R.W Sears or Sears Roebuck & Co. Watches

Jim Haney

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I am interested in these watches. I worked for Sears from 1966 until 1993. At one point I was educating new hires on the company history, however, the materials I had to teach with, did not go into very much detail on Richard Sears interest in watches and A. C. Roebuck's role in the company.

I found what I was looking for in the new improved NAWCC web site www.nawcc.org because thanks to many hours or work and efforts they have scanned all of the Bulletin's from the beginning in 1943.

To use the Bulletin archive users should go to Publications, NAWCC Bulletin, and Past Issues. Member Login (in the upper right corner) is necessary before accessing the Past Issues page. You have to be a member to use this archived information.

William (Bill) Meggers wrote 2 articles for the bulletin in the Oct. & Dec. Issues # 268 & 268 on R.W. Sears and Sears Roebuck & Co. watches. It's like everything you wanted to know about Sears watches and here it is !
Sears started out by buying a crate of unclaimed watches from the Railroad station he managed in North Redwood, MN.and sold to other station agents and anyone who wanted one.

Shortly after this he started the R.W. Sears Watch Co. He never made any watches, but was successful in buying them from the big companies wholesale and making a profit from it. As his volume increased he was able to buy in larger quantities and have his name applied and thus get the cost down to the manufactures level, so in effect he could make as much on a watch as the companies did because they were governed by prices on watches with the company name on them to their dealers and wholesalers, but Sears had his name on the movement etc. so he was not bound by the wholesale prices to dealers.

The articles in the Bulletins are 15 pages for each part.

These are the links to save you some time.

Part I
http://www.nawcc.org/images/stories/1990/articles/1990/268/268_428.pdf

Part 2
http://www.nawcc.org/images/stories/1990/articles/1990/269/269_540.pdf


His fist watch was made by Elgin in 1886 and a few months later Illinois started making his watches . The first 2 were marked "FAMOUS" and "Railroad Magnet" and had Minneapolis. MN. markings on them. The next 3 were marked "DEFINANCE" "TIME CARD" & "RICHARD" and had Chicago, IL marked on them as he had moved into bigger space in 1887.

As a side note I have the watch in Fig. 7 . I bought it at the National in Cleveland a few ago and didn't realize that I had it, the same serial number, until I read the articles. It was very inexpensive.

If anyone shares my interest in these watches please contact me for more information and trading,buying or selling some of them.
Thanks

DSCN5016.JPG DSCN5020.JPG DSCN5019.JPG
 

Jim Haney

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Melissa,
Thanks for posting it. I don't know who made it? What size is it? 6s,0s etc.Does it have Swiss stamped on it on the dial plate?
I like the dial logo and don't believe I have that tpye or logo .
 

melissa knapp

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Jim,

It's an 18 size and it does have swiss stamped on the movement. I will see if I can research the serial # to determine who made it. It fires right up when I wind it!
 

John Cote

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Here is a Sears Watch Case from my case collection. Note that the logo stamped inside the case is the same as the one on Melissa's dial.

BTW, in case you didn't know, Melissa grew up the daughter of one of the finest watch collectors I ever knew (and I knew/know a lot of them). Some of you old timers probably remember her dad Curt Hopkins. Melissa is doing a great job of carrying on the family tradition.

305.jpg 306.jpg
 
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Jim Haney

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John,

Thanks for showing a great condition Sears Roebuck & Co, case. Your pictures are way above average.

If you look closely at the two S&R logo's you would have to agree that except for the same letters they are different. I don't see any of the curls at the "R" middle and on the feet of it and the 'S" doesn't show this either and is thicker. The style and fonts are different on Melissa's dial than is show in the back of the S&R watch cases. Maybe because it is Swiss?

I have bought several S&R watches from your Dad at Ft. Wayne several years ago.
 
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Fred Hansen

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Hi Jim -

A few others to hunt for ...

There is one other name in the early 18 size Illinois series for R.W. Sears, it is the "Lawrence".

Also there are 6 size Illinois watches from this same era marked for R.W. Sears but the few I've seen don't have any other name or phrase on the movements like the 18 sizes do.

Another fun one to look for is the 18 size US Watch Co. of Waltham that are private label marked on the dial and movement for A.C. Roebuck ... I think these are the only American watches I remember seeing marked just for Mr. Roebuck but with no mention of Sears.

Fred
 

Ralph Porter

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Hi Jim,
I have two Sears watches and I'll do my best to describe them since I'm currently not able to make pictures.

1. Sn 1549883; 18s, Illinois open face model 6, lever set, 17j movement with micrometer adjustment; marked "adjusted" "Sears Roebuck & Co. Special Chicago, USA". The dial is double sunk porcelain, Roman numerals with small red Arabic numbers at 5 min, moon hands, and marked "Sears Roebuck & Co. Special". The hands are open moon style. The heavy nickel case has a round bow and ball-shaped crown; it's only marked with a very clear Sears logo as shown in John's post, and sn 147092.

2. Sn 1576116; 16s, Illinois open face model 5 (Getty style) lever set, 17j movement with micrometer adjustment; marked "adjusted" "Sears Roebuck & Co. Chicago, USA Special" along with wavy damaskeening. The dial is double sunk porcelain, Gothic-style Arabic numerals with small red Arabic numbers at 5 min, and marked "Sears Roebuck & Co. Special". The hands are open moon style. The yellow gold-filled case is plain with typical antique bow & stem, and marked "B&B Royal 20 Years", sn 6006195.

I hope this helps,
Ralph
 

Jim Haney

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Ralph,
Thanks for the numbers. I have a 16s that is off by 27 numbers from yours.

Kent,
Thanks for the A. C. Roebuck ads. Sears sold his interest to his partner and retired in March 1889 and couldn't use his name for 3 years.
Reorganized as Sears Roebuck & Co in 1893.and moved to Chicago.

John,
I stand corrected on the S. R.& Co. logos. I have some cases that do have the logo shown on Melissa's dial, as well as the one you have pictured with the fancy curls on the feet. They must have changed it over a period of time or different Mfg. changed it. It is thought that his watch "Railroad Magnet" was a mistake by Illinois that he never bothered changing to the correct "magnate".

Fred,
Thanks for the information on the "Lawrence".
Meggers was not aware of this one when he wrote the article in 1990. Was it an early Minneapolis or the later Chicago model ?
The A. C. Roebuck (U.S. Watch Co.) was produced from 1891-93 when he could not use his name, as I mentioned above.
________________________________________

These are the numbers I have in my collection.

I hope we can match some of these for consecutive numbers and Kent feel free to add to your data base.


Serial # Size

849409 18
1345968 18
1349721 18
1403576 18
1421419 18
1426760 18
1426783 18
1481382 18
1482323 18
1493979 18
1522583 18
1531682 6
1550422 18
1550540 18
1550565 18
1551524 18
1574756 18
1574821 18
1576143 16
1621884 18
1660501 18
1660593 18
1700685 18
1700794 18

 
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Kent

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Ed and I have the following:

331,252 - 18S, 15J, HC, No. 60, Mvt "The R.W. Sears Co. - Railroad Magnet - Minneapolis, Minn." Dial Unsigned
1,353,629 - 18S, 17J, OF, No. 64, Mvt & Dial "Sears & Roebuck Special"
1,353,687 - 18S, 17J, OF, No. 64, Mvt & Dial "Sears & Roebuck Special"
1,441,050 - 18S, 17J, OF, No. 64, Mvt, Dial & Case "Sears & Roebuck Special"
1,476,832 - 16S, 17J, HC, No. 175, Mvt & Dial "Sears, Roebuck & Co."
1,477,331 - 16S, 15J, OF, No. 171, Mvt & Dial "Sears, Roebuck & Co. Special"
1,549,655 - 18S, 17J, OF, No. 51, Mvt & Dial "Sears & Roebuck Special"
1,549,716 - 18S, 17J, OF, No. 51, Mvt & Dial "Sears & Roebuck Special"
1,574,917 - 18S, 17J, OF, No. 64, Mvt & Dial "Sears & Roebuck Special"

The usual reminder: Errors may have occurred in the reporting or recording of the data.
 

