacturers, to be used in the manufacturers end product....the vehicle. It became important in the repair and/or restoration of cars, where it was desired to use parts from the OEM as opposed to some after-market supplier. The term apparently has come to be used more recently in other areas of manufacturing where the maker of the finished product out-sources various parts and components/assemblies.

I find it ludicrous to see the term OEM applied to the watch industry as it existed back in the late 19th Century and 20th Century. And making a verb out of OEM ("OEM'd) makes one wonder what is happening to the language!!

However, if you insist on using OEM for Ball, then the OEMs would have been the movement makers themselves and any suppliers of components such as mainsprings, etc.; the watch case manufacturers that supplied the "Ball Model" cases to Ball, and the dial manufacturers who furnished the dials to Ball when they didn't come with the movements.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Don Dahlberg found information in the archives at Columbia that after 1931 (?), Hamilton shipped Ball Watches completely adjusted and cased at the Hamilton factory. If verified from the original document, that could could significantly affect whether the Ball Co. was still a manufacturer thereafter. I suspect that the Great Depression and its devastating effect of railroad employment and thus the market for railroad watches precipitate the change.

And, quite frankly, I find the term "Private Label" also rather inappropriate....and much too ambiguous. Besides, it is a term I usually associate with the grocery business, where the use of the word "private" on the label has come to indicate a superior quality.

Back in the late 1960s, when I first got into the watch hobby, most of the collectors I knew referred to watches with the local jeweler's name on the dial and/or the movements as "jeweler-named" watches. Watches made as store-brands for other kinds of merchandisers (wholesalers, retailers, buying cooperatives, etc.) were described as what they were, NOT by some ambiguous and usually not applicable term like PL or worse.....OEM!

It might take a few extra moments on the keyboard (and nobody could possibly hate typing more than I do!) to avoid ambiguities and actually say what something is. Those who are new to this hobby must sometimes feel like they are drowning in a bowl of alphabet soup, especially when reading a thread like this one! <];>)


Larry Treiman
 
Last edited:

Jerry Treiman

NAWCC Member
Golden Circle
Aug 25, 2000
6,868
3,307
113
Los Angeles, CA
Country
Region
Well, following is a post that I actually began to write about four years ago (but never posted) in response to the earlier thread on this topic - https://mb.nawcc.org/showthread.php?20669-Private-labels I have tweaked my old draft a little for the current posting.
------------
As others have noted, there is a broad spectrum of what have been called private label watches, but I have no problem with this. To try to sort this out I propose five principal categories of private-label watches. I provide a few examples, but I am sure others can provide more that they think might belong in each category.


Category I
The simplest are the standard model/grade movements that might have a jeweler's or distributor's name applied to the movement and/or dial. Most watch companies would do this for free with a minimum order. Sometimes it is a jeweler brand or special name for that jeweler. Illinois seemed to do this most aggressively, with countless custom names, such as Chronos, Patrician, etc. These can be supplied to jewelers or jobbers.


Category II
The next level would be where the otherwise standard movements also had a special finish, such as custom damasceening or gilt steel work. Illinois had their Hallmark watches and Hamilton used distinctive damaskeening for some retailers. Waltham had the Crest and Elite movements with special finishes. The Elite name was also used on Elgin and Illinois movements. Waltham's Cronometro Victoria and Cronometro Supremo were made exclusively for R.R. Fogel who distributed them to South America. These often have gilt screws and Fogel's rising sun trademark. These are among the very few private labels that were separately listed in the Waltham serial number list. Sometimes the watches in these first two groups carried the real manufacturer's name, but sometimes they did not.


Category III
The third level of private label watches include special milling or construction details in addition to finishing details. These often do not indicate who the real maker was. Again, Illinois was in the forefront, with the Ariston line for Marshall Field & Co., the Washington Watch Co. line for Montgomery Ward & Co. and others. Hamilton had their special movements for Hayden W. Wheeler. Waltham did this rarely, but they did make special movements for Bigelow, Kennard & Co (a prominent Boston jeweler) that included a patented recoiling click not found on any other Waltham watch.


Category IV
A fourth level of private label watches might be defined which were made to give the average buyer the impression that they were made by someone else. These usually have custom plate designs and a watch company name (other than the movement manufacturer's). Burlington Watch Co. belongs here, along with Santa Fe Watch Co. (both by Illinois). I don't think I would include Waltham's Equity Watch Co. watches as these were for an anonymous arm of the Waltham Watch Co. rather than made for another retailer.


Category V
In this group (maybe a special subgroup of IV) would be Ball Watch Co. watches (not those that were merely jeweler-labeled for Ball's store), and the special movements that Waltham made for E. Howard & Co. and later Keystone-Howard. These watches had some finishing and adjusting performed by their contractor. Both of these examples also included special serial numbering for the contractor.

