Waltham Watch Company was the first watchmaker to mass-produce watch movements on an assembly line. This had the combined effects of increasing productivity and lowering the prices of Waltham’s watches to its customers. It should have given Waltham an immediate and early edge over the competition. Unfortunately, Waltham’s early decades were fraught with financial difficulties.

Founded in 1850 by watchmakers Aaron Dennison, Edward Howard, and David Davis as the American Watch Company, the firm’s earliest watch movements were stamped with the words "Howard, Davis, and Dennison – Boston," even though the company was actually based in nearby Roxbury. By 1851, their manufacturing processes perfected, the partners renamed their firm the American Horologe Company. All of these early pieces had key-wound movements, came in size 18 or 16, and were sold without cases—back then, it was common to take a movement to a jeweler to complete this final step.

In 1853, American Horologe became Boston Watch Company and moved to a new factory in Waltham, Massachusetts. But the partners were dogged by financial problems in the years following the move to Waltham—in 1857 the company was purchased, at auction, by Appleton Tracy & Co.

Appleton’s Model 1857 is generally considered the first production watch with completely standardized parts. These early Model 1857s are favorites among collectors of antique pocket watches. The majority of these size-18 watches were adorned with either roman or bold Arabic numerals, generally on a porcelain face. In 1859, the company merged with the Waltham Improvement Company and was renamed the American Watch Company, although Waltham Watches and American Waltham Watch Company were often used in advertisements from this period.

Waltham’s factory was almost as impressive as its products. By the end of the 1860s, the giant facility employed hundreds of men and women, numbers unheard of in the watch industry. But when the Civil War broke out, business dropped to almost nothing. Factory managers quickly downsized the plant by cutting hours, encouraging employees to join the military, and shuffling jobs to make sure everyone had something to do, even if it was only one task. Thankfully, soldiers needed watches, and Waltham survived the war by meeting this demand with its relatively cheap timepieces. Movements from this period are extremely rare today.

Like Hamilton and other watchmakers, Waltham made railroad watches. In order for a watch to qualify as railroad-grade it had to be large (size 16 or 18), have at least 17 jewels in its movement, feature easy-to-read Arabic numerals, and meet a number of other technical requirements.

Waltham manufactured movements in two basic styles: full and 3/4 plate. The works in a full-plate movement were completely covered, while the 3/4 plate featured cutaways to make ...

Some of the most famous Waltham models of the 19th century included the aforementioned 1857 line, the high-end Vanguard (it had 23 jewels in its movement), the Crescent Street, and the Wm. Ellery, which was reportedly carried in the pocket of Abraham Lincoln. Other Waltham lines included the Santa Fe, whose railroad-grade movement self-adjusted to maintain accuracy even in extreme temperatures, and the Lady Waltham, a smaller watch built specifically for women. The Lady Waltham was the first of its kind, and other companies like Elgin quickly jumped on the ladies’ pocket-watch bandwagon.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Waltham movements were considered so reliable that the Canadian Pacific Railway commissioned special, railroad-grade movements. Some of these pieces were marked on the movement with the railroad’s emblem (a shield and a beaver). Other movements bore the words "Canadian Railway Time Service." They’re difficult to find today, and are great examples of post-1900 pocket-watch movements.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Waltham didn’t embrace Art Deco as much as other watchmakers, focusing instead on railroad-grade chronometers. The venerable Vanguard brand was a notable exception, selling consistently throughout the 1930s, despite the drop in pocket-watch sales caused by the popularity of the wristwatch.

During World War II, Waltham was contracted by the U.S. Army to make speedometers, tachometers, chronographs, and other military equipment. After the war, pocket-watch production came to a virtual standstill in favor of wristwatches and other domestic items. Like other American watch companies, Waltham could not compete with cheaper imported movements, and the firm closed its doors in 1957.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Barry S. Goldbergs Pocket Watch Collection

Barry S. Goldbergs Pocket Watch Collection

Barry Goldberg’s excellent collection of pocket watches, mostly American models from the late 1800s and early 189… [read review or visit site]

American Watch Company Web

American Watch Company Web

Tom McIntyre’s reference site on antique watches, especially those made by the American Watch Company (later know… [read review or visit site]

