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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have read the threads on the American Made watch companies, but I wanted to know when each one of the big US companies either switched to Swiss / China / Japan, or when the company went under. For example, from my research I understand that Hamilton stopped producing watch that we made in America, of American made parts, in 1969. So what about Timex, Bulova, Elgin, Waltham, Gruen, Pulsar, etc, etc.

I am doing research on this topic and any information you can provide would be great.

Chris :confused1:
 

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American made????

First, let me welcome you to the Forum!

I think you are likely to see some debates -- especially when companies like Benrus, Bulova, Illinois, and even Hamilton and Elgin are discussed. I think you will first need to establish what makes something "American made", and with that, what constitutes a complete watch and a complete line of watches?

Does a watch have to be entirely made in the US to be considered American? Some of the makers (Benrus, Bulova) had their movements made in Europe. Gruen had a factory in the US, but some of their movements were made here and others were not. Illinois and Hamilton made all of their watch movements here, but did not make their own cases... and Illinois did not even assemble all of their watches into cases in their factory... as many others whos sold through Jobbers also didn't. Illinois was sold to Hamilton in 1928, their Springfield factory was closed in the early 30s, and then the watches were made in Hamilton's Pennsylvania factory... but those made under the Illinois name in the 50s were arguably not truly Illinois or maybe even American. And while no longer American, most may say that the watches made today with the name Elgin, Pulsar, Bulova, and perhaps even Hamilton on the dial are nothing that those great names were in the past... and a Swiss movement in them that was made in China adds a lot of additional questions. :001_unsure:

This discussion might be fun to watch... :lol:
 

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Hi Chris

To the best of my knowledge, Elgin produced movements in the US until 1964 when the factory in Elgin IL closed. After that, the operation moved to South Carolina, but they only cased Swiss movements. That operation closed down in, I believe, 1969.

Elgin had begun importing Swiss movements around 1952, starting with automatics to replace their technologically dated Bumper automatics. Around that time, Elgin also began importing cheaper Swiss movements, casing and selling them as 'Wadsworth' watches. Elgin had bought the Wadsworth Watch Case company in 1950.

Through the 1950s, they added more Swiss watches to the Elgin line, initially just automatics, then cheaper manual winds as 'Elgin Sportsman'. Over time, the imports completely replaced the US-built models.
 

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I have nothing to add except ....yah what a good idea......


that information about the Elgin company is perfect.....lean writing and to the point .....I didn't know that about the Sportsman models ......see and these are things I like to know ......

I do know that the Lord ( and presumably Lady) Elgins were ALWAY 21 jewels ....and that the de Luxe were 17 jewel models.....now le'ts just see how well I remember the rest ....

with ADHD, I am never sure what will sink in and what won't ...but I do know if it's something we're interested in, there's a lot better chance of remembering it .....


and this morning I found out via I forget who, but it was here when I showed the Hamilton/Illinois watch I just picked up on the swamp.....that it was from the 50s, ( and that was spot on, as the back is engraved for 1953) and that they used Swiss automatics at that time ....


this came as a rude surprise, as I figured a Hamilton/Illinois would be a safe bet to be a fabulous watch .....I mean, the 2 best ever watch companies of America .....who wooda thunk it ?



but I keep gathering these little nuggets of truths and stashing them away ......some I share with customers, and some have already saved me from making bad mistakes on the swamp ......not to say that I haven't found new and exciting ways to make bad buys there, but I really have to pay closer attention ......




that's as maybe, but I love this thread already .....more more !!! encore !!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
First, let me welcome you to the Forum!

I think you are likely to see some debates -- especially when companies like Benrus, Bulova, Illinois, and even Hamilton and Elgin are discussed. I think you will first need to establish what makes something "American made", and with that, what constitutes a complete watch and a complete line of watches?

Does a watch have to be entirely made in the US to be considered American? Some of the makers (Benrus, Bulova) had their movements made in Europe. Gruen had a factory in the US, but some of their movements were made here and others were not. Illinois and Hamilton made all of their watch movements here, but did not make their own cases... and Illinois did not even assemble all of their watches into cases in their factory... as many others whos sold through Jobbers also didn't. Illinois was sold to Hamilton in 1928, their Springfield factory was closed in the early 30s, and then the watches were made in Hamilton's Pennsylvania factory... but those made under the Illinois name in the 50s were arguably not truly Illinois or maybe even American. And while no longer American, most may say that the watches made today with the name Elgin, Pulsar, Bulova, and perhaps even Hamilton on the dial are nothing that those great names were in the past... and a Swiss movement in them that was made in China adds a lot of additional questions. :001_unsure:

This discussion might be fun to watch... :lol:
My definition would be that the company was at minimum assembling movements in the US. The movement components could come from Switzerland or another country, but assembled in the US. Ideally, I'd like to know when the company stopped making the movement components and case components as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Additional information that I have gathered on this topic

While searching the Internet, including Wikipedia, I found the following information, hopefully someone here can confirm the information:

Ball -
Benrus -
Bulova - 1977
Elgin – 1964
Gruen - 1956
Hamilton - 1969
Illinois - 1920
Keystone - 1891
Pulsar - 1977
Southland - 1933
Timex - 1984
Waltham – 1957

What companies am I missing? Can anyone confirm these years (other than what has previously been posted)?

Thanks,
Chris
 

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Ben, I recall that Keystone Watch Case Company and Keystone Watch Company were unrelated, but didn't the former buy the 'E. Howard' name when 'E. Howard and Company' went under? Any idea when 'E. Howard Watch Company' stopped making watches?
 

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What companies am I missing? Can anyone confirm these years (other than what has previously been posted)?

Thanks,
Chris
Here's one that you are missing, it's Texas Instruments:


From what I can gather from a couple of different sources, TI made all of their watches in the US. They were only around for a very short time, from 1975 to 1981.

Wikipedia - Texas_Instruments:
"TI continued to be active in the consumer electronics market through the 1970s and 1980s. Early on this also included two digital clock models one for desk and the other a bedside alarm. From this sprang what became the Time Products Division with the LED watches. Though these LED watches enjoyed early commercial success thanks to excellent quality, it was short lived due to poor battery life. LEDs were replaced with LCD watches for a short time but these could not compete because of styling issues, excessive makes and models, and price points. The watches were manufactured in Dallas and then Lubbock Texas."

TI Company History 1975-First LED Watches
"TI's introduction of electronic digital watches was a business landmark at the 1975 Consumer Electronic Show in Chicago. TI brought out three high-fashion liquid crystal display (LCD) watches; three personalized watches with light-emitting diode (LED) displays for men and women; and a compact, seven-function LCD digital travel alarm."

"In 1981, TI exited the business and focused on other opportunities."


When I was in high school during the mid 1970's, these were the watches to have!

Sounds like a worthy project. I'm sure there are more companies we are missing.
gatorcpa

P.S. Wasn't Pulsar was a division of Hamilton?
 

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While searching the Internet, including Wikipedia, I found the following information, hopefully someone here can confirm the information:

Ball -
Benrus -
Bulova - 1977
Elgin – 1964
Gruen - 1956
Hamilton - 1969
Illinois - 1920
Keystone - 1891
Pulsar - 1977
Southland - 1933
Timex - 1984
Waltham – 1957

What companies am I missing? Can anyone confirm these years (other than what has previously been posted)?

Thanks,
Chris


Chris,

Some of us might argue that Benrus and Bulova, and many Gruens were not truly American since they used European-made movements. BTW, the Illinois factory was closed in 1932/33, but production continued in the US at Hamilton's Lancaster, Penn plant for a few years after that.

Regards,

Rick
 

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Chris,

Some of us might argue that Benrus and Bulova, and many Gruens were not truly American since they used European-made movements. BTW, the Illinois factory was closed in 1932/33, but production continued in the US at Hamilton's Lancaster, Penn plant for a few years after that.

Regards,

Rick
Bulova used US made movements at a number of points in their existence. I own 4 Bulovas, the ones from 1937 and 1959 are stamped 'USA', while the one from 1946 is marked 'Swiss'. IIRC, Bulova started out with Swiss movements, switched to American prior to the Depression, then back to Swiss sometime around WWII, but made a number of movements in the US in the 50s and even into the early 1960s.

One thing I noted while looking a the list - Ball. Ball never made any watches. The Ball company contracted with Hamilton and others to produce Ball watches to their specifications. Ben should be able to confirm this.
 

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If you are including companies that made only pocket watches in your list there are probably over a dozen that never made it to 1900. Major US pocket watch makers you should add are

Columbus Watch Co. - 1903
Hampden Watch Co. - 1930
Seth Thomas Watch Co. - 1915
South Bend Watch Co. - 1929

These companies all made RR approved pocket watch models. I'm sure the pocket watch gurus here can add other major makers. There are also several dollar watch makers like Ingersoll and Ingraham that are ligitimate US companies.

Joel
 

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Time Hill, Gruen's factory in Cincinnati, closed in 1958, rather than 1956. They continued to sell watches through their New York offices until 1976, but most people consider those Gruens to be just imports.
 
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