----------

Just for fun, I offer this Category V/I watch -- a contract watch made by Waltham for E.Howard & Co and provided with a P/L dial by Howard for Benedict Bros. of New York -

View attachment 266368 View attachment 266369
 
Last edited:

Nick23

Registered User
Jul 21, 2009
475
415
63
England
Country
I think this would fit into one of your early catagories. A model 1908 with it's own grade of 621. 500 hunter and 250 open faced movements. This company is still trading in Bolton, Lancashire.
DSCF0195.JPG DSCF0193.JPG DSCF0194.JPG
 

Dave Chaplain

NAWCC Member
Feb 16, 2001
2,171
34
48
sites.google.com
Country
I find it ludicrous to see the term OEM applied to the watch industry as it existed back in the late 19th Century and 20th Century. And making a verb out of OEM ("OEM'd) makes one wonder what is happening to the language!!
I've been using the term OEM in my business from my start (mid-80's), which is to design, build, sell and resell computer and telecommunications equipment and services. The way the term OEM is used in my business aligns itself very well to the watch manufacturing, wholesale and retail business, from about 1650 to 1950. My business uses the term "OEM'd", conversationally, to describe that some OEM relationship exists. I mostly choose to write as I converse. I'm not here for a grammar lecture, or for a character assessment. There's obviously little common ground here among the loudest voices. Call whatever you want to call what you want to call it (lol).
 
Last edited:

Jerry Treiman

NAWCC Member
Golden Circle
Aug 25, 2000
6,868
3,307
113
Los Angeles, CA
Country
Region
I think this would fit into one of your early catagories. A model 1908 with it's own grade of 621. 500 hunter and 250 open faced movements. This company is still trading in Bolton, Lancashire.
Yes, I would put that in my proposed Category II. Thanks for sharing it.
 

Larry Treiman

Registered User
Jan 18, 2009
3,290
73
48
So. Calif.
[EXCERPTED] I mostly choose to write as I converse. I'm not here for a grammar lecture, or for a character assessment. There's obviously little common ground here among the loudest voices. Call whatever you want to call what you want to call it (lol).

Thanks, Dave, for your comments. I think that your choosing to write as you converse is probably true for many here, maybe for a vast majority for all I know! And it has nothing to do with grammar or the character of the writers.

Many of us are here on this MB for the purpose of communicating information on horology.....or maybe just for entertainment and laughs! To be able to communicate effectively, whether to provide the information or to understand it, we need to have a common ground in the form of at least an understanding of the basic terminology of horology, just as you have to know the "jargon" of "compukers" (that is what I often choose to call them) and telecommunications. Otherwise we are all just wasting our time on this message board!

If all of us availed ourselves of your advice to "call whatever [we] want to call what [we] want to call it (lol)", it might result in a lot of laughing out loud, but it would be detrimental to the exchange of information. As an "aside", does anyone here remember when lol used to have an entirely different meaning, as in "lolits"?

For what it's worth, the only listing in my supposedly unabridged edition of the Random House dictionary for OEM is "Office for Emergency Management". So maybe it ISN'T up to date. Who cares?!?! <];>P

In the meanwhile, keep the thread going. Who knows? Maybe we'll accidentally stumble on some "common ground"!!! If not, at least it will be food for thought, if not for agreement. Let's just hope that it doesn't cause a lot of indigestion!


Larry
 

Tom McIntyre

Technical Admin
Staff member
NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Ruby Member
Sponsor
Aug 24, 2000
84,173
2,022
113
85
Boston
awco.org
Country
Region
Another topic.

GiltNickPr.jpg
 

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,338
1,939
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
Well, following is a post that I actually began to write about four years ago (but never posted) in response to the earlier thread on this topic - https://mb.nawcc.org/showthread.php?20669-Private-labels I have tweaked my old draft a little for the current posting.
------------
As others have noted, there is a broad spectrum of what have been called private label watches, but I have no problem with this. To try to sort this out I propose five principal categories of private-label watches. I provide a few examples, but I am sure others can provide more that they think might belong in each category.


Category I
The simplest are the standard model/grade movements that might have a jeweler's or distributor's name applied to the movement and/or dial. Most watch companies would do this for free with a minimum order. Sometimes it is a jeweler brand or special name for that jeweler. Illinois seemed to do this most aggressively, with countless custom names, such as Chronos, Patrician, etc. These can be supplied to jewelers or jobbers.


Category II
The next level would be where the otherwise standard movements also had a special finish, such as custom damasceening or gilt steel work. Illinois had their Hallmark watches and Hamilton used distinctive damaskeening for some retailers. Waltham had the Crest and Elite movements with special finishes. The Elite name was also used on Elgin and Illinois movements. Waltham's Cronometro Victoria and Cronometro Supremo were made exclusively for R.R. Fogel who distributed them to South America. These often have gilt screws and Fogel's rising sun trademark. These are among the very few private labels that were separately listed in the Waltham serial number list. Sometimes the watches in these first two groups carried the real manufacturer's name, but sometimes they did not.


Category III
The third level of private label watches include special milling or construction details in addition to finishing details. These often do not indicate who the real maker was. Again, Illinois was in the forefront, with the Ariston line for Marshall Field & Co., the Washington Watch Co. line for Montgomery Ward & Co. and others. Hamilton had their special movements for Hayden W. Wheeler. Waltham did this rarely, but they did make special movements for Bigelow, Kennard & Co (a prominent Boston jeweler) that included a patented recoiling click not found on any other Waltham watch.


