D. Gruen & Son started in Columbus, OH in 1894, importing movements from Germany, and later, Switzerland. The company went under a succession of names, one of which was the Gruen Watch Mfg. Co.. As a top tier supplier, Gruen produced a line of fine watches, continuing in its original form into the post-WWII era, until 1958.
Gruen: A Thumbnail DescriptionDietrich Gruen learned the watch trade as a partner in Gruen & Savage, which grew into the Columbus Watch Co. Gruen served as president of that company until 1894. At that time he formed D. Gruen & Son, in Columbus, OH, the same city in which the Columbus Watch Co. was located. The first watches were (standard American) 18-size movements, built by Assmann in Germany. 16-size movements followed shortly. By 1904, production was moved to Madretsch, Switzerland. The company went through several name changes (for a list, refer to Paul Schliessser's website, noted in the references below). For convenience, it will be referred to here as just Gruen.
In the summer of 1898, Gruen relocated to Cincinnati, OH, occupying offices in the Lion building, which was housed the Queen City Watch Case Mfg Co. Gruen became selling agents for that company, which by 1902 became the Gruen-National Watch Case Co. In 1917, Gruen moved to the countryside near Cincinnati, renaming the location "Time Hill."
Gruen Watches For Railroad Service
Some Guren grades were accepted for railroad time service, such as the Swiss-Gruen grades 52 and 56. Although Gruen Actively Pursued Having Watches Accepted, the company didnt seem to promote these watches in the railroad market.
The following is quoted from The Jewelers Circular - Weekly and Horological Review, February 28, 1900, pp. 33-4 (Note - The D., L. & W. is the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western):
Letters To The Editor
WATCHES OF D., L. & W. RAILROAD EMPLOYES
Cincinnati, O. Feb. 12
Editor The Jewelers Circular - Weekly:
In your Consolidation number, page 48, you mention the D., L. & W. inspection rules. We wish to kindly inform you there is a very grave error in where you state or any standard Swiss movement of 22 jewels or more will be acceptable to the company. You no doubt have been misinformed, and I herewith give you the exact words of letter written in answer to an inquiry by us of J. W. Forsinger, the chief inspector. Would like very much to have you state the matter correctly in your next issue in justice to the various Swiss watch interests and also set the matter before the public correctly, for we have had quite a few inquiries from dealers in view of it. With greetings we remain yours truly,
D. Gruen & Sons.
Mr. Forsingers letter enclosed is reprinted below:
Chicago, Ill, Feb. 7, 1900
Messrs. D. Gruen & Sons, Cincinnati, O.:
Dear Sirs:-I am unable to fathom where you saw that only 22 jewels Swiss watches would pass. 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 your grades which I have in stock will pass on any road that I have, provided no dealers name is specially engraved on it. I have no copy of the rules you mention at present, but will gladly furnish any further information you may desire.
(Signed): J.W. Forsinger
Its believed that Gruen was importing watches from Assmann of Dresden until 1904 when they switched over to Swiss watches. Either everybody just lumped Dresden production in with the Swiss, or Gruen had started moving production to Switzerland earlier than previously thought - and the watches Forsinger referred to may have been the Swiss-Gruen grades Nos. 52 and 56.
Paul Schliessser has an excellent website that provides a history of Dietrich Gruen and the Gruen Watch Co., entitled Gruen: The Art and Mystery of Watchmaking 1874 1958.
The Priceless Possession of a Few, 1924 Gruen Fiftieth Anniversary Watch booklet.
Cary Hurt has posted a 1929 catalog description of Gruen's "Watch Adjustments to Position and Temperature."
1926 Gruen Material Catalog
1929 Gruen Catalog
Art Bissell has posted a July, 2011 NAWCC Message Board Thread on 17 ligne Verithin models.
GruenWristwatches Gruen only site with large reference section, articles, history, galleries
NAWCC Lending Library Material
Books and back issues of the NAWCC Bulletin are available to members on loan by mail from the NAWCC Lending Library, using the Lending Library Form.
