Elgin National Watch Company
|Predecessor||National Watch Company|
Howard Z. Culver
Benjamin W. Raymond
George M. Wheeler
Thomas S. Dickerson
Edward H. Williams
|Products||Pocket watches, wrist watches, bomb sights and precision instruments|
The Elgin National Watch Company, commonly known as Elgin Watch Company, was a major US watch maker from 1864 to 1968. The company sold watches under the names Elgin, Lord Elgin, and Lady Elgin.
The company was first incorporated in August 1864 as the National Watch Company, in Chicago, Illinois, by Philo Carpenter, Howard Z. Culver, Benjamin W. Raymond, George M. Wheeler, Thomas S. Dickerson 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 watchmakers to come to work for their new company.
The growing young city of Elgin, Illinois, some 30 miles 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. Four Elgin businessmen agreed to purchase the property and then donated the required 35 acres to the 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. In 1869, the National Watch Company won "Best Watches, Illinois Manufacture" at the 17th Annual Illinois State Fair, for which it won a silver medal. 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.
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, fuzes 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). The plant was razed in 1966. In 1964 the company relocated most manufacturing operations to a new plant in Blaney, 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 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.
- Aft, E.C. Elgin: An American History, 2000. Accessed 16 Sept. 2013
- "Elgin National Watches". Elgin National Watches. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
- John P. Reynolds. Transactions of the Illinois State Agricultural Society with Reports from County and District Agricultural Societies. Illinois Journal Printing Office, 1871, p. 45
- Halvorsen, David, "Elgin's New Look: Father Time Tumbles - Town No Longer Dependent on Watches", Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, Tuesday 5 July 1966, Volume 120, Number 186, Section 1 - Page 3.
- Federal Writers' Project (1938). North Dakota, a Guide to the Northern Prairie State,. WPA. p. 230. ISBN 978-1-62376-033-5.
- Elgin Baylor bio at NBA website
- Complete Watch Guide, by Cooksey Shugart, Tom Engle, Richard E. Gilbert, 1998 ed., ISBN 1-57432-064-5