Category IV
A fourth level of private label watches might be defined which were made to give the average buyer the impression that they were made by someone else. These usually have custom plate designs and a watch company name (other than the movement manufacturer's). Burlington Watch Co. belongs here, along with Santa Fe Watch Co. (both by Illinois). I don't think I would include Waltham's Equity Watch Co. watches as these were for an anonymous arm of the Waltham Watch Co. rather than made for another retailer.


Category V
In this group (maybe a special subgroup of IV) would be Ball Watch Co. watches (not those that were merely jeweler-labeled for Ball's store), and the special movements that Waltham made for E. Howard & Co. and later Keystone-Howard. These watches had some finishing and adjusting performed by their contractor. Both of these examples also included special serial numbering for the contractor.

----------

Just for fun, I offer this Category V/I watch -- a contract watch made by Waltham for E.Howard & Co and provided with a P/L dial by Howard for Benedict Bros. of New York -

View attachment 456317 View attachment 456318
Jerry, Thank you for your terrific, well thought out post, which has advanced this discussion. I too agree that Ball watches should be considered a point near one end of a continuous spectrum correctly termed "private label" watches. I think your proposed categories of private label products add specificity and clarity to the umbrella designation, and as such could constitute a valuable aid to horological inquiry if broadly adopted. Have you considered suggesting descriptive names, in addition to numbers, for your categories? That might make it easier for collectors to digest and to remember the scheme.
 

topspin

Registered User
Dec 14, 2014
1,584
364
83
Country
Region
Just to say - I agree with Larry, OEM is for auto parts, printer cartridges etc. I suppose you could have an OEM watchstrap or an OEM mainspring, but not an OEM watch... Who else made it if not the original manufacturer?

Just out of interest does the NAWCC have an AGM with resolutions to be voted on? If so, I think someone ought to propose that NAWCC adopts and officially endorses [the PL naming convention of the proposer's choosing.]
 

Dave Chaplain

NAWCC Member
Feb 16, 2001
2,171
34
48
sites.google.com
Country
Re: Definition of a &quot;private label&quot; watch

However, if you insist on using OEM for Ball, then the OEMs would have been the movement makers themselves and any suppliers of components such as mainsprings, etc.; the watch case manufacturers that supplied the "Ball Model" cases to Ball, and the dial manufacturers who furnished the dials to Ball when they didn't come with the movements.
I don't insist on anything ... :cool: ... but I see you understand the term OEM and how it may be used to describe the watch manufacturing, wholesale and re-seller business! If you want ... :)

And, quite frankly, I find the term "Private Label" also rather inappropriate....and much too ambiguous.
Probably true, but you need to use something in conversation and it'll probably be something other than "Hey, nice Category 5 Ball ya got there!" It's my guess that it'll probably be "Hey nice Waltham-Ball ya got there!" for an OEM'd Ball, or "hey, nice private label ya got there!" for a standard watch that's signed for Ball ... nothing will change, and all of this would be for exactly what | who? :)
 

Dave Chaplain

NAWCC Member
Feb 16, 2001
2,171
34
48
sites.google.com
Country
Just to say - I agree with Larry, OEM is for auto parts, printer cartridges etc. I suppose you could have an OEM watchstrap or an OEM mainspring, but not an OEM watch... Who else made it if not the original manufacturer?

Just out of interest does the NAWCC have an AGM with resolutions to be voted on? If so, I think someone ought to propose that NAWCC adopts and officially endorses [the PL naming convention of the proposer's choosing.]
There's no requirement to use OEM for anything. But that said, the term OEM is used to describe anything that's made for you outside of your own shop for you to sell, either exactly as it arrived from the OEM, or as modified by you from what you received from the OEM. The term is used by all manufacturers of all products who don't make all of the parts "in house". So it easily applies to the watch manufacturing business. It could be (and was) an arbor, screw, hairspring, wheel, plate, dial, ebauche, case, finished movement, cased watch, cased watch with chain and key, etc. I believe the term used back in the day was "jobber", which exactly fits the use of the OEM term today. It's used to identify parts, subsytems or products that are not of your (original) manufacture, e.g., Question: "Why can't I find that part in our inventory system? Answer: "We didn't make that part, the original equipment manufacturer was ________."


I should add that more recently, "2nd source", "3rd party" and "gray market" products of varying quality that wish to sound more legit have taken to calling themselves and their products "OEMs" ...
 
Last edited:

topspin

Registered User
Dec 14, 2014
1,584
364
83
Country
Region
Just to say - I understand a gray market item to be one which IS made by whichever big-name manufacturer you would expect or understand it to be made by ; its distinguishing feature is just that it is being offered for sale not through the normal/official channels. One example is if someone places an order and then fails/refuses to pay for 100 widgets, you can easily finish up with 100 widgets floating about on the grey market looking for a new buyer. Another example is if the official dealerships of a big-name motorcycle manufacturer in your country only carry certain models from the range, you may still be able to buy the other models if someone has imported them unofficially from elsewhere in the world.
 