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Pre Civil War Waltham In A 18k Mint Hunting Case. Dennison, Howard & DavisRare 19j American Watch Co. 16 Size 1888 Model Waltham Antique Pocket Watch Gold Plated Miniature Antique Waltham Fob Pocket Watch, 1908, Superb ConditionAntique Waltham Home Watch 18s Coin Silver Hunter Case Key Wind Pocket Watch,run18s Waltham No. 845/1892 Pocket Watch Movement, 21 Jewel, #15051631 - 1906, OfWorking Antique 1928 Silver Waltham Traveler Hunter Pocket Watch In Dennison Waltham Watch, Hc, Sn# 39034, Civil War Era. Engle Patented Silver Hunting CaseUnusual Waltham Pocket Watch – E.howard & Co, Boston Inscribed To MovementA Good Antique 10 Carat Gold Plate Waltham Hunter Pocket Watch 1915Sterling Silver Antique Waltham Pocket Watch, Circa 1904, " Duchess " Quality !!1907 Waltham Riverside 19 Jewels In 14k Gold Filled Ornate Case Size 12 Runs16 Size 23j Waltham Vanguard Railroad Pocket Watch W/ A Wind Indicator C1923Vintage Waltham Gf Vanguard 23 Jewel 16s Model 1908 Open Face Pocket Watch Scarce 14s Waltham Chronograph Model 1880 Brass/ Nickel Movement Circa 1880 RunsAntique Silver Waltham Traveler Pocket Watch.7 Jewel.running.1902.rathgar DublinWaltham 23j Vanguard Railroad Pocket Watch Fortune Gp Case 1904Antique Waltham 16s, 21 Jewels Rail Road Pocket Watch. Beautiful Case. Made 1918Waltham Wonderful Power Reserve 10k Gf Size 12 Pocket Watch Blue Hands VanguardNice Quality Antique Waltham Pocket Watch Circa 1896 Fully Working & No Reserve Antique Waltham Gold/p. Pocket Watch. Running. 1904. 24 Hour Dial.Rare 1892 U.s.watch Co. Waltham Pocket Watch In 14k Gold Filled Case 18s - Runs18s Waltham No. 15/1883 Pocket Watch Movement, 15 Jewel, #4727494 - 1891, HcAntique Solid Silver Waltham Pocket Watch 1884 Working Wm Ellery.Antique Silver Waltham Traveler Pocket Watch. 7 Jewel. Running.1912.Vintage Appleton Tracy & Co.waltham Silver Model 1857 Serial 6058 Pocket Watch Waltham Pocket Watch 14k Solid Gold Tri-color Hunting Case (stunning) NrsvKey Wind Wm. Ellery American Watch Co Waltham Mass Pocket Watch Movement Dial +Antique Pocket Watch Movement Lot Dial Hands For Parts Or Repair Hampden WalthamKnights Of Columbus 16s Waltham 21j Crescent St Pocket Watch - Runs Brand Spanking Clean & Fine Waltham 18s Model 1883 Mvmt 17j Orig Dial Burnished!Waltham 1866 18s 7j Kw/ks W Ellery Coin Silver Full Hunter/ With Chain (runningLarge Victorian 1898 Waltham Solid Silver Pocket Watch / Working Montre GoussetAntique American Waltham 14k Gold Full Hunter 1896 Pocket Watch 12sWaltham 1881 Grade Wm Ellery Key Wind 18s Pocket Watch Perfect Dial Nice CaseAmerican Watch Co Mod 1857 Waltham Appleton Tracy 18 S Coin Silver Pocket WatchVtg Waltham 25 Year Gold Filled O/f 21 Jewel Mechanical Wind-up Pocket Watch NrImmaculate Dead Accurate Waltham "crescent St" 18s Model 1892 Rr Mvmt 21j 5p R.r1873 American (waltham) At&co~kw/s~m#1857~18s~15j~58mm 4oz Silver Case W/ Chain Waltham 18s Key Wind Pocket Watch English Export Coin Silver Case Perfect DialAntique Silver Pocket Watch Waltham - Working (35)Waltham Pocket Watch Grade 610 Size 16 7 Jewel 1905 Running1910 Waltham Vanguard Rolled Gold Antique Pocket Watch, 23 Jewels, Superb, N/resCrisp & Fine Waltham Montgomery 18s Dress-rr Dial Ss Enam For All Mod 1883 Nice!Waltham Rr Watch. Lever Set, Open Face, 16s, Crescent St. 21 JewelsWaltham 23 Jewel Vanguard Model 1892 Diamond End Stone Railroad Grade Nice!!Antique Vintage Waltham 15 Jewel Pocket Watch 1901 (no Res)1886 Antique Waltham Broadway Key Wind & Key Set Pocket Watch Mint Dial 18s RunsAntique Vintage Waltham Hunters Case Pocket Watch 1907 (nr)Waltham Vanguard 23 Jewel Railroad Watch In Nr-perfect Condition.runs/looks 100%Illinois Packet Watch Stem Wound Or Key And Lever Set Waltham Case Size 18 NrAntique Waltham Duke Gold/p. Pocket Watch. 15 Jewel Running. 1908.Antique Waltham Sterling Pocket Watch. Running. 1901. Heavy Swing Out Case.Gold Plated American Waltham Usa Traveler Pocket WatchWaltham Bartlett Antique Pocket Watch 15 Jewels 1890 S/n .900 Coin Silver Case4 Antique Waltham Pocket Watches Repair Spares From 18s 17j Down To 12s.Vintage Pocket Watch Waltham 1883 Size 18 Silver English Suit Repair SparesAntique Coin Silver Large Waltham Pocket Watch C1890 $1 No Reserve Good Antique Waltham Riverside 19 Jewels Pocket Watch Movement Waltham Pocket Watch 14k Gold Filled Exc! Conditon 15 JewelsGood Antique Waltham Usa 15 Jewels Pocket Watch Movement

