Watch Factories In America [Archive] - WATCH TALK FORUMS

: Watch Factories In America



Ham X Guy
11-06-2009, 04:13 PM
There was a time when watchmaking was an important and very large business here in America. These factories were tremendous and they employed thousands of skilled and non-skilled workers. I was stunned by just how big and ornate some of them actually were when I saw them, so I thought I would post a few pics of them here.

Feel free to add to these if you can -

The first is the Waltham plant -

http://i733.photobucket.com/albums/ww339/jimcav/watch.jpg

This is the Elgin factory -

http://i733.photobucket.com/albums/ww339/jimcav/elginariel.jpg

And the sad remains of one of the two old Benrus plants -

http://i733.photobucket.com/albums/ww339/jimcav/543088.jpg

http://i733.photobucket.com/albums/ww339/jimcav/201375_Full.jpg

I'm not sure, but I don't think the Swiss factories are or were anywhere near the size of these. Is that true?

Watchbreath
11-06-2009, 04:47 PM
:001_unsure: At the rate Rolex cranks them out, just might be.

Ham X Guy
11-06-2009, 09:35 PM
http://i733.photobucket.com/albums/ww339/jimcav/201375_Full.jpg

By-the-way, I want that Benrus sign! That would go very nicely with my collection...:D

That picture was taken not to many years ago and Benrus has been out-of-business since the early 70's. I really can't believe it hasn't been stolen in those 30 something years!:blink:

bio
11-07-2009, 06:14 PM
By-the-way, I want that Benrus sign! That would go very nicely with my collection...:D

Lol! That was the first thing that entered my mind, when I saw that sign! I knew you'd want it :D

Ham X Guy
11-08-2009, 07:33 AM
Lol! That was the first thing that entered my mind, when I saw that sign! I knew you'd want it :D

Yes, my wife would love to see that hanging on our bedroom wall overlooking my collection!:biggrin:

Here's a pic of another great ornate factory that played an important role in American clock and watchmaking, aptly named, the United States Watch Company located in New Jersey. I believe this company would become Timex eventually.

I love this period of architecture -


http://i733.photobucket.com/albums/ww339/jimcav/SIL-029-015-0058.jpg

revlimitbounce
11-09-2009, 12:26 PM
Is that Benrus factory in Ridgefield, CT?


By-the-way, I want that Benrus sign! That would go very nicely with my collection...:D

That picture was taken not to many years ago and Benrus has been out-of-business since the early 70's. I really can't believe it hasn't been stolen in those 30 something years!:blink:

Ham X Guy
11-09-2009, 03:07 PM
Is that Benrus factory in Ridgefield, CT?

There were two in Ct., I think one was in Waterbury and the other in Ridgefield and this is the one in Ridgefield.

Do you know the place?

I believe that Timex used this factory to manufacture their cases and then Benrus took it over at some period and used it as their case-making factory. Pretty interesting, eh?:thumbup1:

gatorcpa
11-09-2009, 08:12 PM
Feel free to add to these if you can

Pictures from http://www.electric-watches.co.uk/make/hamilton/factory/factory.php

Hamilton's Factory - Then:

http://www.electric-watches.co.uk/make/hamilton/factory/images/hamilton-factory.jpg

And now:

http://www.electric-watches.co.uk/make/hamilton/factory/images/hamilton-factory-1.jpg

http://www.electric-watches.co.uk/make/hamilton/factory/images/Hamilton%20Today.jpg

Yes, the factory has been renovated and made into lofts.

Enjoy,
gatorcpa

Ham X Guy
11-10-2009, 04:52 AM
^And how could we forget the famous Hamilton factory! :cursing:^

Beautiful architecture on that place. I love that factory. It has to be one of the only original's still left standing. It's amazing they didn't take the wrecking ball to that place to.

That's a place that any true WIS would love to live!:D

Thanks for adding it to the list gator...:thumbup1:

Pete J
11-10-2009, 09:06 AM
This is a good thread :thumbup1: .. i like this very much.

Just being curious, if anybody can update me with any (more) watch factories that are still in operation in USA ?

many thanks
Pete J

Ham X Guy
11-10-2009, 02:54 PM
This is a good thread :thumbup1: .. i like this very much.

Just being curious, if anybody can update me with any (more) watch factories that are still in operation in USA ?

many thanks
Pete J

Glad you like the thread Pete!:thumbup1:

To answer your question...none!:001_unsure::blushing:

There are actually a couple of small boutique watchmakers still here, but nothing that is nearly the size of what I've posted here. These factories were huge as you can see, and employed thousands of people and sold millions of watches.

If you go to the top of the American Watch Forum page, you'll see the banner for RGM watches, which is an American watchmaker trying to buck the trend. Gorgeous watches!

revlimitbounce
11-11-2009, 11:39 AM
No, but I grew up in Easton and Redding and will look for it next time I'm up there.

Speaking of dead factories, there used to be an old Walpole Fence Company factory on the border of Redding and maybe Ridgefield or Wilton. Was to the East of where Bob Sharp Motors (Datsun, then Nissan) is/was. One big scene from a Danny DeVito movie (Other People's Money?) was filmed there.

There's something about abandoned factories/hangars/military bases that fires up the photog in me.


There were two in Ct., I think one was in Waterbury and the other in Ridgefield and this is the one in Ridgefield.

Do you know the place?

I believe that Timex used this factory to manufacture their cases and then Benrus took it over at some period and used it as their case-making factory. Pretty interesting, eh?:thumbup1:

Ham X Guy
11-11-2009, 03:21 PM
Here is the Waterbury Clock Co. factory in...where else, Waterbury Ct.. It was a huge factory in it's day and at it's peak put out an astounding 20,000 clocks and watches per day! And it had 3000 employees! :001_wub:

This company was founded and it's factory built in the mid 1800's and built only clocks. They added pocket watches to its product line around 1890 and by 1915 Waterbury became the largest clockmaker on the American scene. The company also introduced the original Mickey Mouse wristwatch to America. But the Great Depression, combined with World War II, caused the company to be sold to investors from Norway (of all places!) who changed the name to United States Time Corporation who would later become the Timex brand of watches.

http://i733.photobucket.com/albums/ww339/jimcav/WaterburyClockCo.jpg

http://i733.photobucket.com/albums/ww339/jimcav/WaterburyClockOffice.jpg

http://i733.photobucket.com/albums/ww339/jimcav/waterburyclockcompanyzq7.jpg

RJ007
11-11-2009, 04:42 PM
Just like many of the other American Watch factories, The Illinois Watch Factory was a "HUGE" place.