Dave Chaplain

NAWCC Member
Feb 16, 2001
2,171
34
48
sites.google.com
Country
Just to say - I understand a gray market item to be one which IS made by whichever big-name manufacturer you would expect or understand it to be made by ; its distinguishing feature is just that it is being offered for sale not through the normal/official channels. One example is if someone places an order and then fails/refuses to pay for 100 widgets, you can easily finish up with 100 widgets floating about on the grey market looking for a new buyer. Another example is if the official dealerships of a big-name motorcycle manufacturer in your country only carry certain models from the range, you may still be able to buy the other models if someone has imported them unofficially from elsewhere in the world.
In the context I'm familiar with, "gray market" items are genuine products that have been unloaded by the original owners (usually after they have been fully depreciated for tax purposes) to gray market brokers who then find buyers of the original but now non-warranted products, in various states of repair ...
 

Jerry Treiman

NAWCC Member
Golden Circle
Aug 25, 2000
6,868
3,307
113
Los Angeles, CA
Country
Region
... I think your proposed categories of private label products add specificity and clarity to the umbrella designation, and as such could constitute a valuable aid to horological inquiry if broadly adopted. Have you considered suggesting descriptive names, in addition to numbers, for your categories? That might make it easier for collectors to digest and to remember the scheme.
Thanks, Clint. I guess if I would really like people to consider using this system (or at least see how well it might work) a more descriptive set of names may help. How about:

simple PL watches ---------- (Category I - just names)
fancy PL watches ----------- (Category II - names plus extra finishing details)
modified PL watches ------- (Category III - includes custom plates or mechanical features)
contract PL watches -------- (Category IV - appears made by a sales-only company)
special contract watches --- (Category V - custom production with additional finishing by contractor)

The concept of "gray market" watches was also raised. I am not sure these are quite private-label watches, but they are an interesting related field. I can think of "Tierany & Cox" (Waltham movements for Tiffany that were apparently surplussed and disposed of), Waltham-Howard watches that had the Howard name removed and were sold off as anonymous movements, and "Abbott Watch Co." (surplus Howard movements that were disposed of through jobbers).
 

Bila

Registered User
Jan 22, 2010
1,370
481
83
www.ozwatchstore.com
Country
I too am a little dubious of the term "OEM" for the watch industry. I have used the "PL" term more recently as this is mostly what I hear and see in watch sale's advert's but originally always thought of them as "contract" watches. So I think I would use Jerry's breakdown with regard to these watches from now on and if someone does not understand then I'll spend a little time to enlighten them on the terminology. This has been a very interesting thread and brings to light another of the discrepancies' within the horology field of the new and old collectors and manufacture's jargon.
 

Luis Casillas

Registered User
Oct 16, 2012
570
19
0
San Francisco Bay Area
Country
Region
Lots of food for thought here.

Something that this thread reminds me is that our hobby certainly has a habit of settling on anachronistic labels for various things. Some random examples (rather parochial to my interests):
  • The watches that we today know as the Elgin "convertible" were not known as such in their time. Rather, they were known as "Interchangeable" (see e.g. 205295.jpg ).
  • The watch collectors today label the Elgin "doctor's watch" was also not known as such. It was apparently simply known as the "sweep seconds" watch. (See the same catalog page.)
  • The serial number databases that we have today classify all of Elgin's watches, even the earliest ones, by grade number. And yet as late as 1915 Elgin's material catalogs didn't apply grade numbers to many of the early named grades. This leads to some oddities, like the databases collapsing six different watches into grade #12.

So in this spirit, I just scanned through a few of the Jobbers' Catalogs in our site, and it looks like the contemporaneous term for what Jerry refers to as "Category I" is special name. See for example 205294.jpg :

SPECIAL NAMES ON MOVEMENTS:

No charge is made for Special Names on Movements, excepting 7 jewel Movements. 40 cts. each is charged on these grades.

Special Name on Dials 50 cts. each on all grades.
The same term is used in the 1903 Otto Young & Co. catalog ( 125938.jpg ):

Special Named Movements made to order in lots of 5 or more of a size for 80c. each extra in 7 Jewel; higher grades, no extra charge. Cannot accept orders for less than 5 at a time.

It requires about 30 days to make 18 size goods; 90 days for all other sizes.
Oskamp-Nolting Co., 1917, 126894.jpg :

Orders will be accepted for special named Elgin movements in all grades. A charge of 90 cents each, list, will be made for naming all seven-jeweled movements on plates, and orders for less than five will not be accepted. Other grades of movements named free of charge.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Dave Chaplain

NAWCC Member
Feb 16, 2001
2,171
34
48
sites.google.com
Country
In the mean time, does anyone believe that the two commonly used terms will, or should, change as a result?

"Hey, got any Louisiana PL's?" vs. "Hey, got and Louisiana Category 1, 2, 3 or 4 PL's?"
"Hey, got any Illinois-Ball's?" vs. "Hey, got any Category 5 Illinois-Balls?"

Else, for who or for what reason is this "research" necessary?

"Oh wait, check that - my collection is pat with Louisiana Category 3 PL's so don't show me those - I'm only interested in seeing Category 1, 2 and 4 Louisiana PL's ..." :p

and

"That's a Category 3 PL, not a Category 2 PL, you newb!" ;)

and

"The guy on the internet said it was a Category 2 PL, but that article I read in the Bulletin says it's a Category 1 PL. I wan't my money back!" :p
 
Last edited:

Jerry Treiman

NAWCC Member
Golden Circle
Aug 25, 2000
6,868
3,307
113
Los Angeles, CA
Country
Region
Thanks, Dave, for your comments.# Someone asked for proposed definitions and I offered a suggestion to see if it was useful and workable.# I guess I know where you stand.# I think you have raised two objections: 1) Who cares?# 2) Is this too cumbersome.

