The Rockford Watch Co. brought its first movements to the market in 1876. It lasted through reorganization and sale, closing up in 1915. Over that period, not quite a million movements were built.
The Rockford Watch Co.: Thumbnail SketchOrganization of the Rockford Watch Co. occurred in 1874. The factory, in Rockford, IL, was completed in 1876 with the first watches getting to the market later that year. At first, production was about ten watches per day. Selling directly to retailers, who had an exclusive in their locale, the company advertised heavily to railroaders and consequently enjoyed a large sale in that market.
The Troubled NinetiesAlthough successful at first, Rockford suffered difficulties starting at the beginning of the gay-nineties. In 1891 Rockford was forced to reduce wages in order to stay competitive with the larger watch companies. They were cutting wages and then reducing prices, although some companies held the line. The company had also been having problems with a new model, designed to fit a new standard case design that was coming on the market. By the end of the decade, reports of the problems appeared in the trade press.
The Sale of the Rockford Watch Co.Two of the principles of the Illinois Watch Case Co., J. Franks and M.C. Eppenstein, purchased the Rockford Watch Co. in 1901. The connection was discussed in the trade press:
Use In Railroad ServiceRockford watches had always been marketed to railroad men. In fact, an 1882 Rockford catalog was entitled Railroad Time Keepers (see References, below). In the early 1890s, the 18-size, 15-jewel, open-face grade No. 87 (and its hunting-case twin, grade No. 84) were being offered by a mail order retailer specifically for railroad service.
The Rockford IndicatorIn its last years, 1913-1915, Rockford built wind indicator watches in both 16-size and 18-size. The lever-set, 21-jewel versions, grade No. 655 and No. 950 were built as a railroad watch, widely accepted for railroad time service. The 16-size, 17-jewel version, grade No. 665, being pendant-set and only adjusted to temperature, would not have passed railroad inspection. The 16-size Rockford Indicators were built first, followed by the 18-size.
Size Grade Jwls Quantity 18 No. 950 21 200 16 No. 655 21 2,200 16 No. 665 17 1,900
By 1915 Rockford was out of business.
Henry Burgell's Interactive Rockford Serial Number Lookup Table provides basic information about Rockford watches. Since some of these serial numbers are based upon a "recreated serial number list, there may be occasional errors.
A Review of the Rockford Watch Company And Its Watches With Emphasis On Model Identification is a fine online article by Darrah G. Artzner.
NAWCC Message Board Encycopedia article entitled: "[main="Rockford's early high grade movements"]Rockford's early high grade movements[/main]"
An explanation of early 18-size Rockford models is contained in a Message Board Thread of that name, started by Greg Frauenhoff.
A comprehensive list of private label Rockford watches is available, thanks to John Fogarty.
D. Artzner's May 2010 presentation History of the Rockford Watch Company is available, thanks to NAWCC Chapter 139's Chapter Presentations And Educational Topics.
A brief history of the Rockford Watch Co. is available from oldwatch.com.
Movement descriptions, cuts and prices are shown on pages 5 and 6 of the 1896 A.C. Becken Jewelers' Wholesale Price List.
1906 Catalog The Name Rockford Designates A High Grade Watch, Rockford Watch Co., Rockford, IL.
The following scans are of photocopies made from a library copy of this booklet. Apologies are extended for the library's name not having been recorded.
Page No. Description 1 Unquestionably Accurate Rockford Watch 2-3 16S 21J No. 500-505 & 510-515 4-5 16S 21J No. 520-525 & 530-535 6-7 16S 21J No. 540-545 & 17J Winnebago (400-405) 8-9 16S 17J No. 550-555 & 561-566 10-11 16S 17J No. 560-565 & 572-573 12-13 16S 17J No. 570-575 & 15J 584-585 14-15 16S 11J No. 590-595 & 18S 24J 800-900 16-17 18S 21J No. 805-905 & 918 18-19 18S 21J No. 810-910 & 17J Winnebago (200-205) 20-21 18S 17J No. 820-920 & 825-925 22-23 18S 17J No. 830-930 & 835-935 24-25 0S 17J No. 140 & 150 26-27 0S 15J No. 140 &. Mainsprings/Jewels/Staffs 28-29 Adjusted & 0-Size Bridge Model 30 High Grade Movement Net Price List
1909-1910 Rockford Material Catalog entitled: Fully Illustrated, Serial Number Descriptive Guide of Movements, Grades and Parts, Identification Catalog (1909 - 1910 Edition), courtesy NAWCC Chapter 149.
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.
Rockford Watch Company Grade and Serial Numbers with Production Figures, Roy Ehrhardt, Heart of America Press, Kansas City, MO, 1976
American Pocket Watches Serial Number Grade Book, 1993 Prices, Roy Ehrhardt & William Meggers, Jr., Heart of America Press, Kansas City, MO, 1993, Pp 293-314 & 324.
Railroad Timekeepers (catalog), Rockford Watch Company, IL, 1892, reprinted by the American Clock & Watch Museum, Bristol, CT
The Complete History of Watch Making in America - Reprinted from the Jewelers' Circular and Horological Review 1885-1887, Charles S. Crossman, Adams Brown Co., Exeter, NH, undated, but probably late 1980's, Pp 144-147.
The Watch Factories of America, Henry G. Abbott, Hazlitt & Co., Chicago, IL, 1888 (reprinted by Adams Brown Co. 1981), Pp 83-84.
Back issues of the NAWCC Bulletin are available online to NAWCC members who are currently logged in.
"Railroaders' Corner - The Marking of Rockfords 18-Size Watches," Ed Ueberall and Kent Singer, NAWCC Bulletin No. 308 (June, 1997), Pp 347-350.
"Railroaders' Corner - Markings on Rockford 16-Size Watches," Ed Ueberall and Kent Singer, NAWCC Bulletin No. 315 (August, 1998), Pp 476-479.
"Railroaders' Corner - Wind Indicators, Part 3: Ball & Rockford," Ed Ueberall and Kent Singer, NAWCC Bulletin No. 373, April, 2008, Pp 181-188.
Year Month Subject 1884 No. 22573 1884 January George Smith's Watch 1888 April No. 13867 1891 October 28 New 6-Size 1908 Excuses Don't Go - 1908 Absolute Safety 1908 February 5 For All Classes 1908 May The Man With A Rockford Watch 1908 December Sunrise To Sunrise 1909 July O.K. Is The Decision ... 1909 December The Variation Of A Minute ... 1913 August 15 Rockford Indicator Categories: Category American watch makers