Watch Week: Old Waltham

There’s something about a watch that looks its age in a distinguished way. Like this nine jewel 1936 Waltham that was part of a lot I won on the eBay. I think its dirty dial only makes it look more handsome.

Back in the olden times, Switzerland was not the epicenter of watchmaking that it is today. From around 1650 until 1850, the English made the most accurate watches available. The Swiss were better known for their super complicated novelties (warning: link is NSFW). And, for a while, US companies (like Elgin, Gruen, Hamilton and Waltham) took on the Anglo/Helvetica cabal by pioneering the production of watches on an assembly line and making watches that were both accurate and affordable.

What wounded the American companies was that, after WWI, they didn’t make the switch from pocket watches to wrist watches fast enough. Then the depression hit. What killed it was that during WWII, the factories put most of their capitol into regearing for military production. The Swiss, being a neutral country, just kept chugging out watches. Waltham ticked its last tock in 1857.

Fun Facts:
1. Timex, a downscale American watchmaking concern, survived and prospered thanks to its cheap, “disposable” watches.
2. Bulova was a technically an American company (even though they imported Swiss Movements). In the 1960s, they created the revolutionary electronic Accutron tuning fork watch – the most accurate timepiece available until quartz watches took over.
3. In 1966, Hamilton acquired the Büren Watch Company in Switzerland. By 1969, the Hamilton Watch Company completely ceased its American manufacturing operations. The Hamilton name is now part of The Swatch Group.