With respect to the issue of who cares, let me speak for myself first.# If I am speaking for others ... that is good too.# I like private label watches.# The more involved the private-labeling or customization is, the more I like it.# It represents a spectrum of investment and interest from the customer ranging from simple advertising or ego to a significant business decision.# These are aspects of the watch industry that reflect the relationship between the watch companies and their main customers - the retailer or jobber.# I like this kind of stuff.

Is it minutiae?# Perhaps.# But for those of us who specialize in narrower aspects of horology the minutiae is sometimes what makes it interesting and leads to other discoveries.# Take Illinois watches, for example.# The collectors and researchers of Illinois railroad watches, especially the Bunn Specials, have identified numerous variants and name them as types I, II, IIIA, etcetera.# They have also developed names for the various damaskeen patterns.# These type and pattern designations are used by the collectors because they find it useful.# Perhaps PL collectors will similarly find some system of differentiation useful.

Is it too cumbersome?# Clint also raised this issue so I offered a simpler and more descriptive approach.# If the PL collectors like it maybe they will use it or modify it to their usage.# You do not have to do so.

(Please ignore all of the # symbols that my phone inexplicably inserted).
 
Last edited:

Larry Treiman

Registered User
Jan 18, 2009
3,290
73
48
So. Calif.
Lots of food for thought here.

Something that this thread reminds me is that our hobby certainly has a habit of settling on anachronistic labels for various things. Some random examples (rather parochial to my interests):
  • latf
  • The watches that we today know as the Elgin "convertible" were not known as such in their time. Rather, they were known as "Interchangeable" (see e.g. 205295.jpg ).
  • The watch collectors today label the Elgin "doctor's watch" was also not known as such. It was apparently simply known as the "sweep seconds" watch. (See the same catalog page.)
  • The serial number databases that we have today classify all of Elgin's watches, even the earliest ones, by grade number. And yet as late as 1915 Elgin's material catalogs didn't apply grade numbers to many of the early named grades. This leads to some oddities, like the databases collapsing six different watches into grade #12.

So in this spirit, I just scanned through a few of the Jobbers' Catalogs in our site, and it looks like the contemporaneous term for what Jerry refers to as "Category I" is special name. See for example 205294.jpg :



The same term is used in the 1903 Otto Young & Co. catalog ( 125938.jpg ):



Oskamp-Nolting Co., 1917, 126894.jpg :

THANK YOU, Luis, for taking the time to research what the "private label" watches were actually called in their time. Also, your observation that this thread reminds you "....that our hobby certainly has a habit of settling on anachronistic labels for various things...." really made an important point.

I have always disliked the term "private label" as applied to watches, since I had come to associate it mainly with the labeling and marketing of generic commodities, usually at lower prices, by supermarkets, pharmacies, "big-box" chain stores....and others of that ilk. By the way, I am an avid consumer of such private label, private brand, store-brands, or whatever one wants to call them. However, I have been in the watch hobby since the mid to late-1960s, and I don't recall seeing the term "private-label" being applied to watches until sometime in the 1980s.

Do I think that your research or my rants are going to change things? Not very likely, but I appreciate and respect your knowledge, interest and patience, and I hope you don't let the negativity discourage you.


Larry Treiman
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,338
1,939
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
THANK YOU, Luis, for taking the time to research what the "private label" watches were actually called in their time. Also, your observation that this thread reminds you "....that our hobby certainly has a habit of settling on anachronistic labels for various things...." really made an important point.

...

Larry Treiman
Hi Larry,

I see that the only reference in Luis' post relevant to the "private label" designation was that from one jobber's catalog referring to certain Elgin PL watches as "special name." One such reference cannot really establish whether or not PL was a contemporary term in the 19th century watch market. And anyway, it is not hard to understand why a piece of period sales literature would choose to call the merchandise it was selling "special name" rather than merely, "private label." However, persons today interested in understanding the evolving organization of the American watch industry over time, have different criteria for choosing their terminology than did 19th and early 20th Century watch sales organizations. Occasionally, collectors and horologists also find it useful to create their own entirely new terminology for their own unique purposes. For example, the "Series" nomenclature for early Howard watch movements was invented long after Howard went out of the watch business by Percy Livingston Small and some his collecting contemporaries, and was later popularized by George Townsend. (Howard deliberately refrained from making watch model distinctions, likely for fear that older inventory, of which they often had much, would become even more difficult to liquidate. Conversely, modern collectors have developed their own model distinctions for Howard's output, the better to understand what they are collecting.) Similarly, I believe that much of Bill Meggers' meticulous categorization work on Illinois products, which is widely used by collectors today, was entirely original.

