60 piece(s) in the gallery
All of our watches are functional. Please contact gallery directly to inquire about specific restoration and repairs.
Elgin Watch Company was founded as the American Civil War was ending in 1864. The first watch made was a “Raymond” railroad grade watch, and over the next century they would produce 60 million watches. The first Elgin wristwatch was produced around 1910; foremost among American watch companies by several years, with the exception, perhaps of the Gruen Watch Company. They originally went by the name “National Watch Company, however this name never caught on, and in 1874 the name was officially changed to the Elgin National Watch Company. This continued to be the name of the company until Elgin stopped producing watches after the late 1960’s.
The company itself was founded on the principle that mass produced, machine made pocket watches could be made with the highest quality and also have interchangeable parts. As most watches, up until the mid-1800’s, needed to be repaired by someone with specialized tools and the skills to make new parts, repair was an expensive proposition. Elgin believed they could make a good, quality watch that would be fairly inexpensive to repair.
Elgin went on to change their name to Elgin National Industries after they stopped watch production. However, their name is still associated with watches in America. They were masters of a large portion of the watch market, and remain today one of the most collectible watches due to their easy repair and availability of spare parts
Elgin is just one of the fine makers of our watches that we carry.
Gruen Watch Company was one of the most important American watch manufacturers. Their production was split between America, Germany, and Switzerland; with a desire to merge American technology to the German and Swiss traditions of watch craftsmanship. Founded by a father and son team in 1894 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the company originally designed the watch movements in America and then had them manufactured in Germany. Later the company built its own movement factory in Switzerland. Therefore, most Gruen watches have Swiss movements and are assembled and adjusted in the American-made cases.
In the late 19th century pocket watches were still the most common form of personal timepieces; they were large, heavy, and relatively cumbersome. Because of this Gruen spent a lot of time trying to make a thinner, more compact model of pocket watch that could be worn comfortably in a vest pocket.
Throughout his career, Dietrich tried to make his watches smaller, thinner and more comfortable to carry in a vest pocket, without sacrificing reliability or accuracy. This research probably led to the production of the first Gruen wristwatch in 1908. The wristwatch would be a huge failure for Gruen, as men considered them to be effeminate, up until the First World War. The use of wristwatches became second nature to soldiers, and their popularity as “strap watches” increased in the consumer market.
The 20s and 30s saw a rise in popularity in rectangular wristwatches. Gruen was among the first companies to design their movements specifically for wristwatches, while others still made pocketwatches almost exclusively. The Gruen Curvex was a large success due to the curved movements that could go with the shape of the watch, thereby allowing a thinner, sleeker watch to be produced.
By the mid-1930s, the Gruen Brothers were all that remained, their father had died, and an outsider, by the name of Benjamin Katz would be brought in to be president of the Gruen Watch Company. However, by the end of World War II, the American watch industry would begin to see somewhat of a decline, and after the death of the remaining Gruen brothers the company, deeply in debt was broken up and sold, and ceased to exist by 1958. Since their demise, there have been Gruen watches made, but sold by different watch companies.
The decline and eventual dissolution of the Gruen Watch Company gives their watches a rare and collectible quality.
The Hamilton Watch Company was born from the demise of the Keystone Standard Watch Company. The company’s objective: to build watches of the highest quality, and the company met this objective. Within six years of its inception Hamilton was known for the finest quality pocket watches available on the American market.
The first Hamilton wristwatch came in 1917, designed to appeal to men entering World War I. This wristwatch would start a line of some of the finest American watches ever made including the Oval, The Tonneau, The Rectangular, The Square Enamel, The Coronado, The Piping Rock, The Spur, The Glendale, The Pinehurst, The Langley, The Byrd, The Cambridge, and The Flintridge. Many of these models were made of solid gold with gold filled cases.
During World War II, production of watches for the American consumer was stopped, and all watches manufactured were sent overseas to the troops. Hamilton was very successful in producing marine chronometers and deck watches for the U.S Navy. The production of these watches was a milestone in watch manufacturing, and one of the few times, a truly precision time piece was produced on a mass production scale.
In 1957, the company produced the first electric watch, the Hamilton Electric 500, this would lead to a joint venture with a Japanese firm called Ricoh, meant to produce watches largely for the Japanese market. This joint venture produced over 1000 watches per month, but demand was low, and after the dissolution of the joint venture these watches were re-cased in the United States and sold as the Hamilton Vantage.
In 1966 Hamilton began joint Swiss/U.S. operations after the acquisition of the Buren Watch Company in Switzerland, including all of its factories and technological advances that had been made by Buren up until that point. From 1966 to 1969 Hamilton and Buren were operated as a joint venture. During this time, Hamilton began utilizing the Buren Micro rotor movement in small numbers of high end watches, which allowed for substantially slimmer automatic watches.
The joint venture between the Swiss and American factories would eventually lead Hamilton to cease all American manufacturing in 1969, and shift the entirety of production to the Buren factory in Switzerland. Due to declining interest and sales in Hamilton-Buren, and watches in general, the factory was returned to Swiss ownership only to be liquidated by 1971.
In 1972 the company changed hands again to the Omega & Tissot Holding Company, SSIH. They utilized the Hamilton name as a branding effort for Quartz watches in the 1980’s.
In 1984, Hamilton became a subsidiary of the Swatch Group Ltd.
The history of Longines begins in 1866 with the opening of a small manufacturing plant by Ernest Francillon. He was the grandson of Auguste Agassiz, a pioneer in Swiss horology. Ernest learned the trade by working in his grandfather’s assembly shop.
