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Santa Fe Watch Co.

The Santa Fe Watch Co., Topeka, KS, was a mail-order, retail business, which also maintained a store (in Topeka). It had movements made by watch companies (mostly by the Illinois Watch Co.), marked with the Santa Fe name, and heavily promoted them in magazine ads.

Santa Fe: A Thumbnail Description

The Santa Fe Watch Co. was in business, in Topeka, KS at least as early as 1896 and by 1902 the company was selling talking machines as well as railroad watches. The company contracted for private label watch movements to be made by the Illinois Watch Company, mostly the 21-jewel, 16-size, Santa Fe Special grade, introduced in November 1913. However, men's 12-size watches were available, along with ladies 3/0-size and 11 ligne Bracelet Watches. Small ladies' hunting-case watches, identified as having been made by Omega, were also produced. The last run of the Santa Fe Special movements (Illinois grade No. 561, serial numbers 5,356,001-5,357,000) were still being sold in 1936. By this time, Bulova, Hamilton and Elgin watches were being offered as well.

Marketing and Promotion

Santa Fe's watches are believed to have been all sold cased in Santa Fe signed cases. In the early 1920s these were made by the Illinois Watch Case Co., as proudly noted in a catalog centerfold. The watches were sold almost exclusively via mail order. The sole exception that has come to light is that watches were sold, along with other traditional jewelry shop items, from a store at the company's location in Topeka, Kansas. A 1915 ad in a Topeka newspaper enlisted the aid of 25 local "Boosters" in selling the watches. It is not known at this time how long this arrangement lasted, or how widespread it was.

The firm's advertising, which was very similar to that of the Burlington Watch Co., consisted of monthly ads ranging in size from quarter to full page, emphasizing the railroad theme in railroad employe magazines and brotherhood journals. Ads appearing in magazines for the general public boldly listed the Santa Fe Special as a railroad watch, but most lacked the railroad graphics so common in other watch company ads for general readership; there were exceptions. Santa Fe's ads were fairly heavy on hype and low regular payments - one had to look very closely to find the total price of the watch, if it was in the ad at all (and it frequently wasn't).

In fact, the hype went so far that in a 1920s era catalog, there was a link of the Santa Fe Watch Co. with the 18-size "Santa Fe Route" marked Waltham Watches originally marketed by Henry Montgomery for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (the AT&SF, commonly known as just the "Santa Fe") employes, with which the Santa Fe Watch Co. had no actual connection. In fact, it was Montgomery who registered the "Santa Fe Route" watch trade mark representing one of that railroad's heralds (the "cake of soap" herald). It is possible that the Santa Fe Watch Co., which existed in 1896, was involved with Montgomery in marketing the "Santa Fe Route" watches, but independent documentation of that fact has yet to be found.

The ads waned after 1922, diminishing in size to less than a quarter page and only appearing infrequently.

There are allegations that the Santa Fe Watch Co. was an operation owned and/or controlled by the Illinois Watch Co. as a outlet for its medium grade movements. However, documentation supporting the allegations have yet to come to light. Similarly, there is a belief by some that there was a link between Henry Montgomery and the Santa Fe Watch Co. Nonetheless, there has not been any documentation seen to sustain that belief.

The Santa Fe Special: Accepted Into Railroad Time Service?

According to page 254 of American Pocket Watches Vol. 2, Illinois Watch Co., Encyclopedia and Price Guide, William Meggers, Jr. & Roy Ehrhardt, there were 1,000 21-jewel Santa Fe Special, grade No. 561 movements that were adjusted to temperature, isochronism and five positions and 200 A. Lincoln grade that were also adjusted to temperature, isochronism and five positions. These watches, if they carried the adjustment markings, would have been accepted into railroad time service, perhaps except on those roads that had rules stating "... watches bearing the names of jewelers or other names not standard trade marks, or trade numbers, will not be accepted as New Watches ..." (quoted from "Instructions to Local Watch Inspectors," USRA - New York Central Railroad, Office of General Time Inspector, Cleveland, Ohio, April 1, 1919.") or something similar to it.

Santa Fe advertised heavily in the railroad employe and brotherhood journals, although only a portion of the railroads seem to have accepted Santa Fe Special watches for railroad time service. To quote from Ehrhardt & Meggers:
Through the mid-teens, ads for the Santa Fe Special referred to it as a "Standard Railroad Watch." Then, on April 15, 1917 an ad in a brotherhood magazine came right out and stated that the Santa Fe Special was "Guaranteed to Pass R.R. Inspection." This was followed by an ad in the May 1917 issue of another brotherhood magazine which stated that 'The "Santa Fe Special" passes railroad inspection.' By August of that year, Santa Fe started using a distinctive text block, one that was to appear in their ads for years, proclaiming:

The Illinois' Famous
Santa Fe Special
21 Jewel Railroad Watch


However, although the ads continued to refer to the Santa Fe Special as a railroad watch after 1917, statements about it being guaranteed to pass railroad inspection disappeared from the brotherhood journals while nearly identical ads appeared simultaneously in the AT&SF employe magazine stating "Guaranteed to Pass Santa Fe Inspection." After a year or two, use of that statement fell away as even the ads in the AT&SF employe magazine simply referred to the Santa Fe Special as "The Standard Railroad Watch."

