Who made these dials?

Discussion in 'American Pocket Watches' started by Jerry Treiman, Apr 17, 2017.

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  1. Jerry Treiman

    Jerry Treiman Registered User
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    #1 Jerry Treiman, Apr 17, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2017
    The big watch companies, like Waltham and Elgin, had their own dial departments, but where did the smaller companies get their dials?

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

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

    View attachment 340501
    The first picture shows, on the left, a 12-size dial pattern that has been found on several of the late Waltham-Howard movements (ca.1905). This example has had the Howard name polished off. On the right is a nearly identical Elgin dial (photo courtesy of Fred Hansen). This distinctive numeral style is shown in Elgin's 1909 and 1915 material catalogs and so I suspect that, although the movement came from Waltham, Howard/Keystone appears to have sourced this dial from Elgin.

    View attachment 340502
    The next photo pair shows, on the left, a 16-size dial pattern that is very common on Waltham-Howards from 1903-1905. On the right is a nearly identical dial for Rockford. This dial, as well as others that are like some Waltham-Howard dials, are shown in Rockford's 1909-1910 material catalog. Did Rockford make their own dials, and some for Howard, or did both companies get their dials made for them by another company?

    edited to add a note on Rockford dials: Darrah Artzner (Review of the Rockford Watch Company And It's Watches With Emphasis on Model Identification", revised 2004 -- http://www.nawcc-ch149.com/db_resch/Rockford%20Review.pdf ) has noted that "Rockford dials were made by various North American companies as well as those located in Switzerland." Evidently Keystone must have contracted with the same sources for some of their dials.
     
  2. johnbscott

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

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

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

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    I think at least a lot of the dials made for Ball watches were made by the same companies that made the movements. I say this because I have seen both several Ball Howard dials and several Ball Hampden dials that were pretty clearly painted by Josiah Moorhouse (best known for the unique calligraphy he created on many Howard watch dials when foreman of the E. Howard & Co. dial room) when he worked for those companies during the periods when their Ball movements were produced.
     
  5. johnbscott

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

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

    Jerry Treiman Registered User
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    Do you have any knowledge of who this may have been (talking about enamel dials)? We know about Ohara Dial who were known for fancy and custom dials, but also made plain dials. Are some of the watch companies known to have made dials for others? In my first post I suggest that perhaps Elgin made some dials for Keystone. Does anyone know who may have made the dials for Rockford around the turn of the century?
     
  7. Jerry Treiman

    Jerry Treiman Registered User
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    My brother has just pointed out to me that this identical numeral style is shown in the 1912 A. Wittnauer catalog among the Longines dials. So maybe both Elgin and Keystone (and Longines) got this dial from a Swiss source.
     
  8. John Cote

    John Cote Registered User
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    No evidence...no data saying there was any connection but I always thought that a lot of 18s Rockford (RR) dials looked exactly like 18s Hamilton dials?
     
  9. Greg Frauenhoff

    Greg Frauenhoff Registered User
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    Jerry,

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

    FWIW,

    Greg
     
  10. John Cote

    John Cote Registered User
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  11. Larry Treiman

    Larry Treiman Registered User

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    #11 Larry Treiman, Apr 19, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
    John, when I became interested in railroad watches in the late 1960s I first met the late Art Zimmerla, quite appropriately at a local (L.A.) Santa Fe Railway watch inspector's shop, and since we lived about 15 minutes apart, he became my informal "mentor" and "hobby buddy". We also shared an interest in railroads and railroadiana collecting.

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

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

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

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


    Larry Treiman
     
  12. topspin

    topspin Registered User

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

    [​IMG]
     
  13. John Cote

    John Cote Registered User
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    Art was a great guy to have for a mentor. I only met him a few times but I know he had a great mind...the mind of a true collector/researcher. Your Art story is a great story.

    I will take Art's words to you as pretty good support for my longtime hunch.

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

    Thanks my friend!
     
  14. terry hall

    terry hall Registered User
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    Being the 'general' end to Rockford was about 1915-1917, the time frame for sub-contract Hamilton dials needed to precede this date/time frame. The 'watch co' signature in the Hamilton dial above seem to be from the nineteen ohs....
     
  15. Greg Frauenhoff

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

    John Cote Registered User
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    Greg,

    I loved your observation about the backs of dials and I would concur with everything you said. I will try to find either these or some similar dials when I get home next week and take some back pics. From my memory the backs look very close to the same but I will try to get pix.
     
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