Recent News: Waltham Pocket Watches

Source: Google News

Fundraiser for Waltham's Charles River Museum to feature food, wine, craft beer
Wicked Local Waltham, March 19th

The annual Waltham Food & Wine Festival will have a new twist this year. For the first time, the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation's biggest fundraiser of the year features craft beer. The 23rd annual event runs from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on...Read more

3 obiecte care ne fac via?a mai u?oar? ?i povestea din spatele lor
GreatNews, March 12th

fa?ada unei cl?diri ?i care, din când în când, anun?a ora exact?. Unul dintre primele ceasuri de m?n? f?cut de compania numit? Waltham Watch Company, ceasul a fost purtat de solda?i în primul R?zboi Mondial (Deutsches Uhrenmuseum, Inv. 47-3352)...Read more

Couple turned passion for clocks, watches into business
Winston-Salem Journal, March 6th

David Pardue works on a Cuckoo clock at The Old Town Clock Shop on Reynolda Road in Winston-Salem, N.C., Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015. The shop has been in business with 3 different owners for nearly 39 years. The present owners, Alan & Sandy Moran ...Read more

Three views of dry cask storage at Pilgrim Station
Wicked Local Waltham, February 23rd

PLYMOUTH – While last week's discussion in Plymouth of the merits and drawbacks of dry-cask storage at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant was certainly civil, it was not a debate. All sides had their territories staked out, and there was little give and take...Read more

Brandeis president to step down at end of school year
Wicked Local Waltham, January 30th

Frederick Lawrence, the eighth president of Brandeis University, in consultation with the Board of Trustees, announced Friday that he will step down as president at the end of the current academic year. email · print. Comment. Wicked Local Waltham. Writer...Read more

Downsizing, but not sure where to move? Check these towns
Boston Globe, November 14th

Once a center of manufacturing — the Waltham Watch Co. operated in the town for more than a century starting in 1854 — Waltham has shed its blue-collar image but still retains significantly lower housing prices than Belmont, Newton, and Weston, with...Read more

Waltham's Watch City Brewing Closes for Good
Boston.com, July 28th

Watch City Brewing appears to be closing down permanently, The Waltham News Tribune reports. The Moody Street brewery closed in June, saying it needed repairs. But a restaurant equipment company now says it will auction off the brewery's equipment...Read more

Consulting firm expands into Waltham Watch Factory
Boston Business Journal, March 22nd

Trinity Pharma Solutions has leased 12,000 square feet of office space in the Waltham Watch Factory in Waltham, Mass. The company, which was previously located in the CityPoint building in Waltham, made the move to support its growth over the past year ...Read more