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The people behind the Waltham company and their roles or positions

1908

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I'm relatively new to the world of American pocket watches but as I understand it, by about 1874 Waltham had their movements manufactured in America, shipped the movements over to England and had them cased (largely) at the Dennison Watch case company in Birmingham. This must have been quite an operation back in the day, but who were the people involved to make this happen?

I'm assuming there must have been a number of directors/managers in charge of various roles. A manager overlooking the American side movement production. Another person involved with the shipping side of the movements and more people taking care of operations in England.

If this were a company family tree how would this chart look starting at the top man at Waltham and slowly working down to men behind the case factory in the England?

Stephen
 
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Andy Dervan

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It is difficult to discuss the immense contribution of American Watch Co. (original name for Waltham watch co.) in a few sentences.

Royal Robbins purchased the failed Boston Watch Co. located in Waltham, MA in 1857 (it has been making watches there since 1854). It was a struggle the first few years after he took over. The civil war actually gave the company and its business a huge boost. The company had attracted some very technically talented and inventive employees who began developing improved watchmaking machinery. A number left help found other watch companies. Royal Robbins was the man behind the scenes at American Watch Co. until late 19th century when his health declined. He was not involved in day to day business, but he oversaw the company overall and guided it successfully. He hired good individuals who made significant contributions to the company technically and financially,

American Watch Co. was always significantly more advanced technically than other watch companies and the gap increased over time it wasn't until well into 20th century that other companies caught up.

Find a copy of Moore's "Timing A Century" great historical read on the company published in 1945. Mike Harrold wrote a great general booklet on American Pocket Watch Industry, Edward Marsh wrote a great book in 1896 "Watches by Automatic Machinery at Waltham" and documents the many individuals who developed the various semi-automatic and automatic machinery at Waltham.

Other folks can supplement my comments.

Andy Dervan
 
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musicguy

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it wasn't until well into 20th century that other companies caught up.
I would respectfully disagree with you on this.:)



Rob
 

Jim Haney

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Stephen,

I believe it was more of an opportunity for Dennison, who had prior connections to the Waltaham Company to order movements for his cases, than a Master Plan of Waltham.

These movements for import were low grade and most likely made a larger profit for him than a standard movements.

 

topspin

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The original question here is very interesting. Yes, what was the structure, how did it all hang together? There were a number of "Waltham Watch Depots", there was our old friend Alfred Bedford (managing something in London), clusters of outlets in London and Birmingham, not to forget Fattorini selling the watches like hot cakes...

Another aspect of this is - what was the process whereby a batch of (say) 100 of a given model & grade, was ordered & paid for? Or was it just "pushed"?
 
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Ethan Lipsig

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Jim, at least some of the imported movements were high grade. i have 18k AWCO grade bridge models in both 12- and 16-size that were exported to England. The 16-size is in a Dennison case. The 12-size at some point was recased in an
A.W.W.Co. case. It is my understanding that a significant percentage of these expensive, top-of-the-line movements were exported to the U.K.
 

Jim Haney

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Ethan,
My comments are general observations of Dennison Cased movements.

I am sure that some Hi-grade movements were ordered for special casing, etc.

Dennison made his bread & butter on Low grade movements cased in his Cases.
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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I think, if you were to find a copy of "Aaron Lufkin Dennison-An industrial Pioneer and his legacy" by Philip T. Prestley, Stephen, all your questions would be answered. When talking of Dennison, you must remember he was the father of American watchmaking. He did more than anyone else when at the American watch Company Waltham. Later he made his fortune-making watch cases in Birmingham UK. His son in France, Cased Waltham watches, (asked for by Waltham) before his father started in Birmingham.

Enjoy the story.

Allan.
 
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miguel angel cladera

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I think Dennison's help was crucial to the export of movements to the UK, despite disagreements with Robbins and Stratton's unfortunate intervention. I wrote by way of introduction about a Riverside Maximus for the British market.


The work of Philip T. Priestley it is essential "Aaron Lufkin Dennison, An Industrial Pioneer and his Legacy"
 

Tom McIntyre

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despite disagreements with Robbins and Stratton's unfortunate intervention
I am not aware of a conflict between Stratton and Dennison.

Thie history is pretty clear that Robbins fired Dennison who had been superinetendant of the manufacutring operations because he interfered with the sales and distribution structures that Robbins had set up.

Stratton and Bingham were the leaders of the Nashua venture from the product point of view while Noyes of Nashua N.H. was the principle business man. They were successful in building the watches they wanted, but could not hire the staff to ramp up production because the troubles in the south caused the Springfield Armory to ramp up production of arms.

When Nashua failed, many of the rebels returned to Waltham but Mosely ended up at Elgin and Stratton was sent to the UK to put together a presence there. I believe he was responsible for making the connections that took a number of years to develop. Alfred Bedford's mark appears on the early imports.

Dennison appears after several years of trying to create first the Tremont Watch Co. and then the Anglo-American Watch Co. which released Dennison and became the English Watch Co. and was one of the first makers of machine production watches in the UK.

Dennison and Wigley were partners in the new watch case company and had a business relationship with Bedford. I do not think Bedford worked for the Dennison Watch Case Co. and that name came into use a bit later. There was a continuing conflict with Robbins over the appearance that Dennison was back in association with him. Waltham watches with Dennison marked cases first appeared after R. E. Robbins began to relinquish control of Waltham to Ezra Fitch and Royal Robbins.

Many people believe that Edward Howard was the silent partner in the early years of Dennison Watch Case Co. but there is no documentary proof that I am aware of.

Below are a couple of related presentations I have given in this area.

American Watch Co. Dennison's Orphans
 

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