The Watch Companies of Waltham
Boston Watch Co.
Tracy, Baker and Co.
Appleton, Tracy & Co.
American Watch Co.
American Waltham Watch Co.
Waltham Watch Co.
Waltham Watch and Clock Co.
This succession of companies (or in some cases, the same company under a different name) made a full line of watches ranging from modest, affordable watches to some of the finest watches made in this country. As can be seen in the articles listed above, the companies had their origins in the 1850's. For convenience of the following narrative, all will be referred to as a single entity, "Waltham." It was the first successful company in America to manufacture watches in mass production using machinery to make identical (or at least, near identical) parts. Over the next hundred years or so of its existence, its output of jeweled watches (over 34 million) was only exceeded in the U.S. by one other company, the National Watch Co. at Elgin, IL.
The business history of the Waltham Watch Company is detailed through 1945 in Timing a Century by W.C. Moore, 1945, Harvard University Press. This book is in the NAWCC Lending Library. It was commissioned by Waltham in 1941 and was turned into a case study for the Harvard Business School. In addition to the corporate records and interviews, Moore made use of an 1883 manuscript written by W. H. Keith. This manuscript is preserved as a PDF through the generosity of Richard Watkins and can be found here: http://www.watkinsr.id.au/Keith.pdf
After Robbins Sr. stepped down in 1883, Waltham had continuing problems with operating capital and loss of market share to new companies. This involved several changes in stock and ultimately, in 1923, the banks stepped in and installed new management and a sound financial structure that served Waltham through the Depression and WWII.
Basic Movement Information
There is also a Waltham Database Glossary of the terms provided by the serial number lookup. Note: When a number appears by itself in the Comment Column, it is the page in the factory serial list where the entry and explanation appeared. i.e. "Comment 42" is on page 42 of Serial Numbers With Description of Waltham Watch Movements,, (commonly referred to as "The Gray Book").
Approximate Production Dates
Model and Grade Report
Waltham's Jeweled Main Wheel
Tom McIntyre, NAWCC American Pocket Watches Message Board, 19-Oct-11, 11:33 AMThe model 1859 or KW18 was intended as a high grade thin model watch, possibly in anticipation of imminent competition form E. Howard & Company. It was developed by N. P. Stratton shortly before he left Waltham to start up the Nashua Watch Co. with Woerd, Moseley, Bingham and others.
Waltham produced the 1859 model in the American Watch Co. grade and in the Appleton Tracy grade as a high end watch for a couple of years but stopped the high end production when the Nashua group was reabsorbed back into Waltham and the KW20 replaced the KW18 as the high grade watch.
The 1859 model was produced in the Wm. Ellery grade (ed. note: posted by Ben Hutcherson) during the Civil War and was marketed to the Union forces. Other than being thinner than the 1857 model, and being set from the rear, it had no particular advantage and was eventually dropped from production since it was a diversion and more expensive than the 1857 model.
The 1859 model was Waltham's first model with mainspring protection. Fitt's patent mainspring protection was applied to the American Watch Co. and Appleton Tracy grades of the KW18 but not the Wm Ellery grade. It was also used on the KW10 ladies watch in both the Appleton Tracy and P. S. Bartlett grades.
Appleton, Tracy & Co. Gilt Damaskeened Movements
Serial number vs. grade data originating from the best source to date, the NAWCC Waltham Serial Number Database, which is largely based upon "The Gray Book" (see References - Books, below), frequently fails to distinguish between runs of gilded or nickel-finished AT&Co grade movements, nor does it always note if movements have the gilt damaskeened finish. In fact, for a large number of examples it also fails to note that the movements were built (or re-built) as 17-jewel movements. These gilt damaskeened AT&Co grade movements appear in runs that are not entirely made up of gilt damaskeened movements, or even entirely AT&Co grade. Some serial numbers are from runs that are listed as P.S. Bartlett grade.
A very partial listing of serial numbers and configurations may be seen in the Message Board thread entitled "Waltham AT&C Gold Flash."
Those having, or recording data on, examples of gilt damaskeened AT&Co grade movements should use the Observation feature of the NAWCC Waltham Serial Number Database to report them so that the information available on the Database can eventually be improved.
Appleton, Tracy & Co. Premier
Grade No. 35
Yet in 1887, it was listed as being "Adjusted to Heat and Cold, and in all Six Positions" and at $36.00, it sold for considerably more than the gilded Appleton, Tracy & Co. grade ($30.00). This is the grade of watch used by the well-known Illinois Central engineer, John Luther Jones (well .... , he's better known by his nickname; Casey). Despite being a "Nameless" grade, the No. 35 was specifically promoted for railroad time service use.
The grade No. 35 was made in both hunting-case and open-face versions. It was first released in 1886 as a 15-jewel movement. In 1894 or 1895 it became a 17-jewel movement and stayed on the market for a few more years. There were a variety of damaskeening patterns used, some of which were the pleasing "frosted" damaskeening. Also, the grade No. 35 was one of the first watches that Waltham offered in a Non-Magnetic version, see the "Waltham Non-Magnetic Watches" section below.
The production quantities are listed below, but a certain amount of inaccuracy is inherent in the values, although the overall total is fairly correct. This is because an indeterminate number of movements were upjeweled from 15 to 17 jewels, probably as a result of market share being lost to Dueber-Hampden's 17-jewel-watch marketing blitz, see the "The 17-Jewel Watches" section of thr Hampden Watch Co. Encyclopedia article. Neither records of the serial numbers, nor the quantities, of the up-jeweled movements appears to have survived. Thus, there are a number of 17-jewel No. 35 movements that have a serial number which, when looked up in the references, are recorded as being produced as 15-jewel movements.
No. 35 Total Quantities
Data taken from Model and Grade Report, see above.
The Riverside Grade
Grade No. 1621 Riverside
Some early examples from the late 1930s have been seen with double-sunk dials (including Montgomery dials), but the vast majority had single-sunk, imitation double-sunk, dials (more properly referred to as "Inner Circle" dials), marked "Waltham - 21 Jewels." Its hard to say if those early ones came from the factory with double-sunk dials, or had them added post-production. Occasionally, the dials might also be marked "Special Railway" or "Railway Dispatcher." There may have been other, additional names. Also, in the very late 1930s and early 1940s, Waltham marked both the dials and cases as "Premier." The early production of the 1621 Riverside movements are damaskeened in the classic manner. This disappeared as the demands of wartime production required reductions in labor.
The 1621 Riverside was sold as a complete watch in a factory-marked case with a single lever slot at the 56 minute position. Its intended market was probably transit workers and those railroaders not under the time service rules. It is suspected that a large number of Waltham-signed factory cases were stripped off of the 1621s by collectors and dealers, and used as replacements for the 1623 Vanguards, whose cases were worn through to the brass.
Grade No. 1623 Vanguard
Waltham's grade No. 1623 Vanguard started being built in the mid-to-late 1930s and remained in production until the end of watch manufacturing at Waltham in the mid-1950s, as seen in cuts from Montgomery Ward (U.S.) and Eaton (Canadian) Catalogs. One feature that characterizes the No. 1623 Vanguard from earlier Vanguard grades is the location of the setting lever at the 56 minute position. However, it appears that the earliest No 1623 designated movements might have had their setting levers at the more typical 6 minute position.
During the span of serial numbers of about 29,375,xxx - 31,330,xxx the No. 1623 Vanguard was fitted with Waltham-marked dials and cases which were also marked "Premier" (which was, as pointed out by Larry Treiman in an April 20, 2011 message board thread, a "... designation (used) on virtually every watch in their line, from the cheapest 9-jewel wrist watch on up to the top of the line."). However, it is only the serial number that seems to distinguish watch movements with dials and cases so marked, from those made before and afterwards. Literature hasn't appeared that differentiates the “Premier” marked No. 1623 Vanguard watches from those lacking the “Premier” marking.