Jim Haney

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Hi Jim -

A few others to hunt for ...

There is one other name in the early 18 size Illinois series for R.W. Sears, it is the "Lawrence".

Also there are 6 size Illinois watches from this same era marked for R.W. Sears but the few I've seen don't have any other name or phrase on the movements like the 18 sizes do.

Another fun one to look for is the 18 size US Watch Co. of Waltham that are private label marked on the dial and movement for A.C. Roebuck ... I think these are the only American watches I remember seeing marked just for Mr. Roebuck but with no mention of Sears.

Fred


Fred,
I meant to get back with you on this. Do you have a example of the "Lawrence" to post.?

I found another R.W. Sears & A.C. Roebuck article in a old "BULLETIN". No 251 Vol.29 Dec. 1987. It's written by James W. Gibbs, and is a recap of several chapters of "Catalogues and Counters: A History of Sears, Roebuck & Coby University of Chicago Press, publishers of the book.

Link
http://www.nawcc.org/images/stories/1980/articles/1987/251/251_452.pdf

In this article, Sears sent his assistant. Authur Lawrence, to Toronto, Canada, to open up a office there in 1888.

Thus, The name "Lawrence" on a Sears Illinois watch.
 

Jim Haney

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This is a clearer photo of the watch in post #11

Serial # 279,374

Thanks, Rhett
-> posts merged by system <-
This is a photo of some rarer Plymouth Watch Co.21J Rockfords sold as King George

617622

695554 This has RG in a circle on the Barrel Bridge and it is a Hunter .


Are there others who collect Sears watches?
 

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Tom Huber

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Jim, I have an 18S, OF screwback and bezel 3 oz sterling silver case which has the exact same SR & Co font as the one John Cote posted earlier. Got mine as a case only in an antique store.

Tom
 

Jim Haney

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Thanks Tom. Those cases are for the Sears Roebuck &Co, Specials

:D I have a movement for your case or you have a case for my movement.
 

darrahg

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This is a clearer photo of the watch in post #11

Serial # 279,374

Thanks, Rhett
-> posts merged by system <-
This is a photo of some rarer Plymouth Watch Co.21J Rockfords sold as King George

617622

695554 This has RG in a circle on the Barrel Bridge and it is a Hunter .


Are there others who collect Sears watches?
(I am sure you meant King Edward and not King George)
Rockford made both hunter and open faced movements in 18s (King Edward) and hunter and open face in 16s (Prince of Wales). They were made almost exclusively for the Sears Co. The 18s is full plate and the 16s is a bar bridge plate form. Both sizes are 21j.
 

Jim Haney

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(I am sure you meant King Edward and not King George)
Rockford made both hunter and open faced movements in 18s (King Edward) and hunter and open face in 16s (Prince of Wales). They were made almost exclusively for the Sears Co. The 18s is full plate and the 16s is a bar bridge plate form. Both sizes are 21j.
Thanks Darrahg, yes it was a mistake. It is what it is on the plate, for sure.

When you say "almost exclusively" what information would you be refering to about this ?
 

darrahg

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Thanks Darrahg, yes it was a mistake. It is what it is on the plate, for sure.

When you say "almost exclusively" what information would you be refering to about this ?
Besides Sears, a minor amount have been found with private labels. Note that they are 17j and not 21. And, they are not labelled as King Edward or Prince of Wales. They are rare but I do not know the number or percentage. There are a couple of 'senior' collectors out there that have confirmed this for me. Fred Hansen is one. As a matter of fact he commented about one in the Rockford section of this board. I will post this and see if I can find the link.

The 16s bar bridge (Prince of Wales) two examples:
https://mb.nawcc.org/showthread.php?t=46029

https://mb.nawcc.org/showthread.php?t=11216

 
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Jim Haney

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I have added the R.W. Sears, "Timecard" to this thread.
The 5 early Illinois watches made for Richard Sears, before the more common "Sears Roebuck & Co. Specials were produced were.

Famous
Magnet
Defiance
Timecard (Pictured here)
Richard

Bill Meggars noted in his Bulletin articles, see links in early part of this thread,that the Richard was the least produced with about 300.


All of the above models are pictured in this thread, but the Richard.

Misc 001.JPG
 

Jim Haney

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I know this is a Illinois thread but we have a Rockford in it because it is a Sears watch so here are the first Watches contracted for by young Richard W. Sears.

In Bill Megger's article he says Sears ordered his first watches from Elgin in the fall of 1886,when he started his company in Minneapolis.

These watches were 18s Grade 82,15J with a gilded finish. They had R. W. Sears on the Dial & Movement, unlike the early R.W. Sears watches he ordered from Illinois that didn't have the dial marked.

This example is Serial 2233136. I have a earlier one # 2233567. No one knows exactly how many were produced because they pulled small batches from the run, but Megger's estimates about 300.

DSCN2152.JPG DSCN2153.JPG
 

Jim Haney

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Finally, A example of the rare and elusive R. W. Sears "Lawrence" watch.


Look back to post #8 & 14 to see what the details are about it.

So this makes the 6th Early R.W. Sears watch made by Illinois before the more common Sears Roebuck & Co. Specials.

Bill Meggers did not know about this one in 1992 when he wrote the Bulletin articles about Sears watches

I got this from Gary Anderson, Thanks, Gary !

Famous
Timecard
Magnet
Defiance
Richard
Lawrence
 

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John Cote

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Jim,

I love your Lawrence. Here is Sears watch I bought yesterday from a gentleman who found it in the attic of a house he bought in Florida. I think the 4 23 jewel examples of this Sears brand from about 1911 represent the high point of the Sears pocket watches.

48.jpg


49.jpg
 

Fred Hansen

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Jim - Congrats! Thats a really hard one to complete the set with and glad to see you get it for your collection.

John - Great looking 23J Interstate, the 2-tone on this one looks as nice as they come.
 

Jim Haney

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I picked up another R.W. Sears Railroad Magnet. Serial # 279150 in nickel with a nice DMK pattern

It is a transitional KW/SW movement and is a strong runner in a great case.
 

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Kent

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Nice watch Jim!

I suppose that this is one that you won't try to 'de-magnetize'!
 

Jim Haney

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I found another scarce "Lawrence" in a great clean Nickle finish grade 101S 11Jewels with a fancy Chalmer's regulator.

This watch had a hair lined up dial but most of it came out. These are unmarked dials on these early R.W. Sears watches and have a Faux DS line. I had an unmarked Illinois dial but it doesn't have that circle in it.

If you will review posts 8,14 & 27 for information on this "Lawrence"

To go over some facts Elgin made the first Sears watches for a short period and then Sears went with Illinois for the next line of watches and they were unmarked dials with grade names or P/L names of

Famous
Magnet
Lawrence, made with Minneapolis, Minn markings

Defiance , Chicago, IL. markings
Timecard
Richard

These were the early R. W. Sears watches before the Sears Roebuck & Co,Special that is the most common.

This watch is 253505, 30 numbers from the first Lawrence I show in post 27.

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Jim Haney

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This is another R. W. Sears watch, marked Railroad Magnet. Serial number 282516.

All of these early Sears watches , before the more common Sears Roebuck & Co. Specials, had the unmarked dials.

See post 24. Also, to learn more about these watches the links in post 1 work if you sign in the NAWCC Org. site first.