(Friedberg)
The Illinois Watch Company in Springfield, Illinois employed about 1200 workers in 1927.

The factory was a small city in it's own right, and had such interesting things as it's own:
"Benefits" package (like a 401k)
Library
Newsletter
Nurse
Doctor
Mens AND Ladies bathrooms
Cafeteria that served food at COST to employees
Band and Glee Club
Baseball team

The company boasted that it made "Every effort to have
the interests of its employees at heart, as well as the
desire to produce the best quality product at the lowest cost"

The company estimated that it cost between
$50 to $200 dollars to train an employee
properly and they wanted to keep them!

SOME COOL PIX:

http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/12-aerial.jpg
Aerial Shot

http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/12-lawn.jpg
Parking lot runoff wasn't a problem when this photo
of the Illinois Watch Co. plant was taken around
the turn of the century. The lawns apparently came right
up to the building. At the earlier Springfield Watch Co.
the grass was kept short by sheep grazing around the building

http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/12-observatory.jpg
This observatory was built near the Ninth St.-North
Grand Ave. intersection on the grounds of the Illinois Watch Co.
in Springfield to verify the accuracy of the railroad
timepieces that were the firm's specialty.

http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/12-band.jpg
The Illinois Watch Co. boasted its own band,
that later became the Springfield Municipal Band.
A clock face adorns the bass drum.

(Pix/info: State of Illinois EPA)

Ham X Guy
11-12-2009, 04:47 PM
One of the more interesting architectural marvels in the American watch industry was this Gruen HQ's, located in Cincinnati Ohio -

http://i733.photobucket.com/albums/ww339/jimcav/gruen_timehill.jpg

In 1917 the Gruen brothers built this new headquarter outside of Cincinnati, Ohio and named it Time Hill. The building was inspired by Medieval guild halls, and became an important symbol. “It has always been our aim,” Fred said, “… to foster those ideals of the ancient guilds, of quality and craftsmanship; to make useful things in a beautiful way, under ideal surroundings. We believe in applying art to industry as exemplified in all of our activities, from building a plant whose style of architecture suggests craftsmanship, to making the watches most beautiful, with greatest accuracy obtainable.”

Anybody know if this building still exists?:confused1:

Initially, Dietrich and Fred designed the watch movements in America and manufactured them in Germany. Later, they would build their own movement factory in Switzerland. Most Gruen watches have Gruen-made Swiss movements and were assembled and adjusted in the U.S. in American-made cases.

That's American in my book!:thumbup:

RJ007
11-18-2009, 04:01 PM
This Beauty of a building is still standing in Queens, NY...
Hey, I know somebody who lives in Queens:wink:
http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/Breaks-Bulova1H.jpg
observer.com pic

Ham X Guy
11-18-2009, 05:22 PM
This Beauty of a building is still standing in Queens, NY...
Hey, I know somebody who lives in Queens:wink:
http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/Breaks-Bulova1H.jpg
observer.com pic

Yeah, that would be me!:thumbup:

The old Bulova factory, although it is far to nice looking to call it a factory, is probably one of the prettiest of all the old factories. It is a gorgeous art deco building built with what looks to be real granite on the outside and the inside is almost all marble with a wonderful atrium, such was the fortune of the old watchmakers.

This was also the site of the Bulova School Of Watchmaking, which Joseph Bulova built to help returning service men find work after the war. He was especially helpful to the disabled vets and the school had amenities such as full cafeterias, kitchen facilities, dorms, a rec room, a gym and even a pool! So most of the Bulova watchmakers were returning vets.

This building is still in use today as a corporate center for Bulova and it is in very nice shape. It might be the last of the old "factories" still up and running at least in a small way like it once did. Bulova has some sales, personel and other staff offices there and the rest of the place is rented to various business's. It's a great place to visit and I think 007 has a bunch of great pics of the place he might be able to post.

I'm lucky enough to pass this building everyday on my way to work...:)

ulackfocus
11-18-2009, 06:29 PM
Wetworks shot a few photos of the inside of that building:

https://www.watchtalkforums.info/forums/showthread.php?t=28503&highlight=bulova

Ham X Guy
11-18-2009, 08:09 PM
Wetworks shot a few photos of the inside of that building:

https://www.watchtalkforums.info/forums/showthread.php?t=28503&highlight=bulova


Thanks Dennis, those are the pictures I was talking about.

That is a beautiful building!:thumbup1:

RJ007
11-20-2009, 08:40 PM
In the never ending quest for ever more obscure American watch companies... Dad found this one hiding.:thumbup1:

The Dueber-Hampden Watch Company was an important employer in Canton, Ohio during the early 1920s.

http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/Dueber_Hampden.jpg
**Employees in flat-steel division of the Dueber Hampden Watch Co.


