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 Early C. 1868 Post Civil War American Waltham Co Fogg's Patent Pocket WatchAntique 18k Gold Appleton Tracy Waltham Civil War Pocket Watch RareVintage Waltham Vanguard 23 Jewel Wind Railroad Pocket Watch 16 Size 289221421863 - Civil War - Waltham 18s Ps Bartlett # 69896 Hunters Pocket Watch 1900 Beautiful 18size Waltham 1 Of A Kind Horse Carrage Dial! Wow Amazing Dial!117 Yr Old,17 Jewel, Size 18 Ps Bartlett Waltham Runs Strong/timed Sn 3763549C1869 Coin Silver Key Wind "18" Size Waltham Pocket Watch Foggs Patent Antique Waltham Horological School Assortment Of Balance Staffs + Hole Jewel NrC 1884 American Waltham 18 Size 11 Jewel Ellery Coin Silver Keywind Pocket WatchEarly American Waltham 18 Size Sterling Silver Hunting Case Keywind Pocket Watch1864 Waltham P.s.b. Wm Ellery Pocket Watch Silver Full Hunter Case Key WindBeautiful Antique 10ct Rolled Gold Full Hunter Waltham Pocket Watch Dated 1926Antique Waltham Model 1857 Civil War 18s Key Wind Pocket Watch. Made 1864Stunning 1900 Waltham 0s 15j Grade 115 Solid 14k Gold Hunter Case Pocket Watch1915 21j Waltham 16s “645” Top Rr Grade 14k Gold Fil Case! A Beauty! Wow!1878 Early American Waltham 18s 15j Silver Swing-out Side Winder Pocket Watch1919 16s Waltham 23 Jewel Vanguard Diamond End Stones Wow!Lovely Waltham Gold Filled Hunter Pocket Watch American Watch Company (waltham) Antique Keywind Pocket WatchC. 1886 American Waltham 18s 11 J P.s Bartlett Coin Silver Keywind Pocket WatchClean C. 1905 American Waltham 18s 17 J Grade "825" Nickel Silver Pocket WatchFull Hunter Gold Plated Waltham Pocket Watch Waltham Crescent St 21 Jewel 18 Size First Run Railroad Pocket Watch Mvt1887 Early American Waltham 18s 11j Coin Silver Hunter Case Keywind Pocket WatchWaltham Pocket Watch. Size 18s Pocketwatch, Salesman Case. Excellent Condition!American Waltham 18s 15j Appleton, Tracy Co Coin Silver Side Winder Pocket Watch1902 Antique Waltham Ps Bartlett 18 Size Hunter's Case Pocket Watch 14k G/f1908 Waltham 17 Jewels Pocket Watch In Fancy Case - Size 16 - RunsWaltham 10k Rgp Pocket Watch - Fancy DialC 1884 American Waltham 18 Size 11 Jewel Ellery Coin Silver Keywind Pocket WatchAntique Waltham Gold Plated Full Hunter Pocket Watch & Nr!American Watch Co Wm Ellery Silver C19th Hunter Fob Pocket Enamel Dial WalthamVintage Gold Plated Waltham Pocket WatchExcellent Full Montgomery Dial Rail Road Case Ms 67 Waltham Vintage Pocket WatchAntique Waltham Pocket Watch, Model 1892 - UsaWaltham Military Pocket Watch (waltham Premier 16s Movement)Very Scarce 1875 Waltham Model 1857 Appleton Tracy Foggs Pat No Reserve! Nice!Vintage Waltham 16 Size 23 Jewel Vanguard Not RunningAntique Gold Plated Waltham Hunter Traveler Gents Pocket Watch To Restore NrWaltham P S Bartlett Model 1883 17 Jewels Pocketwatch 1888 Acid Etched Size 18 Waltham Hunter Case Pocket Watch Runs No ReserveAntique Waltham Usa Traveler Full Hunter Gold Plated Pocket Watch RunningServiced~1897 Waltham 6s~15j Seaside~gf Bird Engraved Hunter Watch & ChainExcellent 1901 18s 19j Waltham Pocket Watch - Gf Case - (n157)Serviced W/chain~59mm~1907 Waltham 18s Mod.1883 Nickle Pocket Watch~pw/s Rare Beautiful Case 1891 18s Waltham Ps Bartlett Hunters Pocket Watch - RunsStunning 1935 Waltham 12 Size 15j Of Fancy White Gold Engraved Case Runs! N/r!!Unusual 16 Size English Sterling Silver American Waltham "traveler" Pocket WatchWaltham Broadway Key-wind Pocket Watch, 18s, With Key - Rf18546Antique Waltham 14k Gold 23 Jewel Riverside Maximus C19011891 American Waltham 18s Pocket Watch Gold Filled Hunter Case Works Lever Set Waltham 18 Sze 15 Jewel Keywind Model 1857 Coin Silver Pocket Watch1886 Waltham Railway Style Chunky Nickel Cased Pocket WatchWaltham Crescent St 21 Jewel 16s Up/down Wind Indicator Railroad Pocket WatchWaltham 14k Gold Pocket Watch Hunter Case Original Leather Pouch Crescent St. 18 S, 21j, Of, Ls, Waltham Railroad Watch, Good Running OrderExcellent 1892 6s 7j Waltham Gf Hunters Pocket Watch - Runs - (n126)1883 American Waltham 7 Jewel Pocket Watch Grade 1 Fancy Dial Runs! X6Waltham Crescent St 21 Jewel 16 Size Railroad Pocket Watch MvtRare 1910 Waltham 16s 14k Yellow Gold Large Man's Hunter Case Pocket Watch, Mint

