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Philadelphia Watch Case Co.

In 1884, the firm of Leichty & Le Bouba was renamed the Philadelphia Watch Case Co. Mr. Theophilus Zurbrugg merged it with other case companies, the combined entity being the Keystone Watch Case Co. Nevertheless, the cases continued to be stamped with previous, well-known trade names.

Philadelphia Watch Case Co.: A Brief History

The book, History of the American Watch Case, Warren H. Niebling, Whitmore Publishing, Philadelphia, PA, 1971 (available on loan by mail to members from the NAWCC Library & Research Center), has a fairly good history of the Philadelphia Watch Case Co., including reproductions of over twenty photos taken inside of the factory. Briefly, quoting from page 48,

"MR. THEOPHILUS ZURBRUGG bought out the watch case company of Leichty & Le Bouba in 1884, in Philadelphia, Pa.

"About 1888 he changed the name to the Philadelphia Watch Case Co. He made various types of cases, using a crown as one trademark and an arm and hammer as another. ... The company moved to Riverside, N.J. in 1902. ...

"In 1904 this man managed a series of mergers, which brought together his own Philadelphia Watch Case Co., Bates and Bacon, Crescent and the Keystone Watch Case Co."

From page 7:
"... After a series of mergers in 1904 the name became the Keystone Watch Case Co., Riverside, N.J."

Additional History

A different report from above shows that:
"... the history provided in legal documents for the anti-trust case against Keystone ... states that all of the capital stock of a newly organized Philadelphia Watch Case Co. (August 1900) was owned by Keystone."
Jerry Treiman in a message board thread about a U.S. Watch Co. Watch.

And in fact, the history of the Philadelphia Watch Case Co. is bound up with that of the T. Zurbrugg Co. and of the Keystone Watch Case Co. It was the T. Zurbrugg Co. which, having moved to Riverside, NJ in 1898, purchased the case business from J. Muhr & Bro. (successor to H. Muhr's Sons) and thus gained the use of the trade marks for Crown and Lion cases. The T. Zurbrugg Co. was apparently absorbed by the Philadelphia Watch Case Co. when it was incorporated by Zurbrugg and others in 1899. This is indicated on Philadelphia's letterhead which included a small banner reading "Successors to T. Zurbrugg Co." That letterhead can be seen in an open letter to the trade, published when Philadelphia bought Bates and Bacon in January 1901.

In 1901, the Philadelphia Watch Case Co. had purchased the U.S. Watch Co. at Waltham, only a little more than a year after NY Standard was purchased by Keystone and Zurbrugg. That was at the same time, that the three companies, Zurbrugg, NY Standard and Philadelphia, opened a shared office on New York's Maiden Lane. But, it must be kept in mind that, by that point, Zurbrugg and Keystone were essentially the same company. The stated purpose in an article describing Philadelphia's purchase of the United States Watch Co., Waltham, Mass. was "... to have a large output of high grade watches, ..." but that didn't exactly happen, at least not under the Philadelphia name. Instead, Keystone (the real owner) purchased the rights to use the Howard name on watches and ran the company as the E. Howard Watch Co. Almost as if to add insult to injury, the names used on the cases were Keystone and Crescent, not Philadelphia.

Case Grades

Regardless of the company’s name, the cases continued to be stamped with previous, well-known trade names:

Case GradeCase Material
CrownGold-Filled, guaranteed for 20 or 25 years, as marked in the case (formerly of J. Muhr & Bro., a descendant firm of H. Muhr's Sons)
LionGold-Filled, guaranteed for 20 years (formerly of J. Muhr & Bro., a descendant firm of H. Muhr's Sons)
RoyalGold-Filled, guaranteed for 20 years (formerly of Bates & Bacon, whose trade mark can still be seen in the cut)
VictoryGold-Filled, guaranteed for 10 years (may be Rolled Gold Plate in later years)
PremierGold-Filled, guaranteed for 5 years
PresidentGold-Filled, guaranteed for 3 years, in 1898 for 2 years (courtesy Mindless)
ParamountRolled Gold, guaranteed for 1 year
Perfection (Arm & Hammer Trade Mark)14K Gold Plate (courtesy Mindless), Trade mark may have also been used on brass cases - A very similar-looking trade mark (which probably doesn't belong to the Philadelphia Watch Case Co.) appears on more thinly plated cases, some or all of which are fraudulently marked with a 25 year warranty.
Alsaka SilverNickel
Solid NickelNickel
Indian Head Trade MarkBrass

See the Case Material Encyclopedia article for an explanation of the terms.

A number of Philadelphia's trade marks (but not all) may be seen on page 121 of the book Trade Marks Of The Jewelry And Kindred Trades, Second Edition, Jewelers' Circular Publishing Co., NY, 1904 (found online by Askbart).

A Philadelphia Case Catalog (with Movements) (courtesy of Duke University's "Emergence of Advertising in America" website) lists a variety (but not all) of Philadelphia case grades.
Categories: Category Watch case makers

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