The Dueber-Hampden Watch Company formally organized in 1923. Previous to this year, the firm actually consisted of two separate companies: the Dueber Watch Case Company and the Hampden Watch Company. In 1886, John Dueber, the owner of the Dueber Watch Case Company, purchased a controlling interest in the Hampden Watch Company. In 1888, he relocated the Hampden Watch Company from Springfield, Massachusetts and the Dueber Watch Case Company from Newport, Kentucky to Canton, Ohio. These two companies shared manufacturing facilities in Canton but remained two separate companies. The Dueber Watch Case Company provided casings to the Hampden Watch Company, which manufactured the internal workings of the watches.

http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/Dueber-Hampden20circa20190120Ad20-2.jpg

The Dueber Watch Case Company and the Hampden Watch Company quickly became two of Canton's largest employers. In 1888, the companies' first year in Canton, the firms employed 2,300 Canton residents. In 1890, Canton's population was 26,337 people. Thanks to these two companies, Canton became an important center for watch manufacturing in the United States of America. Unfortunately for Canton residents, in 1930, the Dueber-Hampden Watch Company ceased operations in the city. The factory and all manufacturing equipment was sold to Armen Hammer, who moved the company to the Soviet Union (modern-day Russia) and established the Amtorg Watch Co. Several former employees of the Dueber-Hampden Watch Company traveled to the Soviet Union to train workers.

http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/untitled-1.jpg




Source: Ohio Historical Society

Endicott
11-21-2009, 03:43 AM
The Dueber-Hampden picture is quite amazing. :thumbup1: Funny thing with all those straps at the ceiling. It think that it was a bit loud in there but it looks much more interesting compared to modern factory buildings with their sterile looking workstations.
Thinking of the chemical industry where I am working its all the more a complete difference. They just look like some control room of the NASA or maybe a military nuclear bunker from an old cold war scenario with their many computer places and a handfull people in there.

Ham X Guy
11-21-2009, 02:20 PM
In the never ending quest for ever more obscure American watch companies... Dad found this one hiding.:thumbup1:

The Dueber-Hampden Watch Company was an important employer in Canton, Ohio during the early 1920s.

http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/Dueber_Hampden.jpg
**Employees in flat-steel division of the Dueber Hampden Watch Co.


That is just an iconic scene from the days of our industrial might. People toiling away building products with genuine quality! No throw-away items like we buy today, these products were made to last and each had an importance in our lives, unlike the disposable, cheaply made items these days. I know I say it often, but it saddens me to see that it's all gone, that every single watch factory in this thread is gone! How did it happen and why did we let it happen?:crying:

That picture reminds me alot of the famous one of the ironworkers building the Empire State Building, sitting on a beam about 80 stories high eating lunch! That's a real classic...:thumbup1:

Ham X Guy
11-22-2009, 08:00 PM
I found a picture of a second Bulova factory that I didn't even know existed. It's on the east end of Long Island NY in a quaint town called Sag Harbor. This building was where Bulova built their watch cases.

It still exists and it is the biggest building in Sag Harbor. It's presently being renovated into condo's. Anyone WIS's interested?:D

http://i733.photobucket.com/albums/ww339/jimcav/04lizo_1_600.jpg

Wannaduck
11-23-2009, 11:57 PM
Isn't Ball an American watch? Or do you consider them boutique?


Glad you like the thread Pete!:thumbup1:

To answer your question...none!:001_unsure::blushing:

There are actually a couple of small boutique watchmakers still here, but nothing that is nearly the size of what I've posted here. These factories were huge as you can see, and employed thousands of people and sold millions of watches.

If you go to the top of the American Watch Forum page, you'll see the banner for RGM watches, which is an American watchmaker trying to buck the trend. Gorgeous watches!

Ham X Guy
11-24-2009, 04:26 PM
Isn't Ball an American watch? Or do you consider them boutique?

Ball was an American watch at one time, but no more.

Ball was very important in horological history because he basically timed the railroads. He took movements from all of the best makers of the day, Hamilton, Elgin, Waltham and others, and then modified them to his exact standards so trains could run on time, on schedule and most important, safely. During WW2 and after, he used Swiss movements.

Ball, as far as I know, never actually was a watchmaker per-say. I don't think he had a factory or produced his own watches, he just used other movements, cases, hands and dials and badged them as Ball watches.

Ball are now completely Swiss made. I believe they are part of the Swatch Group.

Anyone have further info?

AJH
11-26-2009, 08:59 AM
BALL WATCH COMPANY
The Ball Watch Co., founded in 1891 by Webster C. Ball,
http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/webbcball.jpg
http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/ball-ad.jpg
has an extremely unique story behind its birth. Webb C. Ball, of Cleveland, Ohio, was the General Time Inspector for more than 125,000 miles of railroad in the United States, Canada and Mexico, A collision of two Lake Shore and Michigan Southern trains at Kipton, Ohio. The Fast Mail train was traveling West on the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad in Kipton, Ohio on April 19, 1891. Twenty five miles from Cleveland, at Elryia, another train, called the Accomodation, was given orders to let the Fast Mail pass it at Kipton. The conductor of the Accomodation never took his watch out of his pocket. He later stated that he thought the engineer was watching out for the station and timing when to stop to let the Fast Mail pass. However, the engineer's watch stopped for nearly five minutes and then started back up again. The engineer kept along thinking he had time to spare. Leaving Oberlin, the Accomodation thought it had seven minutes to reach the meeting point, but actually had around four. The two trains collided at Kipton with the Accomodation braking and the Fast Mail still traveling at speed, thinking the Accomodation had detoured for the scheduled passing. Engineers on both trains were killed, along with several others.
This crash resulted in the commissioning of Mr. Ball by the railroad officials to establish the time inspection system. Mr. Ball realized the key to the safe operations of the railroads was the manufacture of a standard watch that was sturdy enough to withstand the hard usage of railroad service and be an accurate time keeper. The first watch made for Ball and Company was an 18-size 3/4 plate by E. Howard. In 1893, the Hamilton Watch Company manufactured for the Ball Watch Company a 16-size to Mr. Ball's specifications. This was followed by a 16-size made by the Waltham Watch Company and afterwards by an 18-size made by the Elgin National Watch Company.
A minimum of 17 jewels were specified Adjustments to temperature and 5 positions were required. The 5 positions of adjustment were dial-up, dial-down, pendant up, 9-up and 3-up. Later a sixth position was added, pendant down. The watch had to be accurate in temperatures from 30 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Ball watches were required to be lever-set, as a pendant set watch could pull out in the pocket and change the time. A clear white dial was specified with Arabic numerals and 5-minute markers. Railroad watches were required to be inspected by a time inspector every two weeks and a tolerance of 30 seconds plus or minus, for the period was required. Webb C. Ball, was instrumental in the formation of the Horological Institute of America organized in 1921.

