The Seth Thomas Clock Company manufactured and sold pocket watches, and towards the end - wrist watches, during a thirty year period from 1885 to 1915. During that time, the company offered a full line of movements, some of which have become quite collectable.
The Seth Thomas Clock Company's Watches: A Brief DescriptionIn 1884 the Seth Thomas Clock Co., Thomaston, CT, built an addition to its existing factory on the corner of Marine and Bridge streets within which to manufacture pocket watches. The first watches were available for sale in 1885. For the next thirty years, a full line of Seth Thomas watches were available in 0, 4, 6, 12, 16 and 18 size. The movements were available in a range from the modest, basic jeweled movement of 7 jewels to its flagship watch, the 25-jewel Maiden Lane. Of course, just as was offered by other watch companies, not all jewel configurations were available in all movement sizes. Some of the early ads for Seth Thomas' watch were corny, but not too different in theme than those later used by others. By 1914, the company had decided to concentrate on the clock business and the last watches ceased appearing in the company's catalogs in the Fall of 1915.
Approximate Watch Production DatesThe approximate production dates for Seth Thomas watches (except for model 5 movements - those numbered 200,001 - 400,000) may be determined from the online source listed in the Seth Thomas Watch References section, below.
The Maiden Lane Grade WatchesThe Maiden Lane grade watch was named after the heart of the watch and jewelry trade, New York City's Maiden Lane. All of this grade are 18-size, open-face, model 5 movements. This grade was available over a twenty year period; from approximately 1895 to the end of Seth Thomas' watch production in 1915, although not all jewel variations were available simultaneously.
While it is debatable whether or not the Maiden Lane was a higher grade than the models 2 and 3, 3/4-plate Henry Molineux grade, it was Seth Thomas' highest grade of its model 5, full plate watches. The model 5 was made only in an open-face configuration and only within an exclusive serial number range of 200001 - 400000. A wide variety of grades were built in the model 5 configuration within this range of serial numbers and the Maiden Lane grade consists of only a very small percentage. Nevertheless, the 25-jewel Maiden Lane was probably Seth Thomas' second most popular railroad watch. It should be noted that the highest model 5 serial number reported is 351729, a 25-jewel Maiden Lane grade movement.
Estimated Maiden Lane Runs:
From S/N To S/N Qty Jewels Comments 200761 200761 1 24 Only S/N 200761 reported 205501 205600 100 17 S/N 205576 is 22-Jewel 208801 208860 60 21 208861 208870 10 No examples reported 208871 208880 10 24 Adj, Marked "24J" 208881 208900 20 21 209701 209800 100 24 A6P, Marked "24 Jewels" 211201 211250 50 24 A6P, Jewel Marking unknown, S/N 211231 Marked "H.M. Guernsey" 220201 220300 100 25 A6P 350101 350200 100 25 A6P 350401 350500 100 25 A5P, S/N 350405 reported as A6P 350801 350900 100 25 A5P, S/N 350869 reported as A6P 351001 351300 300 25 A5PT 351301 351700 400 No reported examples of any watches in this range. 351701 351730 30 25 A5P
Estimated Maiden Lane Total Production:
Summing up the quantities in the above table of runs, the estimated Maiden Lane total production is shown below. These numbers may well increase as additional examples of Maiden Lane grade movements are reported.
Maiden Lane Qty 17 Jewel 99 21 Jewel 80 22 Jewel 1 24 Jewel 161 25 Jewel 730
The No. 260 Grade WatchesThe grade No. 260 was probably Seth Thomas' most popular railroad watch. Like the Maiden Lane grade, it was only built in the 18-size, open-face, full-plate model 5. Early production had flower-and-arch damaskeened, nickel plates while later examples were damaskeened in a parallel bar pattern. All were lever-set and most were adjusted to six positions (and marked as such). But, like the highest serial numbered Maiden Lane grade movements, the grade No. 260 movements having the highest serial numbers are marked "Adjusted 5 Positions And Temperature."