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vintageguy

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Sears started out by buying a crate of unclaimed watches from the Railroad station he managed in North Redwood, MN.and sold to other station agents and anyone who wanted one.
Back in the late 80s, after I got out of the Navy but before I went to college, I worked as a community newspaper editor in south central Minnesota. Often in the evenings and into the early morning hours I would take my transistor radio to different places on the Minnesota River and fish for Flathead catfish while listening to Minnesota Twins baseball broadcasts. Later in the summer, I made a friend of one of the local guys who showed me a fishing hole in North Redwood, where the Minnesota River makes a 90 degree turn over which there is a railroad bridge. He showed me pictures of a 55 pound Flathead Catfish he claimed to have caught there the previous summer. Despite being skeptical, I invited a friend from the Twin Cities to join me for an evening of fishing at that spot. At 3 am, we packed up the car with a 52 pound, a 36 pound, and two 20+ pound Flatheads in tow. I regret to say that he caught the 52-pounder, while I caught the other three. I gave him all of my fish, and he took the lot to a processor in Minneapolis to have them smoked. I gotta say, that was some of the worst-tasting fish I've ever had (comparable to the smoked carp I "experienced" on another fishing expedition to Wisconsin's Chippewa Flowage in the early 80s . . .)

When I began collecting pocket watches in 2013, I learned about and researched the Illinois "Sears & Roebuck" watches, including Henry Sears' inauspicious beginning in North Redwood. Then, in 2018, I came across this watch at the Ohio Valley Antique Mall in Fairfield Ohio. It was a mess but I bought it anyway for $102. Then, I had a new mainspring and a couple of hole jewels replaced. It runs great now.

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60MinuteMan

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Great thread !
Here is an 1898 Illinois SRco from my collection. I really enjoy the Sears history as it relates to watches and trains, and of course just Sears itself. (early model trains being another obsession that we won't get into).
Unfortunate that the case shows some wear, but I am happy that you can still make out the original markings.



s-l1600 (1).jpg s-l1600 (7).jpg s-l1600 (10).jpg s-l1600 (11).jpg s-l1600.jpg
 
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musicguy

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I really enjoy the Sears history as it relates to watches and trains
It is a great story and these are cool watches. It was not too long ago
that it was Sears and not Amazon that people could order "anything" from them.

FROM WIKIPEDIA Richard Warren Sears - Wikipedia
In 1886, when Sears was 23, his station received a shipment of gold watches from a Chicago manufacturer, but the local consignee, jeweller Edward Stegerson, refused the unsolicited shipment.

A common scam existing at the time involved wholesalers who would ship their products to retailers who had not ordered them. Upon refusal, the wholesaler would offer the already price-hiked items to the retailer at a lower consignment cost in the guise of alleviating the cost to ship the items back. The unsuspecting retailer would then agree to take this new-found bargain off the wholesaler's hands, mark up the items and sell them to the public, making a small profit in the transaction.

But Stegerson, a retailer savvy to the scam, flatly refused the watches. Young Sears jumped at the opportunity, and made an agreement with the wholesaler to keep any profit he reaped above $12, and then he set about offering his wares to other station agents along the railroad line for $14. The watches were considered an item of urban sophistication. Also because of the growth of railways, and the recent application of time zones, farmers and railroads needed to keep time accurately which had not been necessary until then. For those two reasons the station agents had no trouble selling the watches to passers-by.

Within six months, Sears had netted $5,000 and felt so confident in this venture that he moved to Minneapolis and founded the R. W. Sears Watch Company. He began placing advertisements in farm publications and mailing flyers to potential clients. From the beginning, it was clear that Sears had a talent for writing promotional copy. He took the personal approach in his ads, speaking directly to rural and small-town communities, persuading them to purchase by mail-order.


Rob
 

4brokenow

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1901 Grade 51. Sears and Roebuck Special. This one is 'special' as it has it's original SR&co signed nickel case which is neat in it's own right. Interesting it's a big case. I guess you can make it feel expensive by weight, even with the bargain price they paid out of the catalog. ;)

cover.jpg front.jpg move.jpg
 

musicguy

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Here is a 6s 17j Sears Roebuck & CO Special made by Illinois circa 1904

20220918_112852.jpg 20220918_113039.jpg
20220918_113310.jpg 20220918_113100.jpg
 

John Cote

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I'm sure I'll be lambasted for posting this here, but oh well. A.C. Roebuck Special. U.S. Watch Co. Waltham Mass.
No Lambasting here. Nice and relevant watch.
 

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