United States Watch Co.
Research Notes
Dial Process

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Web Horology

Many years ago (in the early 1960s) I acquired my very first Marion watch, a low numbered Edwin Rollo, from old timer George "Patina" Kelsch who was a long time watch collector but more importantly an excellent watch hunter and condition freak (but this is another story).

Anyway, the unusual "butterfly" cutout in the back plate (as usual) caught my eye as it does to most young collectors owning one for the first time. Some time afterwards I began collecting various serial numbers of early American Watch Companies, and then I was fortunate to meet the great F. H. Macmillan from Morristown, New Jersey. "Mac," as he was called by his buddies, was a research scientist, held several Ph.Ds. and worked for Warner Lambert, the chemical company, for many years. He collected clocks and watches and also was a great hunter for rare and unusual horological objects as he lived in the right area at the right time (adjacent to NYC) to hunt on Canal Street, NY, attend the major Eastern horological events and various auctions. Mac, being the researcher type that he was, always dove into history and research of clocks and watches and usually came up with new finds and varieties of collectibles that interested him. Some years earlier he began collecting data on Marion watches, as well as starting a serial number reconstruction list of the companies watches (this was prior to 1960). I became one of his chief suppliers of serial numbers and during this period I learned much about this company and its products.

Mac knew just about everybody throughout the country and therefore had the opportunity to view, as well as document, just about every important Marion collection in existence so these became the basis for his original serial number reconstruction list and my basic format. Mac was a tough and aggressive, highly intelligent and serious researcher and I became his student and eventually took over his work on the subject as he developed other interests up to the time of his unfortunate death. Sometime before this in the middle 1970s a small group of newbies to US Marion watches got a brainstorm to do a large joint effort in the form of a supplement for the NAWCC, led by a few older, established collectors and researchers such as William Muir who formed a joint committee to gather information and the rush was on. Mac and I were approached but we declined. This group was extremely upset and attempted to extort us for our research however, we had much more information than they but more importantly, I was seriously collecting these watches so why would I compete against myself? Mac strongly supported our independence and told them so rather bluntly. In any event the NAWCC book on Marion was published in 1980, along with its many errors and padding. Great efforts to picture many items was fairly successful and the history of Marion makes a great story, but the productions, grades, variations and the rarity discussions are quite inaccurate. This book originally sold for $35. when it was released in 1980 and it has been continually discounted by the NAWCC since that date for reasons I do not understand to a bottom price of around $13-15.00! (This was a disservice to the association as well as book collectors, a very bad business decision, and has harmed the series immensely. Possibly the decision making on the quantity published was poorly thought out and a gross error made by the inexperienced Gene Fuller?) Heck, the BEAUTIFUL dust jacket is worth the discounted price alone as a coffee table book. And, true to form, after the rush by inexperienced, neophyte collectors and insincere researchers, the series ONCE A HOT BED OF ACTIVITY throughout the country, completely died a fast death as most of these series do after a RUSH to PUBLISH. What happened? 3-4 serious collectors passed away, some went broke, others changed hobbies and the activity ceased while others thought the work had been completed-NOT! Activity again proved to be an exercise rather than a lasting hobby of serious collectors. Some folks simply love to see their name in print and this has historically been a problem within the NAWCC. Other information was lacking and various specimens had not been recorded or seen by the "herd." However, a few collectors stuck with the hobby and this particular company and Roy Ehrhardt (some years later) approached me to publish my serial number reconstruction list for another of his well known pocket watch publications. So, I decided to put together my research of many years, correcting the many collector errors of names, grades, jewels, winding and setting info and all the other things inexperienced collectors and dealers make. Roy published my list in 1993 as his Encyclopedia Volume 3 and serious collectors flocked to it, the few that were left. Roy's lack of promotion caused this work to be one of the best kept secrets in horology. I highly recommend collectors to buy the NAWCC picture and history book, entitled, "Marion, A History of the United States Watch Company" by William Muir and Bernard Kraus (ESP at the giveaway price) AND my serial number reference book to all people interested in this company or horology in general. Also, I would like to hear from any new collectors or those that happen on to any Marion watches, as my research continues on for the benefit of the horological community and I plan on providing updates as warranted. Some interesting new discoveries and Private Labels have popped up in the last 10 years, so it pays to educate oneself and hunt these watches for fun or profit!

Why Marion watches? United States Marion watches present a multitude of collecting opportunities for the watch collector. Although for the most part they are not considered really high grade watches like American Watch Company products, this series offers a fun exercise for a company with many variables. In addition to being a great and well documented story, along with the various cast of characters involved with the company, there are many interesting aspects in forming a collection of these watches, including the various sizes of watches produced (18, 16, 14, 10), the quantity of various and some time colorful grade names, vast differential in jewel counts (7-19), the wide range of quality of some of the grades, types (open face and hunting styles), plate configurations and variations, winding and setting mechanisms, exotic regulators (Elson's), mixed metals of the back and pillar plates, unusual damaskeening for the period, the occasionally beautiful and sexy engravings on the movements and/or balance cocks, beautiful colored and/or fancy dials, exotic dial subject matter, dials and movements with railroad significance, watches associated with famous newspapers, exposition related pieces, gold and enameled cases, USWCo monogrammed cases, historical hallmarks cases (Giles, Wales & CO), the name changes to Marion Watch Company, to The Royal Gold Watch Co., the Empire City Watch Company link, and the liquidation of unfinished movements to the Howard Brothers of Fredonia, NY which were sold as Independent Watch Company products. All of this makes for a great specialized collection.

Please contact me if you have an interest in these watches (or for that matter any other American watches that you care to discuss) as I research and collect pocket watches full time. I am always pleased to speak to new collectors as well as older, seasoned collectors in the field of horology interested in research, new discoveries, collecting philosophies, or anything else horological.

Thank you and I shall look forward to your communication.

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