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Web Horology

Warren #18 - Approximately 18 Size, 15 jewels, Open Face Circa 1852

This is, without much dispute, the first "mass-produced" American watch, made for sale. It was made by The Warren Manufacturing Company of Roxbury, MA.

Warren Manufacturing took its name from the family name of a great American patriot, and hero of the Revolutionary War, Major General Joseph Warren. Joseph Warren was born in Roxbury, MA, graduated from Harvard and became a doctor. He was known as a great orator, and was hated by the British for his revolutionary speeches in the Boston area. He was shot and killed in the battle of Bunker Hill. Warren Manufacturing was the third name of what we know as The Waltham Watch Company. The first name of the company, founded in 1850, was Howard, Davis, and Dennison. For about 6 months in 1851 it became the American Horologe Company.

The first 17 watches made by the company were dual barrel, 22 size, 8 day watches marked Howard, Davis and Dennison, Boston. These were made for the owners and backers of the enterprise, and were never meant to be sold. By late 1851, the company had built some innovative machinery to mass produce watch parts. They took the name Warren Manufacturing, with the aim of producing good reasonably priced watches for the growing American market. The above number 18 was the first 30 hour watch to be produced for general sale to the public. We may never know for sure how many Warrens were made, but the highest known serial number is 44, and the lowest known serial number of a watch made by this company, other than a Warren, is 112, a Samuel Curtis. By this time the company was know as The Boston Watch Company. Today only 5 Warrens are known to exist. This one is the first!

The importance of this watch in the history of American watch making cannot be over stated. This is the watch that showed that a precision timepiece could be manufactured from more or less interchangeable parts, made by machinery, in a factory. This helped put American watch making, and American Industry in general, ahead of its competition in Europe. This watch is the ancestor of all the American watches in all of our collections. From the early Americans, like Walthams and Howards, to the railroad watches, which are so popular now, all can find their roots in this Warren. It doesn't get much better than this.

Warren No. 18 is original in every way. It has a solid gold dial with an engraved landscape in the center, and a solid gold case with an eagle on the back. Both the case and the dial have the same Philadelphia hallmarks. The movement is gilt and in about as nice shape as it could possibly be at its 150 year age. It is key wind from the back and key set from the front.

I cannot possibly express enough thanks to Jon Hanson, President of Chapter 149 of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, and friend of interstatetime.com for the scans of his incredible watch. Jon, as an individual, and his chapter as a whole have probably done more to further research on American pocket watches, and have helped more collectors than any other contemporary individual or organization. Jon has done extensive research on all aspects of American watch production, and has been very generous in sharing his knowledge with interested collectors. Thank you Jon for what is probably the Interstate Time Watch of the Century!

John Cote

Photography and notes by John Cote.