By UrbaneWatchReview

AJH
11-27-2009, 05:54 PM
Now that we opened a can of worms on railroad watches, let's see who has what.
I'm sure my friend RJ007 has a Bunn Rairoad watch to show us, since it was made by the Illinois Watch Company.

RJ007
11-27-2009, 06:04 PM
Now that we opened a can of worms on railroad watches, let's see who has what.
I'm sure my friend RJ007 has a Bunn Rairoad watch to show us, since it was made by the Illinois Watch Company.


Ask and you shall receive!
http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/Bbf3ceBWkKGrHqEOKiUEq3cbggEmBKwSCHS.jpg
60 hour, Illinois Bunn Railroad Grade!

AJH
11-28-2009, 07:36 PM
This is what makes the American Watch Forum so interesting. Here RJ007 is showing us the Bunn Railroad watch as part of the watch ads of the times This and the Ball Railroad Watch were so important for safe rail travel. Then we switch over to his thread on the Skyway watches and we see how the focus was switching to air travel in response to Lindburgh's flight across the Atlantic. The tide was turning and the watch manufacturers were gearing up for a whole new audience.
This was American Capitalism at it's best. Where has the Spirit of America gone?:mad:

ulackfocus
11-28-2009, 07:52 PM
Where has the Spirit of America gone?:mad:

literally: It's in the Smithsonian I believe. :wink:

figuratively: Don't get me started on the lack of skilled labor and the diminishing drive to create & manufacture domestic product. :cursing: It's all about the quick buck now, and if that means selling to foreign interest that's not an issue anymore.

RJ007
11-28-2009, 07:54 PM
This is what makes the American Watch Forum so interesting. Here RJ007 is showing us the Bunn Railroad watch as part of the watch ads of the times This and the Ball Railroad Watch were so important for safe rail travel. Then we switch over to his thread on the Skyway watches and we see how the focus was switching to air travel in response to Lindburgh's flight across the Atlantic. The tide was turning and the watch manufacturers were gearing up for a whole new audience.
This was American Capitalism at it's best. Where has the Spirit of America gone?:mad:

Jim (Hamx) and I talk about this all the time. One of the main themes of this American Forum was to show the best of America past and today... You see a great little company like RGM that is reminiscent of the past, but on a very small scale and you think, "Where are the other RGM's?" Why are so many watches NOT made here anymore, to see the old factories empty or gone is sad... We made the BEST watches ever! IMO.

roninpa
11-30-2009, 02:02 AM
The current Ball Co. is not a part of Swatch. I believe it is owned by Jeff Hess and perhaps some others. Mr. Hess has co-authored books on Rolex, has a watch business in Florida and is very active in the NAWCC. He also has a ton of Ball material.

A comment on the demise of manufacturing in the US. We collectors of American watches like them for many reasons, one of which is, that if properly maintained they will last for centuries. The problem with such products is that after a while you get market saturation, you can only sell so many before sales start going down. That happened to the US watch industry early in the 20th century and add to that competition from dollar watches and the Swiss and you've got trouble. By 1930 only Elgin, Waltham and Hamilton were left. Early industrial products such as firearms, clocks, watches and sewing machines all had similar problems. That's why business chases cheap labor and promotes creeping obsolescence. The electronics industry is the best example. Also folks forget that this country was in an
unusual situation after 1945, we were king of the hill with little or no competition, a situation that could not go on forever and certainly changed for the worse as the Germans and Japanese recovered. We also developed a fly in the ointment, to be polite, the MBA. Sorry if I've offended anyone but I feel that instead of adding lubricant to the system they've added sand.

AJH
12-01-2009, 07:29 PM
The current Ball Co. is not a part of Swatch. I believe it is owned by Jeff Hess and perhaps some others. Mr. Hess has co-authored books on Rolex, has a watch business in Florida and is very active in the NAWCC. He also has a ton of Ball material.

A comment on the demise of manufacturing in the US. We collectors of American watches like them for many reasons, one of which is, that if properly maintained they will last for centuries. The problem with such products is that after a while you get market saturation, you can only sell so many before sales start going down. That happened to the US watch industry early in the 20th century and add to that competition from dollar watches and the Swiss and you've got trouble. By 1930 only Elgin, Waltham and Hamilton were left. Early industrial products such as firearms, clocks, watches and sewing machines all had similar problems. That's why business chases cheap labor and promotes creeping obsolescence. The electronics industry is the best example. Also folks forget that this country was in an
unusual situation after 1945, we were king of the hill with little or no competition, a situation that could not go on forever and certainly changed for the worse as the Germans and Japanese recovered. We also developed a fly in the ointment, to be polite, the MBA. Sorry if I've offended anyone but I feel that instead of adding lubricant to the system they've added sand.

I was telling my son the other day that a wristwatch was a very big deal years ago. Many couldn't afford one and relied on the clock tower or the church bells, or the factory whistle to tell the time of day. He who was able to afford the $45 for a watch purchased it for a lifetime. As a gift, the watch was reserved for the lucky graduate or for 25 years of service to a company.
To have more than one watch would have been a rarity.

Similarly, I remember my grandfather with his orange and black fountain pen. He probably had and used that most of his working life, as it was an important tool in the era pre email and computers. If you wore out the nib (point) you took the pen and had the nib replaced. It took BIC to make pens a throw away item.

Today we live in a disposable society and preach recycling. Years ago, we bought things to last a lifetime and passed them on to the next generation to use for another lifetime. The watches we collect and cherish will last as long as people respect their heritage.:sad:

Ham X Guy
12-02-2009, 04:16 PM
I was telling my son the other day that a wristwatch was a very big deal years ago. Many couldn't afford one and relied on the clock tower or the church bells, or the factory whistle to tell the time of day. He who was able to afford the $45 for a watch purchased it for a lifetime. As a gift, the watch was reserved for the lucky graduate or for 25 years of service to a company.
To have more than one watch would have been a rarity.

