Chronodrometer or Horse Timing Watch

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This is a watch designed as a timer for horses. A horseracing craze in the 1850s influenced product designers at the American Watch Company in Waltham, Massachusetts, to add the chronodrometer (from the Greek roots: chrono - time, drom - running/race, meter - measure) to their line of conventional watches. The chronodrometer was the first mass-produced stopwatch.
The chronodrometer's dial could mark quarter seconds, but it was unlike any other stopwatch in use then or now. A sweep hand in the center of the dial revolved once every four minutes; at the bottom of the dial, a small hand revolved once every four seconds. At the top was a conventional dial with numerals 1 through 12 and hour and minute hands for indicating the correct time of day. When the watch was used as a timer, the time train inconveniently stopped.
Between 1858 and 1861, the American Watch Company made about four hundred chronodrometers-not a huge number by mass-production standards. The stopwatch sold for $50, compared to $150 to $250 for a high-grade import. At that time, stopwatches of any kind were still rare.
The American Watch Company had been launched in 1849 in a corner of the Howard & Davis clock factory in Roxbury, near Boston, where Edward Howard and Aaron Dennison experimented with completely new designs for watches and the machines to make them. Howard, a clockmaker, had absorbed techniques for the mass production of firearms with interchangeable parts during a visit to the Springfield Armory. Why not, he thought, try it with watches? With expert help from a cadre of experienced mechanicians and funding from Howard's father-in-law, the Boston mirror maker Samuel Curtis, the enterprise got under way.
From shaky beginnings as America's first watch business, the Waltham firm would go on to pioneer mass-production techniques and teach the rest of the world how to make watches by machine. Waltham remained an important innovative force in both watch and machinery design for the rest of the century. The firm's success spawned a raft of competitors, and the American watch industry began to turn out movements and watches by the millions.
Currently on loan
date made
ca 1859
patent date
American Waltham Watch Co.
place made
United States
Physical Description
brass (watch movement material)
silver (watch case material)
gilded (watch movement production method/technique)
overall: 3 in x 2 1/8 in x 5/8 in; 7.62 cm x 5.3975 cm x 1.5875 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
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Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Measuring & Mapping
Industry & Manufacturing
Sports & Leisure
Data Source
National Museum of American History


I would like to know the patent number of the Waltham Chronodrometer. Can you help? Thank you in advance.

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