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Seth Thomas Clock Co.

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 Description

In 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 Dates

The 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 Watches

The 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/NTo S/NQtyJewelsComments
200761200761124Only S/N 200761 reported
20550120560010017S/N 205576 is 22-Jewel
2088012088606021
20886120887010No examples reported
2088712088801024Adj, Marked "24J"
2088812089002021
20970120980010024A6P, Marked "24 Jewels"
2112012112505024A6P, Jewel Marking unknown, S/N 211231 Marked "H.M. Guernsey"
22020122030010025A6P
35010135020010025A6P
35040135050010025A5P, S/N 350405 reported as A6P
35080135090010025A5P, S/N 350869 reported as A6P
35100135130030025A5PT
351301351700400No reported examples of any watches in this range.
3517013517303025A5P


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 LaneQty
17 Jewel99
21 Jewel80
22 Jewel1
24 Jewel161
25 Jewel730

The No. 260 Grade Watches

The 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/NTo S/NQtyComments
205401205500100Flower-and-Arch Damaskeening
20782120783010Flower-and-Arch Damaskeening
208201208300100Flower-and-Arch Damaskeening
20984120987030
210401210800400Flower-and-Arch Damaskeening
211101211200100S/N 211176 has Circular Pattern Damaskeening, S/N 211154 reported as grade No. 248
21152121153010Only S/N 211529 reported
22155122160050Parallel Bar Damaskeening
22170122175050Parallel Bar Damaskeening
223401223500100
22514122515010Parallel Bar Damaskeening
22516122518020Parallel Bar Damaskeening
35020135100020Parallel 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 PatternQtyComments
Flower-and-Arch740Includes run 211101 - 211200
Parallel Bar260Includes 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" Factory

Just 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


Online

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


Online

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
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”)


Articles
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

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