Estimated No. 260 Runs:
From S/N To S/N Qty Comments 205401 205500 100 Flower-and-Arch Damaskeening 207821 207830 10 Flower-and-Arch Damaskeening 208201 208300 100 Flower-and-Arch Damaskeening 209841 209870 30 210401 210800 400 Flower-and-Arch Damaskeening 211101 211200 100 S/N 211176 has Circular Pattern Damaskeening, S/N 211154 reported as grade No. 248 211521 211530 10 Only S/N 211529 reported 221551 221600 50 Parallel Bar Damaskeening 221701 221750 50 Parallel Bar Damaskeening 223401 223500 100 225141 225150 10 Parallel Bar Damaskeening 225161 225180 20 Parallel Bar Damaskeening 350201 351000 20 Parallel Bar Damaskeening - Only 2 examples reported - 350243 A6P & 350932 A5PT
Estimated No. 260 Total Production:
Summing up the quantities in the above table of runs, the estimated grade No. 260 total production is shown below. Insofar as the runs were conservatively estimated, these numbers may well increase as additional examples of No. 260 grade movements are reported.
Damaskeen Pattern Qty Comments Flower-and-Arch 740 Includes run 211101 - 211200 Parallel Bar 260 Includes run 211521 - 211530
Watch Table Notes
1. The runs listed in the above tables were generated from the movements listed in the data base created and maintained by Ed Ueberall and Kent Singer. The data was collected from internet listings, dealer mail-order lists, reports and personal observations, mostly at NAWCC marts. As such, it is subject to errors in listing, reporting or recording. Members having examples of the Seth Thomas watches from ranges other than those shown, or who believe they have not yet been reported and wish to do so, are encouraged to report these movements under the Discussion Tab at the top of the article.
2. Production of the lower-jeweled movements marked "Maiden Lane" are much lower than the 25-jewel version and the chances are higher that the numbers estimated in the table are incorrect, since there are far fewer examples from which to estimate. This also applies to the grade No. 260, many runs of which are estimated to be fairly small.
3. There are a few private label movements mixed into the above listed runs.
A Problem At The "Brick" FactoryJust before Christmas 1898, a newly erected water tower collapsed, crashing through three stories before smashing in the basement. Amazingly, although the incident occurred in the late afternoon with the plant full of workers, there were no casualties. A more complete account appeared in the trade press just after Christmas.
Seth Thomas Clock References
A number of Seth Thomes clocks bearing a "Santa Fe Railway System - Standard Dial" can be seen on the Antique Clock Guy's website.
Seth Thomas Watch References
The Seth Thomas Pocket Watch Research website has a wealth of information on Seth Thomas watches.
The Pocket Watch Site's Seth Thomas Watch Co. Date Table is a means for determining the approximate production date. 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 Seth Thomas but for other watch manufacturers as well.
Note: These dates not apply to serial numbers within the range 200,001 - 400,000 which were assigned only to model 5 movements. The model 5 first appeared in about 1895 and was in production until after 1910.
Books and back issues of the NAWCC Bulletin are available to members on loan by mail from the NAWCC Lending Library.
Seth Thomas Watches 1885-1915, Chris H. Bailey, American Clock & Watch Museum, Inc., Bristol, CT, 1981
American Pocket Watches Beginning to End...1830-1980, Identification and Price Guide, Roy Ehrhardt & William Meggers, Jr., Heart of America Press, Kansas City, MO, 1987 (commonly referred to as “The Gold Book”)
Back issues of the NAWCC Bulletin are available online to NAWCC members who are currently logged in.
"Railroaders' Corner - Standard Watches of the Seth Thomas Clock Company," Ed Ueberall and Kent Singer, NAWCC Bulletin No. 317, December 1998, pp. 772-778.
Seth Thomas Watch Catalog Sheets
Year Month Subject 1888 August C.H. Knights & Co. catalog sheet 1896 A.C. Becken Jewelers' Wholesale Price List, page 10. 1897 Lapp & Flershem Garden City private label catalog sheet 1906-7 Goldsmiths' 18-Size, Model 5 catalog sheet 1907 Lapp & Flershem catalog excerpt - Olympia Special, Movement Olympia Special