Recent News: Waltham Pocket Watches

Source: Google News

'Clobbered' doesn't always mean beat up
Tyler Morning Telegraph, June 29th

n Waltham watch, hunting case, raised floral designs, 14K gold, 15 jewel, signed face, woman's, 1 3/4 inches, $320. n Cupboard, primitive, softwood, painted blue, blind door, hanging, paneled door, 48 x 30 inches, $385. n Weather vane, woman with...Read more

1825 - 1910, États-Unis
Le Point, June 16th

Il semblerait également qu'une autre partie des composants provienne de la fabrique de montres Waltham Watch Company, auprès de laquelle Lyman W. Tompson achetait régulièrement des pièces trouées, des cadrans ou encore des ressorts. La Waltham ...Read more

Big Bird to big screen: Waltham native Caroll Spinney's life chronicled in film
Wicked Local Waltham, June 12th

But his father, who worked in the Waltham Watch Factory as a screw maker, was disappointed that his boy wanted to be a puppeteer. He wanted Caroll to work in the factory. The documentary, though, details how the two reconciled in the end. Spinney lived ...Read more

Nocera to be honored at Spirit of Innovation Gala in Waltham
Wicked Local Waltham, June 5th

Hands-on exhibits feature American innovation and invention from 1812 to the present day, with exhibits on Waltham's Boston Manufacturing Company, the Metz Company, the Waltham Watch Factory and Orient bicycles. The event runs from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. ...Read more

WATCH: National Doughnut Day is June 5
Patch.com, June 4th

Celebrate with a freebie at Dunkin Donuts in Waltham or seek out one of your faves. By Charlene Arsenault (Patch Staff) June 4, 2015. Share. 0 Comments. WATCH: National Doughnut Day is June 5. By Lanning Taliaferro (Patch staff). The delicious fried ...Read more

Waltham's WATCH to hold Anniversary Celebration
Wicked Local Waltham, April 24th

Music photos featured in Waltham exhibit ... Waltham show to feature musical journey through game shows ... Waltham's WATCH to hold Anniversary Celebration. WATCH members will celebrate the organization's 27th anniversary at a community celebration ...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