Similarly, I remember my grandfather with his orange and black fountain pen. He probably had and used that most of his working life, as it was an important tool in the era pre email and computers. If you wore out the nib (point) you took the pen and had the nib replaced. It took BIC to make pens a throw away item.

Today we live in a disposable society and preach recycling. Years ago, we bought things to last a lifetime and passed them on to the next generation to use for another lifetime. The watches we collect and cherish will last as long as people respect their heritage.:sad:

Well said AJ.:thumbup1:

My first good watch as a young man was a Benrus and I remember it was very expensive for the time and my parents really debated whether they could stretch the budget to get it for me. Well, they did and I certainly appreciated it, because as you say, it was my one and only watch that was meant to last. It was and important and meaningful purchase that took alot of thought on my parents part. How many thing's in our lives can we say that about these days?

Anyway, many years past and I never heard the name Benrus again, until I found this forum and it was like a rebirth hearing that great name again. So began my Benrus addiction....:001_unsure:

RJ007
12-08-2009, 02:18 PM
I found some wonderful information on this once Great company on a site called clockhistory.com, here are some excerpts and wonderful photos.
( Northern Illinois University Archives, Stoddard photos, 1992)

http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/front.jpg
http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/label.jpg
http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/movt.jpg


1884
Stahlberg and others arrived in Peru, Illinois from Waterbury, Connecticut to make clocks based on Stahlberg’s idea. Small factory established in back of Brylski’s Department Store. First produced 1 clock per day, then 3 or 4 per day, gradually increasing. Started with 8 people.

http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/color_postcard1943.jpg

Western Clock Manufacturing company made their first pocket watches in 1899. Early models include The American and the Boyproof. Pocket Ben was first made about 1919 and first advertised in 1921. Glo-Ben, the luminous version of Pocket Ben, was introduced in 1919 and renamed Pocket Ben Luminous in 1927

1901
Production capacity 1,000,000 alarm clocks per year (500,000 units actual production). 285 employees.

http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/factory1902-09Angle_600.jpg

1914
3.5 million Big Ben alarms sold to date (according to March 21, 1914 Saturday Evening Post ad - figure doesn't agree with Westclox sales data ). Advertising manager Gaston LeRoy died in battle in France.

http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/factory1902-09Back_600.jpg

1929
3058 employees (peak number of employees before depression)

1941
3700 Employees.

1942
All non-war production ceased July 31.

1956
More than 4,000 employees produced 40,000 timepieces/day. More than 40 million Big Bens and 28 million Baby Bens had been produced to date. Style 7 Big Ben and Baby Ben introduced. New Big Ben single key wind movement.

2001 Style 10 Big Ben and Baby Ben introduced. Reproduction Moonbeam introduced.
June: General Time Corporation announced it was closing its entire operation. Facilities in the United States were the headquarters in Norcross, Georgia and the factory in Athens, Georgia. The distribution centers in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Hong Kong were closed as well.

2007 On July 18, 2007 Salton, Inc. ("Seller") and NYL Holdings LLC ("Buyer") entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement as amended on August 23, 2007 ("Agreement"). The terms of the Agreement provided for Buyer to purchase Seller's clock inventory and certain time products related trademarks and tooling and molds. The closing occurred in October 2007, when all inventory was transferred to Buyer.

Another Tragic sight just sitting and rusting in Peru, Illinois:crying:

http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/factoryend.jpg

http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/dustCollectors.jpg

Ham X Guy
12-08-2009, 04:07 PM
I found some wonderful information on this once Great company on a site called clockhistory.com, here are some excerpts and wonderful photos.
( Northern Illinois University Archives, Stoddard photos, 1992)



http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/color_postcard1943.jpg




Another Tragic sight just sitting and rusting in Peru, Illinois:crying:

http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/factoryend.jpg

http://i541.photobucket.com/albums/gg387/greghart007/dustCollectors.jpg

Yikes, that is pretty sad....

Every American from the baby-boomer generation is familiar with this company. I mean who didn't wake up to a Baby Ben or Big Ben Alarm clock? And who didn't have a Westclox hanging in their kitchen? They were truly an American icon.:sleep:

Those last two sad pictures remind me of the old and abandoned Benrus factory wasting away in Waterbury CT. Shameful...
:001_unsure:

bazzab
12-10-2009, 11:27 AM
This is a quote from The History of the Gruen watch Co by pixlep.com
After Gruen's watch business was sold and left Cincinnati, Time Hill was occupied by a calendar company. The interior was extensively modified. The magnificent lobby, with a 20-foot (7 meter) ceiling, huge fireplace, tile floors and very large, unusual chandeliers, was stripped, chopped into two stories and turned into offices. During the 1990s the building was housed an insurance company, and today is owned by the Union Institute, an adult-education school.
There is also talk that the building is beening restored

bazzab
12-29-2009, 08:52 AM
Found this Gruen watch display, was not sure wether to put here or under watch ads!:thumbup:

RJ007
12-29-2009, 10:19 AM
Found this Gruen watch display, was not sure wether to put here or under watch ads!:thumbup:

bazzab...
Wow, what is it?
Does it open up
Would love to know more about it...

bazzab
12-29-2009, 10:50 AM
I am really sorry it does not do anything! Its just to display Gruens. Used around the mid to late 20's, as Time Hill was enlarged in the early 30's.
I have seen a couple of these, not much else is known

RJ007
12-29-2009, 07:04 PM
Cool! I get it now. Never seen one before!

bazzab
04-02-2010, 12:03 PM
This is inside Gruens Time Hill Factory
I have no idea what the guy is doing

Ham X Guy
04-03-2010, 05:40 PM
That was a beautiful building!

Thanks for sharing that...:thumbup1:

marvelaugusts
04-05-2010, 12:10 AM
Awesome article . I never heard about that . Nice graphical presentation .