The earliest No. 1623 Vanguard movements were damaskeened in the traditional manner. This gave way to a simple bar pattern. The bar pattern disappeared during WWII production (probably to reduce labor) and was applied again to those watches made after the war. It was also during the war (about serial number 31,331,000) that the adjustment marking changed from "Adjusted 6 Positions" to "8 Adjustments" although this was just a different way of stating the same thing. Waltham ads, such as one from 1952, indicate that 8 adjustments included adjustment to six positions. A 1954 ad states that the watch had "9 adjustments (6 for position, 2 for temperature, one for isochronism)." The claim for the 9th adjustment was superficial as isochronism was inherent in the design. It should be noted that the movements themselves continued to be marked "8 Adjustments." Regardless of the claimed number of adjustments, the No. 1623 Vanguard was universally accepted for use in railroad time service.
The No. 1623 Vanguard was a "value engineered" watch. It was designed to provide quality timekeeping rate at minimum cost. They were furnished with single-sunk, inner circle dials. Eventually, painted dials were supplied. The more expensive screw-down jewel settings of the earlier Vanguard grade watches were eliminated, as was the fancier damaskeening. Even the use of the state-of-the-art, rust-resistant, anti-magnetic "Correlator Balances and Hairsprings" with the cornel hairspring and monometallic balance reduced the cost by eliminating the more expensive bimetallic, conventional expansion balance. And the cost needed to be reduced as there was tough competition in the post-WWII era with $71.50 being the going price for a railroad watch. The No. 1623 Vanguard was sold as a complete watch in a factory-marked case with a single lever slot at the 56 minute position. However, movements only were available to retailers and for export to Canada, as seen in cuts from Montgomery Ward (U.S.) and Eaton (Canadian) Catalogs.
Canadian Pacific Railway / Canadian Railway Time Service
These watches are discussed, with tables, of examples in the Waltham's Canadian Railway Movements Encyclopedia article.
Those Assorted Special Runs
Another example is the run in the serial number range of 17187501-17188500 designated as "As'st Spec." It contains movements labeled "J. Q. Hatch" as well as 18-size, model 1892, 17-jewel, lever-set movements, adjusted to five positions. Reported examples of these model 1892 movements in the range of 17188101-17188300 bear the Canadian Pacific Railway Beaver & Shield herald while the range 17188301-17188500 contains examples labeled "Made For Canadian Railway Time Service" (see above).
The runs designated as "As'st Spec." are discussed, with a table of reported labeling in an article by Jerry Treiman on the Pocket Horology Chapter 174 website entitled "Waltham's Assorted Specials."
Waltham Non-Magnetic Watches
In 1893, Waltham promoted the model 83 (the model 92 had yet to be introduced), non-magnetic grade No. 40 for railroad use. This grade was available in nickel or gilt finish and in hunting-case or open-face versions. In 1897, a non-magnetic, 17-jewel, model 92 movement was available as the grade No. 45. Being adjusted to temperature and position, it would have been suitable for railroad time service at that time. An uncommon 15-jewel, non-magnetic, model 1892 (made for use on the New South Wales Government Railways) can be seen in a late 2011 Message Board thread.
Also in 1897, the “Sears, Roebuck and Co., Inc. Catalogue No. 104,” Chicago, IL, 1897, reprinted by Chelsea House, Philadelphia, PA, 1968, had this to offer:
“NON-MAGNETIC WALTHAM Movements will be furnished in 18 size only at the following additional prices: For the 7 jeweled grade, non-magnetic, add $2.50 to the regular price. For the Crescent Street add $5.00, For the Vanguard add $5.00. A special grade 15 jeweled nickel, adjusted to temperature, isochronism and position, will be furnished for $7.00 more than the Bartlett.”