The primary disagreement here over the use of the term "private label" has been mostly over whether Ball watches are appropriately called PL watches, on account of the uniquely large role Ball played, compared with other notionally "PL" organizations, in their production. Reasonable people differ on that question. At minimum, Ball watches, and certain other watches, such as those made by Waltham for Keystone Howard circa 1903, point out that the bare term "PL" is likely too blunt a tool for clear communication without further qualification. However, the term PL has been used to describe many other 19th Century American watches perfectly adequately and unambiguously for a very long time now with relatively little controversy. (A Google search on "private label pocket watches" returns many relevant hits. Remove the word "pocket" from the search string, and one is inundated with hits.) Indeed, the broadly accepted definition of the term "PL," which was reviewed in a previous post, applies quite well to many American 19th Century watches. So I have argued that the term "PL" merely needs refinement, in some situations, to distinguish the different degrees of reseller input into the details of particular PL watches. I think that Jerry's proposed PL categories constitute a very good scheme for accomplishing that end, and I think Ball watches fit very nicely and unambiguously into that proposed scheme.
 

Luis Casillas

Registered User
Oct 16, 2012
570
19
0
San Francisco Bay Area
Country
Region
I see that the only reference in Luis' post relevant to the "private label" designation was that from one jobber's catalog referring to certain Elgin PL watches as "special name." One such reference cannot really establish whether or not PL was a contemporary term in the 19th century watch market.
Clint, I mentioned three catalogs, dated from 1886 to 1917. There were others that had the term. I focused on Elgin because I'm an Elgin nerd, but note that the H. Murhr's Sons catalog's reference to "special names" doesn't specifically single out Elgin.

However, persons today interested in understanding the evolving organization of the American watch industry over time, have different criteria for choosing their terminology than did 19th and early 20th Century watch sales organizations. Occasionally, collectors and horologists also find it useful to create their own entirely new terminology for their own unique purposes.
I fully agree with this, and in fact I practice it. My take is that:

  1. Classifications exist to serve specific purposes
  2. We can have different classifications for different purposes
  3. Classifications need to be critically examined and evaluated! This involves uncovering their purposes, comparing them to ours, and how well they mesh.
One reason I bring up the contemporaneous classification is that I believe it's a window into the minds of the people who made and sold the watches, and as such, I find it enormously interesting (as do others).

Another reason is that I believe that many collectors have accepted certain classifications as "official" or "authoritative" that I think we should be more skeptical of. My (somewhat parochial) example is that everybody today classifies early Elgin watches in terms of the 1915 and 1950 Elgin material catalogs, systems that was put in place some 30-40 years after those watches were made, and whose purpose wasn't to serve as the "truth" about them but rather to facilitate watchmakers' orders for repair parts. So for collecting those early watches, I've found that I've done better to evolve a different classification, based on:
  • Observations of actual differences between watches, which involves minutiae that interests me as a collector;
  • Understanding of how Elgin evolved their product line in those years, which involves how the people in the company and industry understood what they were doing.

The primary disagreement here over the use of the term "private label" has been mostly over whether Ball watches are appropriately called PL watches, on account of the uniquely large role Ball played, compared with other notionally "PL" organizations, in their production. Reasonable people differ on that question.
And for the record, based on my limited understanding of Ball watches, they would not be "special named" movements as mentioned in those jobbers' catalogs.

I think that Jerry's proposed PL categories constitute a very good scheme for accomplishing that end, and I think Ball watches fit very nicely and unambiguously into that proposed scheme.
And I was primarily suggesting that "special name" is a contemporaneous label for Jerry's Category I.
 

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,338
1,939
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
Clint, I mentioned three catalogs, dated from 1886 to 1917. There were others that had the term. I focused on Elgin because I'm an Elgin nerd, but note that the H. Murhr's Sons catalog's reference to "special names" doesn't specifically single out Elgin.



I fully agree with this, and in fact I practice it. My take is that:

  1. Classifications exist to serve specific purposes
  2. We can have different classifications for different purposes
  3. Classifications need to be critically examined and evaluated! This involves uncovering their purposes, comparing them to ours, and how well they mesh.
One reason I bring up the contemporaneous classification is that I believe it's a window into the minds of the people who made and sold the watches, and as such, I find it enormously interesting (as do others).

Another reason is that I believe that many collectors have accepted certain classifications as "official" or "authoritative" that I think we should be more skeptical of. My (somewhat parochial) example is that everybody today classifies early Elgin watches in terms of the 1915 and 1950 Elgin material catalogs, systems that was put in place some 30-40 years after those watches were made, and whose purpose wasn't to serve as the "truth" about them but rather to facilitate watchmakers' orders for repair parts. So for collecting those early watches, I've found that I've done better to evolve a different classification, based on:
  • Observations of actual differences between watches, which involves minutiae that interests me as a collector;
  • Understanding of how Elgin evolved their product line in those years, which involves how the people in the company and industry understood what they were doing.



And for the record, based on my limited understanding of Ball watches, they would not be "special named" movements as mentioned in those jobbers' catalogs.



And I was primarily suggesting that "special name" is a contemporaneous label for Jerry's Category I.
Hi Luis, I think you and I are in pretty much complete agreement on all of the points you raised. And I acknowledge your correction on the number of catalogs you cited.
 

Larry Treiman

Registered User
Jan 18, 2009
3,290
73
48
So. Calif.
[EXCERPT] The primary disagreement here over the use of the term "private label" has been mostly over whether Ball watches are appropriately called PL watches, on account of the uniquely large role Ball played, compared with other notionally "PL" organizations, in their production. Reasonable people differ on that question.