Ham X Guy
04-05-2010, 03:12 PM
Awesome article . I never heard about that . Nice graphical presentation .

Welcome to the American Watch forum marvel!:thumbup1:

bazzab
04-12-2010, 07:20 PM
I have not too many photos of Gruen's Time Hill.
Heres on of the Front Entrance

Ham X Guy
04-14-2010, 09:18 AM
What a beautiful building Gruen had.

It certainly was a tribute to the Gruen families German roots. No American factory ever looked like that!:T

HamiltonIllinois
05-13-2010, 02:59 PM
Well said AJ.:thumbup1:

My first good watch as a young man was a Benrus and I remember it was very expensive for the time and my parents really debated whether they could stretch the budget to get it for me. Well, they did and I certainly appreciated it, because as you say, it was my one and only watch that was meant to last. It was and important and meaningful purchase that took alot of thought on my parents part. How many thing's in our lives can we say that about these days?

Anyway, many years past and I never heard the name Benrus again, until I found this forum and it was like a rebirth hearing that great name again. So began my Benrus addiction....:001_unsure:



I never read this GREAT thread until today. Did you ever locate another example of your first Benrus? What model was it??

HamiltonIllinois
05-13-2010, 03:28 PM
Yikes, that is pretty sad....

Every American from the baby-boomer generation is familiar with this company. I mean who didn't wake up to a Baby Ben or Big Ben Alarm clock? And who didn't have a Westclox hanging in their kitchen? They were truly an American icon.:sleep:

Those last two sad pictures remind me of the old and abandoned Benrus factory wasting away in Waterbury CT. Shameful...
:001_unsure:

While I did not grow up here, I live near Detroit. Sadly, there are important old building JUST like these all over the southeastern Michigan area. There are too many old factories and warehouses to even know what they were in their prime. One of the largest is now called the Russell Industrial Center (RIC) -- it was designed around 1915 by Albert Kahn as one of the largest factories in the world covering a few million square feet. It was very close the the Grand Trunk Railroad Line - another famous old Detroit building designed by Kahn. (Grand Trunk was later used as a Hudson's warehouse in the 1970s.) In the beginning it included a carriage/coach manufacturing business (Murray) who eventially made car bodies for Ford, Packard, Studebaker, Chrysler, GM, and others. Murray was known as the "Dean" of stampmakers and eventually made stamps for most of the auto-related business in the US. Later the RIC produced B1s and B17s during WWII. After the war the RIC was the home of Michigan Stamping and then later became home to about 150 printers -- making Detroit one of the largest printing areas in the US in the 1960s. By 1970 it was purchased by Leona Helmsley. About then most people were leaving the city, so the RIC and the entire area became blighted. When I moved here in the late 80s it was basically empty. Soon an industrious bunch set up an urban-warfare-like (Mad Max-ish) paintball facility inside -- there were massive water leaks and big hole in some floors, so you could literally shoot down 2-3 floors at your friends as a sniper... just what Detroit needed, LOL. A few years ago a group of artists slowly started to reclaim portions of the RIC for studios and urban lofts. These days on most weekends there are art exhibits with artists selling industrial-looking jewelry and urban chic wear. Of the 2.2 millions square feet about 1/3 is currently being used... but I sure would not want to be there at night! Sadly, there are likely a few dozen other similar old buildings, most smaller but not all, which are all over Detroit. Most have remain empty and rotting for 30 years....

Ham X Guy
05-13-2010, 04:09 PM
I never read this GREAT thread until today. Did you ever locate another example of your first Benrus? What model was it??

Thanks!

No, I never did find that exact watch again. I do have something that was pretty similar though. It's a pretty basic 17 jewel from the sixties, 34mm, SS case, but it does have a red second hand which makes it standout.

Ham X Guy
05-13-2010, 04:18 PM
While I did not grow up here, I live near Detroit. Sadly, there are important old building JUST like these all over the southeastern Michigan area. There are too many old factories and warehouses to even know what they were in their prime. One of the largest is now called the Russell Industrial Center (RIC) -- it was designed around 1915 by Albert Kahn as one of the largest factories in the world covering a few million square feet. It was very close the the Grand Trunk Railroad Line - another famous old Detroit building designed by Kahn. (Grand Trunk was later used as a Hudson's warehouse in the 1970s.) In the beginning it included a carriage/coach manufacturing business (Murray) who eventially made car bodies for Ford, Packard, Studebaker, Chrysler, GM, and others. Murray was known as the "Dean" of stampmakers and eventually made stamps for most of the auto-related business in the US. Later the RIC produced B1s and B17s during WWII. After the war the RIC was the home of Michigan Stamping and then later became home to about 150 printers -- making Detroit one of the largest printing areas in the US in the 1960s. By 1970 it was purchased by Leona Helmsley. About then most people were leaving the city, so the RIC and the entire area became blighted. When I moved here in the late 80s it was basically empty. Soon an industrious bunch set up an urban-warfare-like (Mad Max-ish) paintball facility inside -- there were massive water leaks and big hole in some floors, so you could literally shoot down 2-3 floors at your friends as a sniper... just what Detroit needed, LOL. A few years ago a group of artists slowly started to reclaim portions of the RIC for studios and urban lofts. These days on most weekends there are art exhibits with artists selling industrial-looking jewelry and urban chic wear. Of the 2.2 millions square feet about 1/3 is currently being used... but I sure would not want to be there at night! Sadly, there are likely a few dozen other similar old buildings, most smaller but not all, which are all over Detroit. Most have remain empty and rotting for 30 years....

It's pretty much the same here in NYC.

There are so many buildings like the one you posted in this city, especially in Brooklyn and Queens, but they are nearly all vacant, or now used for office space or have been renovated into condo's. It's pretty sad when you look at them and know that they once made anything and everything we all used at one time and they employed ten of thousands of decently paid workers. Heck, we used to have 60 beer breweries in Brooklyn alone! Now New York City is a one trick town, Wall St., and we going to wither away because we no longer have the manufacturing base here to back-up that ailing industry. Wall St. goes, so does NYC, kind of like Detroit and the car industry.