The significance of the distinction between what appeared in the AT&SF employe magazine and elsewhere may be the fact that long before the early 1920s, most railroads required that watches in railroad time service be adjusted to five positions (see end of Section 4 in the example), while as late as 1921 the AT&SF only required adjustment to three positions. Thus, whether or not the Santa Fe Special was accepted into time service depended upon its adjustment to position and what was required by a specific railroad.

The Santa Fe Special: What is the Description of Adjustment?

The Santa Fe Special watches are marked "Adjusted To Temperature And Positions" without noting to how many positions the watch is adjusted. Nor do the company's catalog description or ads clear up the matter. Immediately following WWI, and for years thereafter, many Santa Fe Watch Co. ads in the railroad brotherhood journals (but not those in the AT&SF employe magazine) mixed the discussion of Santa Fe's watches with those of the Illinois Bunn Special, a watch which was also sold via mail-order by the Santa Fe Watch Co., in Santa Fe-signed cases (see this December 1919 ad). The Bunn Special is properly noted as being "Adjusted to Six Positions," but the way it is presented, the impression is given that both the Santa Fe Special and the Bunn Special have the same level of adjustment. The result of this mixed discussion is that it is difficult to determine the actual adjustment description of the Santa Fe Special watch. The vast majority of 16-size, Santa Fe Special watches were Illinois grade No. 806, which - when sold by Illinois - were adjusted to temperature, isochronism and three positions. However, without having a specific Santa Fe position adjustment description, it is uncertain to how many positions the Santa Fe watches were adjusted. Therein lies the basis for rules prohibiting private label watches from time service - one could never know exactly to what extent the watch was adjusted.

Case Examples

In the early 1920s, the Santa Fe Watch Co. offered its private label Illinois watches in Santa Fe-Signed, Gold-Filled Cases with inlaid enamel monograms, railroad heralds, lodge emblems or autographs as seen on page 13 of a catalog. Page 18 of the Same Catalog shows typical pictures of inlaid enamel designs that were available and lists hunting-case watches as well as open-face models.

Jewelry

The Santa Fe Watch Co. also sold a line of jewelry, promoting diamond rings. Earlier, there were watch and jewelry combined ads. Then, the jewelry disappeared from the watch ads and showed up in their own dedicated ads, ads which didn't mention the watches at all. Ads for the jewelry appeared in some, but not all, railroad employe magazines and a few brotherhood journals. Unsurprisingly, a selection of watch chains and emblems were also offered by the Santa Fe Watch Co. As one might expect, these were offered within the company's watch catalog but don't seem to have appeared in the railroad trade ads. The line of jewelry lasted at least as late as 1936, by which time the ads were again promoting both watches and jewelry together.

References


Santa Fe watches may be referenced in Russell W Snyder's Illinois Data Base CD (available through The Early American Watch Club NAWCC Chapter 149).


Books
The books listed below are available on loan by mail to members from the NAWCC Lending Library.

Railroad Watches Identification and Price Guide, Roy Ehrhardt & William Meggers, Jr., Heart of America Press, Kansas City, MO, 1995.

American Pocket Watches Vol. 2, Illinois Watch Co., Encyclopedia and Price Guide, William Meggers, Jr. & Roy Ehrhardt, Heart of America Press, Kansas City, MO, 1985.


Online

One can view Oldwatch.com's Illinois Production Date Chart which is an online means for determining the very approximate production date of Santa Fe (Illinois) pocket watches. In general, we think of serial number vs. date lists - created by using the average number of watches produced over a period of years - to only be accurate within a year or two at best, and recognize that there are numerous exceptions wherein which the dates may be off as much as 3 years or more. This is not just for Illinois, but for other watch manufacturers as well.

Typical Santa Fe Watch Co. Ads


YearMonthPublicationSignificant Point
1915JanuaryAT&SF Employe MagazineCombined watch and jewelry ad
1916MarchStL&SF Employe MagazineStandard Railroad Watch
1917MK&T Employes' MagazineSanta Fe sold jewelry also
1917AprilBoLFE MagazineGuaranteed to Pass R.R. Inspection
1917MayRailroad TrainmanThe "Santa Fe Special" passes railroad inspection
1917MayRailroad TrainmanDiamonds and rings offered
1918Popular MechanicsSanta Fe Special advertised to the general public
1919JanuaryRailroad TrainmanNo mention of passing inspection
1919JanuaryAT&SF Employe MagazineGuaranteed to Pass Santa Fe Inspection
1919DecemberBoLFE MagazineSanta Fe Special & Bunn Special 21 Jewel Railroad Watches
1920AprilRailroad TrainmanHeavy railroad theme
1922MayCarmen's JournalCase enhancements
1926AugustBoLFE MagazineSanta Fe Special
1936NovemberBoLFE MagazineWatch and jewelry ad