By 1968 the first Longines watches arrived in the United States, and within a few years Longines was awarded a gold medal for precision and reliability at the Universal Exposition of Vienna. Ernest would go on to trademark his watches with a winged clepsydra, an ancient device which measured time by marking the regulated flow of water though a small opening, and the word Longines on the dials of his watches in order to discourage imitation.
Looking carefully at the center of the Longines trademark a small box that represents this device can be seen. It is believed that the company abandoned the procedure at some point because there are several Longines watches that do not have the logo. In 1880, the Wittnauer Co. would become the exclusive sales agent for Longines in the United States, and this relationship would last for over 100 years!
While several prestigious watch companies existed at the same time as Longines, Longines began to make a name for itself in the area of chronometers. In 1889, Longines provide the chronometers for Luigi Amedeo, who was an Italian explorer, to take with him on an expedition to the North Pole. Unfortunately for Luigi, he never made it, but his failure marks the beginning of Longines’ history as the first choice of explorers and adventurers. Longines does hold that their first cased wrist watches were done in 1905, the first wrist chronographs appeared in the sporting markets as early as 1910. Furthermore, Longines produced military watches for World War I, some of them with shrapnel covers!
The years after World War I marked a “Golden Age” for Longines, which produced as many as 122,000 watches a year. It would be during this era that Longines produced its most famous watches the Weems and the Lindbergh models.
In 1936, the Wittnauer family sold A. Wittnauer Co. and renamed it the Longines-Wittnauer Company. This name became so pervasive that some people think that the watches are synonymous. But, of course, they are not. Their movements are distinct and not interchangeable with one another.
The company began to produce military issue watches during World War II. Most of these watches were for the European forces.
In 1994, Longines and Wittnauer parted company, and Swiss giant SMH, which holds title to Hamilton, Omega and Tissot, got the name.
The history of the Wittnauer Watch Company begins in 1872, when young Albert Wittnauer arrived in New York via Switzerland to work for his brother-in-law, an importer of Swiss watches. By 1874, younger brother, Louis Wittnauer joins the operation in New York. To satisfy a growing U.S. watch market, the Wittnauer brothers created the Wittnauer brand of watches, manufactured in Geneva, Switzerland. These watches, priced more reasonably than other Swiss imports, are finely crafted, and were an instant success on the American market. In 1890, the company is formally established as the A. Wittnauer Watch Company, with offices in New York.
Along with Longines, the Wittnauer brand became almost synonymous with timepieces known for their accuracy for chronometers for navigators, astronomers, and explorers.
By 1916, the Wittnauer brothers having passed away, control of the company shifted to their younger sister, Martha Wittnauer. This alone is remarkable, with women’s suffrage a few years away, the Wittnauer Watch Company becomes one of few successful business enterprises with a woman in charge. She would be the loudest voice in encouraging Wittnauer’s further involvement with the aviation industry. During her tenure Wittnauer watches would become some of the most highly regarded sports watches that included moisture resistance and precision timing.
Before World War II, in 1918, the Wittnauer Company produced the world’s first waterproof, shock proof, and anti-magnetic watch. It would prove itself in years to come by being dropped from airplanes, thrown from the Empire State building, taken through the Amazon, and to the top of Everest!
Today, Wittnauer is part of the Bulova.
WATCH PURCHASE POLICY
NO WARRANTY IS GIVEN
Items are sold in “as is” condition. Conditions for the buyer to consider prior to a purchase include:
1. Vintage timepieces,typically, do not keep time with the accuracy that modern watches do. Antique watches generally experience a timekeeping error of between five and seven minutes, daily. A timekeeping variance of less than five minutes per day is considered to be very good.
2. You are buying a used watch and it will require servicing at some point. Typically, every two or three years, a cleaning, oiling, and adjustment of the movement in such vintage items will be necessary. All vintage watches are mechanical in nature. Many repairs will be expensive and time-consuming for your repair professional to execute since many replacement parts will be more difficult to locate or produce in comparison to repairs made to late model watches.
3. Antique watches are generally not waterproof. Watch waterproofing was not part of standard production policy until the middle of the 20th century for most timepieces. Please keep your vintage watch protected from moisture.
4. A “Good Faith” documentation of all known mechanical and cosmetic repairs made to the watch has been listed in the item description
5. When purchasing one of our watches, the timepiece, and not the band, is what is being acquired. The band is provided to you at no additional charge with no additional responsibility for such item’s state of repair to be held by the seller.
6. Your purchase will be double-boxed, properly insured for its purchase price, and delivered via UPS Ground Service unless otherwise specified. The shipping charges will be billed to the buyer at seller cost.
The buyer has the right to inspect the merchandise purchased, from our website, within two days of its receipt from the seller and return it if the item was misrepresented in an advertisement, listing, or website posting for a refund less the shipping/packaging charges that the seller has incurred in shipping the object.
The buyer must immediately notify the seller of his return intention via phone or e-mail. Immediate notification is also necessary if the buyer believes that a purchased item was potentially damaged during its shipment to him.
The buyer may also choose to replace his returned purchase with another item of equal value from the seller’s inventory.
Items which have been determined to have been abused or misused while in the buyer’s possession will not be eligible to receive a refund upon return. Examples of abuse or misuse include:
1. a broken crystal
2. a dropped watch
3. more than usual wear and tear is present
4. evidence of watch immersion into damaging
5. gouged case
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