Ah, NAFTA, you gotta love it!:001_unsure:

pratt
07-17-2010, 07:47 PM
I live about a mile from the Waltham Watch Company building. The place is pretty much run down and getting more run down by the day. Pretty sad.

We pretty much know why the American watch business died--and for that matter most businesses that produced goods. Labor costs, which are the bulk of most every product, are higher in the United States than in most countries, especially China. The other factor is the American public. People who shop at Wal-Mart and other such places, many who are members of the Tea Party, are to blame as well. We squawk about losing jobs to China yet we would rather save a few bucks and keep the Chinese in business rather than spend a few bucks more and keep Americans in business. I think we could get a lot of businesses going again if Americans decided to buy American and not Chinese. Sadly though we do not--and to boot, we are sending money to a country the ultimately may prove hostile to us either financially or militarily or both.

JerryT
07-18-2010, 12:40 AM
I am new to the forum, but not to watches. Waltham is my favorite American company. Here are a few images of the Waltham factory -- one from 1880 and another circa 1908 (both from a company pamphlet). Then I have two photos from a visit to Waltham in 2006 -- a panorama from the across the street and another snapshot from across the Charles River.
16586165851658716588

Ham X Guy
07-18-2010, 09:58 AM
I am new to the forum, but not to watches. Waltham is my favorite American company. Here are a few images of the Waltham factory -- one from 1880 and another circa 1908 (both from a company pamphlet). Then I have two photos from a visit to Waltham in 2006 -- a panorama from the across the street and another snapshot from across the Charles River.
16586165851658716588

Welcome to the American forum Jerry!

Thanks for your contribution. It is quite sad to see where this once great industry has gone, isn't it? That beautiful factory is just going to wither away, because there is simply no use for it anymore.... Maybe condos?:sad:

JerryT
07-18-2010, 01:06 PM
Actually, the news for Waltham is not so bleak. Phase one of its redevelopment opened last October. Most of the factory building is being converted to office space and a little light industrial space. A small exhibit of Waltham Watch Factory memorabilia is supposedly already open. The next phase will see one wing converted into apartments. There will also be some retail and restaurant space.

RJ007
07-20-2010, 01:51 AM
Actually, the news for Waltham is not so bleak. Phase one of its redevelopment opened last October. Most of the factory building is being converted to office space and a little light industrial space. A small exhibit of Waltham Watch Factory memorabilia is supposedly already open. The next phase will see one wing converted into apartments. There will also be some retail and restaurant space.

I have been waiting to comment on your post...

I would love to know if you will go and check if that Memorabilia is in there.

That would be so cool to see, if I am in the area... I will visit the building some day if I am in town. I do quite a bit of traveling.

Thanks Jerry!:thumbup:

JerryT
07-20-2010, 02:30 AM
I have been waiting to comment on your post...

I would love to know if you will go and check if that Memorabilia is in there.

That would be so cool to see, if I am in the area... I will visit the building some day if I am in town. I do quite a bit of traveling.

Thanks Jerry!:thumbup:

Unfortunately, I am on the wrong coast for a quick check. Perhaps Pratt can check for us. If you are in Waltham you might also check the Charles River Museum of Industry. They have a nice Waltham exhibit with some of the original factory machinery.

Ham X Guy
07-20-2010, 10:38 AM
Actually, the news for Waltham is not so bleak. Phase one of its redevelopment opened last October. Most of the factory building is being converted to office space and a little light industrial space. A small exhibit of Waltham Watch Factory memorabilia is supposedly already open. The next phase will see one wing converted into apartments. There will also be some retail and restaurant space.

Well, it's not the original ideal use for the building, which was manufacturing, but at least the beautiful turn-of-the-century building itself will be saved.

I had a similar historical factory park in my neighborhood that used to do heavy manufacturing, but then it went to light manufacturing and then it was broken down into office space and then to near abandonment. Now, it is gone completely and a mall replaced it. I'm not a fan of this kind of re-development, but such is the society we now live.

Shop, shop, shop till you drop! I guess I wouldn't mind that much if I could buy something made in America....:001_rolleyes:

Angelis
07-25-2010, 04:10 PM
It's pretty much the same here in NYC.

There are so many buildings like the one you posted in this city, especially in Brooklyn and Queens, but they are nearly all vacant, or now used for office space or have been renovated into condo's. It's pretty sad when you look at them and know that they once made anything and everything we all used at one time and they employed ten of thousands of decently paid workers. Heck, we used to have 60 beer breweries in Brooklyn alone! Now New York City is a one trick town, Wall St., and we going to wither away because we no longer have the manufacturing base here to back-up that ailing industry. Wall St. goes, so does NYC, kind of like Detroit and the car industry.

Ah, NAFTA, you gotta love it!:001_unsure:

As a fellow New Yorker, I feel your pain and know EXACTLY what you are saying.

I forget the name, and they are rather expensive, but there IS one great place in NYC that proudly displays in it's BIG window many pre-owned good ol' American and Swiss watches. The store is located down the street from Radio City Music Hall.

Look in the window, and see what American watches and watchmaking was all about! It's so sad that very, very few places like this exist in NYC...when there used to be so many!:sad:

literustyfan
10-30-2010, 08:00 AM
I live about 45 minutes from where the old Elgin National Watch Comapny and Illinois Watch Case Company factories were located back in the day. The town of Elgin has a rather big historical society and they have an extensive museum of pictures, watches, watch cases, tools and so on from when that area was a powerhouse of watch activity. They just did a massive renovation of their building and expanded back in February of this year. I have not been there sense the construction but the next time I go I'll take lots of pictures and post them on this thread.

Ham X Guy
10-30-2010, 08:15 AM
I live about 45 minutes from where the old Elgin National Watch Comapny and Illinois Watch Case Company factories were located back in the day. The town of Elgin has a rather big historical society and they have an extensive museum of pictures, watches, watch cases, tools and so on from when that area was a powerhouse of watch activity. They just did a massive renovation of their building and expanded back in February of this year. I have not been there sense the construction but the next time I go I'll take lots of pictures and post them on this thread.