Interestingly, a letter from E.C. Fitch, then president of Waltham, to Robbins & Appleton (the exclusive agents for Waltham watches) dated December 18, 1903 stated, with regard to non-magnetic watches, that Robbins & Appleton should list non-magnetic watches in pendant set only "... to discourage use on Railroads and confine them generally to electrical people, ...” since the non-magnetic watches took longer to adjust to temperature and positions. (Letter #804, Volume P-2, Waltham Watch Co. Collection. Baker Library, Harvard Business School). It appears that this was still in effect in 1906 when Goldsmiths' (a Canadian jobber) issued its 1906-7 Price List. Page 14 clearly stated that open-face watches (the type which were most likely to be used in railroad service) were available in pendant-setting only.
Waltham's Marketing in England
1884 Watches, Jewellery, Plated-Ware & Firearms Annual Price List; Charles Stark, 52 Church St & 21 Court St, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, page 3, courtesy of the Internet Archive, found online by Lorne Wasylishen.
18-Size Waltham movements and 16-, 14- and 6-size complete watches are listed on pages 6-11 of the 1886 H. Muhr's Sons catalog.
18-Size & Other Sizes Waltham Watches: 1887 S.F. Myers Catalog.
1891-1893 (Approx.) M.C. Eppenstein & Co. Pocket Price List, undated - but appears to be early 1890s, pages 14-17, courtesy of the Internet Archive and the Winterthur Library (located by Richard Beauchamp).
Waltham movement cuts, descriptions and prices are shown on pages 11-14 of the 1896 A.C. Becken Jewelers' Wholesale Price List.
Waltham movement cuts, descriptions and prices are shown on pages 358-360 of the 1897 Lapp & Flershem Twenty-first Annual Illustrated Catalogue.
1900 Waltham Catalog: The Perfected American Watch.
Waltham movement cuts, descriptions and prices are shown on pages 76-78 of the Otto Young & Co. 1903 OY Co. catalog.
Waltham Watch Material, Waltham Watch Co., Waltham, Mass., April, 1909.
Waltham Watch Material, Waltham Watch Co., Waltham, Mass., April, 1911, courtesy of the Internet Archive (found by RobR).
1915 - 1916 P.W. Ellis Illustrated Catalogue, courtesy of the Internet Archive (found online by Gordian), pages 27-31.
Waltham movement cuts, descriptions and prices are shown on pages W-1 to W-8 of the 1917 Oskamp-Nolting Co. catalog.
Keith, W.H. A Family Tale or History of American Watchmaking in Five Chapters Early history of Waltham Watch Company Courtesy of Richard Watkins
NAWCC Waltham Serial Number Database. See the "Basic Movement Information" and "Model and Grade Report" sections (above) for tips about using this valuable resource.
Jim Schneider's excellent Waltham Model 1892 Research Website has information about and pictures of model 1892 watches.
Waltham Model 83 Private Label Observations, a Message Board thread that compiles private label watch model 1883 examples.
Who Made These Watches? Ron Price's analysis of James Russell signed watches that seem to be private label American Watch Co. Model 57 movements.
"Waltham's Assorted Specials," Jerry Treiman's article on the Pocket Horology Chapter 174 website discussing production runs designated as assorted special in the records.
pmwas' thread, "Waltham 1872 movement details - Assembling a '72" has great pictures of a model 1872, 15-jewel, open-face movement's details.
Movement information may be looked up from the serial number on the Swiss Waltham website:
Once there, click on "Waltham Memorial" for the lookup data entry.
This is based upon the data available on the NAWCC Waltham Serial Number Database (above).
Books - Booklets - Pamphlets
The following books may be available to members on loan by mail from the NAWCC Lending Library, using the Lending Library Form.
Boston: Cradle of Industrial Watchmaking, Based upon the proceedings of the 23rd Annual NAWCC Seminar October 2002, Boxborough, MA, Special Order Supplement No. 5, National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, Inc., Columbia, PA, 2005.
Timing a Century by W.C. Moore, Harvard University Press, 1945
History of the American Waltham Watch Company of Waltham, Mass, Henry G. Abbott, American Jeweler Print, Chicago, 1905.
The Evolution of Automatic Machinery As Applied To The Manufacture of Watches At Waltham, Mass., E.A. Marsh, Geo. K. Hazlitt & Co., Chicago, Il 1896, courtesy of the Internet Archive.
Mainsprings, Waltham Watch Co., Waltham, MA, 1905.
Origins of the Waltham Model 57, NAWCC Special Order Supplement #7, Ron Price, NAWCC, Columbia, PA, 2005.
The Perfected American Watch, an English catalog, by the Waltham Watch Co., Waltham, MA, 1907 edition
The Riverside Family, Waltham Watch Co., Waltham, MA, 1900.
Serial Numbers With Description of Waltham Watch Movements, Waltham Watch Co., Waltham, MA, 1954, (commonly referred to as "The Gray Book").
Timing a Century - History of the Waltham Watch Company, Charles W. Moore, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1945
The Waltham Ad Book, Waltham Watch Co., Waltham, MA, 1911.
Waltham and the European Made Watch, Waltham Watch Co., Waltham, MA, 1919.
Waltham Eight-Day Timepieces, Waltham Watch Co., Waltham, MA, 1910.
Waltham Pocket Watch Identification and Price Guide, Roy Ehrhardt, Heart of America Press, Kansas City, MO, 1976.
Watch Case Makers of England, Philip T. Priestley, NAWCC Bulletin Supplement 20, NAWCC, Columbia, PA, Spring, 1994.
A number of Waltham's trade marks (but not all) may be seen on page 93 of the book Trade Marks Of The Jewelry And Kindred Trades, Second Edition, Jewelers' Circular Publishing Co., NY, 1904 (found online by Askbart).
The following back issues of the NAWCC Bulletin and the Watch & Clock Bulletin are available to members on loan by mail from the NAWCC Lending Library, using the Lending Library Form. They are also available online to NAWCC members who are currently logged in.
"The Production History of the Waltham Maximus," Steve Lindberg, NAWCC Bulletin No. 235, April 1985, pp. 174-88.
"Waltham's Canadian Railroad Watches," Iain G.M. Cleator, A. Ron D'Altroy and Les Hesketh, NAWCC Bulletin, No. 244, October 1986, pp. 355-9.
"Railroad Pocket Watches in Canada," Fred Angus, Canadian Rail, No. 343, August 1980, front cover & pp. 228-248.
"An Unusual 16S, 21J Waltham Railroad Watch,"Selman A. Berger, NAWCC Bulletin, No. 309, August 1997, pp. 422.
"A 16S Waltham Riverside Maximus Winding Indicator Movement with Some Interesting Anomalies,"Selman A. Berger, NAWCC Bulletin, No. 298, October 1995, pp. 606-7.
"Waltham's Up and Down Work," Robert D. Porter, NAWCC Bulletin No. 238, October 1985, pp. 577-82.
"Railroaders' Corner - Wind Indicators, Part 2: Waltham," Ed Ueberall and Kent Singer, NAWCC Bulletin No. 372, February, 2008, pp.51-61. (Available to members on loan by mail from the NAWCC Library).
"Railroaders' Corner - Wind Indicators, Part 3: Ball & Rockford," Ed Ueberall and Kent Singer, NAWCC Bulletin No. 373, April, 2008. (Available to members on loan by mail from the NAWCC Library).
"Railroaders' Corner - Waltham's Six Position Watches," Ed Ueberall and Kent Singer, NAWCC Bulletin No. 305, December 1996, pp. 815-6.
"Railroaders' Corner - Waltham's 19-Jewel Watches," Ed Ueberall and Kent Singer, NAWCC Bulletin No. 325, April 2000, pp. 215-21.
"Railroaders' Corner - 17-Jewel, 16-Size Standard Watches, Part 1," Ed Ueberall and Kent Singer, NAWCC Bulletin No. 375, August 2008, pp. 473-481.
"Railroaders' Corner - The 1880s Magnetism Scare, Part 1: The Watches," Ed Ueberall and Kent Singer, NAWCC Bulletin No. 345, August 2003, pp. 485-492.