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Waltham Watches

Watches generically referred to as Waltham were made under a variety of names, by a succession of companies. The information below is intended to assist those seeking to learn about their watches.

[top]The Watch Companies of Waltham

The watch companies commonly referred to as "Waltham" has undergone a series of name changes:

Pre-Waltham Watches:
Boston Watch Co.
Tracy, Baker and Co.
Appleton, Tracy & Co.

Waltham Watches:
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.

[top]Basic Movement Information

Some basic facts about a Waltham watch can be found by entering the serial number on the movement (the "works") in the field on the Serial Number link accessible from the NAWCC Information Storage website. Commas should not be used in entering the serial number.

There is also a 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").

[top]Approximate Production Dates

Should the date not be listed in the search of the NAWCC Information Storage - Waltham Serial Number Data Base, Oldwatch.com's Waltham Production Date Chart, or the Pocket Watch Site's Waltham Date Table are a means for determining the approximate production date. In general, we think of serial number vs. date lists - created by using the average number of watches produced over a period of years - to only be accurate within a year or two at best, and recognize that there are numerous exceptions wherein which the dates may be off as much as 3 years or more. This is not just for Waltham, but for other watch manufacturers as well. Getting back to Waltham, the accuracy of serial number vs. date tables is discussed in a Message Board Thread started by Jerry Treiman.

[top]Model and Grade Report

The NAWCC Information Storage Website has a Model and Grade search feature, selectable by clicking on Model and Grade choice in the left-hand menu. By using the full model number (i.e. 1883) and a specific grade (i.e. 35 - for grade No. 35) in the query fields, a report is generated showing summary of the different versions (hunting-case, open-face, etc.) and a full list of runs. Tips for using this report are contained in the message board thread entitled: "Waltham Database look-up questions."

[top]Waltham's Jeweled Main Wheel

In 1907, Waltham announced that its watches marketed for railroad time service were then fitted with a jeweled main wheel. These jewels are internal to the mainspring barrel and are not visible until the barrel is disassembled.

[top]Model 1859

The model 1859 or KW18 was intended as high grade thin model watch. 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 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.
Tom McIntyre, NAWCC American Pocket Watches Message Board, 19-Oct-11, 11:33 AM

[top]Appleton, Tracy & Co. Gilt Damaskeened Movements

A number of model 1883, Appleton, Tracy & Co. (AT&Co) grade movements were built having a gilt damaskeened finish; a finish in which the plates were gilded and damaskeened. These were made in both hunting and open-face versions and in both 15-jewel (example posted by Dave Coatsworth) and 17-jewel (example posted by D Magner) configurations. Although not as common as the gilt or nickel finished movements, the gilt damaskeened finished movements are frequently seen and are not considered to be uncommon.

Serial number vs. grade data originating from the best source to date, the NAWCC Information Storage website, 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 may have gilt trim, or polished steel regulators and screws, or blued screws. 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 Watch Observations form to report them so that the information available on the NAWCC Information Storage website can eventually be improved.

[top]Appleton, Tracy & Co. Premier

Waltham's description of the model 92 Appleton, Tracy & Co. (AT&Co) grade can be seen in this February 1902 Ad. At that time it was accepted into railroad time service, even though it was adjusted to only three positions (which was considered adequate in 1902). When the model 92 Appleton, Tracy & Co. Premier grade (always marked "Premier" on the movement's barrel bridge) was introduced Later in 1902, it's description showed it being adjusted to five positions. The Appleton, Tracy & Co. Premier immediately took over the "plain" AT&Co's place in Waltham's offering of railroad watches, as seen in this 1903 Ad. Interestingly, as brought out in a February 2009 NAWCC American Pocket Watch Message Board Thread, the model 92 AT&Co movements seem to have the name "Tracy" misspelled as "Trary". However, the font that Waltham chose used a style for the letter 'c' that made it look like an 'r'.

[top]Grade No. 35

Waltham's grade No. 35 is a movement that is frequently underappreciated. It is unknown to novices and even to intermediate collectors. This 15-jewel (and later, 17-jewel), 18-size, model 1883, damaskeened nickel watch tends to remain unnoticed in marts. In fact, some dealers have been known to have one or more examples on their tables and not even be aware of it. The reason for this is that unlike the Crescent St.; Appleton, Tracy & Co.; P.S. Bartlett and others; the No. 35 grade falls into the category of watches generally known in the watch trade as "Nameless" grades. The grade number isn't marked on the movement, which only bears the signature "American Waltham Watch Co." and the "Adjusted" and "Safety Pinion" markings, just like a number of other grades. The only way to determine if a nickel, adjusted, damaskeened nickel, model 1883 movement is a grade No. 35 is to look up the serial number, either in the reference books or as described above.