Being that this thread is dedicated to all of the old factories, we'd love to see pics of the old Elgin factory as it stands today. These factories are such a wonderful part of our manufacturing history, although of course I wish they weren't history!

Keep us posted!:thumbup1:

bazzab
02-07-2011, 10:00 AM
I came across this photo of Gruen's Time Hill

http://i1107.photobucket.com/albums/h399/bazzab51/TimeHillPhoto.jpg

I understand that the building has know been listed

salleh
02-19-2011, 08:29 AM
Fabulous thread.....and I am quite excited about the news of the Elgin building.....I live in California, but spend my winters here in St. Joseph, Mi, which is straight across Lake Michigan from Chicago, it's about 60 miles away, you can see the city on clear days and night .....

But a field trip to Elgin ! we have just put it on our list of things to do next year.....and as it happens I am a big fan of Elgin watches ........

.....And I am saddened by the old photos of those magnificent buildings as they fall into metal scraps......I am a huge fan of "Top Gear", the UK version, and the 3 guys were each driving a fine old English sports car around England, and at the end of the show, they went to each of the former factories of those cars, ....just as sad.....After WW2, the English were known for their fine sports cars.....


.....and most of my experience has been with antique furniture.....I have been in that field for more than 30 years.....and I have had hundreds of pieces pass through my hands, ususally needing some help of one kind or another.....but you can re-finish the old stuff, it's made of WOOD ! ....they can be structurally fixed, and cosmetically re-done.....(although, with the genuine antique stuff, get a professional opinion as to whether or not that's a good idea)


....But a piece of any furniture made of wood, whether it's veneered over hard or soft woods, or solid wood of any of the vast variety of woods they used....is going to last....just like our beautiful watches do......


.....ever tried to re-glue a piece of furniture from a place like Ikea ???? ah no, can't do it, glue doesn't stick to glue, and that stuff is made from sawdust and glue mixed up and formed into "furniture like" pieces.....


and like watches, there are some boutique furniture people, and lucky for us there are still a few furniture companies that make real wood furniture.....expensive.. true....


.....and can't help but say here, if you need a piece of furniture, go to a second hand store, or an antique store, you will get a lot better quality for less money....and any member who goes that route can PM me for directions on how to re-finish it!


....sorry about this, got carried away, but as a creative person, whose greatest joy is in making stuff, I am a "arts and crafts movement" thinker, and the joy in creating items of beauty and usefulness, and/or restoring them to their orginal beauty from a watch to a house is quite fulfilling, .... It's so very sad that the aquisition and amassing of consumer goods till the house bulges is the American way of life these days.....

....Not that I'll give up my laptop mind you !

Ham X Guy
02-19-2011, 10:00 AM
Fabulous thread.....and I am quite excited about the news of the Elgin building.....I live in California, but spend my winters here in St. Joseph, Mi, which is straight across Lake Michigan from Chicago, it's about 60 miles away, you can see the city on clear days and night .....

But a field trip to Elgin ! we have just put it on our list of things to do next year.....and as it happens I am a big fan of Elgin watches ........

.....And I am saddened by the old photos of those magnificent buildings as they fall into metal scraps......I am a huge fan of "Top Gear", the UK version, and the 3 guys were each driving a fine old English sports car around England, and at the end of the show, they went to each of the former factories of those cars, ....just as sad.....After WW2, the English were known for their fine sports cars.....


.....and most of my experience has been with antique furniture.....I have been in that field for more than 30 years.....and I have had hundreds of pieces pass through my hands, ususally needing some help of one kind or another.....but you can re-finish the old stuff, it's made of WOOD ! ....they can be structurally fixed, and cosmetically re-done.....(although, with the genuine antique stuff, get a professional opinion as to whether or not that's a good idea)


....But a piece of any furniture made of wood, whether it's veneered over hard or soft woods, or solid wood of any of the vast variety of woods they used....is going to last....just like our beautiful watches do......


.....ever tried to re-glue a piece of furniture from a place like Ikea ???? ah no, can't do it, glue doesn't stick to glue, and that stuff is made from sawdust and glue mixed up and formed into "furniture like" pieces.....


and like watches, there are some boutique furniture people, and lucky for us there are still a few furniture companies that make real wood furniture.....expensive.. true....


.....and can't help but say here, if you need a piece of furniture, go to a second hand store, or an antique store, you will get a lot better quality for less money....and any member who goes that route can PM me for directions on how to re-finish it!


....sorry about this, got carried away, but as a creative person, whose greatest joy is in making stuff, I am a "arts and crafts movement" thinker, and the joy in creating items of beauty and usefulness, and/or restoring them to their orginal beauty from a watch to a house is quite fulfilling, .... It's so very sad that the aquisition and amassing of consumer goods till the house bulges is the American way of life these days.....

....Not that I'll give up my laptop mind you !

Great post Salleh!

I agree wholeheartedly. We have become gluttonous consumers, and uneducated consumers at that. We now live in a society where quality matters little, just so long as it looks good and lasts for alittle while. When it goes, just get another one. Nothing we own today has much meaning in our lives and very few items we own will ever have any vintage value.

I think this is why many of us gravitate to the vintage watch world - quality. And, it harkens back to a time when "Made In The USA" really meant something...:sad:

lankyman
03-16-2011, 08:41 PM
Actually, the news for Waltham is not so bleak. Phase one of its redevelopment opened last October. Most of the factory building is being converted to office space and a little light industrial space. A small exhibit of Waltham Watch Factory memorabilia is supposedly already open. The next phase will see one wing converted into apartments. There will also be some retail and restaurant space.

just started

thumbs
04-18-2013, 12:01 PM
Does anyone know which Bulova factory this is, from the inside lid of a Bulova watch outer box from the 1920's?
37006
I have searched on the web and can find no images. The logo on the roof says "Bulova Watch Co."