The (Elgin) National Watch Company’s First Stem Wind Watches: Overview
The National Watch Company put its first watches on the market in 1867. These 18 size key wind movements quickly gained popularity all over the country and beyond. By the early 1870’s the product line had expanded to include grades in mens and ladies sizes. At this time, however, the keyless watch was gaining in popularity in the United States. Companies like the American Watch Co., Howard Watch Co. and the New York Watch Co. (among others) had already placed stem-wound watches on the market. The National Watch Co. had planned on producing these movements almost from the start, as shown below. Unfortunately, other than the Lady Elgin, neither of the other movements mentioned happened quickly. Luckily, a little shy of 5 years later the 18 size stem winding movements finally emerged.
On June 28, 1873, the first watches with the new stem wind attachment left the factory. In total, six grades were produced between this date and May 6, 1875: The B.W. Raymond, H.Z. Culver, H.H. Taylor, G.M. Wheeler, Mat Laflin, and M.D. Ogden. The image below is from Elgin Every Saturday, June 12, 1886. Read the full article
Despite the large gap in serial numbers between the lowest numbered runs (155,001-155,100) and the first stem wind runs labeled B.W. Raymond (246,513-246,600), I am inclined to believe that the Raymond movement was the first off of the production line. Below is an account from a veteran employee found in the May 1925 issue of the Watch Word Magazine, published by ENWCo for its employees. Frank L. Bloomfield, who started at the watch company in 1870, describes his account of attaching the first stem wind mechanisms to the old B.W. Raymond movement. It is entirely possible that this story is a bit exaggerated for this company article, but no other proof has yet come to light. Read the article
The M.D. Ogden was the last of the six original grades to be transitioned. In the Elgin price list of materials dated April 1875, the stem wind parts are absent from this grade only. Click here to view this price list on the Pocket Watch Database in its entirety.
- Elgin planned to make stem winders from early on, but it took a number of years to finally happen.
- From June 1873 to May 1875 they produced six grades of stem wound watches
- B.W. Raymond appears to be the first grade completed, and M.D. Ogden is the last
- Much of the information shown is courtesy of the best Elgin National Watch Co internet sleuths in the world! Thank you for the contributions to this project.
The design of these new mechanisms worked very well and proved to be successful. Over the next few articles we will take a look at the evolution of the first keyless Elgin watches along with the Patents associated with them. Thank you for reading and have a good day!
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