Clint, until now I wasn't even aware that there was any significant disagreement over whether the watches that Webb C. Ball (I) and his successors marketed to railroaders through his network of authorized watch inspectors were PL or not. How did I ever miss that in the 45+ years that I have been collecting, studying and simply cogitating about Ball watches:???:?

To me, the only worthwhile argument has been over whether Ball could legitimately be called a watch manufacturer, and that really doesn't matter much to me. There are good points made on both sides, but I'm starting to come around to the view that it might depend on what period of time in Ball's
history one is talking about!

As for that 1906(?) letter that Kent posted recently from Waltham, stating that they considered Ball to be a manufacturer, it reminded me of the time I asked one of my professors if I could give his name as a reference. His answer: "Sure, always glad to lie for a friend." In the case of the Waltham letter, the thought at Waltham might have been "....always glad to lie for a very important and influential customer." <];>)

Otherwise, what are important to me are the watches themselves and Webb C. Ball's influence and importance to the railroad industry. Whether Ball actually was a manufacturer or whether the watches should be called PL or not doesn't matter a "tinker's dam" to me!


Larry Treiman
 

johnbscott

NAWCC Member
Feb 25, 2007
447
438
63
Australia
Country
I offer the following thoughts for consideration:

1. Ball ORRS watches (and some other "Ball watches") are railroad-marked (if it is accepted that "RR" means "railroad").

2. All railroad-marked watches are PL, as a PL watch is one having marking other than or additional to those of the movement manufacturer, either on its movement or on its dial, or on both.

3. A watch having PL marking on its movement needs to have corresponding PL marking on its dial to be original style.

4. A watch having a PL dial but standard manufacturer marking and no PL marking on its movement may or may not be original style.

5. A PL watch may need to have appropriate PL case marking to be completely original style.


Shoot me down!

John Scott
 

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,338
1,939
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
I offer the following thoughts for consideration:

1. Ball ORRS watches (and some other "Ball watches") are railroad-marked (if it is accepted that "RR" means "railroad").

2. All railroad-marked watches are PL, as a PL watch is one having marking other than or additional to those of the movement manufacturer, either on its movement or on its dial, or on both.

3. A watch having PL marking on its movement needs to have corresponding PL marking on its dial to be original style.

4. A watch having a PL dial but standard manufacturer marking and no PL marking on its movement may or may not be original style.

5. A PL watch may need to have appropriate PL case marking to be completely original style.


Shoot me down!

John Scott
John, I think there were many watches with standard manufacturer's marks on the movements, but with PL dials that were "original style," to use your phrase. For instance, I have seen quite a few early Howards over the years with PL dials, but the only examples I can recall of movements made by Howard with PL markings are those they made (after Edward Howard's death) for W. C. Ball. Many retailers who were less prestigious than Ball might well have wanted both their own name and the manufacturers name to appear somewhere on the watches they were selling, especially if their customers got to choose movements and cases separately.

As for cases, retailers may have purchased the cases from any of a number of sources. I have seen many watches with PL dials in cases with matching seller's marks, and that is always reassuring. However, I would not necessarily question a case that was not so marked.
 

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,338
1,939
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
Clint, until now I wasn't even aware that there was any significant disagreement over whether the watches that Webb C. Ball (I) and his successors marketed to railroaders through his network of authorized watch inspectors were PL or not. How did I ever miss that in the 45+ years that I have been collecting, studying and simply cogitating about Ball watches:???:?

To me, the only worthwhile argument has been over whether Ball could legitimately be called a watch manufacturer, and that really doesn't matter much to me. There are good points made on both sides, but I'm starting to come around to the view that it might depend on what period of time in Ball's
history one is talking about!

As for that 1906(?) letter that Kent posted recently from Waltham, stating that they considered Ball to be a manufacturer, it reminded me of the time I asked one of my professors if I could give his name as a reference. His answer: "Sure, always glad to lie for a friend." In the case of the Waltham letter, the thought at Waltham might have been "....always glad to lie for a very important and influential customer." <];>)

Otherwise, what are important to me are the watches themselves and Webb C. Ball's influence and importance to the railroad industry. Whether Ball actually was a manufacturer or whether the watches should be called PL or not doesn't matter a "tinker's dam" to me!


Larry Treiman
Larry, the objection that was raised to calling Ball watches PL's surprised me too. And you make an interesting point about the 1906 Waltham letter. I would add further that from the retail watch consumer's perspective, Waltham's role in the production of Ball-Waltham watches, for example, was invisible, as the Waltham name appears nowhere on the watch, and Ball, not Waltham, presumably assumed all warranty responsibilities. So in that sense, Ball functioned as the "manufacturer" from the consumer's viewpoint, even though Ball made only small modifications to movements made elsewhere.

