In 1850, Roxbury, Massachusetts, David Davis, Edward Howard and Aaron Lufkin Dennison formed together the company that would later become the Waltham Watch Company. The revolutionary business plan was to manufacture the movement parts so precisely that they would become fully interchangeable. Based upon the experience of earlier failed trials, Howard and Dennison would eventually perfect and patent their precision watch making machines and create the American System of Watch Manufacturing.
In 1851, according to some sources, the company took the name "American Horologe Company" and production started in the new factory building. However, in October 1886, Waltham co-founder, Aaron Lufkin Dennison, in a letter to author Crossman, refuted the name and stated that the first Company name was the Warren Manufacturing Company, named for General Warren of Roxbury, a famous soldier of the War of Independence. The word "watch" was specifically omitted to retain secrecy of the novel operation.
Late 1852, the first watches were complete. The first 17 watches, which ran for 8 days, marked "Howard, Davis & Dennison" were distributed among company officials. Number-1 given to Edward Howard resides in the Smithsonian Collection. Numbers 18 to 100 were named "Warren, Boston" and the following 800 "Samuel Curtis", after the financial backer. A few, marked "Fellows & Schell", sold for $40. January 1853 saw the introduction of the "P.S. Bartlett" watch (named for an early employee Patten Sargeant Bartlett).
The company was renamed Boston Watch Co. in September 1853. A new factory was built in Waltham, Massachusetts, on the banks of the Charles River, which grew over the years to its present size. In October 1854 the company moved into the new factory. The next movements manufactured (1001-5000) were marked "Dennison, Howard, & Davis", "P.S.Bartlett", and "C.T. Parker". The company had financial difficulties and Edward Howard left to form E. Howard & Co.
Upon bankruptcy, the company was sold at auction to Royal E. Robbins, who reorganized it under the new name Appleton Tracy & Co. (ATCo) in May 1857. Bearing this name, the next movements produced, Waltham Model 1857 was the 1st pocket watch produced in America of standard parts. Serial numbers 5001 to 14,000. The "C.T. Parker" was introduced as the 1857 model. 399 units were made. Also 598 chronometers were manufactured.
The Waltham Improvement Co. merged in January 1859 with the Appleton, Tracy & Co. forming the American Watch Co. (AWCo). In 1860, as President Abraham Lincoln was elected, the country was in Civil War. Production ground to a halt. However, the company decided to downsize to the lowest possible level to keep the factory open. It worked: Upon his Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln became the proud owner of a Waltham watch: Model 1857, grade "Wm. Ellery", serial number no 67613. A.W.Co. made unusual 14 size watch with "Push button" at 1 o'clock position to set the time. Serial No.2875426 Name: Bond St.
Waltham became the main supplier of Railroad chronometers to the various railroads in North America and in as many as 52 other countries of the world. In 1876, Waltham disclosed the first automatic screw making machinery and obtained the first Gold Medal in a watch precision contest at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. Not only the American Horology but also the world owes much to the early members of the Waltham Watch entity, such as Bacon, Church, Dennison, Fogg, H. Marsh, Webster and Woerd for their technical inventions and developments.
In 1885, after 26 years, the company name changed to American Waltham Watch Co. (AWWCo) where it was to remain for the next 32 years. Most widely known under this name, the company would produce some of the finest examples of pocket watches ever created.
In 1907 the name changed to Waltham Watch Co. (WWCo), in 1923 briefly to Waltham Watch and Clock Company and finally in 1925 to Waltham Watch Company (WWC).
Two high-quality groups of watches were produced by Waltham as direct result of orders placed by the Canadian Pacific Railway. One large group has the shield and beaver emblem of the Railway engraved on the movements, and is known as the "CPR" type. The second group has "Canadian Railway Time Service" engraved on the movements, and is known as the "CRTS" type. They are both highly prized by collectors.
In U.S.A., the manufacturing of Waltham watches and watch parts ended in 1957. Production was transferred to Switzerland, to Waltham International SA, a company established for this purpose in 1954 by the US parent company.
However, specialized clocks and chronographs for use in aircraft control panels continued to be made in the Waltham factory under the name of Waltham Precision Instruments Company until the company was sold in 1994. The company is now based in Alabama as the Waltham Aircraft Clock Corporation.
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