Watch movement, Waltham

Watch movement, Waltham

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This is one of the earliest watch movements manufactured in the United States. Made at what eventually became the Waltham Watch Company, it is part of the firm’s third run of watches in Roxbury, Massachusetts, about 1853. The movement bears the serial number 531 and the name Samuel Curtis, one of the firm’s first investors.
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: spring going-barrel, full plate, gilt finish, 18 size, 15 jewels, key wound at back and key set at front, steel three-armed balance, lever escapement, regulator with index on back plate; marked: “Roxbury/ No. 531/ Samuel Curtis”
Dial: White enamel dial, Roman numerals, black hands (minute hand is replacement), separate seconds at 6
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
Object Name
pocket watch movement with dial and hands
watch movement
Other Terms
pocket watch movement with dial and hands; watch movement; Mechanical, Spring-Driven
date made
Howard & Davis
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston, Roxbury
overall: 1/2 in x 1 13/16 in; 1.27 cm x 4.60375 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Abraham Burnstine
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Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Measuring & Mapping
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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