The distinction between the actual and the "apparent" manufacturer may be important to some of us as students of horology, but would have been utterly inconsequential to the vast majority of 19th Century watch buyers. No one is saying that this distinction, or whether or not Ball watches were "truly" PL's, necessarily has to matter to you, either. However, language is an essential research tool, and I personally like my tools sharp, rather than dull. I have been a research scientist for over 40 years now, and I can tell you that scientific research is a war waged against ambiguity. Precise conclusions cannot be drawn using ambiguous or imprecise language. Consequently, great effort is expended in scientific communities in defining and standardizing terminology as a basis for clear communication among researchers. This is a never ending process which often leads to the subdivision and refinement of previously more general, or less well defined terms. Jerry's proposal for distinctive categories of PL watches exemplifies that process in action. Whether you, or anyone else may care about this process depends on one's interests. I personally enjoy attempting to organize and interpret some of the minutiae of the products of my favorite companies to gain insights into the motivations of the people who made them. In that endeavor, I find precise language essential.
 
Last edited:

darrahg

NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Dec 22, 2006
1,562
664
113
Houston
Country
Region
Maybe the Ball watches should be considered a 'Brand' of the makers instead of private label. I have been having difficulty considering Plymouth Watch Co. watches, made by the Rockford Watch Co. primarily for Sears, as private labels but can easily call it a brand of the RWC.
 

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,338
1,939
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
Maybe the Ball watches should be considered a 'Brand' of the makers instead of private label. I have been having difficulty considering Plymouth Watch Co. watches, made by the Rockford Watch Co. primarily for Sears, as private labels but can easily call it a brand of the RWC.
Trouble is, Ball watches were made by many makers.
 

Keith R...

NAWCC Member
Nov 27, 2012
5,766
2,513
113
South
Country
Region
As I read darrahg comments, I have the same thoughts considering an Illinois Rail Road King as a "private label". Probably more suited for Illinois "Grade". Keith
 
Last edited:

Larry Treiman

Registered User
Jan 18, 2009
3,290
73
48
So. Calif.
I offer the following thoughts for consideration:

1. Ball ORRS watches (and some other "Ball watches") are railroad-marked (if it is accepted that "RR" means "railroad").

2. All railroad-marked watches are PL, as a PL watch is one having marking other than or additional to those of the movement manufacturer, either on its movement or on its dial, or on both.

3. A watch having PL marking on its movement needs to have corresponding PL marking on its dial to be original style.

4. A watch having a PL dial but standard manufacturer marking and no PL marking on its movement may or may not be original style.

5. A PL watch may need to have appropriate PL case marking to be completely original style.


Shoot me down!

John Scott


Thoughts considered, albeit briefly, and emphatically rejected, but not without a few good chuckles!

With your "thought" #2, beginning with the "assumption" that "All railroad-marked watches are PL.....", well, there is no need to go on! I think you shot yourself down with that "thought".

It is, after all, the 4th of July, and there are better things to chew on! Or did April 1st make a "sneak" comeback?

If it is laughs that I want, I haven't read today's comic section yet!

As for this thread, this will be my LAST post. I'm out of here and heading for the kitchen! I've HAD IT with food for thought! <];>P


Larry
 

topspin

Registered User
Dec 14, 2014
1,584
364
83
Country
Region
Yes, I was having my doubts about #2 as well... I offer the following example of a railroad-marked pocket watch that I would not classify as a PL. I believe it is still more-or-less how the original manufacturer made it.


DSCN3950.jpg
 

Jerry Treiman

NAWCC Member
Golden Circle
Aug 25, 2000
6,868
3,307
113
Los Angeles, CA
Country
Region
With respect to Luis' observations on the historic use of "Special Named" for the simplest PL watches, I would note that in addition to the sources he cited I also find this usage generically and for Waltham and Elgin watches in an 1899 jobbers catalog and also a 1908 catalog. Perhaps, since "Private Label" has become so entrenched in modern collecting circles, we should not try to replace the term, but keep it for the broad spectrum of watches we have been discussing. I think we could honor the historic terminology by calling the simplest form "Special Named PL watches" rather than simple PL watches.


With regard to Darrah's post (#43), my feeling is that if "Plymouth Watch Co." was a name requested by and sold exclusively by Sears, it probably should not be considered a "brand" of the manufacturer but rather of the seller. Did Rockford make these for anyone else besides Sears?
 

johnbscott

NAWCC Member
Feb 25, 2007
447
438
63
Australia
Country
Now having had a good night's sleep (on the other side of the world) I can accept that Thought 2 was a stretch. I shall reduce it to a simple definition of a Private Label Watch: "A watch having marking other than or additional to that of the movement maker, at least on its dial". In relation to this, I think Thoughts 3, 4 and 5 also apply. My use of the term "original style" accounts for the unknowns of "switching".

JBS
 

johnbscott

NAWCC Member
Feb 25, 2007
447
438
63
Australia
Country
To give this interesting discussion some context, I offer the accompanying images. Private label watches prompt fascinating journeys back in time.

Kearney NE R.jpg Dial 16s Ham - Kearney NE R.jpg

The dial is for a 16s Hamilton movement. Hawthorne Jewelry is still in business in the building visible immediately to the right of their shop, as shown in the postcard view of a century ago.

JBS
 

Attachments

Last edited:

Forum statistics

Threads
168,187
Messages
1,466,726
Members
48,149
Latest member
kellywiglesworth10@gmail.
Encyclopedia Pages
1,060
Total wiki contributions
2,955
Last update
-