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 "Waltham Non-Magnetic Watches" 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. 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.

TypeQty
HC16,200
OF17,500

[top]The Riverside Grade

Over the years, the Riverside grade was made in a variety of different sizes, models and jeweling. A fairly high grade, the Riverside was usually positioned just below the top grades in larger-sized movements. The 12-size Riverside variants are pictured and discussed in this message board thread.

[top]Grade No. 1621 Riverside

The Waltham Riverside grade No. 1621 is so-named (by Waltham) because it is 16-size and is fitted with 21 jewels. This movement is widely recognized to have been adjusted only to temperature (especially since it is marked as such on the barrel bridge). The Gray Book (see References section) identifies (at least most of) the runs, some of which are pendant-set. Not being a high grade watch, and being value engineered, they are only fitted with a plain regulator. Thus, having been built starting in the mid-to-late 1930s, not being adjusted to at least five positions and not having a micrometer regulator, the Riverside No. 1621 would not have been accepted into railroad time service.

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.

[top]Grade No. 1623 Vanguard

The 1623 designation was a grade number that Waltham assigned to their 16-size, 23-jewel Vanguard grade movements. Initially, these were built in the 1908 model. As explained in a January 2013 Message Board thread, a new model, the model A, was introduced and the Vanguard grade No. 1623 began to be made in the model A around serial number 32,054,001. It is believed that the model change is characterized by the use of a new regulator design in place of the 1908 Ohlson regulator. The serial number seems to have been moved from the barrel bridge to the pillar plate at the same time. Both changes can be seen on serial number 33,370,573.

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 1623s 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.

[top]Canadian Pacific Railway / Canadian Railway Time Service


These watches are discussed, with tables, of examples in the Waltham's Canadian Railway Movements Encyclopedia article.

[top]Those Assorted Special Runs

The book Serial Numbers With Description of Waltham Watch Movements (see References, below) shows a number of runs whose grade is only identified with the notation "Special" or "Ass't Spec." One of these runs may be a mixed run, consisting of a number of different sizes or models, or it may be comprised of a single size and model created for a customer as a private label watch. An example of one of the runs noted as "Special" is the serial number range of 16106101 - 16106300, from which model 1899, 21-jewel, open-face, lever-set movements, adjusted to five positions, bearing a damaskeened gold-on-nickel finish, labeled "Signal" or "Special W.C." have been reported.

Another example is the run in the serial number range of 17187501-17188500 designated as "Ass't 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 "Ass't 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."

[top]Waltham Non-Magnetic Watches

Starting in 1887, Waltham offered Non-Magnetic Versions of some of its movements. At the same time, it offered a service to refit watches already in the field with non-magnetic parts. In 1889, Waltham's line of non-magnetic watches was Expanded. By 1891, at least one mail-order house was offering a Waltham Non-Magnetic watch for use as a railroad watch, accepted for use in railroad time service.

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.

[top]Waltham's Marketing in England

A very brief discussion of subject appears in the Waltham - England Encyclopedia article.

[top]Catalog Information

Catalog Information for some Waltham movements can be seen online in scans from the:

18-Size Waltham Watches: 1887 S.F. Myers Catalog

16-Size & 14-Size Waltham Watches: 1887 (Updated to 1889) 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 1903 OY Co. catalog

Waltham Watch Material, Waltham Watch Co., Waltham, Mass., April, 1909.

1915 - 1916 P.W. Ellis Illustrated Catalogue (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.

[top]References

Online Information

NAWCC Information Storage website. Tips for using this valuable resource are contained in the message board thread entitled: "Waltham Database look-up questions."

Jim Schneider's excellent Waltham Model 1892 Research Website has information about and pictures of model 1892 watches. Also, the Ziebell 1892 Waltham Collection has a variety of model 1892 watches to view (click on the "Next" button at the top to advance to the second page).

Waltham Model 83 Private Label Observations, a Message Board thread that compiles private label watch model 1883 examples. These are shown in list form in Steven Mercer's List of Waltham Model 83 Private Label Observations, sorted by date.

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 Information Storage website (above).

Books
The following books and back issues of the NAWCC Bulletin are 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.

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.

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

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

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).


Articles

Back issues of the NAWCC Bulletin are available online to NAWCC members who are currently logged in at http://nawcc.org/index.php/nawcc-bulletin/past-issues-.

"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.

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