Elgin National Watch Company

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Elgin National Watch Company
Industry Watch manufacturing
Predecessor(s) National Watch Company
Founded 1864
Founder(s)

Philo Carpenter
Howard Z. Culver
Benjamin W. Raymond
George M. Wheeler
Thomas S. Dickerson

Edward H. Williams
W. Robbins
Defunct 1968
Headquarters Elgin, United States
Products Pocket watches, wrist watches, bomb sights and precision instruments

The Elgin National Watch Company, most commonly known as just the Elgin Watch company, was a major US watch maker from 1864 until its closure in 1968. The company sold watches under the names, Elgin, Lord Elgin, and Lady Elgin.

For nearly 100 years the company's manufacturing complex in Elgin was the largest site dedicated to watchmaking in the world.[1]

Early history[edit]

19th century trade card showing the logo.

The company was first incorporated in August 1864 as the National Watch Company, in Chicago, Illinois. The founders of the original company were Philo Carpenter, Howard Z. Culver, then-Chicago mayor, Benjamin W. Raymond, George M. Wheeler, Thomas S. Dickerson, Edward H. Williams and W. Robbins. In September of the same year the founders visited the Waltham Watch Company in Waltham, Massachusetts, and successfully convinced seven of Waltham's makers to come to work for their new company.

The growing young city of Elgin, Illinois, some 30 miles to the northwest of Chicago, was chosen as the factory site. Initially, as part of the deal, the city was asked to donate 35 acres (142,000 m²) of land for construction of the factory. A derelict farm was selected for this, however the owners refused to sell the property unless the city purchased their entire 71 acres for $3,550 (roughly $50,000 in 2010). Four Elgin businessmen agreed to purchase the property and then donated the required 35 acres to the new watch company. The company was re-organized in April 1865 and the factory was completed in 1866. The first movement, delivered in 1867, was named the B.W. Raymond in honor of Benjamin W. Raymond. The watch was an 18 size, full plate design. The company officially changed its name to the Elgin National Watch Company in 1874, as the Elgin name had come into common usage for their watches.

Later history[edit]

The company built the Elgin National Watch Company Observatory in 1910 to maintain scientifically precise times in their watches. The company produced many of the self-winding wristwatch movements made in the United States beginning with the 607 and 618 calibers (which were bumper wind) and the calibers 760 and 761 (30 and 27 jewels respectively).

During World War II all civilian manufacturing was halted and the company moved into the defense industry, manufacturing military watches, chronometers, fuses for artillery shells, altimeters and other aircraft instruments and sapphire bearings used for aiming cannons.

Over time a number of additional plants were operated, mostly in Elgin. However, additional plants were located in Aurora, Illinois and Lincoln, Nebraska. The original, obsolete factory in Elgin closed in 1964, after having produced half of the total number of pocket watches manufactured in the United States (dollar-type not included). In 1964 the company relocated most manufacturing operations to a brand new plant in Blaney, South Carolina, a town near Columbia, South Carolina which renamed itself Elgin, South Carolina. A leased building in Elgin that housed offices as well as casing, fitting, shipping, service, and trade material departments was maintained until about 1970.

All US manufacturing was discontinued in 1968, and the rights to the name "Elgin" were sold and subsequently resold multiple times over the years. The rights eventually were purchased by MZ Berger Inc., which company manufactures its watches in China and distributes them outside traditional watch dealerships. Elgin-branded watches produced after 1968 have no connection to the Elgin Watch Company.

Gallery[edit]

Trivia[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Aft, E.C. Elgin: An American History, ElginHistory.com, 2000 http://www.elginhistory.com/eaah/ Accessed September 16, 2013
  2. ^ Charlotte Chandler. Hello, I must be going: Groucho and his friends. Doubleday, 1978, p 190
  3. ^ Groucho Marx. The Groucho Letters: Letters from and to Groucho Marx. Simon & Schuster 2007 p 311
  4. ^ Elgin Baylor bio at NBA website

Sources[edit]

  • Complete Watch Guide, by Cooksey Shugart, Tom Engle, Richard E. Gilbert, Edition 1998, ISBN 1-57432-064-5

External links[edit]