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Behind the Name: Who is the “Appleton, Tracy & Co.” Marked on Waltham Watches?

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The Appleton, Tracy & Co. grade produced by the American Watch Company (Waltham) has roots that run deep in the company’s history. 

In 1850, Aaron Dennison, Edward Howard, David P. Davis, and Samuel Curtis organized a company in Roxbury, Massachusetts to manufacture watch movements. This startup was known by several names during the 1850s, but the most prominent was the Boston Watch Company. Special machinery was created to produce watches with interchangeable parts, a fairly novel concept at the time. The ambitious company was soon relocated to Waltham, Massachusetts and a factory was constructed to continue production. After an unsteady start and subsequent bankruptcy, the company was forced to be sold at auction in 1857 to Royal E. Robbins.

Robbins, along with Eliashib Tracy and Theodore Baker formed a partnership under the name “Tracy, Baker & Company,” and aimed to restart production at the Waltham factory once again. Soon after, Baker sold his interest in the company to James W. Appleton. As a result, the company was reorganized again, and the first movements marked with the new “Appleton, Tracy & Co.” name were issued in July 1857.

On January 1, 1859, the Appleton, Tracy & Co. partnership merged with the Waltham Improvement Co. to form the American Watch Company. It was decided that the established “Appleton, Tracy & Co.” grade would be retained as the company’s premium offering in the product line.

The “Appleton, Tracy & Co” name was used for many decades, appearing on over 250,000 movements sold by Waltham until the grade was finally retired around 1911.


American Watch Company (Waltham)
Grade Appleton, Tracy & Co. – 18-Size, Model 1857, 15 Jewels, c.1859, Serial No. 17939.

4 Comments

  1. I have a beautiful 1903 model with the name Appleton , Trary .co not Tracy I’ve taken a close look at it with a loop and it’s for sure a typo . is that a common thing does it add value to my railroad watch ?it’s a 17j adjusted watch

    • It is likely “Tracy.” The script can sometimes appear different than one would expect. However, there were Swiss fakes that entered the American market, some of which have names almost identical to American grades. You would need to post images to your collection on the Pocket Watch Database for further evaluation.

    • I to have a Appleton Trary & Co.It does say trary no mistake here also.I would not believe it was Swiss made.I do believe it was a company error.Checked the data base with my serial number : 1256680 and it told me it was a 1892 model year and an estimated production year 1903.Said total production was 41,973.I never noticed the tracy error untill you pointed it out.Mine to is a beautiful watch movement.It has crystal missing and does not run but tries to so I think it would not take much to get it going.What is your serial number for the movement?

      • Donald – The “Trary error” has been misidentified before. The movement is indeed marked “Tracy,” but the blackletter style makes the “c” look like an “r.” Compare to the bottom terminal of the “e” in “Appleton.” It is not actually an error.

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