Sunday, February 04, 2007

What happened to the Waltham Watches?

On this morning's run, we went right behind the old Waltham Watch Factory. It's an old brick building right on the river in Waltham.

According to this entry on Wikipedia, the "American Waltham Watch Company" was founded by Aaron Lufkin Dennison in 1850. "In 1854 a new factory was built on the banks of the Charles River, in Waltham, Massachusetts. The company eventually became the Waltham Watch Company, the first company to manufacture interchangeable movement parts, as well as assemble and sell at affordable prices reliable watches, Railroad chronometers, 8-Day Clocks and other timers in the U.S.A."

The factory "produced about 40 million high quality watches, clocks, speedometers, compasses, time fuses and other precision instruments between 1850 and 1950."

The American Waltham Watch Company went out of business in 1957, but had founded a subsidiary in Switzerland in 1954, Waltham International SA, which now produces Waltham Swiss made luxury watches. This company has some brief history on its web site here.

If that name Dennison sounds familiar, it's because he also founded The Dennison Manufacturing Company, in Framingham, which eventually became the Avery Dennison Corporation we know today.

Also of note, the Dennison has two other folks to thank for the company's success: Francis Cabot Lowell (the namesake of the city of Lowell) and Paul Moody (of "Moody Street"). According to the Charles River Museum of Industry's site, the two men took a 12-foot waterfall on the Charles River in Waltham (right where the museum sits today) and harnessed its power.

"While Moody devised a way to harness the river, Lowell devised a way to pay for it. He solicited participation from a tight-knit group of Boston's first families, raised the unheard-of sum of $400,000, and established America's first capitalized corporation, the Boston Manufacturing Company. Within a year, Lowell's dream was born, and America was never the same."

Thus was born the Waltham system of manufacturing in America.

No comments: