Home / New York Watch Company / The History of the “Springfield Watch” of the New York Watch Company: Part 1

The History of the “Springfield Watch” of the New York Watch Company: Part 1

The American Machine Works Factory, Springfield, Massachusetts
The American Machine Works Factory, 1851, Springfield, Massachusetts

The Mozart Watch

Following the failure of an innovative three-wheeled watch designed by Don J. Mozart, the Mozart Watch Company was reorganized as the New York Watch Company to manufacture a conventional watch movement.

The "Mozart Watch" [The Watch Factories of America, Abbott]
The “Mozart Watch” [The Watch Factories of America, Abbott]

While the company was originally established in Providence, Rhode Island, an enticing opportunity was presented to relocate the factory to Springfield, Massachusetts.

Springfield, Massachusetts

In April 1867, the New York Watch Company purchased the American Machine Works factory in Springfield, Massachusetts, for $35,000 in stock [Springfield Republican. Monday, April 8, 1867]. The American Machine Works had been busy manufacturing items for the Union Army during the Civil War but became stagnant when the war ended. As a result, the prospect of selling the factory to the watch company benefited both parties.

Springfield Republican April 8, 1867
Springfield Republican April 8, 1867


A few months later, Oliver P. Rice was appointed as the secretary and tasked with managing the relocation of the company to Springfield. Mr. Rice was new to the watch industry, his previous experience being superintendent of the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy railroad. This intriguing appointment may have been the result of nepotism. Oliver’s brother, George Samuel Rice, was the company president.

Springfield Republican May 22, 1867
Springfield Republican May 22, 1867

Rice immediately strived to satisfy the remaining capital stock required to fund the venture. Advertisements published in the Springfield Republican encouraged investors to subscribe to the capital stock [Springfield Republican, Monday, August 12, 1867]. Interestingly, Homer Foot, later becoming more involved in the watch company, was listed as one of the primary brokers.

Springfield Republican August 12, 1867
Springfield Republican August 12, 1867

As the machinery for the new factory was prepared in Providence, Rice continued to work in Springfield to find the skilled workmen required to commence production.

Springfield Republican August 10, 1867
Springfield Republican August 10, 1867

Birth of the “Springfield Watch”

In 1868, the company hired James H. Gerry to act as manufacturing superintendent of the Springfield factory. Gerry brought vital experience to the company, previously working at the Nashua Watch Company and the United States Watch Company in Marion, New Jersey.

An article published in the February 5, 1868 issue of the Springfield Republican provided details about the new watch production, including the novel stem-wind stem-set mechanism designed by Oliver P. Rice and James H. Gerry.

Springfield Republican February 5, 1868
Springfield Republican February 5, 1868

The Watch Factory

The New York watch company, who have shops and power in the building on the Hill formerly occupied by the American machine works, already employ about 70 skilled workmen, and are constantly adding to their number. They manufacture a stem-winding ruby jeweled watch, which they claim is equal to any watch of foreign manufacture. The stem-winder is not an entirely new thing, but the secretary of the company, and the manufacturing superintendent, Messrs Rice and Gerry, have taken out a patent that obviates some difficulties in the former patent, and winds and sets the watch without a key and without any other visible additions to watches would with a key. In looking through the works it is surprising to see what fine and delicate work can be done by machinery, and done more accurately in a moment than the same work could be done by hand in any length of time. For instance, an escape wheel cutter will cut about 40 wheels at once without a change of the machinery. Mr. Gerry, the superintendent, and others of their best workmen, were formerly employed in the American watch company’s works owned by Giles Wales & Co. of New York. The New York company manufacture all parts of a watch but the cases, and the quality of their work is not excelled. The goods will be put into the market in the spring, or as soon as trade seems to demand them, and the fact that the New York watch company is located in Springfield is another evidence of the city’s growth and prosperity.” [Springfield Republican, Wednesday, February 5, 1868].

This article also provides the first details on the company’s flagship model, later designated as the “Springfield Watch.” In addition to the first stem-wind stem-set mechanism implemented in production in the United States, the author identifies the watch movement would feature ruby jewels.

As the company aspired to introduce the “Springfield Watch” to the market, employment ramped up. In July 1868, the company had hired 170 workers and anticipated to have the new watch ready in August 1868. Springfield Republican February 5, 1868

Springfield Republican July 10, 1868
Springfield Republican July 10, 1868

However, as was the story with many ambitious watch companies, the product launch was ultimately delayed multiple times. The company had originally anticipated being able to introduce the new watch in July 1868, but unfortunately, the company would not put the “Springfield Watch” on the market until the following year.

Read Part 2


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