Watch movement, Waltham

<< >>
This watch, made about 1862, is among the earliest watch movements manufactured in the United States at what eventually became the Waltham Watch Company. It is part of the firm’s output during the Civil War, a time that unexpectedly brought successful sales. The movement bears the serial number 34,660 and “P. S. Bartlett,” a grade named for Patten Sargeant Bartlett, foreman of the plate and screw department until 1864.
In the 1850s, watchmakers at the firm began to develop the world's first mass-produced watches. They completely redesigned the watch so that its movement could be assembled from interchangeable parts made on special machines. They also developed a highly organized factory-based work system to speed production and cut costs of watches. Although it would be well into the 20th century before the watch industry achieved a very high level of interchangeability, the Waltham designers started the innovations that would eventually lead there.
Launched in 1849 in a corner of the Howard & Davis clock factory in Roxbury, Massachusetts, the company’s early years were financially unsteady. The company name changed repeatedly as investors came and went. Operations moved from Roxbury to Waltham in 1854, where the company settled, optimistically poised for expansion, on a tract of land with nearly 100 acres. The watchmakers at Waltham helped spawn an American industry that by 1880 had ten firms making nearly three million watches a year.
Movement: factory identification—model 1857, spring going-barrel, full plate, gilt finish, 18 size, key wind at back and key set at front, steel three-armed balance, regulator with index on back plate; marked: “P. S. Bartlett/34660/WALTHAM, MASS.”
Dial: White enamel dial, Roman numerals, blued hands (second hand missing), separate seconds at 6, marked: “American Watch Co”
Henry G. Abbott, History of the American Waltham Watch Company (Chicago: American Jeweler Print, 1905).
Charles Moore, Timing a Century: History of the Waltham Watch Company (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1945).
Donald Hoke, Ingenious Yankees: The Rise of the American System of Manufactures in the Private Sector (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990).
Currently not on view
date made
American Waltham Watch Co.
place made
United States
overall: 46 mm; 1 13/16 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
John Hansen
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Measuring & Mapping
Data Source
National Museum of American History


Add a comment about this object