Santa Fe Watch Co., Topeka, Kansas 1920+ Catalog

This catalog is undated but it contains testimonial letters dated 1920 and an accompanying letter refers to the "World-war" and the "… return of men and industries to a settled working basis …"

Page Nos.Description
Front CoverA steam engine at night
Inside Front CoverTestimonials
1Letter To Illinois
2Perfection In Watchmaking
3Railroad Service
4Santa Fe Special
5Must Run True
6Full Adjustment
7Lever Or Stem Set
8Movement & Features
9Your Choice Of Dials
10Choose The Best Watch
11Our Selling System
12Quality & Quantity
13The Four Sizes of the Santa Fe Special
14Inlay Enamel Autographs
15Enamel Monograms
16-17Centerfold - Enormous Modern Factories
18Lodge or Organization Emblems Inlay Enamel
19Lodge Emblem Cases
20Bracelet Watches & 3/0-Size
2112-Size Aristocrat
22Engraved Emblem Cases
23Engraved Monogram Cases
24Standard Design Cases - 1
25Standard Design Cases - 2
26Bracelet Watches & 3/0-Size
27Watch Values
28How To Order
29Gold-Filled Emblems/Charms
30Chains, Lockets & Knives
31Chains
32Chains & Solid Gold Emblems/Charms
Inside Back CoverFobs
Back CoverTrain at night

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Current Discussion: Main discussion

  1. kent

    kent Registered User
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    Edited to update source for Data Base CD.
     
  2. tom mcintyre

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    I edited the first reference to the Watch Adjustment article to use the wiki namespace. It works OK, but points up something we may want to keep in mind. The article starts with the first heading and that is what gets displayed in the popup reference to the article. It would be better if there were a "preface" to the article that summarized what it was about.

    I have a request in to the developers to provide a mechanism to reference one of the headings inside an article in the same way (with the popup) so your second reference to the Watch Adjustment article could be replaced in the same way.

    When I get the basic "how to" tutorial written, I will include a suggestion to create a preface for articles above the first subject heading.
     
  3. kent

    kent Registered User
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    Well .....

    .... that was part of the purpose of loading a number of articles into the system - to learn how it works and what to watch out for. Without really thinking about how the popup reference would appear, I started putting a sort of brief company history in the first heading. Now that I know what happens when the keywords appear elsewhere, I'll construct the first heading a little more carefully.
     
  4. tom mcintyre

    tom mcintyre Technical Admin
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    The way the Wikipedia people do it is to put one block of text above the TOC without a heading and then the heading oriented titles and material below that.

    With that approach you get a consistent "What its about" that shows up on popups and then the formal portions of the article below the TOC.

    I think the Template Namespace provides a means to show the outline form of a typical article. I have not yet learned about the details of Templates, so it is awaiting more understanding. If any wiki experts read this it would be nice for them to chime in. (I will also move some of this discussion to a more prominent location.)
     
  5. tom mcintyre

    tom mcintyre Technical Admin
    Staff Member NAWCC Star Fellow NAWCC Ruby Member Sponsor

    Aug 24, 2000
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    The section form of the wiki bb code is supposed to be working however it seems to have a bug in it.

    The correct form is [wiki=Article name#Subheading_name_details]Reference text[/wiki] The underscores appear as spaces when viewing the name of a heading in the text.

    The button that supposedly looks like a vault door can be used to wrap text with WIKI bb codes. Similarly the Book allows book references and the Question mark provides Help references.

    Just for reference and this will be expanded in the tutorial, Article Names must be unique in a given namespace. All the current article categories like American Pocket Watch or Clock Repair are in the Wiki namespace. Names that appear in the Wiki namespace can be duplicated in the Book or Help namespaces.
     
  6. kent

    kent Registered User
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  7. kent

    kent Registered User
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    Moving more Santa Fe material to the NAWCC website:
     
  8. kent

    kent Registered User
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    Moving one more Santa Fe material to the NAWCC website:
     
  9. kent

    kent Registered User
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    Adding 1920+ catalog pages
     
  10. kent

    kent Registered User
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    Adding more 1920+ catalog pages
     
  11. kent

    kent Registered User
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    Aug 26, 2000
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    Adding some more 1920+ catalog pages
     
  12. kent

    kent Registered User
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    Adding the 1920+ catalog centerfold
     
  13. kent

    kent Registered User
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    Adding yet more 1920+ catalog pages
     
  14. kent

    kent Registered User
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    Adding early material.
     

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  15. Kent

    Kent Registered User
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    Re-posting material whose links were disrupted when the current Message Board was installed:
     

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