J.W. Forsinger

The J.W. Forsinger Watch Inspection Service, Chicago, IL, seems to have started in 1893. The company provided watch inspection services to railroads on a contract basis. Still in business in 1913, it's unclear how much longer the firm continued.

J.W. Forsinger Watch Inspection Service - A Thumbnail Sketch

Such documentation that has thus far come to light indicates that J.W. Forsinger supervised the railroad time service contracts at Giles, Bro. & Co., a company that had provided time service inspection to railroads on a contract basis. According to an 1893 report Forsinger left Giles, Bro. & Co., taking a number of accounts with him, eventually establishing J.W Forsinger Watch Inspection Service. This occurred around the time Giles, Bro. & Co. went into receivership. Forsinger was joined by another time service employe from Giles, Bro. & Co., William Greyer, who became Forsinger's Assistant Inspector of Watches For Railways. The accounts leaving with Forsinger included some very important railroads:

Chesapeake & Ohio
Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific (the Rock Island Line)
Illinois Central
Louisville & Nashville
Northern Pacific
St. Louis & San Francisco (the Frisco)
Wisconsin Central

One of Forsinger's employees was W.M. Davidson who joined the firm in 1897 as a representative in Railroad Time Service. Mr. Davidson left Forsinger in 1913 and in 1916 organized the National Railway Time Service Co.

It's not clear how much later than 1913 J.W. Forsinger Watch Inspection Service remained in business.

Swiss Watches Accepted

There is a misconception amongst the general population of railroad watch collectors that Swiss watches were not accepted on U.S. railroads. The reality is that they were accepted on a number railroads but were not as popular as American-made watches by quite a huge margin. Nevertheless, the issue was taken up in the trade press (around the point of whether a Swiss watch had to have 22 jewels to pass inspection), wherein Forsinger stated:

'Our book of instructions mentions that the highest grades of Swiss will pass on any road and it is understood that all Swiss movements of the higher qualities will pass. Both of your grades which I have in stock will pass on any road that I have, provided that no dealer's name is specially engraved on it.'

"Letters to the Editor - Watches of D., L. & W. Railroad Employes," The Jewelers' Circular - Weekly And Horological Review, February 12, 1900
Note: Forsinger's letter was in answer to one written by D. Gruen & Sons and the two grades referred to were probably Gruen's No. 52 and No. 56.
In stating that the Swiss watches would "... pass on any road that I have, ..." Forsinger is adding all of those major railroads listed above to the specific instance of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, one of the important New York - Chicago railroads.

A Jobber and Retailer

Perhaps as a separate company from the railroad time service company, J.W. Forsinger opened up as a jobber in 1893 carrying railroad standard watches. In stating in the February 12, 1900 letter to the editor, above, "Both of your grades which I have in stock ...," Forsinger clearly indicates that his company, in addition to supervising watch inspection services, was also a jobber and retailer of railroad grade watches. The Hamilton production ledgers are full of notes indicating the specific movements sold to the company. Since inspectors for the J.W Forsinger Watch Inspection Service were probably local jewelers and watchmakers, as was the typical practice throughout North America, it stands to reason that Forsinger was able to provide them with watches at an attractive discount. Forsinger's advertising of "No Special Named Watch," "A Victim of Unfair Treatment" and of more provocative statements were thinly veiled jibs at the Ball Watch Co. whose sister operation, the Ball Time Service (whose inspectors were Ball dealers), was frequently accused (but never proven) of pressuring railroaders under its jurisdiction to purchase Ball watches. These were more expensive than comparable grades made by Hamilton, Waltham or Elgin.

As J.W. Forsinger Co. the firm registered the name Patrician as a trade mark for a line of clock movements, watch movements and cases in 1922. It's not clear how much longer the company stayed in business.

A Unique Hamilton Watch

There is only one Hamilton 16-size or 18-size watch known to exist that has more than 23 jewels. That is a 25-jewel, 18-size watch, serial number 30,500. As seen in the linked to image (available to NAWCC members who are logged in) it was made for J.W. Forsinger. This one-of-a-kind watch is on display at the NAWCC Museum.
This watch started out life as serial # 500 and was renumbered as 30,500 after being either returned or reworked to bring up the jewel count to 25 jewels. A unique watch!

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