Gruen Watches A Special Collection, Robert Dietrich Gruen, AWI Elm Charitable Trust, American Watchmakers Institute, Cininnati, OH
Priceless Possession of a Few, The, Supplement (#10) to the Bulletin of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, Eugene Fuller, NAWCC, Columbia, PA, 1974, available online to NAWCC members who are logged in.
The Gruen Watch Catalog, Mike Barnett, 2015, Description and Available in the GruenWristwatches bookstore
The 1929, 1930 Gruen Watch Makers Guild Book with 1931 Supplement - Mike Barnett, 2014, Available in the GruenWristwatches bookstore
The 1927 Gruen Stock Record Book - Mike Barnett, 2015, Description and Available in the GruenWristwatches bookstore
The Gruen Watch Model Identification Guide - Volume 1, Mike Barnett, 2010, Available in the GruenWristwatches bookstore
The Gruen Watch Model Identification Guide - Volume 2, Mike Barnett, 2013, Available in the GruenWristwatches bookstore
The Gruen Watch Model Identification Guide - Hardcover Collectors Edition Volumes 1 and 2, Mike Barnett, 2014, Available in the GruenWristwatches bookstore
Gruen The 1930s – A Decade of Watches from the Daily News - Mike Barnett, 2013, Available in the GruenWristwatches bookstore
Gruen The 1940s – A Decade of Watches from the Daily News - Mike Barnett, 2013, Available in the GruenWristwatches bookstore
Gruen The 1950s – A Decade of Watches from the Daily News - Mike Barnett, 2013, Available in the GruenWristwatches bookstore
The Gruen Watch Repairer's Reference (soft cover) - Mike Barnett, 2011, Available in the GruenWristwatches bookstore
The Gruen Watch Repairer's Reference (hard cover) - Mike Barnett, 2011, Available in the GruenWristwatches bookstore
A Course in Wristwatch Repair - The Gruen Horological Text and Technical Bulletins - Mike Barnett, 2009, Available in the GruenWristwatches bookstore
A Course in Wristwatch Repair - The Gruen Horological Text and Technical Bulletins eBook - Mike Barnett, 2009, Available on Google Play Books
448 Gruen Material Catalog - Mike Barnett, 2011, Available on Lulu
453 Gruen Material Catalog - Mike Barnett, 2011, Available on Lulu
1953 453 Material Catalog, Gruen Watch Company, Electronic eBook - Mike Barnett, available to download for free
The Gruen Watch Makers Guild Book, Electronic eBook - Mike Barnett, 2014, (out of print)
* Note that the majority of the above books by Mike Barnett are available to NAWCC members on loan by mail from the NAWCC Lending Library, using the Lending Library Form.
Back issues of the NAWCC Bulletin are available online to NAWCC members who are currently logged in:
" How about a Date? Breakthrough Research Smooths Rough Road for Gruen Wristwatch Collectors" Mike Barnett & Barry Cooper, NAWCC Bulletin No. 402, March/April, 2013, pp 123-
127. (Note this article is publically assessable, not just NAWCC members)
"A Few Unusual Gruen Watches," Robert Dietrich Gruen, NAWCC Bulletin No. 256, October, 1988, pp. 371-377.
"A Gruen Verithin Gallery," Art Bissell, Watch & Clock Bulletin No. 393, August, 2011, pp. 408-413.
"The Gruen Verithin Pocket Watch," Jack R. Goldberg, NAWCC Bulletin No. 300, February, 1996, pp. 24-30.
Year Month Subject 1911 Gruen Verithin 1915 September The Box As A Watch Stand 1915 October Adjusted and Precision Models 1915 November Green Gold Cases 1915 December Christmas Gift 1922 April Octagon Model No. C41 1922 June WW Nos. M61 & M62 1922 July - December Louis XIV No. O-121 & Cartouche WW No. O-122 1922 July - December WW Nos. O-111 & O-112 1922 November Ultrathin Pentagon A111 & Cartouche WW No. A112 1922 December Octagon Model No. A121 1936 December 14 Wristwatches & 2 Pocket Watches w/ Brief Descriptions - Color (Posted by Thojil 21-Jun-11)
Categories: Category American watch makers